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A Gurdon Ghost Story

Posted by Tony Reyes |

Arkansas traveler isn’t sure she saw the light

I have very vague memories of the light myself. Honestly, I still couldn’t tell you if I’m remembering something that actually happened to me or if it was told to me and I just remember the tale. I hope you enjoy it.

Photo courtesy Kat Robinson The Gurdon ghost light is among Arkansas’ most infamous hauntings. But a writer who was there in the late 1960s still isn’t sure what she saw.

Photo courtesy Kat Robinson
The Gurdon ghost light is among Arkansas’ most infamous hauntings. But a writer who was there in the late 1960s still isn’t sure what she saw.

The boys were excited — uncles and cousins of mine, all whooping it up out on the back side of the house. There was a spur of excitement going through the tight little pod of young men.

One of them came in the house and strode past with big steps, crossing the dining area and swiping the phone handset off its cradle in one long swoop. He spun the dial five times and paused, then started talking rapidly into the phone.

“Hey! Yeah, we’re taking the kids out to see it. How about your bunch?” He paused again, listening as I stood by the bar, peering up at him. “Well, if you want to send the boys, that’s fine. The girls will be too scared.”

“I’m not scared,” I piped up.

He looked down at me and kept talking. “We’re about to head out. Send them over.” The phone handset went back down on the cradle, and he bent over. “You’re too young.”

“I’m not scared of anything!” I insisted. He took off back toward the carport, and after a moment I decided to follow him. I must have been just 5 or 6, but I was certain I was 10 feet tall and bulletproof.

The trucks were being loaded up. One of my cousins, still a teenager, saw me coming out and picked me up, setting me in the back of the truck. A friend of one of my cousins — I knew his name was Marcus — had assumed a perch sitting on the wheel well. “Y’all know the story, don’t you?”

Some of the boys nodded. Marcus continued anyway for the benefit of those who had shaken their heads.

“There was a lineman named Will McClain. He worked on the MoPac line back in the ’30s. He got in a fight with one of his guys, a fellow named Louis McBride. Fella beat him to death with a rail spike. We’re gonna go see his ghost!”

Several of the boys yelled their approval, and two of them climbed back over the side of the truck to go hunt up a few more flashlights. I checked to make sure my little Snoopy flashlight was working and tucked my legs up under my arms.

I heard my grandmother come out and call my name, but I didn’t answer because I knew she’d make me come back in the house. Then the truck I was in started up, and we were crunching down the gravel and out to the highway.

We drove through town, over the big set of railroad tracks, then out onto Highway 67. We made another turn on Stickey Road and drove until we got right by the interstate. The trucks parked end to end along the side of the road, and we all piled out.

I turned on my little Snoopy flashlight and was bothered by how little it actually lit. But we weren’t far past the trestle when one of the guys hollered “Whoa!” He clicked off his light and we all followed suit, standing as quietly as we all could in the sliver of crescent moonlight along the train tracks. We listened, hearing a little rustling that could have been us or the wind or any sort of passing animal. And then, someone hollered:

“HEY LIGHT!”

… words that about knocked me out of my skin. I bit down on my tongue to keep from crying out. I was suddenly very scared.

But there was nothing.

“What light is it, Marcus?” one of the guys behind me asked.

“It’s supposed to be Will McClain’s lantern you see, but I think it’s his head. Don’t ghosts glow?”

Another voice piped up: “How far along is it supposed to be?”

“It could be about anywhere,” he replied. “We gotta keep going.”

And on we went. Two more times we paused, cut our lights and waited for some sort of light to appear. It was a long trek to Highway 53; we’d gone past where we were supposed to see the light. So they all turned back. This time we were quicker, and I was nearly running to keep up.

Then I tripped. My flashlight landed on the tracks and then fell over the side of the embankment. My knee hurt from scraping the gravel between the cross ties. I tried not to whimper.

Right about that time another halt was called. The lights went out — all but my little Snoopy flashlight, which was just out of my reach. I crawled forward and finally got over to it, clicking it off just as one of the guys hollered, “Hey, there it is! See it?”

At first, I thought they were talking about my light, but then it was followed by “There it is!”

“Where?”

“Ahead! See it bob?”

“Hey, Light!” two of them hollered. For a few moments we were all quiet and still. I think everyone was trying to determine whether what they saw was real. And then Marcus again: “See? There he is!”

There was a whooping amongst the men, and I heard a couple of hands clapped on shoulders.

“Are we going to see it again?” someone asked.

“Naw,” Marcus shouted for all of us to hear. “We’ve probably done spooked him back to his grave.”

KAT ROBINSON

kat@tiedyetravels.com

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