Revolutionary Ghosts, Chapter 24


New to Revolutionary Ghosts?

Click here to read the previously posted installments

Click here to get the entire book!



I was halfway to the McDonald’s late that afternoon when the Bonneville’s dashboard oil light lit up.

My car was leaking oil. I had been in denial about this fact; I’d been putting off the problem. Within the short time that I’d owned the car, however, the oil leak had evolved into a major headache. My first vehicle purchase–my first really big, adult decision–had been fundamentally flawed.

And if I’d only listened to my father, I could have avoided the debacle.

I had found out about the Bonneville through a local “for sale or trade” newspaper. (This was how people commonly disposed of unwanted items before the Internet and Craigslist.) The owner of the car lived just a few miles away from us. I called the number listed for the owner, and made an appointment to look at the car.

I asked my father to accompany me. He knew a lot about cars, after all. But I ignored the basic rule of utilizing the superior knowledge of others: If you borrow or rent someone else’s expertise, then listen to what the expert has to say.

I wasn’t in a listening mood. The gleaming white paint job of the 1968 Bonneville instantly pulled me in. Also, I had gotten the impression that there weren’t many cars for sale in the immediate area. I feared that I might be shopping in a seller’s market, with all the disadvantages that entails. I didn’t want to miss out.

But a bad deal is a bad deal, even in a seller’s market. The Bonneville had a slow oil leak.

This wasn’t hard to detect. My father noticed a telltale puddle on the driveway. He was alert to that sort of thing.

When Dad asked the owner about the black puddle, the owner told him–us–that the oil had come from his wife’s car (which was conveniently elsewhere at the time).

Dad was openly skeptical of this explanation. For a brief moment, I thought that he was going to outright accuse the owner of lying, and a serious argument (or maybe even a brawl) would result.

In the end, though, Dad let me make my own decision. I wanted the car, and I would buy it with my own money–money I had earned at my McDonald’s job, and from various lawn-cutting gigs the year before.

“It’s your decision, son,” my dad had said. “It’s your cash, after all. But I would advise you to hold off.”

While the owner of the car stood there scowling at my father, I took less than half a minute to make up my mind.

“I want this car,” I said.

And so I bought it.


Vous Vitamin

I now knew that my dad had been right, though. Since I had purchased the Bonneville, I had been refilling the car’s oil supply practically every other day.

I had already called the owner and complained that he’d told me a lie and sold me a lemon. The man brusquely informed me that the sale was final, and hung up the phone on me.

Theoretically, I suppose, it would have been possible for me to get my money back through legal channels, but who was going to do that in southern Ohio in 1976, for a used car?

Not many people, I didn’t think, and certainly not me.

But now I was on my way to work, and my car needed yet another infusion of 10W-30 from the folks at Pennzoil. There was a Sunoco station on the way to the McDonald’s. It was a large station that sold various automotive supplies.

I had left home a few minutes early, and I figured that I had time to stop for a quart of oil without being late for the six o’clock shift at McDonald’s.

And besides, what choice did I have?


Chapter 25

Table of contents


Revolutionary Ghosts, Chapter 16

My bedroom was a small, cramped affair, very typical of secondary bedrooms in postwar tract homes. There was barely enough room for a bed, a desk, a dresser, and a chest of drawers. The one selling point of the bedroom was the window over the bed. It afforded me a view of the big maple tree in the front yard, when I felt like looking at it.

I lay down on my bed and opened Spooky American Tales. I briefly considered reading about the Nevada silver mine or the Confederate cemetery in Georgia.

Instead I flipped back to page 84, to Harry Bailey’s article about the Headless Horseman.

After the opening paragraphs, Harry Bailey explained the historical background behind the legend of the Headless Horseman. While most everyone knew that the Headless Horseman was associated with the American Revolution, not everyone knew the particulars:

“Is the Headless Horseman a mere tale—a figment of fevered imaginations? Or is there some truth in the legend? Did the ghastly Horseman truly exist?

