Stories



THE CRYING BABY

Picture of Bon Secour River Cottage
Drawing by Hazel and Richard Brough
from the book “Food, Fun, and Fable.”


     Ghosts take many forms from skeletons to beautiful, though star-crossed young women, but this particular ghost was unusual because it was a crying baby. About the year 1830 in a white house on the shore of Bon Secour River, near the Indian mound, lived a man, his wife who was from Connecticut, and their baby. The man went off on a fishing trip as the commercial fishermen of Bon Secour so often did in those days. While he was gone, the woman contracted yellow fever, and she and the baby died alone in the house with no one to nurse them.

     Evidently the young mother did what she could to protect the baby, for her body was found in a different room from that of her child. However, this had not saved the baby from contracting the disease. It was impossible to tell who died first, mother or child; both had been dead for some time when their neighbors remembered them and, as their own sick improved or died, came to look for the pitiful couple.

     I have talked to people who have seen their grave in the cemetery beside the Indian mound. No one seems to know what became of the young husband; probably, distraught and grief stricken, he left the locality entirely. The house gradually developed a peculiarity, which was that persons standing on the front porch and looking into the parlor would see a figure standing by the fireplace, apparently a young woman holding a baby. But when they went inside, no one was there. Also a baby cried pitifully in the night, slow wails as though it were utterly exhausted from crying. Mothers of several tenant families heard a crying child in the night but when they got up to look, thinking it was one of their own, no child was disturbed or even whimpering.

     Then a young man bought the property, tore down the old house and incorporated its old timbers in a much more modern house. No one thought anything about the old story. I have talked to descendants of the second builder, but they do not remember having heard the baby. However, after the family grew up and tenants occupied the house, the baby was heard crying again. Strangely, only women heard this pitiful little ghost. No man seems ever to have heard its sobbing cry.

     One of the tenants who had rented the place married a widow with two children of her own. She was scarcely well established as mistress of the house when she was disturbed by the cries of the baby and got up to check on her own children. When she found them to be all right, she wakened her husband to hear the baby cry, and he declared that he heard no baby. This led to argument, and finally he accused his wife of being a little crazy. She resented the accusation, and though they made up their differences, the argument was rekindled the next night. Again she heard the baby cry, and again her husband refused to acknowledge that he heard the cries.

     Gradually this inability of his to hear what was plainly audible to her, alienated the woman from her husband. One morning after she had heard the baby cry all night she got up, took her children, and returned to her own property. Whether he followed her or not I do not know, but I am told that she firmly refused to return to the house or even to go back on that side of the river. I do not know that this story proves anything except men are notoriously deaf to a crying baby, but it does have that core of stark realism characteristic of Bon Secour stories.

     The lingering presence of the young mother's despair as she died with the sound of her neglected baby's wails in her ears, to me fills that house with a miasma of pain and horror which easily could endure for one hundred and thirty-five years. I do not blame the widow woman because she did not go back. The agony which lingered there must have had a strange half-life all its own with a despondency which can reach out of the past and grip the heart.

     Written in 1965 by Charley and Meme Wakeford for their book “Food, Fun, and Fable.” The assistance of Mrs. George A. Brown is gratefully acknowledged.