Archived Story

Ghostly music from a stringless banjo, a favorite ghost story

Published 10:39am Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Another favorite ghost story told by Scout Executive Lawrence L. Stanley during Wednesday night campfires at Camp Old Indian was The Ghost that played “Sourwood Mountain.”
The incident took place about 1900 in Fannin County, Ga. A lot of families lived along the creeks that fed the Toccoa River. Forest Service agents began moving into the area and buying property for a new National Forest. Many families were moved out to make room for new roads, trails and forest plantings.
A number of old homes that had stood for more than a century were abandoned. Some were torn down, but others still stood in a dilapidated condition.
Before the homes were abandoned, some very interesting people lived in them. They were so isolated in this mountainous area that they were forced to make many articles of furniture, as well as homemade fiddles and five-string banjos. Most of their music was a number of ballads made up on the spot and set to catchy new and old, familiar tunes.
Two fishermen decided to catch some of the prized trout in the well-stocked streams. They walked deep into the forested area. They arrived at one of the abandoned homes and began preparing their gear.
After catching a fine string of fish, they found themselves late in the afternoon still near the old, abandoned home. They decided to camp out for the night alongside a cool spring that once was used by people who lived there.
Stone work around the spring head and a stone-walled spring box were still intact. This would be a good place to keep their prized trout for the night. They looked for some old boards to lay across the stone box and heavy rocks to hold them down, to keep varmints away from the trout during the night.
They made a fire near the spring and cut some spruce tips to make beds. After they finished their meal a little before dark, one of them decided to walk back and investigate the old house. The other warned him to watch for snakes that  frequented abandoned structures.
In a little while the curious fisherman returned to the campfire. He had found three homemade benches in the old house. On the wall hung a crude, homemade banjo without a head or strings.
“Do you know who lived here?” he asked his companion.
“Yes, this is the house where they were having a party about 30 years ago. A young man was shot to death in the middle of the room where they were folk dancing. That old piece of a banjo was probably the one somebody was playing when a jealous neighbor killed the young man for dancing with the girl he had been courting.”
“Did you see any blood spots on the floor? They used to be there.”
“No, it was too dark to see them now. We’ll look for them in the morning before we leave.”
They stoked the fire and stretched out on their spruce tip beds. Hours later, one of young men woke with a start.

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