Been awhile since we’ve had rain in Knobite Corner, but I wake this morning to delightfully fresh rain-scented air, and it reminded me of this story from Sevier County, Tennessee, about a house haunted by the sound of rain, its murmur heard whether indoors or out, accompanied by that soft scent. The story is told in Randy Russell and Janet Barnett’s 1999 book THE GRANNY CURSE AND OTHER GHOSTS AND LEGENDS FROM EAST TENNESSEE.
The house was built in the 1850s. After the Civil War it was occupied by a doctor, his wife and daughter. Sometime probably in the 1870s, an old black man named Luther arrived at the house, seeking medical assistance. He had become ill with a fever at his home in beautiful Wear’s Valley and had driven himself by wagon all the way to Sevierville.
By the time he arrived, however, he was dying.
The doctor’s daughter was only ten or twelve years old that summer, and she was a soft-hearted child. When her father told Luther that there was nothing he could do for him, she insisted that Luther be put to bed in her own room. She sat beside him for hours, over her father’s protests, giving Luther medicines and wiping his burning forehead with cold compresses.
In his delirium, Luther fussed that he was so hot he felt he might be in hell even though he wasn’t dead yet, and the young girl soothed him by talking of rain: how clouds were piling up in the sky above the mountains and soon the rain would come and cool the air.
Luther lapsed into coma and died as she whispered, “It could rain. Any minute now.”
Within hours of his death, rain came. It lasted a full twenty-four hours.
After that, even when there was no rain, the sound of rain could be heard on the roof of the house. It followed the doctor’s daughter everywhere she went.
Since then, so the story goes, the sound of rain is heard on the roof whenever there’s a girl of ten or twelve in the house. The old people say that it’s Luther’s way of saying thank you to a young girl long grown and gone, who cared for him in his last hours. The rain stops when the girl asks it to, they say, but most don’t ask, once they know Luther’s story.