For more than two centuries, The Augusta Chronicle has reported its share of the unexplained – what many call ghost stories.
In 1980, Robert Lane recounted several.
Lane, a single farmer, lived in a very old, large family home in the Winfield section near the Columbia-McDuffie county line. The house was built in the 1800s and Lane graciously showed the place to a reporter who had come to report on his family’s copy of a royal land grant sealed by King George III of England.
Like most old houses, hers creaked and creaked when walked on its old wooden floors. Like most farms, it was isolated, secluded by pasture on a two-lane road.
The mystery of the hand
Lane was pointing to the old location when he mentioned the mystery of the hand.
He was washing the dishes one evening after dinner in the kitchen when he heard a door creak behind him. He turned and saw a very large hand clutching the edge of the door on the other side.
He said he wasn’t alarmed because he had friends who “just walked in” unannounced.
He said he shouted a hello and headed for the door…and the hand was quickly removed.
He walked 10 feet, opened the door and discovered that there was no one in the room on the other side.
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Lane told the story of the hand factually and admitted he couldn’t explain it, but he didn’t mind because similar things happened all the time around the old house.
He said visitors often asked him about an old snow-white-haired man they saw inside the house, staring at them through the window as they approached.
“He’s supposed to look a bit like me,” Lane said, “except for the hair.”
Lane didn’t have much.
A visitor told Lane that he had seen an old man in an upstairs room looking outside, and when Lane asked what he looked like he was told “He looks like this” and pointed to a photo on the wall of one of Lane’s ancestors, who had once lived in the house.
Other visitors said they looked outside to see someone walking around the porch, but when they came out to look, no one was there.
Lane said he only really got scared once.
One late summer night, he said, he was in a back room when he heard what sounded like bare feet running up the steps leading upstairs. No one answered when he called, and he took his gun, then looked in every room and every closet and found no one.
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Among the stories, a tragedy
Others had their own stories, he said.
A brother-in-law walking down the main hall suddenly saw a small towel floating from the ceiling like “a flying carpet”.
Lane said his brother was once walking down the same hallway when about a gallon of water was poured over his head and shoulders. Again, a search by several in the house could find no source of water or anyone who poured it.
Lane said the Old House’s only tragedy took place long before he was born. Her mother told her a story of a “candy pull” social event at home, common in rural communities at the time.
As night fell, someone dared one of the young girls to stand on one of the graves in a small family cemetery.
To prove that she had actually done it, she had to take a fork and stick it in a grave. She fled to complete the mission, but did not return. After a while, the group went looking for her and found her dead on one of the graves.
She had plunged the fork into it and had skewered her long skirt in the process.
When she tried to run away, Lane said, she must have felt like something from the grave was grabbing her and she was afraid of a fatal attack.
That’s how he explained it. The other stories of his old house he couldn’t explain.
Bill Kirby has reported, photographed and commented on life in Augusta and Georgia for 45 years.