Nancy Jo and the Graveyard Ghost… Blogging a Book

A photo of Nancy, Marshall and me somewhere around the time of the Graveyard Ghost. I’m on the left and my dog Tickle is next to me.


This is one of my Halloween favorites that I post every few years. Since it fits here in my blogged book on “MisAdventures,” I’m posting it again. 

My sister was seven years older than I and lived on a different planet, the mysterious world of teenage girls. Her concern about ghosts makes this story a powerful testimony to teenage hormones. If Marshall and I had a healthy respect for the Graveyard at night, Nancy’s fear bordered on monumental.

This story begins with Nancy falling in ‘love’ with the ‘boy’ next door, Johnny. His parents were good folks from a kid’s perspective. Marshall and I raided their apple trees with impunity, and Mama, a big Italian lady, made great spaghetti that included wild mushrooms. I was fascinated with the way she yelled “Bullll Sheeeet” in a community-wide voice when she was whipping Papa into line. He was a skinny, Old Country type of guy who thought he should be in charge.

I use the terms love and boy somewhat loosely since Nancy at 16 was a little young for love and Johnny, a 22-year-old Korean War Veteran, was a little old for the boy designation, not to mention Nancy. Our parents were not happy, a fact that only seemed to encourage my sister.

Her teenage hormones aided by a healthy dose of rebellion overcame her good sense and she pursued the budding relationship. Johnny didn’t make it easy. His idea of a special date was to drive down the alley and honk. Otherwise, he avoided our place. If Nancy wanted to see him, she had to visit his home. It should have been easy; his house was right behind ours.

But there was a major obstacle, the dreaded Graveyard. To avoid it, Nancy had to climb over the fence that separated our houses or walk up the alley past the Graveyard. Given her feelings about dead people, the solution seemed easy— climb the fence. Marsh and I had been over it many times in search of apples. Something about teenage girl dignity I didn’t understand eliminated fence climbing, however. Nancy was left up the alley without an escort.

While she wasn’t above sneaking out her window, Nancy asked permission to see Johnny the night of the Graveyard Ghost attack. She approached Mother around seven. It was one of those warm summer evenings where the sun is reluctant to go down and boys are granted special permission to stay up. Marshall and I listened intently.

“Mother, I think I’ll go visit Johnny,” Nancy stated and asked in the same sentence. Careful maneuvering was required. An outright statement would have triggered a parental prerogative no and an outright question may have solicited a parental concern no.

Silence. This communicated disapproval, a possible no, and a tad of punishment for raising the issue.

“Mother?” We were on the edge of an impending teenage tantrum. Nancy could throw a good one.

“Okay” with weary resignation followed by, “but you have to be home by ten.”

What we heard was TEN. Translate after dark. Nancy would be coming down the alley past the Graveyard in the dark and she would be scared. Knowing Johnny’s desire to avoid my parents, we figured she would also be alone. A fiendish plot was hatched.

At 9:45 Marsh and I slipped outside and made our way up the alley to a point half way between our house and Johnny’s. Next we took a few steps into Graveyard where weed-like Heavenly Trees and deep Myrtle provided perfect cover. Hiding there at night was scary, but Marshall and I were operating under inspiration. Marsh stripped the limbs off of one of the young trees, bent it over like a catapult, and draped his white T-shirt on the trunk. We then scrunched down and waited.

At exactly 10:00, Nancy opened the back door and stepped outside with Johnny. Our hearts skipped a beat. Would he walk her home? No. After a perfunctory goodnight, Johnny dutifully went back inside and one very alone sister began her hesitant but fateful walk down the alley.

She approached slowly, desperately looking the other direction to avoid seeing tombstones and keeping as far from the Graveyard as the alley and fence allowed. At exactly the right moment, we struck. Marshall let go of the T-shirt and the supple Heavenly Tree whipped it into the air. It arched up over the alley and floated down in front of our already frightened sister. We started woooooing wildly like the eight and eleven-year-old ghosts we were supposed to be.

Did Nancy streak down the alley to the safety of the House? No. Did she figure out her two little brothers were playing a trick and commit murder? No. Absolute hysteria ensued. She stood still and screamed. She was feet stuck to the ground petrified except for her lungs and mouth; they worked fine.

As her voice hit opera pitch, we realized that our prank was not going as planned. Nancy was not having fun. We leapt out to remedy the problem.

Bad idea.

Two bodies hurtling at you out of a graveyard in the dark of night is not a recommended solution for frayed nerves and an intense fear of dead people. The three of us, Nancy bawling and Marshall and I worrying about consequences, proceeded to the house. As I recall, our parents were not impressed with our concept of evening entertainment. I suspect they laughed after we went to bed. Sixty years later, Nancy, Marshall and I still are.

MONDAY’S POST: Join Peggy and me as we begin a raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Back to Sedona’s red rock country for another Wednesday photo essay…

FRIDAY’S POST: The Great Tree Race… My brother and I face off in a race up the Graveyard’s 70-foot tall cedar tree.



32 thoughts on “Nancy Jo and the Graveyard Ghost… Blogging a Book

  1. Always love hearing this story! I think Nancy has forgiven you …..grin. Reminded me of the dark, wooded roads around our house on Catawba Island. I had a pretty vivid imagination of animals lurking behind the trees…and more. Avoided walking home from friends after dark!

    • We were expecting a different outcome, that’s for sure, G. It’s the stuff of family legends, however, like so many things that are traumatic at the moment but you can laugh about later. Thank goodness! –Curt

  2. The picture shows a very pretty young lady. I will give PTSD the nod as had I been Johnny I would have been very uh careful with that relationship. Funny, but I was just trying to think of any of the boys I know that were living at home at 22. Korea was a different time, perhaps that is why?

  3. I love this story too. And I have always, always loved cemeteries. They make me feel calm. When I was in art school, we would visit cemeteries at night. Even at night, the cemeteries were beautiful to me. Funny how it was so terrifying to your poor sister! I’m glad you can laugh about it now. 🙂

  4. Laughing!!! 😀 I’m also glad I didn’t have any little brothers. Glad no one got hurt and you’re all still friends! Prep for our first adventure in the new camper is beginning to take over my time, but I’ll catch up when I can. No internet except for wi-fi wherever we can find it once we hit the road. First stop should be Prairie Creek in the Redwoods… hoping not to encounter too much snow as we cross the Sierras.

      • I-80 is always an option if you don’t think about why it’s called Donner Pass 😦 , but I’m hoping we can make it up over 50. From there we’ll likely head south on 395, keeping an eye on weather, of course!

      • I had a laundry route on 50 during the summer when I went to college. I’d drive from Placerville to South Shore and back 6 days a week during the summer, Gunta. It was how I paid for my college education.
        I spent a lot of time during the winter in a cabin near Donner Summit on Serene Lakes in the late 70s/early 80s. We always had to use the second story entrance, and once the cabin was buried under the snow. Donner Party, indeed! –Curt

  5. Oh my gosh. I could picture it all so clearly. It sounds like something my brother and I would have done to each other — or to some friends. Fear like Nancy’s and a graveyard setting is too hard to resist!

  6. Curt, I’m creasing with laughter!! 😀😀 Just picturing the scene and your poor sister rooted to the spot in terror as you two rascals then hurl yourself from the dark to rescue her! I have a feeling there was never a dull moment in your household! So glad you shared this again…reading your posts has brightened my grey and rainy morning considerably! 😀

    • Thanks, Annika! I consider a post successful if I can make people smile. Creasing with laughter takes it to a new level. If there were dull moments, they were few and far between! 🙂 –Curt

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