I was only ten years old, but I remember a night in November 1926 as if it were yesterday. My father Martin Christensen had just rented the old homestead of John Hayse about ten miles east of Paris , Texas, making the negotiations with the old man’s son Will.
We children first saw the large white farmhouse about sundown when Mother drove us into the yard in our old buck-board. We had to eat a cold supper because the cook stove couldn’t be put up until Father went to town for additional stovepipe.
The house had three bedrooms. Mother and Father slept in one, my two brothers in another, and the hired hand in the remaining bedroom. My sister Bertie Lou and I had to sleep in the front room.
Here we found a huge old sandstone fireplace with a long mantel, and from this room a wide door led on to a porch, which ran almost all the way around the house. The door squeaked a little when it was opened or closed.
I had suffered poliomyelitis and during my illness I had been pretty well spoiled. For one thing I would not sleep without a lighted kerosene lamp near my bed.
I’m sure this annoyed my sister but she always let me have my own way. On our first night in the new house, we could hardly wait for morning to explore the farm.
I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep but I could hear Bertie Lou’s even breathing. I was thinking of the fun we would have in the big barn. Of course with braces on my legs I couldn’t climb but I could watch my brothers and I felt this was almost as good as getting into the hayloft.
I tossed until my sister awakened. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Yes, but I can’t sleep.”
She squeezed my hand and mumbled, “You’re just excited . Go to sleep.”
Just then the door to the porch seemed to open. I grabbed my sister’s hand and we stared at the door. A little old man stood in the doorway. He was very thin and, of all things, he was wearing white long johns! He had white hair, a small white mustache, and a trim little goatee.
We both noticed the sharp, curled-up points of his mustache. He stood in the doorway a few seconds, then walked toward the fireplace. He was so small and the mantel so high that his hand was above his head as he reached for the ledge.
He looked into the small fire my father had set for us. While my sister and I clung to each other, too scared to make a sound, the old man slowly turned and walked toward the foot of our bed. As he stood looking at us I thought, “He isn’t really seeing us; he’s looking through us!” Now he slowly turned and surveyed the rest of the room with a rueful expression as if he were seeing it for the last time.
He hesitated a few seconds more and then, with another glance at the fireplace, slowly made his way toward the door. We felt that the door opened and close but we knew this wasn’t so, for we would have heard its little squeak.
With the old man’s disappearance my sister and I came alive and let out terrified screams. We both were quite hysterical and we couldn’t offer a believable explanation for our state. After Mother calmed us a little we flatly refused to sleep in the front room.
Mother offered to let us swap rooms with the hired man, which we did with alacrity. The next morning of course we had to tell what had happened over and over again. We knew we had been awake for surely we couldn’t have had a duplicate nightmare -or even a duplicate dream.
As we looked back on the vision my sister and I agreed there was little excuse for our terror, for the little old man surely meant us no harm. He seemed only to be viewing a room he had known and loved. The next day my father went to town for the stovepipe.
He called at the local hardware store, owned by our landlord’s son, Will Hayse. He found the store closed and a wreath on the door. Later in the morning he ran across Will and offered his condolences on learning that John had died the night before.
Something clicked in my father’s mind. He suddenly was struck by Will Hayse’s remarkable resemblance to the description we had given of the little old man; a mustache with pointed, curled -upward ends, and a goatee.
Cautiously he inquired about the elder Hayse’s appearance. Will volunteered the information that he bore an uncanny likeness to his father, except that his father’s hair had turned white.
Now my father told Mr. Hayse about our experience of the night before and asked him to come to our farm for dinner. Bertie Lou and I were taking our afternoon nap when my father and the younger Hayse arrived.
My father gently awakened us and told us to come into the parlor. Because of my braces he had to carry me. Mother was in the parlor with a stranger.
“Mary,” my father said, “this is Mr. Will Hayse. He wants you and your sister to tell him what happened last night.”
I hardly heard his words, for I was staring at the stranger, whose resemblance to the little old white-haired man brought back the terror of the night before. He looked much younger, with jet-black hair, mustache, and goatee, but in size, features, and bearing he seemed to be a carbon copy!
Mr. Hayse spoke first to my sister. “Tell me. young lady, what did this old man look like? Bertie Lou hesitated a moment and then answered, “He looked just exactly like you, sir, but very much older- and he wore- (she hesitated( a white union suit.”
“Yes.” I piped up, “a white union suit like papa wears.” Before Mother could reprimand me Mr. Hayse opened a large package. As he help up its contents we all gasped. In a large frame was a picture of the little old man we had seen. Mr. Hayse told us it was his father.
Then he asked my father the time we had seen the vision and Papa said it must have been about 9:30 pm. for we had not been in bed very long. Will Hayse said sadly, ” That was just about the time my father died-and he died in the long white underwear he always slept in during the winter months.”
San Luis Rey, California