The Storyteller
By Sarah Harrison
Daniel turned off his computer and chuckled to himself. "This'll be a grand adventure on Saturday,
my friends will so freak out when I tell them what I have planned." Daniel grabbed his coat and
headed out the door.

Leo and Tina slid into the booth across from Amanda at the Northend Grill and Bar. "Ok Amanda,
what does your psycho boyfriend have in mind now?  He sounded really excited on the phone. Do
I need to fear for my life yet?" asked Leo.

Amanda sighed, "all he'll say is that we'll have an amazing experience, yadda, yadda, yadda. We'll
just have wait for him to tell us. You know dramatic he is."

Daniel walked into the bar and slid into the booth beside Amanda. "Ok folks, get ready to be
amazed. I discovered something that you won't believe."

Leo rolled his eyes. "Just cut to the chase, Dan."

"Have you heard about the old Johnson cabin near Hot Springs? Back in the '30's an entire family
was murdered there. The cabin is still there and people in the area won't go near it. They say it's
haunted." Said Dan.

"Yeah, I've heard of the place. My grandparents live near Hot Springs. I've heard ghost stories
about that place all my life. But, so what?  Anywhere a murder happens is always said to be
haunted. Why are you so excited?"  replied Amanda.

"I was doing some research and found out some interesting details. It seems that every year on
the anniversary of the murders, you can hear the sounds of  screams coming from the cabin just
after full dark.  The anniversary is October 15th. Guess what this Saturday is? October 15th. I say
we hike in and wait to see if we hear the ghosts re-enacting the murders. What do you think?"
Daniel said excitedly.

Tina shivered. "I don't think we should be in the woods after dark. There are bears in the woods.
Besides, how are we going to get back to the cars after dark?" She whined.

"We'll bring plenty of flashlights. There's nothing to worry about. Black bears rarely bother
anyone. The hike in is not that far, less than a quarter mile. What do you say?" Cajoled Daniel.

"I don't know. That cabin is out in the boonies. From what I've heard, you have to drive down
logging roads just to get to the path leading to the cabin." Replied Amanda.

"We'll take my Jeep. Come on, it'll be fun! Besides, we can be the ones to debunk this ghost
story." Said Daniel.

Leo, Tina, and Amanda all looked at each other and nodded agreement.

"Great, Amanda, Tina, you're in charge of the food. We can stop on the way and have a picnic. We
need to leave by 2pm so we'll be there well before dark. We'll meet at my house and leave from
there." Stated Daniel.

"I'll go by Chicken Delite and get a bucket of chicken, potato salad, and cole slaw. If that's Ok by
everyone." Said Amanda.

"Sounds great, see everyone on Saturday." Replied Daniel.

The four left on Saturday and headed toward Hot Springs. Half-way to Hot Springs, Tina and
Amanda spotted a roadside stand selling apple cider and pumpkins.  "Stop, stop, I want to get
some apple cider!" Yelled Amanda.

"Oh, oh, look at the pumpkins! They're so much better than those lame ones at the grocery store!"
Squealed Tina.

While the girls were filing up the back of the jeep with jugs of apple cider, pumpkins, and Indian
corn, Leo turned to Daniel and said, "I know a little about the story behind the murders. How much
are you going to tell them?" He motioned toward the girls.

"I'll tell them some of the story over supper." Grinned Daniel.

The group stopped at a picnic area by the French Broad River to eat. The leaves on the trees were
a beautiful array of red, orange, and yellow. The breeze was blowing the colorful leaves around the
picnic table.  "This food is great and the apple cider is so good on a nice fall day like this." Gushed

"Oh yuck" Squealed Tina as a yellow leaf landed on her potato salad.

"Just pick the leaf off, it won't give you Ebola." Sighed Leo.

Daniel cleared his throat. "I want to tell you what I know about the Johnson Murders. It seems they
had a hired hand named Jason Turnbull who, for one reason or another, took an ax and chopped
up his employer and family. Nobody knows why he did it, but he was hanged for the murders.
Now, the ghosts re-enact the murders every year on this date. Tonight we are going to find out if
it's true."

Amanda pushed her plate away. "I wonder why he did it? What could have been so terrible that he
would kill instead of just leaving?"

