Elwood Stories

This is one of the famous Elwood stories. Elwood is a place in America near to California and is definitely a creepy place–so much so that my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), Susan, was reluctant to drive out there to see me while I was staying in my grandparents’ house. It’s heavily wooded, very dark, and most of the homes are old and rather run-down. The population of Elwood is largely elderly folks who tend to go to bed early, giving the place an eerie ghost-town feel not long after dark. Of course, Susan had also heard all the family ghost stories from me, so that might have added to her unease about the place. (As an aside, one evening Susan and I were returning to the house in Elwood at about 1 AM when we saw a solitary figure shambling with an odd broken gait down the road that crosses the street my grandparents’ house is on. As we passed him, we could see that he was dragging one of his legs, and was dressed in torn and dirty clothing. His expression was strange, nearly blank. Susan had planned to stay the night with me, but was so frightened by this figure that she insisted on driving home in her own car. Right then. Very, very fast.

The next day, I did a little investigating and discovered that the man was a resident in a halfway house for mentally disabled adults who had gotten happy feet and gone wandering early the previous day. I was relieved to find that Romero’s zombie hordes weren’t preparing to overrun the town, but Susan wasn’t comforted. Needless to say, she was very happy when I moved back to my apartment, and happier still when my folks finally sold the house and left Elwood forever. Anyway, back to the reason we all came to this NG…) In the late 1960s my Aunt Elizabeth (who, for reasons lost in the depths of time, was nicknamed “Sister”) met and married Claude. My grandparents, as a wedding gift, gave them a parcel of their land on which to build a house, making them neighbors. Claude wasn’t a particularly ambitious man, but he finally settled on a business he liked: auto salvage. So now my grandparents were also neighbors to a small junkyard. One morning in the spring of 1969, just before daybreak, Claude got a call to tow away a wrecked car.

As was her habit, Elizabeth got up with him, brewed coffee, and went out to his tow truck to retrieve his Thermos. As she approached the truck in the predawn darkness, she heard the sound of a woman crying. She walked around the truck to find the source of the sobbing, and discovered an old woman in an ankle length dress with a scarf tied over her hair. Elizabeth approached the woman to offer her help, and only then realized that the woman had no feet beneath the dress, and seemed to be floating over the ground. The old woman appeared to notice Elizabeth and reached out her arms imploringly. Elizabeth screamed and fled into the house, where she hysterically tried to explain to Claude what she has seen.

Claude went out to investigate, but heard no sobbing and saw no ghostly woman. He dismissed Elizabeth’s story as “woman trouble,” and considered that to be the end of it. He was wrong. Two days later, Claude was napping in his recliner in front of the evening news while Elizabeth prepared their 14 month old son Eddie for his nightly bath. Claude was jolted suddenly awake by the sound of a shriek, followed by a loud crashing thud from the bathroom. He ran into the room and found Elizabeth unconscious on the bathroom tile, bleeding from a cut in her scalp, and cradling Eddie on her chest. Claude distinctly heard the sound of a single hitching sob from the bathtub, and he whipped the shower curtain back so quickly he half-tore it off its rings. The tub was empty except for the water that had been drawn for Eddie’s bath, but the water itself was strange. “While I watched,” he said years later, “the water in that tub faded from a rosy pink to clear.”

Claude collected his wife and son and moved them to their bedroom, where Elizabeth regained consciousness. As Claude held an icepack to her head, she told him what she had seen. Elizabeth had run the water for Eddie’s bath, as usual. She gathered him up from his crib, removed his clothes, and returned with him to the bathroom. She opened the linen closet to grab a washcloth and baby shampoo, and when she turned back to the tub, she found the old lady from two days earlier sitting in bathwater that had turned the color of blood. The old lady again sobbed and reached out for her, and Elizabeth screamed, turned to run, and struck her head against the edge of the open closet door, knocking herself out. Claude reassured her that he had seen no one, but–not wanting to upset Elizabeth any further–neglected to mention seeing the water fade from pink to clear. No one else got a bath that night. Claude needn’t have worried about upsetting Elizabeth any further; she was about as upset as a person can get. And, although they both heard the sounds of a woman’s despairing sobs for the next three nights, neither of them saw her again. And when the crying stopped for good, they both eventually felt that they could rest a little easier, and even managed to half-convince themselves that they had imagined the whole thing.

Until the night, nearly a year later, when Elizabeth laughingly related the story to her father, who lived only 50 yards or so from her front door. “I heard that damn crying, too,” he said. “I was ready to come over to your house and kick Claude’s ass for beating you up, but your mother stopped me. Then, the crying stopped, so I figured everything worked itself out.” Her father gave her a scrutinizing look. “You mean that wasn’t you crying?” And, for the first time, Elizabeth fainted dead away. (This story has been vouched for by Elizabeth, Claude, and her father–my grandfather. I think I tell it a little better than they did, but they all swore to the details of the event. Sadly, neither Claude nor my grandfather are alive today. I bet they would have been really irritated that I told their story like this.)

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