Reprinted from Kingsport Times News
January 23, 1966
by James M. Evans, United Press International
HILTONS, VA – It’s likely that most folks at one time or another have wondered what it would be like to spend the night in a haunted house.
It’s also likely that a good number of them have taken steps to satisfy their curiosity.
It was an early Autumn evening when I and three other men moved into one – at least everybody said it was haunted.
It was certainly dark enough, isolated enough, and old enough.The white-frame, tin-roofed, two-story house was built in pre-Civil War days by Mann Hart in the midst of a 300 acre farm he and his brother owned in this section of gently rolling Virginia hill country, split down the middle by a gurgling river.
Stories circulated through these hills about Hart indicate he was a big man in every sense of the word. People who knew him shortly before his death in about 1915 say he weighed close to 300 pounds and he was prosperous. And some of the stories speculate he was not exactly scrupulous in obtaining his wealth.
There are tales of lumbermen, returning upriver with profits in their pocket, never being traced after stopping the night at Hart’s.
The house, except for a sprayed-on coat of white paint and a set of green shutters, stands today almost as it did more than a century ago.
The interior walls, made of long-lasting yellow poplar, look as though they were artificially stained at one time, but the dark color stems mostly from age. The furniture has long been gone.
In fact, a close inspection of the wall panels reveals square-headed nails used during the 19th century.
The present owner is Kingsport businessman John Miller.
He, Bert Vincent, Bob and I were the first party to spend a night in the house since the early 1950s when a family named Graham lived there.
Miller said he had established a standing offer of $25 for any person who would spend the night alone there. He has had no takers. As a party of four, we didn’t qualify.
I can see why the dare has not been taken.
Miller, who knows most of the stories, says they range from tales of a woman’s hand print, permanently embossed on a stair tread, to ghostly music.
We did not see the hand print, but we did hear something which could be called ghostly music and other unexplained sounds.
Breeden and I were sitting on the front porch when we heard some thumping and bumping noises from the barn, located about 25 yards diagonally across the road from the house.
These were startling enough, but they were followed by a weird screeching. It could have been a wildcat, but somehow it didn’t sound like one, Bob and I agreed.
It also could have been some kind of bird, but if it were, we didn’t want to meet it.
We were still sitting on the porch when Miller returned from a trip to Kingsport.
The noise cranked up again. We decided to investigate and found only two birds – later identified as some sort of wild chicken – sitting on the long rafter which ran the length of the 50-foot barn at the peak of the roof.
Breeden fashioned a snare from a wooden lath and baling wire and captured the birds. Their squawking wasn’t the noise we heard.
Miller said an upper bedroom in the house was supposed to be “the worst” in the place. So we packed our cots and moved in.
This was the place, so legend has it, where sheets gently floated from the beds of no longer sleeping travelers. They didn’t for us.
But the “music” was there. We all heard it.
It was a low throbbing, barely audible sound, like the bass note on an organ being held continuously. There probably is a good explanation for the sounds – but we didn’t find one. I’m just as glad.