The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Russel E. Pangle © 1985

Issue: July, 1985

Ralph first visited us on a cold December afternoon in 1974, just two months after we arrived in Aberdeen, Scotland. He arrived very noisily as I was watching big wet snow flakes, driven along on a cold wind, smack into our front window and then drift lazily down the window to collect on the sill.

My thoughts were on the muggy hot air of South Louisiana as I dozed and wished I was back there to enjoy it. I finally gave in to the drowsiness and had just fallen into a deep sleep when Ralph announced his arrival.

The keys on an old upright piano sitting against the wall across the room from me were loudly pounded back and forth for a few seconds. I grabbed a magazine to throw it at my wife because I knew she was making all that noise on the piano to wake me up. She had been pestering me to go riding in the snow.

But my wife wasn't by the piano, she was still sitting on a sofa to my left with her legs covered by an afghan. The piano was to my right across the room.

Without a word I put the magazine down and then practically took the piano apart trying to discover what had made the keys and strikers work. I found nothing. I told my wife that there had to be a logical explanation and in order to make light of the situation, I applied a pet name I use and said, "It must have been 'Ralph' playing the piano."

About three weeks later at three o'clock in the morning, I was awakened suddenly and saw a tall man dressed in a long cape with a stovepipe hat on standing beside my bed. I was thoroughly frightened and quickly decided that if he was a burglar I would get up and help him take whatever he wanted. The contents of the house belonged to an Englishman whom I was renting from so I wasn't about to take any lumps for any of it. I raised up in bed and very softly asked, "What do you want?"

Without a sound the tall figure backed out of the bedroom, then turned swiftly and went into the adjoining bedroom. I jumped out of bed and grabbed a shoe and went after him.

I searched the adjoining bedroom and the rest of the house. I found nothing. All the doors and windows, were still locked from the inside.

I stood for a moment near our bedroom door and seriously wondered how I had allowed my company to persuade me to come to Scotland in the first place. I had escaped the hip deep snows of Waynesboro, Virginia when I enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941 and during my recruit training in South Louisiana, I found myself in a country where it snows from October through March and the constant cold is probably making me see things.

In order not to disturb my wife I eased back into bed and made a mental note not to mention to her what had just happened. I wasn't absolutely sure that my imagination wasn't playing tricks on me.

As I pulled the electric blanket over my head I grinned and whispered, "Goodnight Ralph."

The following week I had to go to Holland and my wife was alone for three days. When I returned I knew something was wrong. My wife's voice was stilted and she was very pale. As we sat down to dinner my wife made me promise not to interrupt her until she finished telling me about something that happened while I was away.

On the first night after I left she had heard someone coming up the stairs. A tall man dressed in a long black cape and a formal hat came into the bedroom and leaned against the bed.

My wife said she was so frightened she couldn't move so she pretended to be asleep. After watching the tall figure through half closed eyes for what seemed like an eternity he turned away from the bed and went to the bath room across the hall and then into the adjoining bedroom.

By that time the pressure was too great and my wife leaped out of bed, yelling at the top of her voice; she ran down the stairs and out into the ankle deep snow in the front garden.

After standing outside until the cold began to hurt she went back inside and made a thorough search of the house. She found nothing. The remainder of that night and the next two my wife slept downstairs on the sofa with the lights on.

I told her that I figured it was my imagination when I had seen the same figure several nights before. She very forcefully explained that what she saw was not her imagination and she wanted to move out of the house immediately. She said, not jokingly, "Ralph can have this one."

I reminded my wife that our youngest daughter was on her way from the States to spend the Christmas Holidays with us so we would have to stay in the house until she left to go back to college. We agreed not to tell her about Ralph.

The second night after our daughter arrived she called out frantically in the early morning hours that there was a man in her closet. My wife and I ran to her bedroom and as the two of them watched I searched the closet thoroughly. No one was in the closet. The three of us searched the house. We found nothing.

Janelle, our thoroughly frightened daughter, told us that a tall man in a long black cape and top hat had leaned over her bed and breathed in her face. When she screamed for us the man had backed quickly into her closet.

We told Janelle about Ralph and she helped us move out the following week. I waited for Ralph in our new house for several weeks, but he didn't show up.

My manager's wife, a Singaporean Presbyterian, offered to have her Pastor perform an exorcism on Ralph's house, but I refused and told her that Ralph wasn't mean and I didn't want to disturb him.

Two years later we left Scotland and went to live in Madrid, Spain for two years. Ralph didn't find us there. In 1979 we returned to the States.

In the event Ralph sees this publication and asks for my mailing address or telephone number, it's okay to give it to him.