Grandpa Cavaness worked on the railroad and came in every night dog-tired. He had no vehicle and had to walk to work, several miles to and from. Sometimes he would catch a ride, but most of the time, he walked.
Grandpa was not the jolly sort of feller, and had not the time nor the patience for a' gettin' up several times a night. He also did not like practical jokes of any kind. To say he was grumpy and ready to go bear hunting with a switch was really an understatement. Any of the kids caught doing something which he thought shouldn't be doing was in for a swift whupping. No mercy. Just an outright whupping with whatever lay close to hand.
The little house in which they lived had no running water, no electricity or any of the niceties we take for granted so much today. Water was from a cistern fed by the rainwater caught from the old corrugated tin roof of the house with no strainer or filter, pump or means of getting it into the house other than a bucket at a time. The outhouse was out to the south of the house about 60 or 70 feet away.
It was the typical small, one bedroom house barely large enough for two people, much less a family. The kids slept mostly on cots or beds made on the floor. People were poor, and having nothing for entertainment, went to bed early which was another reason why families were so large.
This house, typical of most all houses in that neck of the woods had a porch all the way across the front. It was just a plank porch with the boards pushed as close together as they could get them. They used whatever trees were close to hand, and much of the time, the boards were rough sawn, four-quarter lumber.
Now that old porch acted like a sounding board on a flat-top Martin guitar. Each step someone took would reverberate throughout the house and could be heard just as plain on the inside of the house as well as on the outside on the porch itself. Walking on the porch without making a sound was impossible. Even in your sock feet, it would creak and groan under your weight. Many of the nails used to hold the boards in place, had worked loose, had been hammered back in many times over. They would screak as weight of someone stepping on them.
Even an old hound dog on the porch could be heard plainly. I've explained all this so you'll understand, that, what you read in the next few moments was not imagination, the wind or some other easily explained away phenomena.
These houses were built up high off the ground, most of the time on eighteen inch concrete pillar blocks. The house was underpinned, (floor boxed in with corrugate tin) to help insulate it in the winter. It rains a lot there, and the lumber would rot in the moisture. Because of that, the front porch was about two feet off the ground, and had a little set of steps leading up to the porch.
Back in those days, the doors had no lock. Just an old plunger type lock that would hold the door closed. Its operation was noisy, and could be distinguished from the crackling in the fireplace, the noise of people around a supper table or kids playing. You could not open that door without someone knowing it. The hinges were made of cast iron and, from lack of oil or maintenance, worn badly. As the door opened, fast or slow, the hinges would screak very loudly.
For security it had a huge plank of wood that was attached to one side of the door frame and hung down toward the floor most of the time. To use it, one swung it up and let the free end fall into a cradle on the other side of the door. It would hold the door securely in place. It would take a bulldozer to get through that door.
At night, Grandpa would make sure the front and back door lock was in place while Grandma tucked in the kids. He would then make his way through all the beds on the floor and walk into the bedroom. Each step echoing through the old house.
Now here is where it gets very interesting. If you're the 'cover-up your head' type, better do it now!
Just about the time everyone was asleep, steps in the yard could be plainly heard, as if someone was walking up the steps, stepping onto the porch, turn and walk to the end of it. The sounds would then turn around and walk back to the front door and stop. Then suddenly, the bar on the front door would fall free from the cradle. There it would swing, continuing to ever smaller arcs until all momentum was gone.
The picture is the closest thing I could find to help the reader understand what I'm talking about.
The door would swing open with the hinges creaking and moaning. Another amazing thing is the door handle was not operated! The thing would then walk right into the house, and that would be all that was heard.
That was all there was to it. Nothing ever seen with the exception of what was going on with the door and the bar that secured it in place. No shadows, no light or eriee glow, nothing.
Grandpa would then sigh, get up and walk heavily through the house and shut the door again. The first few times this happened, the kids were scared to death and screamed most of the night. But after a while, it became commonplace and they got to where they would get up and re-bolt the door themselves, saving Grandpa the effort. Sometimes it happened several times a night, sometimes just once. Very few nights went by without it happening.
I don't remember hearing how it came to be that they moved from the place. These happenings were in the mid 1930's because dad (George Sr.), was only a toddler. The story as I've just recounted has been told by him all my life.
My cousin, Bill Cavaness was in the house in the late 60's or early 70's. He had heard that it was to be demolished, and knowing something of the history wanted to take a last look at it before it was torn down. When he took a peek into the attic, he saw what looked to be an old violin case. He retrieved it and later learned it belonged to my Grandpa Cavaness. I now own that violin, but happily report that no haints came with it!