William Elgar and Anna Elizabeth Brown are shown in front of the old Brown home. Standing is Parnell, Parnell's wife, Grace, and Bernice Brown.
William Elgar and Anna Elizabeth Brown are shown in front of the old Brown home. Standing is Parnell, Parnell's wife, Grace, and Bernice Brown.
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another.”
– Helen Keller

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an unseasonably warm afternoon as I make the long walk to visit the old haunted house.

The house itself is no longer there. There’s an old wooden door resting comfortably against an old tree and some remnants of a bygone era. Some foundation rocks, some old bottles, many of them broken, along with other debris that has been lying in repose for many, many years.

In the springtime, scores of brilliant and beautiful daffodils bloom and adorn a place whose time has come and gone – a place which has, indeed, been hidden by time.

Perhaps a couple of decades ago, my dad bought a tract of land he dubbed the Brown farm. It was on this property where I first discovered the old haunted house. When I was a youngster, one of my favorite pastimes was to walk all over my folks’ farmland, trekking through forests and fields.

It was fun. It was peaceful.

The Brown farm adjoins the rest of my folks’ property, but it’s a fair hike to get to the old haunted house. However, my brothers and I made that journey many a time back in the day.

If you happen to follow my offerings, I’ve written about the Brown family on a handful of occasions and even penned a series on the Browns of yesteryear.

My folks’ home, my childhood home, was built in the mid-1800s by Joshua and Jeannette Brown, who were born in 1807 and 1815, respectively.

The Browns had nine children, and I wrote at length about the life and times of John Brown, who was gunned down by his brother-in-law in front of the Parker House Hotel in uptown Hillsboro back in 1888 at the age of 36.

One of my other favorite pastimes as a lad was to listen to the old stories told by my father and grandfather. My Uncle Ted was, and is, also a great storyteller of the Roushes and ancestors and times of yore, and I still enjoy listening to the tales while seated in his dentist chair in Lynchburg and at family gatherings.

I’m sure Dad or Ted will politely correct me if I get any of the facts of history twisted up here, and I encourage either or anyone else to do so – or to add pieces to the stories.

Truth be told, I write a lot of these “Ghost Stories” because I fear that if I don’t tell the tales one more time, many will fade away forever. But I digress … yet again.

Sometimes back in the old days, we’d visit the old haunted house at night. It was more “spooky” that way.

We’d traverse paths, fields and enter a wooded area that concealed the old abode. The old haunted house hadn’t been lived in for quite some time, many, many years in fact, and as we’d roam through the rooms and walk around upstairs, we’d hear creeks, groans and noises, and sounds of something or someone either in the house or in the distance.

Could it be a ghost?!?

As we’d conclude our “ghost walks,” we’d debate that very question.

Perhaps due to these ghost hunts, but it’s much more likely because the place was a major liability, Dad razed the old haunted house and the old barn in the woods a decade or so ago.

But before that time, I chatted with my father and grandfather about the old Brown homestead.

If memory serves, the home was built in the late 1800s by one of Joshua and Jeannette’s children, William Elgar Brown, who was born in 1845, served in the Civil War and passed away in 1915.

Between the years of 1869 and 1891, William Elgar Brown and his wife, Anna Elizabeth, had nine children – Mary Etta, Jasper Bennett, William Elgar, Nora Elizabeth, Anna Blanche, Alphonso Hart, Britton Parnell, John Carey and Bernice Lucille.

The last person to live in the old haunted house was Bernice Brown.

From what I know about Bernice, who was born Jan. 12, 1891, she never married, was a bright individual who was perhaps a nurse by trade and lived out west for a time. She did not drive a car and usually walked wherever she went. She’d push a cart to Hoagland to get groceries and walked to Fairview to worship at the Church of Christ.

The home didn’t have electricity or running water, but a railroad track ran in front of the old Brown house, and I was told that in the old days, a person could “flag at train” and catch a ride to Cincinnati.

The old railroad track is long gone, too. We’d walk along where it used to be when we were youngsters, but like the old haunted house, time has slowly but surely erased it from existence. But there is one story about Bernice that I’ll never forget.

Bernice Brown lived alone, was very frugal and late in her life, a pair of thieves came to her home and attempted to rob her. They tied her up and demanded that she tell them where her money was. She refused, and they burned her with a cigarette and she still refused. They eventually gave
up and took off.

The way the story goes, a day or so later, one of the robbers made a telephone call to Bernice’s nephew, John Henry Brown, and cryptically told him, “John Henry, you might want to go check on your aunt,” then hung up.

John Henry Brown found Bernice tied up in her home, but still alive. From there, her family moved her to a place in Hillsboro, where she lived for a short time before passing away on March 17, 1966.

As I walk past the “old spooky tree” at the edge of the wooded area that was once the home of the Browns, I hear a rustling in the distance.

Until next time…

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at roush_steve@msn.com.