No, no, no, no, NO, I’ve not lost my marbles and begun babbling about a half-human, half-bee monster that divebombs people buzzing frantically for help, or looking to make a body into a beehive, or whatever such a critter would do. I’m talking about a particular kind of haint.
Of all the ghost story collectors whose work I’ve read, my favorite is probably Charles Edwin “Ed” Price. Born in 1941, a graduate of ETSU in Johnson City, he specializes in folklore from upper East Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. He has published a number of books, including THE DAY THEY HUNG THE ELEPHANT (1992), based on a true incident in 1916 Erwin, Tennessee, and THE INFAMOUS BELL WITCH OF TENNESSEE (1994), based on the world-renowned Bell Witch case of 1817-1821.
His first book was HAINTS, WITCHES AND BOOGERS: TALES FROM UPPER EAST TENNESSEE (1992), and it was in this book that I first heard of the manabee type of haunting. A manabee is a ghost attached to some particular object. It appears to whoever has the object in their possession at any given time, and continues to appear to them as long as they own the object. For this reason, it was not uncommon at one time for a person’s possessions to be destroyed after death, to prevent the deceased from haunting the next owner.
Ed Price had the good fortune to meet up with a man named Guard Banner, a native of Unicoi County, Tennessee. Guard Banner told Price, among other really good stories, one which Price recounted in HAINTS, WITCHES AND BOOGERS as “The Adventures of the Haunted Gun.”
The gun–to be strictly accurate, a pistol–was purchased around the turn of the twentieth century by a young man from a family in Erwin, Tennessee. He bought it from a man from North Carolina, who did not tell him the gun came with its own ghost. He found that out when he was escorting his girlfriend home from a prayer meeting. In those days upper East Tennessee was still a fairly wild place, with animals still roaming free–not to mention humans who weren’t exactly upstanding citizens, so most men packed heat when they went out at night.
The young couple had just started their walk home when a man, a complete stranger, showed up on the girl’s opposite side. At first the couple thought that it was kind of nice to have extra protection on the way, although they hadn’t seen this man at prayer meeting. He made them nervous, though, because he never spoke and kept staring straight ahead. He stopped when they stopped, started walking again when they started, but otherwise they might as well not have been there for all the attention he paid them.
The young man dropped his girl off at her home and found the man had vanished into thin air. He looked around for him, fearing he may have hidden in the bushes and planned to rob or otherwise harm the family in the house, but found no trace of him. He went on home, only to be kept awake all night. Although he bolted the door to the home he shared with a brother, the door opened anyway, over and over again, to admit the stranger who had walked him and his girl home. At first angry, then freaked out by the odd experience, the young man eventually fired several shots at the man, who disappeared as each shot was fired but, the moment the smoke cleared, reappeared, fresh as a daisy.
Some weeks later, after a series of farcical episodes in which the young man loaned out the gun to unsuspecting relatives, he sold it to Henry Banner, Guard’s father. While it was in Henry’s possession, further hilarity ensued, at one point involving the county sheriff, who borrowed the gun one night when he and his wife were going home from visiting the Banners, only to be forced to put it out on the back porch after the ghost kept appearing in their bedroom.
Henry Banner swapped the gun with a man for some suckling pigs; the man was so terrified by the ghost that he let Henry keep the pigs and paid him a dollar on each of them just so he would take back the gun.
A week or so after that piece of good fortune, Guard Banner sold the gun to a man who was leaving for California, and the Banners never knew what became of it and its–uh–sidekick. It’s entirely possible that somewhere between Erwin, Tennessee and the West Coast, there’s a gun floating loose that comes with its original owner in tow.
Whoever has it, if it’s still out there, don’t bother shooting at the man. It won’t faze him a bit.