Three Native Ghost Stories: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
On a sunny August afternoon, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, I stood on the side of my mother’s house and looked briefly to the east. My mom and I had just finished prepping some offerings on her front porch and I had gone around to the east side of the house to return some of the materials to the ground.
The August grass in the field was high, yellowing and drying out. A movement in my peripheral vision caused me to look towards the field. Normally the field was empty except for visitors coming up the dirt road that stretched a few hundred feet from the house to a gravel road that ran north and south.
In the field about halfway between the house and the gravel road, walking to the south, was a black-clothed guy, whose slightly forward-leaning walk caused his long hair to hang in front of his face. I could only see him from the waist up since the high grass hid his legs.
After watching him for a few seconds, I briefly looked down to pour out the last of the offerings. When I looked towards the field again he was gone. I stood there for awhile before walking out into the field.
Thinking I had alarmed him by staring, I wanted to tell him it was ok to walk through the field and there was no need to hide. Walking into the grass, I noticed it was barely at my knees and not waist high. I could also see through the grass for quite a ways and after searching through field for a long time, I realized there was no one in it.
On that quiet, bright afternoon, a visitor had come, only noticed as he was leaving when the last offerings went back to the earth.
This is what I heard from a relative.
The elder (who lived alone a few miles away) started recording traditional songs on a cassette recorder. It was his way of practicing and also saving some songs he happened to remember at that time. From time to time he would replay his songs on the cassette for others or just as a reminder for himself.
One morning the elder decided to listen to a song he sang the previous night. He took the cassette recorder he had placed beside his bed and started listening to the recording. He realized he never hit the ‘stop’ button because he could hear himself moving about after singing. Eventually, he could be heard he lying down and breathing heavily in his sleep.
As he was about to turn off the tape, the elder heard another sound. It sounded like distant creaking in the house. The creaking then turned into barely audible footsteps. The footsteps got louder, as if they were closing in on the elder’s bed. The footsteps stopped and there was only the sound of the elders light breathing, which began to sound louder. As the breathing began to get loud, it seemed to be coming from whatever had walked into the room The breathing switched, inhaling and exhaling in an opposite rhythm of the elder’s. The breathing got louder until it sounded to be directed into the speaker of the cassette recorder. Then there was a low, long growl followed by a laugh.
The footsteps began again, going from loud to soft and finally becoming inaudible. There was only the sound of the elder, sleeping and breathing softly in the night.
As a teenager I was told a story about a residential advisor (RA), who worked at a nearby Indian Boarding School.
The R.A was working the night shifts during a school break period. There were no students on campus so he didn’t have much to do except sit on the bottom floor of one of the dorms and read. It was in the middle of the night when he heard footsteps going down the hallway on the floor above him.
Surprised, the R.A figured someone must have somehow climbed into the second floor window and he ran up the stairs to catch the intruder. Walking into the second floor hallway, the R.A turned on the lights and began going from room to room, searching under the beds and closets. At the last room he was certain he would find someone but that room was empty too. Puzzled he stepped out into the hallway. It was then the lights to the second floor went out.
Startled, he stood there in the dark for a few seconds. Down the hallway a light from one of the middle rooms came on. As he stood at the end of the darkened hallway, staring at the light coming from the middle room, a woman’s voice came out of the room, singing a soft song. He told people it was the most beautiful song he had ever heard, even if he could not make out the language it was being sung in. He began walking towards the room as if he was in a dream in which he could not control his own body. Looking into the room, he saw a woman standing with her back to him. She was wearing a long white dress, her long black hair flowing down past her waist as she gently rocked from side to side, singing.
It was a few moments before he noticed the woman was singing to something standing right in front of her. What she was singing to was a large, shadow black figure. The figure extended both arms and said “Come with us.”
The man wanted to run but couldn’t move. Barely able to whisper, he closed his eyes and began singing an old prayer song. The stronger his voice became, the softer the woman’s voice went, until she was silent. Opening his eyes, he saw the room was lit for a moment, completely empty. The room then went dark and the second floor lights came back on. The man went downstairs, out the door, jumped in his car and left for good.