If you live in the South, you are familiar with the scent of honeysuckle. It blooms in May and stays around until the weather gets so hot the blooms drop off. It fills the air with its sweet lingering fragrance and is welcomed by every nose.
The story I’m about to tell is strange and I have no simple explanation for the facts to which I will swear here and now. I have never believed in ghosts but always enjoyed going on ghost hunts with my friends from high school. We still occasionally go on a hunt even though we are several years out of high school. It’s still fun and we have a great time.
One night in early June, a few years ago, my girlfriend, another couple and I were in route to a location that was reported to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who died of a bee sting, some fifty years before. Dying of a bee sting seems unlikely enough to those of us who are not allergic, but the rest of this story is even stranger.
The full moon was high in the night sky when we arrived at the abandoned house where the ghost was supposed to reside. The house was at that time located in the middle of a thirty-acre pasture adjacent to an old roadbed, which had been the main thoroughfare connecting this area of the county with the main county road leading to town. We had parked our car at the closest spot possible on the road and walked the considerable distance toward the lonesome figure of a dwelling, clearly visible in the open terrain.
The story that brought us to this place, as told by the couple with us, goes like this:
The young girl who lived in this house, loved the smell of honeysuckle and would pick a bouquet every day. She would bring it to the house where her mother would place it in a vase for everyone to enjoy. One day the mother had put the honeysuckle in the vase and placed it on a table in the living room. The young girl was gently brushing her nose against the blooms and was stung by a bee hidden among the flowers. Unknown to either of them, the little girl was allergic to bee stings. She suffered briefly and died that same day. She was rumored to be buried very near the house in a small family graveyard. The story is, that, when the honeysuckle is in bloom, the ghost of the little girl can be seen standing in the door of the house. That’s spooky enough, but what happened to us that night was even more disturbing and differs substantially from that version of the story.
We all joked about the story and naturally us guys began pretending to see things, trying to scare the girls with our fake sightings. The first thing we seriously noticed was the obvious outline of three grave markers silhouetted against the open pasture by the bright blue-silver moonlight. That fit the story that was told and pretty much changed the mood from a joke to something else. Things weren’t quite so funny after that. We noted that the old house was in poor condition as we walked around it looking through the windows, none of which retained even a single pane of glass. There was no front door, only a deep, black opening. One of the girls remarked that the house looked like a face with the windows resembling dark eyes on either side of the open door, which could easily be imagined to be a mouth. Once you noticed it, it was an eerie sight.
This old house was one of those that had never seen a drop of paint and was topped by a rusty tin roof. The chimney at one end of the house was made of fieldstone stacked with great care and it’s builders had used no mortar, typical of houses of that era. The house sat on a hillside with the downhill side elevated on pillars of stacked fieldstones. The front door was at a height of about three feet from the ground, where it had opened toward what had been the front yard. Blackberry briars guarded the doorways, effectively deterring any attempt to enter. The house didn’t have a front porch and the steps at the front door had collapsed years ago. We stood discussing the fact that we were just outside what we believed to be the living room where the bee had stung the little girl. About then, one of the girls mentioned that she smelled the scent of honeysuckle. With a deep breath, we all smelled it. It got very quiet, with only the far away sound of a whippoorwill and then, from inside the house, there was the very definite sound of footsteps. Clearly the footsteps were coming toward the front door. We all backed away several steps as a knee-jerk reaction to a sound that wasn’t supposed to be there.
We stared in disbelief as the moonlight illuminated the figure of a grown woman in a long dress and a light colored apron standing at the front door. She was holding what appeared to be a vase of flowers. The moonlight was bright enough that we could see the expression on her face was that of a very unhappy woman. Both the girls screamed and I came pretty close myself. The figure paid no attention to the screams of the girls or our presence at her front door. We watched as the woman threw the vase out into the yard. I saw the vase flying through the very bright moonlight and expected to hear the crash when it broke against the rocky ground. That sound never occurred and before my eyes the woman faded into the thick, warm, night air. With numbed amazement, I looked back at the spot where the vase should have landed and could see nothing that resembled it. That odd feeling of the hair standing on the back of my neck and a weird paralysis in my legs held me fast in place. My brain was screaming “run”, my feet were refusing to move and I actually felt as though I was losing my balance. At this point, the heavy scent of honeysuckle, again, filled the air. We all looked at each other and I am sure we were all thinking the same thing. The girls echoed in unison, “Let’s go”. I think all four of us completely agreed with that sentiment, thus we moved, with some haste, toward where the car was parked.
It was about two hundred yards to where the car was parked, on the side of a dirt road, but that walk (actually, more of a run) seemed much, much longer. We spooked a few cows in our hurried flight and quickly let ourselves through the pasture gate, to where the car waited. In the car, we had a loud and vigorous discussion about what had just happened as we hurriedly drove away. We all agreed that what we had seen had to be the little girl’s mother throwing out the flowers, which concealed the bee, which had killed her little girl. The woman’s apparition had every right to appear unhappy and it was very evident that her spirit was yet unquiet and had been so for all the years since the girl’s death. She had likely reenacted this same futile act of throwing out the flowers, countless times… every year… when the honeysuckle is in bloom.
Now, every time I smell honeysuckle, I relive that night, when I looked into the face of a very real and troubled spirit that was trapped in a fruitless cycle between the peace of the grave and the torment of living with the loss a child. May she, one day, find peace.