As a young boy in Hahira my family’s housing situation was cramped until we moved to the big house on Railroad Street. We first lived in a house connected to the grocery store on Main Street (now the El Carrisal restaurant). Then we moved to a small three-bedroom house on Weaver Street. Two years later Daddy bought the “Old Darby House” on Railroad Street and we were ecstatic but scared.
It was originally the L. M. Stanfill house. Mr. Stanfill built the house in the early 1900’s. He also had a store in town and the store building still exists at the corner of Main and Lowndes in Hahira. It later became the home of Slocum’s Furniture and then years later became the NAPA Store. If you go there and look down at the threshold in front of the boarded-up, front door you will see “L. M. Stanfill” engraved into the stone.
Years later, Mr. Darby purchased the house from Miss Avie Stanfill, Mr. Stanfield’s surviving heir. Mr. Darby owned the local sawmill. He was the father of Grady Darby and the grandfather of Don, Ron, and Jon Darby. In 1963 my father purchased the house from Mr. Darby. The sale included the surrounding block of land consisting of another small house, a detached garage, and a barn.
To me, a little six-year-old boy, the house was huge. It was old and spooky. The smell was musky. The whole house conjured up images of ghosts and monsters. The squirrels in the attic made noises. These noises convinced me that something was up there trying to claw its way through the ceiling to get me. The old house would groan and settle. This made for more interesting noises to fuel my imagination.
My love for reading the works of writers like Poe and Lovecraft came from living in that old house. It was the perfect setting to read horror stories. I wrote stories about the ghosts in this house and would share them with my classmates at school. If you see Harry Flythe around town, ask him about the stories…he will confirm it.
Mr. Stanfill’s store, Avie, and their house would later serve as the fictional setting for my novel, Obadiah: A Ghost’s Story.
To make matters worse, my mother hung a portrait photograph of her father, Simmie Bass, in the living room. Mama said Grandpa Bass sat for this photo when he worked at a World War I munitions factory in Pennsylvania.
He looked like a young vampire dressed in his early 1900’s suit. But his eyes made the photo more terrifying. The photographer had posed my grandfather in a way which centered Grandpa’s eyes in his face. This meant that anywhere you walked in the living room it looked like the eyes were following you. This photo frightened me and my little brother Jon.
We would not venture into the living room alone. Our first move, upon entering the room, was always to always run and hit the light button. The old house did not have light switches but rather had light buttons that you pushed for on and off.
Once the lights were on, everything seemed okay with the world, but we still hated those eyes watching us. We would bring friends over to show them what the picture would do. It was scary and freaky but in some strange way, entertaining.
Years later, after I had beat my problem with nightmares and near insanity (another story for another time) I began sleeping in my own room. Jon and I were both getting older so Mama and Daddy allowed us to stay up after they went to bed to watch TV in the living room.
Jon is four years younger than me. I wanted to stay up and watch what I wanted to watch without listening to him whine about my television choices. We could never agree on what to watch so I devised a plan to get him out of the living room. I wanted to watch TV alone, in peace, with no distractions.
If he started to bicker about the current program choice or if I became annoyed I would point to Grandpa’s picture and say, “Jon, Grandpa is watching you.” Jon would swallow hard and run out of the room to his bedroom leaving me alone to watch television in peace. What a perfect idea, right?
My perfect plan, my great idea only lasted for a week. One night, after putting up with him for too long, I looked at Jon and said, “Grandpa is watching you.”
Jon looked back at me, smirked and said, “Yeah, and he’s watching you too.”
We cleared the room in a flash, leaving the lights on. I never argued with him again about the television choices and I welcomed his company while we all watched TV together—Jon, Grandpa, and me.
The house we lived in and Mr. Stanfill’s store served as the fictional backdrops for my last novel, Obadiah: A Ghost’s Story. It is set in 1905 Hahira and is a story told by the ghost, Obadiah Sampson. It is available at Amazon by clicking the photo below.