Updated: Jun 9, 2020
I once lived in a corner of the world. Really! Our house stood on the northwest corner of Virginia. I could look out my bedroom window and see a grassy hillside on the West Virginia border. That part of Virginia is known as “horse country.” Jackie Kennedy Onassis rode horses there. To this day several inns in the area like the Hilltop, better known as Bed & Breakfasts, offer pleasant places to stay overnight.
One special occasion we had so many guests, some needed to stay at one of those B & B’s. Before our guests arrived, I paid the B & B a visit. The 17th century white-washed stone building loomed high on a hill, down a long, winding dirt road. Along the way, cows grazed on lush green grass and flowers bloomed in gardens, completing the Virginia country charm.
The proprietress sat me down in the old-fashioned parlor and regaled me with tales of the many renovations her husband had recently completed. The kitchen, modern, yet decorated with antique earthenware jars, pitchers, teapots and tin boxes, had been his latest project, she crowed.
On our way upstairs to see the bedrooms, I thought she said, “Oh, here’s my husband now.” I turned, expecting to see her husband climbing up the stairs behind us. But I saw no one. Her eyes fell on a silhouette stenciled on the wall. I followed her gaze, of a man in overalls and straw hat, lantern in hand, appearing to hurry up the stairs. Without another word, she continued up to the second-floor landing.
I followed, perplexed. Where was her husband, I wondered? I asked her, still expecting to see him. She looked surprised and said, “Oh, he died a year ago.” Died? But he’s here. I can feel his presence. He hadn’t yet left her side. I knew that, though how I’ll never know. But I felt the truth of his presence in my bones. She tilted her head in the oddest way and said, “Why, I lost my Herbert a year ago, to the day!” I still get goose bumps every time I think of this eerie coincidence.
She added, “I painted Herbert’s silhouette on the wall, as he so often looked on his way to bed.” Color rose to her cheeks, “I suppose it’s silly, but it’s my way of keeping him close.”
And that’s how the Hilltop ghost story came to be. Of course, Herbert and the Hilltop Inn are entirely fiction. But perhaps you can see why I’ve never been able to forget the experience. One eerie incident and the Abi Wunder series was born.