It’s time for the ghost and goblins to show their faces. Here are a few spooky stories from my boyhood.
On moonlit nights at the Holy Rosary Mission Boarding School on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the ancient graveyard could be seen clearly through the tall French windows of our third floor dormitory. As the moonlight reflected off of the tombstones eerie shadows seemed to move among them and we buried our heads in our pillows.
A Jesuit priest saw something burning on one of the tombstones one night. He went to investigate and saw the image of the Devil glowing. He put out the fire and called Brother Eben to chisel the image of the evil spirit off of the tombstone. Although the face has been obliterated one can still see the tips of his horns. One Halloween a television crew from Rapid City sent a news team to the mission school to tape the image for the nightly news.
There were many spooky stories that emanated from the mission boarding school, now called Red Cloud. One story I can verify was the organ that played eerie tunes and could be heard in our dormitory into the wee hours of the night.
There are former students who swear that they would wake up and see a nun with no head floating through the aisles between the bunk beds.
We were often awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of something rolling down the concrete steps that led to the dormitory. It’s as if a bowling ball was rolling down the steps and pausing for a short time on each step before bouncing to the next step. I heard that sound several times and to this day none of us ever figured out what it was.
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In the dark of the night after all of us had finally fallen asleep we would wake up to the squeak, squeak of leather shoes pacing between the rows of our bunk beds. We would listen and pull the covers over our heads, but we knew it was a Jesuit prefect trying to walk silently between the rows of beds to check on the students. But I’ll never forget how spooky that squeaky sound was in the dark hours of the night.
Across America there are spooky stories about Indian hospitals and Indian boarding schools. The hospital in Rapid City known as the “Sioux San” can be a spooky place for those working the late night shift. They say they can hear people talking and babies crying. The employees swear it is true.
Stories of spirits and ghosts were common on the reservation. Every community had its own story. But the one that rings true to me because I lived in that community was a story that was born at Wounded Knee. The elders would sit on the benches in front of the Wounded Knee Trading Post on the warm summer evenings when I was a boy and talk in whispers.
My father worked at the Wounded Knee Trading Post and we lived in one of the cabins adjacent to the store. I used to listen with fear as the elders talked about that day in December of 1890 when the cries of frightened women and the terrifying screams of children could be heard echoing through the woods and canyons around Wounded Knee. The Massacre happened on December 29, 1890.
The haunting stories of the 300 men, women and children slaughtered that day at Wounded Knee brought fear, pain and anger to me when I was a boy. The elders who revisited the story on those summer nights left an indelible impression on my young mind. And that was probably the scariest story I ever heard because it was true. On dark nights when I sat on my porch in Wounded Knee village I could almost hear the blast of the Hotchkiss guns and hear the bullets whistling and crashing in the woods. One night I swear I heard a woman scream.