“A strange thing happened one night when I was a young girl and my beau and I were walking home from church. The night was very dark. No stars were out, and of course there were no street lights. It was just one of those nights when everything is pitch dark, like a heavy fog over everything.
We were walking along, but not too fast as it was summer and I wouldn’t see Jim again ’til the next Saturday night.
One minute we were moving along all right and then Jim suddenly pulled me over saying, ‘Look out.’
At first, I thought he had seen a mud puddle, but he hurried me along and when I asked him what was the matter he said, “Nothing. I’ll tell you about it later.”
He was sweating and by the time we reached home I was pretty nigh tuckered out, too. But as soon as we stumbled up the porch I could see he was pretty scared as well as tired out. He told me that pulled me over to one side, not because of a puddle, but because he didn’t want me to walk into his sister who had been dead for over six years.
It seems that when he was about nine years old and his sister about five, one evening his sister was playing in front of the fireplace and he threw her doll into the fire. His sister rushed into the fireplace after it, and of course her clothes caught fire and she was so badly burned that she died.
Jim was sorry for what he had done and had begged to be pardoned for his sin, because he had dearly loved her. It worried him and after his sister was buried, she came toward him with her arms outstretched. I hadn’t been born with a caul over my head and couldn’t see her, but Jim said that if I had walked into her I would have felt something cold and clammy and he knew I would be scared.
I never again went walking with Jim in the dark.”
Told by Sadie Johnson, November 2, 1938
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project.
Library of Congress