“And more to the point of our present concerns: Does the Horseman exist even now?

“I’ll leave those final judgments to you, my friends. 

“What is known for certain is that on October 28, 1776, around three thousand troops of the Continental Army met British and Hessian elements near White Plains, New York, on the field of battle. 

“This engagement is known in historical record as the Battle of White Plains. The Continentals were outnumbered nearly two to one. George Washington’s boys retreated, but not before they had inflicted an equal number of casualties on their British and Hessian enemies…”

By this point in my educational career, I had taken several American history courses. I knew who the Hessians were.

The Hessians were often referred to as mercenaries, and there was an element of truth in that. But they weren’t mercenaries, exactly, in the modern usage of that word.

In the 1700s, the country now known as Germany was still the Holy Roman Empire. It consisted of many small, semiautonomous states. In these pre-democratic times, the German states were ruled by princes.

Many of these states had standing professional armies, elite by the standards of the day. The German princes would sometimes lease out their armies to other European powers in order to replenish their royal coffers.

When the American Revolution began, the British government resorted to leased German troops to supplement the overburdened British military presence in North America. Most of the German troops who fought in the American Revolutionary War on the British side came from two German states: Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau. The Americans would remember them all as Hessians.

The Hessians had a reputation for brutality. It was said that no Continental soldier wanted to be taken prisoner by the German troops. The Continentals loathed and feared the Hessians even more than the British redcoats.

I supposed that Harry Bailey would have known more about the Hessians than I did, from my basic public school history courses. But Harry Bailey wasn’t writing an article for a history magazine. The readers of Spooky American Tales would be more interested in the ghostly details:

“That much, my dear readers, is indisputable historical record. Journey to the town of White Plains, New York, today, and you will find monuments that commemorate the battle.

“But here is where history takes a decidedly macabre turn, and where believers part ranks with the skeptics. For according to the old legends, one of the enemy dead at the Battle of White Plains would become that hideous ghoul—the Headless Horseman. 

“A lone Hessian artillery officer was struck, in the thick of battle, by a Continental cannonball. Horrific as it may be to imagine, that American cannonball struck the unlucky Hessian square in the head, thereby decapitating him. 

“What an affront, from the perspective of a proud German military man! To have one’s life taken and one’s body mutilated in such a way!

“So great was the rage of the dead Hessian, that he would not rest in his grave! He rose from his eternal sleep to take revenge on the young American republic after the conclusion of the American Revolution.

“This is the gist of Washington Irving’s 1820 short story, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. The tale is set in the rural New York village of Sleepy Hollow, around the year 1790. 

“But we have reason to believe that ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ was not the last chapter in the story of the Headless Horseman. For according to some eyewitness accounts, that fiendish ghoul has returned again from the depths of hell. 

“Read on, my friends, for the details!”

Lying there on my bed reading, I rolled my eyes at Harry Bailey’s florid prose. He was really laying it on thick. But then, I supposed, that was what the readers of a magazine called Spooky American Tales would require.

Then I noticed that the hairs on my arms were standing on end.

My gooseflesh hadn’t been caused by the article in Spooky American Tales—at least, I didn’t think so. I hadn’t yet bought into the notion that the legend of the Headless Horseman might be anything more than an old folktale.

Nor was the temperature in my bedroom excessively cold. Three years ago, my parents had invested in a central air conditioning system for the house. They used the air conditioning, but sparingly. It sometimes seemed as if they were afraid that they might break the air conditioning unit if they kept the temperature in the house below 75°F. With the door closed, it was downright stuffy in my bedroom.

I had an unwanted awareness of that bedroom door, and what might be on the other side of it.

The shape I had seen in the hallway.

Then I told myself that I was being foolish.

It was a bright, sunny June day. The walls were thin, and the door of my bedroom was thin. I could hear the muffled murmurs of the television in the living room.

