By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
It was a roomy, but old fashioned house. A low, two-story structure built in the shape of a T; it had a cluster of tall chimneys in the middle and three gables hidden in ivy. When built it had been quite out of town, but soon cottages and villas surrounded the high wall enclosing the grounds. The lawn was shaded with old trees and the garden had thickets of lilac and snowball.
Mrs. Gage lived there for 40 years; the last 20 she had lived only on the ground floor. She was an invalid and lived a secluded life. She had made little effort to keep the property up, and it decayed as she did herself. She died and it was placed for sale.
A young family moved there and immediately made improvements, including the garden. They placed rustic seats under an old tree at the further end of the central walk. It had a huge, gnarled trunk and was covered with ivy.
Soon however the young wife said the spot under the tree's canopy made her uneasy. She even suggested the tree should be cut down. She said, "I don't know why it is, but I always feel nervous here. I fancy there is something peculiar about the place — in the rustling of the ivy and in the very atmosphere; I often find myself starting and looking around with a vague sense of something horrible. I hate the sight of that tree, with its distorted shape and bare skeleton arms."
The husband agreed to remove the tree. He planned to ask a man who was taking down a portion of the wall, which separated their garden from the neighbor. It was made of stone, but the mortar had fallen out and what was left was little more than a pile of loose stones.
Once the wall was gone, the older couple who were their neighbors invited them over to see the old gentleman's collection of roses. The woman told the couple that in the ten years they had lived there, they had seen the prior occupant only twice. However she had not always been this way. The old lady had once been married and had a daughter. The girl was pretty and spoiled, and she fell in love with a man her parents did not approve of. They forbid the relationship, but she eloped, taking her jewelry, $500 from her father's desk and leaving only a note.
The parents tried to find her, and the only one they found was her lover, who denied any knowledge of an elopement. He had received letters from her planning an elopement, but suddenly they had stopped and he never heard from her again.
The old neighbor told the young wife this is how the daughter escaped from the house. She had mounted the sloping trunk of the old tree at the foot of the garden walk, and stepped along its horizontal branches to the top of the wall. The parents had found broken twigs and scattered leaves at the foot of the tree. On the ground outside the wall was found her shawl, and that was all.
When the workmen came to cut down the tree, they heard something rattling inside of it. They discovered bones, but they weren't sure if they were human or not. The owner of the house directed that the trunk should be felled. When they did, it exposed a hollow stump in which lay a mass of human bones with remains of a woman's dress. Below this were jewels and gold and silver coin.
The elderly neighbor who came to look at the felling of the tree, said there could be no doubt this was the daughter who had run away. It was believed she threw her shawl over the wall so it would not get in her way, and she failed to see the deep hole covered over by ivy. It became her living tomb. Her cries would not have been heard since the house stood apart, and her parents had left home and gone in pursuit of her.
A clergyman was hired to give a Christian burial to the remains, but no one else was told of the discovery, and the dark atmosphere in this part of the garden disappeared.
Source - The Pensacolian
Stranger Than Fiction Stories
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