Appalachian Gothic

Tales of the paranormal from the Appalachian Mountains.

The Featherbed Ghost

Dances and music were a common fixture of Appalachian life well into the early Twentieth Century. They were entertainment, as well as a public forum to discuss community events. Everyone danced, feasted, and sang until well after midnight. Entire families attended the affair. One such dances was held in Scott County, in July 1875.

The party was a resounding success with over one hundred people in attendance. Jolene Hilton brought her whole family, even her 8-month-old, Delia. Delia was exhausted by the festivities and nodded away on her mother’s shoulder around eight o’clock. Elva McMurray hosted the party, so Jolene asked to use one of the bedrooms. Elva let her place her baby in the bedroom closest to the backyard, where the party was ongoing. Jolene draped her shawl across the sleeping infant and returned outside.

A little while later, Sylvia McConnell brought her baby, Cecil, into the house. She was directed to the same room. The 1-year-old boy had likewise exhausted himself. There weren’t any lights in the room, and Sylvia didn’t have a shawl. She felt around the room for a suitable quilt. She found a stack and pulled one of the top. The entire pile of folded quilts fell to the floor. She didn’t want to be rude to her hostess, so she picked up the pile of covers and sat them on the bed.

Jolene sat outside and waited for her baby to cry. Midnight came and she still hadn’t heard Delia wake. She returned to the bedroom to check on her. She found a pile of quilts had been thrown over where she slept. Jolene screamed and threw the covers from the infant.

Lights were brought into the room, but all their efforts were too late. The baby had died, struggling, as evidenced by a single drop of blood on the featherbed. The McMurray family sent for the doctor, but Delia still hadn’t breathed by the time he arrived. He pronounced the child deceased.

The party dispersed and everyone returned home. Elva straightened the bed and returned the quilts to their place, but as soon as she turned back around, the bed was messed up again. It looked just like Delia was still there. The little silhouette was as fresh as if it had just been made. She straightened it again and left the room. Her daughter, Daisy, came in to go to sleep. Daisy noticed the covers still had the baby’s outline, but just assumed no one had paid attention. She fluffed it out and snuffed the light.

Daisy went to bed, but never slept. She kept hearing a baby choke and try to breathe. She slept on the couch by morning. Elva believed it was just her daughter’s nerves, although she noticed the baby’s indentation was on the featherbed again. The family placed their eldest son in the room. Isaiah didn’t have any better luck. After midnight, he woke to the same sounds of a baby choking.

He was also on the couch the next morning. The family took turns to see if anyone could sleep in the room, but their efforts were futile. The covers would not stay straight. The outline of a sleeping baby always appeared on the featherbed. Elva noticed no matter how hard she scrubbed the featherbed, the drop of blood never faded or diminished.

The family tried making improvements on the room; they rearranged the furniture; they tried a new featherbed, but no changes stopped the outline from appearing on the covers, or the sounds that came around midnight.

As a last effort to find some peace, Elva rolled up the original featherbed and stored it in the attic. The family dismantled the room and rebuilt it on the other side of the house.

The haunting ceased.


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