Crosby, Texas (1980)
Ben and Jean Williams were the first couple to move into the subdivision of Newport near Houston, Texas. But the home of their dreams soon became the home of their darkest nightmares.
The story really does not begin with the Williams family, but with another family named Haney. The Haneys had moved to the area relatively at the same time as the Williams', and when they began to excavate a site for a pool, an old man, a stranger, knocks at the door of the Haneys home. He tells them that he knows of human remains that were buried in their backyard area. He points out a spot where he claimed two graves had been, and gave the Haneys the names of some black families living nearby who could confirm his story.
Digging with a backhoe where the old man had indicated, the contractor unearthed two bodies, a man and a woman, interred in crude wooden coffins. Horrified, the Haneys were determined to find out who these people were and to give them a dignified burial.
Their search leads them to man named Jasper Norton who, as a youth, had worked as a gravedigger. Norton told the Haneys that their home and surrounding houses were built on top of an old graveyard called Black Hope, and that the deceased were mostly former slaves. The last burial had been in 1939, and as many as 60 people had been interred there in pauper's graves.
Norton identified the two people buried in the Haney's backyard as Betty and Charlie Thomas, former slaves who had died during the 1930's. Unable to locate any living relatives of the Thomas' and plagued with guilt for desecrating their graves, Sam and Judith made the extraordinary decision: they would rebury the remains in the backyard, and resolved to live peacefully side by side with Charlie and Betty. But according to the Haneys, what would follow was anything but peaceful.
One night Ben encountered two entities whose icy, enveloping touch sent him to the hospital with something akin to an asthma attack. Similar events influenced the lives of neighbors as the new community began to grow. As the disturbing occurrences continued, the Haneys came to feel that something was trying to drive them from their home.
They were not alone. A dozen neighbors whose houses were built on top of the abandoned cemetery reported that lights, televisions, and water faucets were turning on and off for no apparent reason. Many claimed to hear unearthly sounds. And there seemed to be an increasing maliciousness to the bizarre events. Could the spirits of the Black Hope cemetery, angry at the desecration of their graves, be seeking vengeance?
Ben and Jean Williams believed so. They lived across the street from the Haneys with their young granddaughter, Carli, in the home they had built in 1980. From the beginning nothing about the house had felt right. The home retained a clammy chill year round, and Jean and Carli couldn't shake the persistent feeling they were being watched.
Toilets flushed by themselves and the garage door and household appliances seemed to operate on their own. Rectangular sinkholes opened up in the yard, and no matter how well the Williams filled them in, they reappeared within a few days. The Williams also noticed strange markings on an old oak tree by the sinkholes, an arrow pointing downward with two horizontal slash marks beneath it.
When a long-time resident of the area told them he had marked the tree as a way to identify where his two sisters were buried, the Williams were devastated.
Soon after a presence made itself known. Jean and Carli were awakened from an afternoon nap by phantom footsteps in the hall, and Ben returned home from work one evening to find a dark form hovering over his sleeping wife. Worse yet, six members of the Williams' extended family were stricken with deadly cancers, with three of them dying within a year.
The Haney's lives were also unraveling. Plagued with health problems and frightened of remaining in their house, Sam and Judith decided to fight back. They sued the developer for not disclosing that their home was built over a graveyard and were awarded $142,000 by a jury. However, the judge ruled on legal grounds that the developers were not liable and reversed the decision, ordering the Haneys to pay the court costs.
The Williams also explored legal recourse, but were told that without definitive proof of a graveyard on their property, nothing could be done. It was then that Jean made a decision she will forever regret.
Desperate to prove that their home was built on a cemetery, Jean began digging in one of the sinkholes beneath the oak tree, sure she would find a body to prove their case. When she became too exhausted to dig any longer, her daughter Tina took over. After digging for about a half an hour, Tina collapsed. Two days later she died of a massive heart attack at the age of only thirty years old.
Convinced their desecration of a grave had precipitated their daughter's death, Ben and Jean decide to leave no matter what it cost them. Shortly after they decided to move to an undisclosed location in Montana.
Was it a curse, as many say, or was it that those interred were awakened and were seeking revenge on the living? In any event, this is a course in life that one should be forewarned about that dream home and where it may not be a dream but a nightmare in disguise.
References: see "The Black Hope Horror", Williams and Shoemaker
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