Around the curve and down a slight incline to the left from my dad’s homeplace there’s a patch of woods that’s had the reputation of being haunted for seventy years or more. Here’s the story:
In the old days, it was a terrible disgrace to have to “put away” a family member because of mental illness. Having family in the asylum was as much a disgrace as adultery, drunkenness, illegitimate births or domestic violence; it was talked about in whispers, if it was talked about at all. Many families tried to keep their loved ones in seclusion, in a back bedroom or an attic, and only signed them into the asylum if they grew too violent for the family to handle.
Such was the case, in the 1930s, of a local family who lived maybe three quarters of a mile beyond that patch of woods, near what is now Highway 411 North (which actually runs east-west through Monroe County–go figure). They had kept this man at home until he tried to kill someone in one of his “spells”; after that they sent him away.
Several years after they first signed him into the asylum, they brought him home for a family reunion. In those days, reunions were massive affairs, with lots of people coming in from out of state whom they hadn’t seen in years. They knew that some of the family wouldn’t know they had had to put Joe–that was his name, Joe–away and would expect to see him, so they brought him home, planning to take him back to the hospital when the reunion was over.
Unfortunately, he was not in one of his lucid spells, which got fewer and farther between as he aged. He grew so violent they had to tie him to a bed in the back room, and hoped he would be all right.
Sometime during the reunion–no one was sure afterward when–he managed to get loose from his restraints. In his haste to get away he thrust his feet into his leather shoes, without socks and untied, and carrying one of the ropes he’d been tied up with slipped out of the house and took off running, his shoelaces slapping his shoes as he went.
He ran to the patch of woods and down into their shadow until he came to one particular tree. It’s still there; a giant oak, with a lot of mistletoe growing in the top. He hanged himself from that tree. It still bears the rope marks. By the time the family realized he was missing and then tracked him down, he’d been dead for hours.
He was buried a few days later. But the woods have never forgotten that night when he came there to die. Beginning in the 1940s, there have been reports of sounds in those woods, always at night. They start at the edge of the road and continue until they reached a certain tree. Animals, disbelievers scoff, but people who hear the sounds know they are from no animal.
They say they sound exactly like untied shoelaces slapping against leather shoes on a running man’s feet.
I haven’t got the nerve to go listen for them, myself.