This story has been told around both Willard’s hometown and mine for years–hers because the house was there, mine because the protagonist was from here.
Near an intersection of a main street in the north end of Athens, Tennessee and Highway 11 there once stood a house that had been abandoned for over a century. Nowadays the site is surrounded by businesses and houses, but when it was first built it was quite isolated. It’s said that, in the 1880s, an elderly couple lived there. Man and wife died horribly violent deaths one night in the course of a robbery. No one was ever arrested and convicted, and no one ever lived there after the murders. There was, the story says, a residue of such evil there that nobody could face it down. Even worse, it was said, on the anniversary of those appalling deaths, the old house would echo with screams and moans and thumping sounds, like bodies falling.
So the old house stood deserted, for more than sixty years. No one would set foot in it until one night after the Second World War, when a man from Monroe County accepted a dare.
That man had just come back from the war and he wasn’t afraid of anything. He had seen the worst man could do to man, and he didn’t believe in ghosts. When he was dared to spend the night in the old haunted house, he readily accepted.
And he went in–and in the morning he came out.
When he was questioned about what he experienced in the old house, he gave a single enigmatic answer: “Maybe I did, and maybe I didn’t.”
And he gave that answer, every time the old house came up in conversation, until he died.
In later years, the old house became haunted by other sorts of evil: drug dealers in Willard’s hometown used its reputation to keep law-abiding citizens away while they transacted their business inside. Not even the drug dealers would go there, though, on the anniversary of those murders, so long ago.
The house was torn down finally, about five years ago. And nothing has ever been built on its site.
Did anybody truly experience a haunting in that place?
The answer remains with that veteran who spent a single night there, sixty and more years ago: maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t.
And on that sad ambiguity, the story ends.