A Florida Ghost Story
In hindsight, I suppose it wasn’t a good idea to go ancestor-hunting in the local cemetery at dusk, but that’s when my friends and I got the notion, so off we went as soon as we thought of it. My mother had told me we had kin in the cemetery, but I’d never visited there before. We got on our bikes and skimmed expertly through the tourists who thronged the streets of Key West in the winter. It was getting dark when we skidded to a halt and parked our bikes by the gate.
"This is a pretty spooky place," my friend Amanda said uneasily, brushing blond hair nervously from her forehead.
It’s not hard to scare Amanda, so Terry and I brushed off her comment with a laugh and headed in among the headstones. The shadows were long and growing darker by the second as we started reading surnames, trying to locate my kin. The Spanish moss dripping from tree branches overhead thrashed like writhing snakes in the sea breeze, reminding me a bit of the tale of Medusa. I shuddered a bit, and then scolded myself for being a scaredy cat like Amanda.
"Here’s one," Terry called beckoning me over to a rather dilapidated old tomb. I wandered over to take a look. By now, it was so dim I had to plaster my face up against the stone to read it. Hmm. The dates looked correct. "This may be one of my great-grandparents," I said, straightening. I could barely see Amanda, who was in another aisle of the graveyard.
A chill breeze sprang up, whipping the hair from my neck and making goosebumps rise on my arms. It really was spooky in here. "We need a flashlight," I said to Terry, who was trying to read the grave next to my great-grandparents’ tomb.
"Susannnn…" Amanda called my name suddenly. I looked over at her and gasped suddenly, my body freezing in disbelief. A whirlwind full of dead leaves and dust was growing up from the ground in front of Amanda, and she staggered backward from it, hair and clothes whipping about from the ferocity of the breeze it created. A sepulcral voice rose out of the whirlwind, roaring wordlessly in rage. The sound rose higher and higher, making my hair stand on end.
Beside me, Terry gave a sudden shout and sprang back toward the cemetery gates. "Come on," she called over her shoulder to me and Amanda. I forced my legs into action, sprinting after Terry. But when I glanced back, I saw that Amanda had tripped over a low tombstone and lay directly in the path of the shrieking whirlwind. I raced back and grabbed her arm, trying to get her moving again. She gasped and scrambled, but fear made her clumsy and she fell again over the jagged stone, cutting her knee open. The blood spurting from the cut was suddenly illuminated by a bluish light that appeared directly above the whirlwind. It coalesced rapidly into a glowing man in the garb of an old-time Spanish settler. The spirit gave a shout of rage at the sight of us, and swooped toward us, arms outstretched.
Amanda gave a shriek and found her feet at last, racing away from the ghost so fast she left me far behind. I sprinted after her, my way uncannily lit by the glowing phantom behind me. The air around me was ice cold and it made my lungs ache as I ran. I leapt over a tombstone standing between me and the gate, where Amanda and Terry were already on their bikes. "Hurry, Susan! Hurry," Terry shouted. I raced through the gates and stumbled into my bike, knocking it over. As I grabbed it off the ground, I risked a backward glance and saw the phantom hovering just inside the gate, the whirlwind somehow mixing in with his glowing form. Dust whipped into my face as I jumped onto my bike and followed my fleeing friends. By the time we reached the end of the street, the phantom had vanished, and the whirlwind had died away. We kept going.
Terry’s house was the closest, so we rode there and collapsed on her porch, panting.
"There is no way I am ever going back to that cemetery," Amanda gasped. "What was that thing?"
I shook my head, but Terry said: "I heard that the ghost of the man who single-handedly drove all the pirates out of Key West haunted the cemetery, but I thought it was just a myth; you know, one of the stories you tell to tourists to freak them out."
"Worked for me," I gibed. "I am completely freaked!"
Beside me, Amanda groaned in agreement, and poked gently at her bloody leg. Terry blinked, realizing for the first time that she was wounded. We hustled her inside the house to clean up her knee. Then I rode home with Amana, because she refused to go anywhere alone. I didn’t blame her.
It was full dark when I headed back to my house. I stayed on the main roads, trying to keep out of the shadows. In my mind, I kept seeing the glowing figure swooping at me, and feeling the supernatural coldness piercing my lungs. I decided then and there that I’d had enough ancester hunting. From now on, I am staying away from that graveyard!
You can read more Florida ghost stories in Spooky Florida by .