Some eight or ten years ago, an old companion and I were hunting ruffed grouse in an old lumber district and had employed a middle-aged man named Joe as a guide. Having hunted and trapped in that country for many years, he was intimately acquainted with every road, path, and old clearing likely to contain game.
Joe was something of a character. Though unable to read or write, he was well informed on all subjects relating to trapping fur-bearing animals, whose habits he’d learned so well that none of the other trappers in the vicinity were as successful as he in jutting wits against those of wild creatures. Many evenings, he would amuse clients with tales of the beaver, otter, mink, and bear, whose habits he knew far better than most men who make their livings by writing on such subjects. Joe was not only exceedingly intelligent, but he also had spent his whole life among these animals and these woods.
But to get to the ghost story—one day we determined to hike with blankets and food to a house long out of use by the lumber men, who had built the structure and cleared a large tract of land to raise hay and vegetables. We intended to hunt there for a couple of days and then return to our original camp. Well, it rained most of the second day, and we didn’t feel like taking the long walk back to headquarters, so we returned to the house early in the afternoon and had supper. After fixing things up a bit, we lay down on the floor in our hay and lazily smoked our pipes.
Before proceeding further, I must give some description of the house so that Joe’s tale may be better understood. The house was two stories, built of logs, and had an attached kitchen. The upstairs was divided into two rooms by a thin partition, and the downstairs was the same. There was a door from the outside leading into the eating room and another from the kitchen. After we talked for a while, the conversation gradually turned to the discussion of ghosts, and I asked Joe if he had ever seen or heard one.
“Yes,” he said. “I heard one in this very house.”
“When was that?” I asked.
“Well, I’ll tell you about it. Two or three years ago I was trapping in this country and had made this house my headquarters, living and sleeping in the kitchen, where I had a bed and where there was a good stove to cook and keep warm. I was alone, but Jim Laponite, a trapper, occasionally visited me here. As I had a large number of traps set, my daily round was long, and I was generally pretty tired at night. One evening I went to bed early after having something to eat and slept soundly until toward morning, when someone knocking at the door leading into the eating room woke me. I sat up in bed, thinking it was Jim, though the hour was unusual. I called out ‘Is that you, Jim?’ I received no answer, but the knock came again. I asked the same question but again received no reply. Then I heard the door open and the fall of a heavy footsteps crossing into the next room then go slowly up the stairs and across both rooms up there. I didn’t know what to make of it but decided to investigate. I quietly rose from bed, threw on clothes, and grabbed my hunting axe. Having heard the steps upstairs, I raced up but found no trace of anyone. I then came downstairs to discover the door ajar. I looked for a trace of the intruder, but there were neither footsteps in the fresh snow, which had fallen during the night, nor the slightest indication that anyone had been near the place.”
“Had you been drinking?” I asked.
“Not a drop for months,” he replied.
“Then how do you account for it all?”
“I can’t account for it unless it was a ghost, but the circumstances were exactly as I told you. Someone may have died or been killed here long ago, and their spirit may have a habit of returning.”
We thanked Joe for this tale, which no one doubted he believed in full. With a shivery sort of feeling, we rolled over and unsuccessfully tried to sleep before our morning hunt. +++
Be sure to pick up the new issue of Sporting Classics, on newsstands Oct. 29.
This story originally appeared in Rod and Gun, 1914. Made available by the Internet Archive. Cover image from In Berkshire Fields by Walker Prichard Eaton, art by Walter King Stone, 1920. Edits have been made to the original text.