The group piled into the jeep and continued on their way. After much bouncing over the logging
road, they reached the pull-off where they would continue on foot. Daniel and Leo grabbed the
flashlights and they all walked down the trail.  The sky was bright blue and the trees were decked
out in splendid fall colors. The breeze was whirling the leaves all around them. After a short
distance they found the remains of the cabin. The walls were still standing but the roof was caving

"Oh, look at this." Amanda reached down and pulled a leaf off a small plant. She held up to her
nose and sniffed. "It's mint. It's still growing here after 80 years."

"Oh yeah, mint's like a weed. My mother planted some in her yard and five years later it was all
over the property. Once you plant it, it's everywhere and comes back every year. I do like the smell
though. We should dig some up to take back with us. I'd love to have some on my windowsill."  
Replied Tina.

"Considering it's been 80 years, I can't believe the cabin is still standing, but the roof is definitely
starting to fall in. No matter what we hear, do not go into the cabin. It's an inch away from falling
apart." Stated Leo.

The group walked around the cabin and Tina let out a little scream. Sitting on a stump was a lanky
young man wearing a red plaid shirt, blue jeans, and work boots. He was watching the group with
interest and smiling.

"Hi there folks, my name's J.T. What brings you out here to the boonies so late in the afternoon?"
He smiled.

Daniel pushed to the front of the group. "We heard a murder occurred here on October 15th and
something happens here every year on the anniversary. Is that why you're here?"

J.T. leaned back and said, "yes, I'm here for that very reason. Do you kids know the story of the

"We know some of the story, but we don't know if it's really true. All we know is that people believe
this place is haunted. Since you're here, you must have heard of the story." Replied Daniel.

"Yes, I know the true story and I'd be pleased to tell you while we wait. Why don't ya'll sit on the
rock wall there and I'll tell the story so you can pass it on to other folks so the truth will be known."
J.T. said.
"This property was owned by George Johnson. The most ornery, miserly cuss that ever existed.
His wife was named Fanny and she wasn't a whole lot better than her husband. They had an 11
year old son named George, Jr. He wasn't a bad kid, but was learning his father's ornery ways.
But, their daughter, Martha, was a beautiful and sweet 15 year old. She had the face of an angel
and seemed nicer than her parents. Anyway, a handyman named Jason Turnbull went to work for
the family in the spring of 1932. He plowed the fields and planted the seeds. He also did repairs on
the cabin and barn, helped with smoking meat, vegetable canning, and chopping firewood.  The
Johnsons ran him ragged.  Mr. Johnson wasn't the best of employers. He was real miserly with
the food, only feeding Jason leftovers. Jason didn't mind though. He had been saving every
penny he earned toward his dream, to open a feed and seed store in Erwin, Tennessee.  Erwin
was a small town on the banks of the Nolichucky River, which was growing due to the railroad.
The best part of Jason's life there was Martha Johnson. She would sneak him extra food and
treats such as apple pie. They would sit together in the barn and she would listen to his dreams of
saving enough money to open a feed and seed store. Of course, Jason fell madly in love with
Martha. He started thinking about asking her to leave with him in the fall and become his wife."

" Well, spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall. Jason worked hard to bring the crop
in. Now it was October and Jason was looking forward to spending the winter with his folks in
Tennessee. Martha brought a big slice of apple pie to the barn. Jason knew the moment had

J.T. stopped talking for a moment and looked at the pile of rubble that had once been the barn. He
had a far away look in his eyes.
"Thank you kindly for the pie, Martha. I'll be leavin' in a day or two and was wanting to ask you
something." Jason gathered his courage and knelt down on one knee. "Martha, I want you to
come away with me and be my wife. I'll love you always. When I open the feed and seed store, we'll
work together to make it a success. I'll provide for you and our children and we'll all have a happy
life." Jason looked up at Martha's face.

Martha at first looked stunned and then she started laughing. "Do you think I want to marry a hired
hand with a pipe dream of openin' a store. I'm going to marry a rich man with a big house. He'll buy
me all the dresses I want and we'll have chocolate cake every day. I'll not work myself to the bone
and end up lookin' like an old hag like my mother. She's only 34 and looks older than dirt. I want
better for myself." Martha flipped her hair and flounced out of the barn.

Jason stood up and watched Martha go. He spent the rest of the night brooding. "Well, that's it. I'll
collect my money and leave tomorrow." He thought to himself.
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