One Haunted Eve

by Bill Schuette

 As the leaves of summer begin their annual transformation to the golden hues of autumn, the cool winds of October signal the seasonal changes of a time of harvest and preparation for the long winter nights to come. Stories of goblins and ghosts abound as Halloween approaches on its annual trek through the cornfields and graveyards in Sauk County. Such was also the case in the little village of Loganville during the early part of the last century.

This hearse may have been similar to the one used in Loganville.

This hearse may have been similar to the one used in Loganville.

As the old-timers gathered around the potbellied stove at Burmester’s Grocery, someone was sure to bring up the story of one of Loganville’s colorful characters, Old Bill W., and the large dog, Bismarck, which was owned by Mr. Westedt, the proprietor of a local fermented beverage establishment.

When a noted citizen of the village passed to his reward one autumn, the digger of the graves at the time was Old Bill. He, upon being informed of the passing, was duly dispatched by the elders of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church to prepare a suitable resting place for the dearly departed. It was late in the fall; and as the sun sank early in the west, the black bedecked hearse of undertaker Adam Lecher, with the pallbearers seated high up on the black leather seats, slowly ascended the south hill on its journey to the cemetery. The feathery dark plumes attached to the sides of the horse-drawn carriage fluttered softly as the cool breeze of autumn floated gently through the quiet valley. They soon arrived at the cemetery gate and shortly thereafter had placed the deceased in his final abode just as the looming shadows of dusk crept slowly up the hill.  

The wind was colder now and seemed to whisper a somber note as it filtered through the barren trees and past the gray tombstones. A chill engulfed the men as they quickly remounted the empty hearse for the return trip to town. Bill asked where they were going in such a hurry. When they informed him of their plans, Bill said, rather emphatically, that he wasn't going to stay in any graveyard alone at night! They told him that it was his job to remain and fill in the grave.  

Well, needless to say, Old Bill wasn't about to be diggin' around there after dark, so he quickly scrambled up onto the front seat, leaving his shovel and the uncompleted task until a more illuminated time.

The small group of men wasted little time on the return trip to Loganville, as somewhere off in the distance the mournful howl of a baying hound made the damp air creep even deeper into their bones. So, they decided to stop for some liquid refreshment at Westedt's, “something to take the chill off,” they said. After having thoroughly removed the chill, Bill finally decided to head for home. But the rest of the guys weren't ready to leave just yet and as he left, they called after him, “You better take care, ‘cause the recently departed might be roamin' around out there since you didn't cover him up!" 

As the laughter drifted back to him, Bill headed quickly up the south hill, straining to see the ruts in the darkened street, least he stumble. All at once he thought he heard something up ahead. He paused, holding his breath. Hearing only the sound of his own heart pounding, he continued cautiously on his way. He hadn't gone ten paces when he stopped dead in his tracks and peered straight ahead. For there in the road directly ahead was a dark form; and as he watched, it began to move slowly towards him. He called out hesitantly, his voice barely audible. No answer. He called out a second time, this time louder. Still no answer. Suddenly, there was the sound of footsteps in the dry leaves. But as he turned, something leapt onto his back and grabbed his neck. Well, Old Bill nearly passed to his own reward right there on the spot!

After a few minutes, he came to his senses again and saw Bismarck standing near him, and ahead in the road were several cows, out for a night's stroll. He slowly realized that Bismarck had been chasing the cows and when he had called out, Bismarck recognized his voice and came up to greet him. Ever since that experience, whenever the name of Bill W. comes up in the conversation among the old-timers, you can be sure to hear someone say, "didja hear about the time Old Bill.......".