Under The Floor
As Told By: Janie Bratton
When my aunt Ethel was a girl of twelve, she did babysitting for a lady who lived on the edge of town. In the early years, at the turn of the last century, there were no cars or taxis. The mother of the children had to walk a mile or so to the store when she needed things. She was a large lady, who had a very large goiter upon her neck, however, she did a lot of walking in those days, huffing and puffing from her condition. One day, when my aunt babysat, there was a snowstorm blanketing the area with over a foot of snow, The mother said that she was going to walk down to the store for some extra things before the snow was too deep, She told my aunt that under no circumstances were the children to go out into the cold air. The mother bundled up into her heavy coat and began her journey to the store as the snow continued to fall. My aunt often told the children stories such as ‘Little Orphan Annie’. They enjoyed looking at an old catalog and talking about the wonderful toys and how it would be to have them. My aunt said that she loved the children and helping the mother with the housework. The lady was very kindhearted and generous to my aunt, who came from a large and struggling family. On that particular day, as it drew toward evening while the children were gathered around my aunt for a story, there was a very loud wail which sounded like a small baby crying under the floor! My aunt was frozen in fear! The smallest child looked up at my aunt and cried, “What tat Efel“? The children and my aunt were so frightened that they ran out of the house with no coats on to protect them from the cold and blowing snow. At that same time, the mother of the children came huffing and puffing up the hill to the house. “What on earth do you have these children out here with no coats on for? I told you not to bring them out in this weather!” My aunt told her what they had just heard within the house and that they were all so scared! Later inside, when the children had all calmed down, the mother began to explain the occurrence to my aunt. There had been a young girl and her family who had lived in the house a number of years ago. The girl had found herself expecting a child. In those days, it was a terrible sin as well as very socially unacceptable to have a child out of wedlock and that could mark a family for years afterward! The family then tried to keep it secret from the world. When the day came for the baby’s birth, it was stillborn. Wanting no undue attention, the family buried it under the house to hide their secret. After awhile, the family moved away and the house became occupied by other residents. None stayed very long because of the cries of a small baby from under the floor. The present family heard the cries a number of times but had tried to ignore them. When my aunt Ethel first told me this story, she was in her sixties. I asked her if she had continued to work for this lady. “No, I was too scared to go back!” Then she proceeded to tell me some of the stories that she had told those children. I paused to listen.