Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold.
Dunno if the following story can be said to be revenge served cold or piping hot, but it played merry hell with the mind of a man name of Jake Farr, late of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Round about 1880, Jake Farr died, alone, choking on his own blood, shot through the throat. An ugly death, to be sure–but then, what had brought Jake to that ugly death was even uglier.
Jake was rather a shiftless lout, given to hard drink and bluster. He had a fine wife, Sally, and the pair of them had produced a beautiful daughter, whose name was Molly. When Molly was sixteen, Jake, in one of his drunken fits, raped and impregnated her.
Sally, outraged, had him arrested, but Jake weaseled out of his hideous crime by telling a fat lie on Sally herself: Molly wasn’t his daughter to begin with, he said. Not only that, he added, but Molly was pretty much a slut like her mother–and so he walked out scot-free.
The baby was born dead, and after Molly recovered from the birth Sally sent her away, to a trade school in Massachusetts, far out of Jake’s reach.
Then Sally set out to avenge her honor and her daughter’s. She was gonna kill that son of a bitch or die trying.
But she was gonna make sure he suffered some first.
Her first step was to give him the silent treatment, but not just any silent treatment: she continued to wash his clothes, make his meals, pour his whiskey, and run the farm he was too drunk to manage, but she never spoke to him again. She would occasionally stare at him, with hatred in her eyes.
Those stares made Jake nervous, but the next phase of Sally’s revenge sent him to the brink. She began leaving handwritten notes around the house. The first would have been a fairly innocuous reminder to herself about taking care of a pest in her fruit garden but for a single word: arsenic. The followup note to that read best given in oatmeal some cold morning.
Jake got so afraid that his wife was going to poison him by slipping arsenic to him in their morning porridge that he quit eating altogether. Nor did he sleep much; after Sally left airy notes mentioning stabbing in the night, or, on the other hand, the much less messy method of suffocation by pillow, he began sleeping with one eye–or, most usually, both–open.
He finally picked a fight with Sally, and she left him–but she didn’t go far. She was spotted, evening after evening, standing in a nearby orchard, staring toward the house she, Jake and Molly had once shared with death in her eyes.
Jake was falling completely apart by this time. The few people who saw him said that he trembled with constant, uncontrollable fear.
Sally upped the ante yet again. . .and again. . .and again. . .She killed their berry bushes. She poisoned Jake’s old hound. One night, she stood in that orchard and fired a shot straight through the window at Jake, clipping off a hank of his lank, greasy hair in passing.
Jake’s trembling was so violent by now that the neighbors swore up and down that the house had begun to tremble as badly as he did.
One night, he tried to distract himself by sitting down to read the newspaper–and, truth be told, to hide the sight of Sally, standing in that orchard, glaring at him with volcanic hatred.
He didn’t get to read long. Sally’s shot, this time, tore through his throat.
Sally Farr was never seen–alive, anyway–in the community again. It’s said that, once she had finally gotten her revenge on her worthless husband, she moved to Burlington to live with Molly, who had relocated after finishing her schooling in Massachusetts.
Nobody could live in the house, ever again. The neighbors said that it never stopped trembling, even after Jake was long in his grave.
And sometimes, they said, long after Sally was surely in her grave, her ghost was seen, still staring toward that slowly collapsing house, with hate in her eyes.
Love is eternal–but sounds to me as if hate can be, also.
My sources for this story are Joseph A. Citro’s book Green Mountain Ghosts, Ghouls and Unsolved Mysteries (1994) and Dennis William Hauck’s Haunted Places: The National Directory (1994 edition). Both Citro and Hauck cite James Reynolds’ 1965 book Gallery of Ghosts as their source.
The photo is of the interior of a deserted shack here in Monroe County, Tennessee. The photographer is my niece, Amanda Gamble. Used by permission.