In Greek mythology, Prometheus was one of the Titans who preceded the gods of Olympus. His name means “forethought”.
I thought of Prometheus this morning when, in search of material for today’s story, I ran across this one from Ruth Ann Musick’s 1977 book Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales. Spirit double or not, this shade showed a good deal of forethought–not to mention action.
In Taylor County, West Virginia, there lived an elderly couple who had been married nearly half a century. One night, the wife was wakened by an unfamiliar noise in their bedroom. She watched, with her husband sleeping beside her, as a white figure, whose features she could not make out, rummaged through her husband’s closet. The figure apparently found what it was looking for, closed the closet door, and left the room. She could hear it make its way down the stairs.
Shaken quite badly by what she had seen, she told her husband about it the next morning. He told her gently that she must have been dreaming an exceptionally vivid and detailed dream, and not to worry; dreams often meant nothing at all.
She had no more such “dreams” for awhile, and had almost forgotten the first when she had a second one.
Again, she was awakened deep in the night by an odd noise. This time, the white figure, whose features she still could not see, was rummaging through a chest of drawers, again seemingly searching for something.
This time, badly scared, she screamed, which woke her husband, beside her, out of a sound sleep. He held her and comforted her and again told her it was only a dream and not to worry.
This time, the assurances didn’t help. By morning, the old man decided he needed to go to town and bring back a doctor to treat his wife; perhaps a sedative could head off a complete breakdown.
Some hours after he left the house, an unexpected visitor arrived: the local mortician, driving a long black coach pulled by four black horses, pulled up in front of the house. He told the startled and frightened wife that he had come to pick up her husband’s body.
She falteringly told him that her husband wasn’t home; he had gone to town to fetch the doctor.
That, the mortician pronounced, was strange. He had gone to his office that morning to find a sack, containing a man’s suit and underclothes, sitting on the front steps. An attached note said the man had died; it gave his name and address, directed that the body was to be picked up at the home, and provided details of how he wished to be dressed and placed in the coffin.
The woman was trying to tell the mortician that there had been a terrible mistake, or somebody was playing a very bad joke, when they heard the old man’s horse, out in the barn, whinnying in alarm.
She and the mortician rushed into the barn to find her husband lying dead, just inside the door. He’d never made it to town.
But somehow, his clothes and burial instructions had.
He was buried as specified in the note.
Dr. Musick notes that she collected this story in 1968, from a man who said he’d heard it many years before from his grandmother, who had known the elderly couple.