Monday, March 20, 2017
A Sausage Sighting of the Mysterious Boy at the Old House
Just up the hill from my Grandpa Prater's farmhouse in northern Indiana was the Old House: over 100 years old, now fallen to ruin. We could go up and play in the dusty yard, or hunt for frogs in the little pond, but we could not go inside. Uncle Paul said that it was full of "witch's blood" that would turn us into "ghosts," but most likely it was just unstable.
We usually stayed away from the Old House, unless there were adults up there, playing horseshoes or skinning and cleaning the animals they hunted. We didn't like the weird shadows in the upstairs windows, like dark figure moving about, or the porch swing that sometimes moved by itself.
But one day in the summer of 1972, when I was eleven years old, the farmhouse was full of people: Mom and Dad, my aunts and uncles, and some people I didn't know, an old guy Grandpa Prater's age, some husbands and wives, and a couple of surly teenagers. They were in the living room, the kitchen, in Grandma Prater's memorial room, even on the front porch.
They were all laughing loudly and talking about things that happened thirty years ago. Boring! And no kids to play with! My brother and baby sister were out with Grandma Davis, and Cousin Buster was visiting his other grandparents.
It was noisy and oppressively hot; I had to get out of there! I told Mom I was going to play outside.
But what to do? Nothing is more boring than a farm with no animals on it.
Even though it was a bright, sunny day, the Old House seemed more sinister than usual. I shivered with nervous excitement.
The porch swing was swinging by itself. I heard the rusty scrape.
Trying to avoid looking in the windows at whatever might be inside, I rounded to the back yard, and and almost ran into a boy.
I yelled and jumped back.
He didn't approach. He just stood there, staring.
He was a few years older than me, but not yet a teenager [models in the nude photos are over 18]. Tall and slim, with a round face, sharp features, and black curly hair. Wearing a thin brown jacket, which seemed weird on a hot day.
Someone to play with! And cute! I thought, smiling at him. "Do you live around here?"
"I think I used to live here," he said, still staring.
"Me, too. We moved away when I was little."
"Do you want to go inside? I can show you my old room. I carved my initials on the wall."
"No way...Grandpa told me to never go in there. There's witch's blood."
He frowned. "Ok, well -- let's swing."
We climbed on the porch swing and started swinging back and forth, until we were banging against the wall. It felt like the whole house was about to fall down. I jumped off.
"Let's throw some rocks in the pond," I said.
"No. It's hot. Let's go swimming!"
"No, it isn't. When I was a kid, I swam in there all the time. It's fun."
"Well...I don't have a swim suit."
"You weenie! Come on, I'll race you." He started taking his clothes off. I stopped instinctively to watch, I saw a nice smooth hard chest. He turned his back to take off his shorts, but then turned back, giving me a nice view of his "shame."
A beautiful cut Bratwurst! I hadn't seen very many at that time, but I could tell it was special, the stuff of dreams.
The boy ran and jumped into the pond with a big splash.
"Is it deep?" I said doubtfully.
But the boy wasn't paying attention. He stood and started walking off, into the pond, like he belonged there...
At that moment, I heard my Mom yelling for me. "I got to go," I said, and ran down the hill.
"Where have you been?" Mom asked. "We've been ready to go for fifteen minutes while you traipsed around at the Old House."
I decided not to tell them about the boy, and get him in trouble, too.
I sort of wanted him to be a ghost, but I knew there was a realistic explanation.
Eventually I asked Mom, who told me that the people visiting that day were Grandpa's Cousin Crit and his family. They moved to Indiana with Mom's family in 1942, and lived in the Old House until 1965.
"Was there a boy a little older than me?" I asked.
"I think all his kids were my age, but let's check." She went to get a family Bible to check. "Cousin Crit, born in 1910. Married Sarah, had six kids: Delmar, Ethel, Wilkie, Alice, and Carl."
Carl, the youngest, was born in November 1943. He would have been 28 years old. Maybe a grandson, who lived with them?
Mom didn't remember any, but she spent a couple of years in Long Beach, right after she got married, so she didn't know for sure.
North Manchester, Indiana, July 2006
Over 30 year later, when I was living in Dayton, Ohio, I thought about the boy at the Old House again, and tried to look up Cousin Crit's kin online. There were dozens of people with his last name in North Manchester, including the mayor, but with a little digging I managed to find Carl. A phone call got me an invitation to visit my third cousin.
Carl was 62 years old, a buffed muscle bear with a hefty gray beard, retired from the military and back in his home town to take care of his invalid sister (his other siblings had died). He told me about his career: joining the army right after high school in 1961, being stationed in Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Afghanistan, always on the move, never able to find a home.
"I remember that visit!" he said. "It was first time I was back to the Old House since I moved away But I don't know who the kid was."
"He said he used to live in the house."
"I don't know what he was telling you, but I was the last kid to live there. Maybe one of my nephews stayed for a week or two. But none of them were 12 or 13 in 1972."
I shruggd. "I must be remembering it wrong."
"You know who it sounds like?" Carl said. "Me. I was born in the Old House. I carved my name on the wall of my room upstairs, and banged on the wall with the porch swing, and I used to go skinny-dipping in the pond all the time. But I didn't do any of those things that day, and besides, I was 28 years old, not 13."
"Unless a younger version of you went skinny dipping with me while you was sitting in the farmhouse," I said with a laugh. "A preteen doppelganger trying to recapture the lost freedom of his childhood."
Carl didn't share my interest in the paranormal, and I didn't want to explain. Or to ask him to drop his pants, so I could compare his penis to that of the mysterious boy I saw at the Old House 30 years ago.
See also: The Naked Man in the Peat Bog; Lane's Weirdest Paranormal Experience.