Monday, November 28, 2016

Ghost Story #1: Ma Ma Sarah

While I was writing Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, my Uncle Bernie sent me more than 30 stories from throughout his life in the form of hand-written letters. After Maryland Ghosts was first published in 2012, and featured most of his Maryland stories, we turned his remaining letters into an unpublished collection to share with family and friends called The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life. Here is one of my favorite stories from that collection:

Chatham, Virginia (Pittsylvania County), 1996

This story took place at our family's plantation home inherited by my cousin, Taylor Lee Meadows. It was July 1996, and Debra and I had been dating since May 6, 1995. I wanted my Chatham family to meet her. This is the home of your grandfather’s sister, Aunt Dorothy (Aunt Dot), who will be 95 in November 2011!

This old tobacco farm is 400 acres in size, and the last tobacco crop was in 1985, and was also the best crop in the history of the Meadows Farm. The plantation was built by Hunt Meadows, Sr. and his wife, Sarah, in 1900.

I visited there often as a young boy and hunted the farm with my cousin Taylor as a teenager. I had also visited there in April 1969 on my way home from being discharged from active duty in the Marine Corps. I remember that Ma Ma Sarah, as Hunt Meadows' wife was always called, made a nice family picnic for me on that visit, with southern cured ham, homemade apple pie from her apple tree, homemade peach ice cream from her peach trees, all of the fixings from her large garden (watermelon, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peas, corn on the cob), homemade biscuits with churned butter, sweet potato pie, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes with "red eye" gravy, deviled eggs, homemade jams and jellies, and watermelon pickles.

What a feast! We all ate like kings and queens. She had also made homemade iced tea for us, with crystal clear spring water from their spring—which had originally been used by the Shawnee Indians and is still in use today!

When Debra and I arrived in Chatham in July 1996, the entire family—all of my Meadows cousins, Taylor, Richard, Frankie, Bill, Sarah, and Aunt Dot—had a wonderful picnic again in Ma Ma Sarah’s honor. Hunt Meadows, Sr. had died in 1957, which was my first funeral, and Sarah died in 1976.

Debra and I also had the honor of staying in the plantation home with Taylor on that visit. We actually slept in Ma Ma Sarah and Hunt, Sr.’s bed, in their original bedroom.

It was approximately 5:15 a.m. the next morning, as the sun began to rise and shine through the drapes of the bedroom window. Debra was asleep, to my right, between me and the bedroom wall. As I looked at the sun coming through the bedroom window, I noticed a white figure of a woman to the left of the window, in the corner, beside the dresser.

We both stared at one another for a minute or so, Debra still asleep beside me. I did not want to startle her, or our visitor.

The form slowly drifted toward the windows and I could see "Ma Ma Sarah" as plain as day. She merged with the sunlight coming in through the window and was gone in an instant.

I felt good, not unnerved, about seeing her.

I could hear Taylor in the kitchen, so I rose from bed to greet him good morning. I shared with him what I had seen (well, who I had seen) only minutes earlier. He was pleased and noted that even though no one had seen a ghost in the old plantation home, several relatives had heard footsteps upstairs or felt the presence of someone touch or caress them.

Taylor and I then left to feed his cattle and stopped to drink from the old spring house, using an old dried gourd as our cup. The delicious water was crystal clear, so refreshing, and ice cold!

We did not share the news with Debra about the spirit until after she had fixed us a wonderful breakfast. After the breakfast dishes were washed and dried and put away, we sat her down in Taylor’s living room and told her about my experience. Debra was not at all upset about what had occurred.

It had been 20 years since Ma Ma Sarah had passed away. I told Debra that I felt Sarah was curious about who was sleeping in her room, especially who the man was that was sleeping on her long-deceased husband’s side of the bed. And, when she recognized me, and knew I recognized her, she was at peace and left us to enjoy her lovely home.

Amelia, I have been back to that home countless times since that trip in 1996, and I have never had that experience again.
–B.W.M.

"Ma Ma Sarah," copyright 2016 Bernard W. Masino and Amelia Cotter (first appeared in The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life, 2013)