“I know that ghost is out there,” he muttered, his pale blue eyes wide and unblinking. “I seen those ghost lights in the cemetery.” Several teenagers and I had been talking about the ghostly legends in their town of Kilgore, Texas. This boy was convinced that one story was more than just a legend.
“You saw them,” I replied. It wasn’t a question, I was making a feeble attempt to correct his grammar. He didn’t take the hint.
“Yes, Ma’am. I surely did. Them lantern lights was a-bobbin’ and a-weavin’ smack dab in the middle of the cemetery. And, nobody was carryin’ ’em!” he said.
Well, his grammar was atrocious, but at least he had manners.
Although the story the kids told me that day cannot be substantiated, I enjoyed hearing it, because it speaks of a mother’s love for her child, and thought I would pass it along to you. If you aren’t familiar with Kilgore, it is in the Piney Woods of east Texas. Aside from being the home of the famous Rangerettes, Kilgore was the center of a major oil boom back 1930. If you visit the town, you can’t help but notice the numerous oil derricks downtown that touch the sky on what was once dubbed “The World’s Richest Acre.
At Pirtle Cemetery, only tombstones reach toward the sky. Those teenagers told me that there is a boy buried in that cemetery who once lived on a farm near Kilgore. In life, that little boy was terrified of the dark. It’s normal to be a bit afraid of the dark … or rather, of what might be lurking in the dark, but this boy took the fear to a new level. He screamed like a banshee if he found himself in darkness, and could hardly close his eyes to sleep.
All his life, his mother tried to calm him and keep the darkness away. At night, she sat beside him on the bed, with a lantern softly glowing on the table, to help ease his night fears. She crooned lullabies and told him stories until he drifted into fitful sleep. Then, she left the lantern burning low as she crept off to her own bed to sleep. Often she got up during the night to check on that lantern, because if it burned out the boy would wake up howling and disturb the entire household. She must have been an exhausted woman!
His friends made fun of the boy for his fears, and his father was angry at both the boy and his mother (for coddling him), but that changed nothing. The little boy remained fearful for all of his short life. It was a paranoia that could not be eased.
The boy got desperately ill; he “took The Fever,” they said. His mother sat at his bedside day and night for weeks as the boy’s health slowly deteriorated. The light left his eyes, and he was dead. Family and friends came to take the child’s body for burial, but the mother clung to the corpse. “You can’t take him! He’s afraid of the dark!” the mother cried. Finally the doctor had to give the woman laudanum so she could calm down enough to bury her son.
After he was interred, in Pirtle Cemetery, the mother visited his grave each night. Often strangers to town were startled to see lights flickering in the cemetery after dark-thirty. Local folks assured them that it was only the woman, who was crazy with grief. They shook their heads explaining that she thought she was comforting her dead son, poor woman. She carried her lantern, weaving through the tombstones to her son’s grave. There she sat beside him and sang lullabies until the morning sun sent fingers of light across the sky.
It is said that the mother died not long afterward, and that she probably grieved herself to death. Although she is buried beside her son, it seems she still tries to visit him at night. People, like the teenagers who told me this story, have seen a lantern light “a-bobbin’ and a-weavin’ smack dab in the middle of the cemetery.” They say it is that forlorn mother still comforting her son from beyond the grave.
Is the story “true?” The kids couldn’t give me a name or the location of the grave (other than “smack dab in the middle”). From that, I believe it is probably a legend designed to tell at slumber parties to make kids wet their pants in fear. However, the story has a truth to it: a mother’s love never ends.