Editors note: The following story previously appeared in the Oct. 27, 1994, issue of The Rock River Times under Tales of Suspense and Humor. Lisa Rubin Johnson was a regular columnist.
Originally published in Rockford Review, Spring 1994
It was the first day of school vacation for three little 6-year-old girls. We pulled off our shoes and socks and began to romp and play. Our spirits were free to roam and explore the wonders of the long summer ahead.
The house down the block held intrigue. The children on the block knew it was haunted. They had seen a real mean man living there who liked to gobble up children, never to be seen again!
The day happily wore on. We exhausted our hop-scotch game, and it became clear to all of us that we should do something more adventurous. Our scheme began to crystallize. We would see for ourselves if the house down the street was really haunted.
Now across the other street, which was off limits to us, were some empty fields. Several black families lived in the area. Occasionally, wed observe children playing in their own back yards. We never paid much attention. However, they must have observed us and probably wished they could play in our back yards, too.
We proceeded to edge our way to the haunted house. It looked threatening and indeed haunted to three little barefoot, frightened girls. The shades were pulled tight, the grass unkept. No one seemed to be about. Suddenly, a door slammed. Terrified, we screamed and began to run in all directions.
I recall screaming hysterically and running across the forbidden street into the field of stones, thistles and weeds. My feet began to bleed, and in my terror, I knew the man was chasing me.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a lovely, tall, thin, black girl reached out and lifted me into her arms. She began to comfort me and try to still my hysterics. Nothin goin to happen to hurt you, child. That house aint haunted. Nice ol man lives dere whos lonesome for talkin.
By this time, my parents had come running across the street. In the confusion, my 6-year-old mind didnt have the time to react and thank my friend. Her gentleness and kindness have remained with me to this day. I have never forgotten the incident. The horror of childhood terror and the love of comfort and gentleness from an unknown friend may have shaped my life at that momentand forever.