Jacob Bembry: Greene Publishing, Inc.
For years, even while it was occupied, the house last occupied by this writer’s maternal grandparents, Jake and Ava Lee Sealey, and their daughters, Kathy (Wilson) and Lucretia (Keeler) was rundown. Its only redeeming qualities were the strong wood and beams that held the clapboard house together and the love found inside. The house is in the process of being torn down and salvaged by Dennis Gibson, under the instructions of its current owner, Carlyle Ragans.
Many good families with good names have lived in the home over the years, including those with the names Williams and Webb. At one point, Bobby and Louella Bembry and three children, lived in the home with Jake and Ava Lee, bringing the total in the old sharecropper’s home to eleven. Unfortunately, this writer’s brother, Robert, and sister, Susie, died while the family lived in the house. Instead of putting their bodies on display in the funeral home, they were kept in the home, where those who wished to come see them, could. Susie had been born prematurely and she died two months after she was born, kept in an incubator at Madison County Memorial Hospital for almost her entire life. Robert had died on the ambulance west of Monticello as he was enroute to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with the parents following in the family car. It was believed he had died of pneumonia, but years later, when the youngest child in the family died of cystic fibrosis, doctors told Bobby and Louella that he had most likely died of the disease which took Sally Bembry. (Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, which attacks the pancreas and the lungs. Both parents must be carriers for children to have the disease).
This writer was at work one day when he received a call from Joann Whitfield, daughter of Larrie and Virginia Cherry, who were the owners of the home, at the time. (The Sealeys had moved across town to a new mobile home, next to where Lucretia lives today, after their youngest son, Billy had joined the US Army). Joann told the writer that she had someone at Cherry Farms Feed Store in Lee that he should speak with. She put Dennis Gibson on the phone, and the writer agreed to meet with him.
Gibson had a remarkable tale to tell of what had happened to him in the house while working. Adding to this, he had an even more noteworthy picture to share.
Gibson said that one day he had been working and he had taken numerous photos to keep a record of the work he was doing. While reviewing the pictures, he had taken a photo of something that looked like an apparition. While looking at the photo on his cell phone, it appeared to him that the specter moved and the picture changed. When this writer looked at it, he saw the same thing. He had Gibson text the photo to his phone and again he saw what Gibson had seen. Gibson told him that he had texted the photo to his girlfriend, but she had not seen it on her phone.
Gibson also said that while working in the house, he had several strange incidents happen to him. The strangest may have been when he felt the hammer he was using forced from his hand and tossed outside into a pile of rubbish.
“I am a born again Christian,” Gibson said. “I have never believed in ghosts, but there is something strange (happening in the house).”
Gibson tells of the day he was working with his girlfriend when he felt an evil presence.
“It was strong,” he said. “It had (huge) goosebumps all over my arms. My girlfriend saw them and mentioned it.”
Gibson fell to his knees and began to pray. He told God that if he wasn’t meant to be there to let him know and he would leave the house.
“After that, I had no more problems,” he said.
This journalist can remember living in the home as a child. The only time he ever felt the presence of a ghost was when watching a scary movie on TV or when his Uncle Billy would tease him about the ghosts in the attic, where one could hear squirrels and mice scurrying about in the night. The sounds were frightening to the mind of a five-year-old.
Let’s meet the ghosts of memories as we take a tour inside the home in the past, which was used to store hay and other things a few years later.
When one walks in the front door, they immediately enter the living room. Off to the right (or north) side), they see the fireplace. During winter, the fireplace, the stove, and space heaters are the heating in the home. Many times, as a youngster, the writer sat on the floor in front of a black and white console TV watching westerns such as “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza.” Once, he almost sat down on a scorpion, which was called a “water dog” by his grandmother. This, along with crawling snakes, is a hazard of living in a home which had seen much better days.
Directly to the left is a bedroom. Inside the room, sleep Jake and Ava Lee, in one bed, and in the other, sleep their three younger daughters, Mamie Ann, Kathy, and Lucretia.
A little to the right side of the first bedroom is the bathroom. It only has a toilet, a washbasin, and a shower. There is no hot water heater in the home and the water in the shower is as cold as Blue Springs. Any hot water is warmed on the stove in the kitchen.
Directly in front of the front door of the house is a hallway. Walking down the hallway on the right, is the door to the second bedroom, where at different times, the writer’s parents and siblings stay. At other times, the writer’s Aunt Joyce and her children stay there. The writer usually sleeps on a fold-out couch in the living room with his uncle and his hero, Billy.
At the end of the hallway is a kitchen. The family sits on each side of the table on benches, while Jake and Ava Lee sit at each end of the table in chairs.
The back door is to the left of the kitchen. The home cannot be described as a “shotgun house” because in such homes, one was supposed to be able to stand at the front door and shoot a gun directly from the front door, through all the rooms in the house, out the back door.
Perhaps the ghost of some troubled soul roams restless through the home. It may be the ghost of an African American woman who was said to live in the house, long before the Sealeys, who is rumored to have died in the house; Perhaps it is the ghost of some sad family member of the Sealeys, Webbs, or Williamses, but the author’s memories are the only ghosts he knows of in the house, yet who is the writer to doubt the words of Dennis Gibson, or the photo he took of the phantasm?