It wasn’t as if I was alone in some haunted house from Gothic literature. I was lying atop my own bed, in my own bedroom, in the house where I’d grown up. My parents—both of them—were only a few yards away.

There is nothing out there in the hall, I affirmed.

With that affirmation in mind, I continued reading.


Chapter 17

Table of contents

Revolutionary Ghosts, Chapter 15

“Did he want money again?” I asked.

Of course Jack would have wanted money. That was the only reason my brother ever bothered to drop by the house.

“Let us worry about Jack,” my father said.

“It’s probably better if you let us handle it,” my mother added.

Her words were clipped—not angry, exactly, but peremptory.

They didn’t want to discuss Jack with me. They never did. Nor did my World War II hero father, or my world-hardened mother, seem capable of standing up to their elder son.

I was about to say something else, when my words were choked off in my throat.


From where I was standing in the living room, I had a clear view down the main hall of the house, where the bedrooms were located. (As I’ve mentioned, it was a small house.)

Right outside my bedroom, I saw a grayish, human-sized shape move in the hallway.

It was there, one second; and the next—it was gone. Vanished into thin air.

Or maybe it had been nothing more than a trick of the light. The hallway was filled with sunlight from the windows of the surrounding bedrooms. There were trees outside most of the windows, and they could be easily stirred by the wind. This created shifting patterns of light and shadows. The shadows played on the painted walls and carpeted floor of the hallway, sometimes producing brief optical illusions.

Perhaps that vaguely human shape I had seen had been another one of those shifting patterns.

But it had looked more substantial. For a second, anyway.

My parents both noticed my startled reaction.

“What’s the matter son?” my mother asked. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

A ghost, I thought…

“You did turn pale, all of a sudden,” my father agreed. “Are you okay?”

The conversation, I realized, had just been turned around. We weren’t talking about Jack anymore. We were talking about me. About what might be wrong with…me.

“I—I think I’ll go to my room now,” I said. “Do some reading.”

Suddenly, I was in no state to make further queries about Jack.

“I see you bought a copy of Car and Driver,” my dad said approvingly.

The two magazines I’d purchased were tucked underneath one arm. The Car and Driver was on top, facing outward.

I wondered: Had that order of placement been deliberate? My parents were regular churchgoers, but they had little interest in—or tolerance for—anything with a New Age or occult vibe. They would probably share Leslie’s opinion about Spooky American Tales: “campfire ghost stories”.

“That’s right,” I said, composing myself.

I still had plenty of questions about what my brother was up to; but now I also had questions about what I might have seen in the hallway.

Right outside my bedroom.

A ghost, my own mother had suggested, her distaste for the occult notwithstanding.

Chapter 16

Table of contents

Get the complete book, ad-free. Choose from multiple formats!

‘Revolutionary Ghosts’ update and progress report

I’ve been adding pages of my dark fantasy/horror serial, Revolutionary Ghosts to the site more or less every day. (I did miss a few days during the holidays.)

The online version of the text represents a rough draft (with a brief editing pass for flagrant typos). This version of the book will remain online.

Before Revolutionary Ghosts is published, though (in formats that I’ll be actually charging money for), it will undergo additional editing and proofreading passes.

The basic plot of the story won’t change during the editing phases; but the descriptions may be enhanced, the character dialogue will be tweaked, etc.

Awkward sentence structures (inevitable in any first draft) will be eliminated. I’ll also make sure all the typos are nailed down. (I’m sure a few have slipped by me in the online version.)

E-book, audiobook, and paperback editions of Revolutionary Ghosts will eventually be available–not only from Amazon, but also from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play.

You are welcome to read the full text here. (That’s one of the options I had in mind when I decided to post it online, after all.)

You might alternatively choose to merely sample it here, and await the fully edited, finalized versions in the stores. (They won’t be expensive. Don’t hold me to this: But the ebook version will probably retail at $3.99.)

I plan to have retail versions of the book available no later than March 1st.

How you read Revolutionary Ghosts is up to you. In any case, I hope you enjoy the story.