The Hello Man

A tale based on a conversation with Ray, a resident at an assisted living facility I visited last fall. I posted this last year on my other blog, Granny Sue's News and Reviews. It's a good story for this time of year, when the shadows lengthen and firelight flickers. Gather round; let's hear a tale.

"Have you ever heard of the "Hello Man? You haven't? Then let me tell you a story.

"I grew up on Big Laurel, in Mingo county. When I was a boy we lived right beside the creek. The road ran sometimes in the creek, sometimes on the bank, you know how those old roads were. People said sometimes at night you could hear someone coming along the road hollering, "Hello!" but the person, or thing, never was seen so people thought it was a spirit, a ghost, you know. It was spooky enough along the creek the way the branches hung overhead. The moonlight could just barely filter through, making little white patches in the pitch dark. On moonless nights, you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. You can imagine how scary it would be to be walking on that road and suddenly hear someone calling out, and knowing no live person was really there.

"My uncle was visiting us one night. He was a circuit-riding preacher and was passing through our holler on his way to his next church. We were all out on the porch, just talking and visiting. The night was pitch dark and warm, a humid summer night when the locusts were still calling. In the distance we could hear a hoot owl's call, and a whippoorwill's song far up in the hills. I believe it was August, can't be sure. Over the noise of the insects we heard him.

"Hello? Hello! He-llllll-ooooooo..." The voice drifted up the holler, echoing, repeating, fainter and fainter.

My uncle sat straight up. "Who is that?" he asked.

"That's the Hello Man," I told him. "A haint, is what we think it is."

"A haint?"

"Yeah, no one ever sees him, we just hear him hollering Hello. It's right creepy if you're comin' up the road alone at night. People have been hearing him for years, so they say."

My uncle sat back. "No one knows who it might be the spirit of?"

"Nope. We just skedaddle when we hear him. I sure don't want to meet up with no haint in the night!"

"Well, we'll put an end to this." My uncle stood up, picked up his Bible from the porch table and strode off the porch into the night, disappearing under the overhanging trees.

"Hello? Hello? Helloooooo..." The Hello Man's voice sounded closer than ever and we strained our eyes trying to see where our uncle had gone. It seemed like the trees had swallowed him up.

"It was real quiet then for a long time. We were scared. Had the Hello Man got our uncle? We imagined all sorts of terrible things, our uncle hanging from a tree, or lying in the road with his head cut off, or maybe carried off and we'd never see him again. My little brother began to snuffle.

"Shhh! I hear someone coming!" We darted for the door, scrambling inside the house and peeking out through the windows into the blackness beyond. We could see nothing.

Someone stepped up on the porch. My little brother let out a wail, then screamed as the the door burst open.

My uncle stood in the doorway, illuminated by the kerosene lamp on the table. He set down his Bible and dusted his hands together.

"Well," he said, "there will be no more of that."

We never did learn what our uncle had done. But no one ever heard the Hello Man again.

Copyright Susanna Holstein 2012. All rights reserved. No republication or redistribution without permission.