Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
The Ghost of Baron Von Something R. Other
“Yep there use to be a coal mine back there on my property. You boys have seen the filled in shaft holes in the ground, those depressions five or six feet deep, and the coal slag piles back there when you’ve been mushroom hunting haven’t you?”
The two twelve year old boys nodded their heads yes in unison.
“There also use to be a road back to it from where you cross the Coal Creek bridge. It went about a half mile or so back to the mine. ‘Course the road isn’t there any more. Been plowed over and farmed for seventy some years now. Mine been closed longer than that. Only the name remains, The Baron’s Mine.”
Newt Bailey knew the boys were hooked from the look on their faces. That they would beg him now for the rest of the story. “Yep only the name. Oh yeah and of course the Baron’s ghost still remains out there,” he added with a twinkling smile. “Don’t want to forget him now do we?
Say you boys aren’t thinking about going back there this Friday the thirteenth on Halloween are you?”
“Yeah we’re kind of thinking about it some. But we want to hear the story about the Baron’s ghost that’s suppose to live back there before we decide,” answered one of the boys.
The boys sat there enthralled, dieing to hear old Newt Bailey tell the local tale about the ghost of the dead Prussian Baron. The Bailey family had been one of the first settlers in the township and old Newt Bailey had lived and farmed here all his life. He knew all the local lore and legends.
“Okay here goes guys,” he said settling back in his rocker, the boys sitting directly in front of him, leaning forward, hanging on to his every word. “The mine was owned by one Baron Von Something R. Other. He was called that because no one can remember how to pronounce his long German name. He never came to this country but he’s the one who set up the coal mining operation back in the 1890’s or so. He was from Prussia which is in the northern part of Germany, the area around Berlin I believe.
Well the story goes that one day one of his descendants, who inherited the land, came over from the old country to see what his relative had left him. He was a Baron Von Something R. Other too. This was back in 1915 or so when World War I was going on full blast in Europe. There was strong anti-German feelings something fierce in this country at that time because of all the so called atrocities the Germans were believed to have committed when they invaded Belgium.
Well there was this miner who worked at the mine back then, a Belgian by the name of Camiel Dhooge, who had family over in Belgium. He believed that the Germans had in fact committed atrocities because he kept getting all these terrible letters from his family about all the tragedies and hardships they were enduring. One day he got one that said his brother had been killed by the Germans. Well this sent him over the top and some say drove him mad.
So the Baron comes to this country while the war is going on and goes out to view his mine wearing his fancy Prussian gold buttoned, medal decorated, spiffy military uniform and one of those Prussian helmets on his head with a spike on top of it. You boys know what I mean don’t you? You’ve seen pictures of them haven’t you?”
The boys nodded yes.
Well the Baron goes out to see his mine and Camiel sees him and finds out who he is. So he gets the Baron off by himself and starts to give him a piece of his mind as to what he thinks about Germans. Then before you know it, the two of them get into an argument and start fighting. Next thing you know the Baron is dead, a hole in his head. Camiel had driven his pick axe right through that hard helmet and into his brain. Claimed it was self defense as the Baron was trying to butt him in the belly with the spike on his helmet. The State’s Attorney didn’t believe him though and charged him with murder because everyone knew that Camiel hated Germans. Well his attorney got him off. Got the jury packed with Belgians. But that wasn’t the end of it. Oh no, not as far as the Baron’s ghost was concerned. Every so often he’s seen back there in the woods, wandering around the mine area, looking for revenge.”
“We heard that he comes back around Halloween,” said one of the boys. “Is that true?”
“That he does son. The Baron was killed in October sometime, know one remembers the exact date but it was during the Oktoberfest that the local Germans held back then and the Baron was known to tilt back a few steins of beer. He was probably drunk when he went out there and got himself killed.
My father bought the land from his estate and closed the mine. It was pretty much played out anyway. It was no big mining operation by any means. They only tunneled in as far as the light and air held out. No deep intricate hive of tunnels or anything like that. My father used the mining grounds as pasture land for his stock cow herd and I’ve used it the same way too ever since.”
One of the twelve year old boys couldn’t wait any longer and interrupted Mr.Bailey. “Tell us Mr.Bailey about when you were kids and the ghost of the Baron tried to kill you and your friend.”
Newt Bailey smiled, tooth sucked in some air and said, “Well okay but it’s kind of a scary story fellas so be forewarned.”
“We’re don’t scare anymore. Tell us,” demanded the same boy.
“We were about your age then,” continued Newt. “And one Halloween my best friend, Bill Schroeder, dared me to go looking for the Baron with him on Halloween night to see if all those rumors we had heard were true or not. Bill claimed that the ghost wouldn’t harm us because he was German and wouldn’t harm me because I was his friend. It was darker than pitch that night, no moon, no stars, just blackness. Well I had to go since he dared me. So we go to walking around back there in the mine area that night and Bill keeps hollering out in German, ‘Baron woher sind sie?’ Laughing and joking the whole time. His father had taught him a little German. That means, Baron where are you, in German. Well sure enough before too long we hear some noise off in the dark come crashing through the brush toward us, and Bill, to the day he died, swore that he heard the Baron answer, ‘Ich bin hier Wilhelm.’ That means I am here Bill.
What I heard though was a lot of noise, snorting, gasping sounds, and some stomping. I didn’t hear any German words. The sounds kept coming closer and sounded like something big was advancing toward us. Well of course being dumb kids we panicked and took off running and screaming and ran right into one of those big old deep shaft holes that I just told you about. We fell about six feet to the bottom, then the bottom gave way, scared the B’Jesus out of us. We thought that we were sliding down an old coal mine shaft right into the bowels of Hell but we only dropped about another four or five feet. After we brushed off all the debris, we looked up. There ten feet above us, against the moonless, starless, pitch black night was the Baron’s ghost bobbing up and down. We took to praying and our prayers must have been answered because he finally went away. But we were still trapped. The sides were too steep and slippery for us to climb our way out.
Well after a couple of hours we heard some barking dogs getting closer. Bill said that the Baron was now sicking the hounds of Hell on us. Probably big fanged humongous German Shepherds or Doberman Pinschers he said. Pretty soon they were right above us, barking and howling their lungs out. I recognized the dogs from their howling. So I hollered back up at them, Baron, Dhooge stop it! My father had a sick sense of humor when he it came to naming our dogs. We were saved. Hallelujah! My father had ‘scent’ the dogs out to find us. And thank God they did.
Next thing we know there’s flash lights blinding our eyes and our fathers are chewing us out something terrible. They pulled us out, drug us home, and tanned our hides but good. I guess the Baron had a good laugh on us that night. I wouldn’t recommend going out there this Halloween boys, unless you want to meet the Baron of course. He’s still out there.”
“Is that really a true story Mr.Bailey?” questioned one boy in disbelief.
“Well son, it’s truly a story that’s for sure,” answered Mr. Bailey hoping to keep the legend alive and thinking that there’s no sense in telling these boys that the ‘ghost’ he saw that night was really the white face of his father’s Hereford bull against the pitch black sky, bobbing and waving his head up and down, for if he did, then it wouldn’t truly be a story, it would be fact.