Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Part 3 of St Louis folklore and ghosts from the research of Devil At The Confluence.

In the book Devil At The Confluence the stories behind the songs from St Louis are revealed. But not all stories had surviving songs for them and so for this week of Halloween there will be a story from the leftover research of the book.

The blues area of St Louis centered around Morgan and Biddle Streets. This story occurred on Biddle before the turn of the century and was reported in the newspaper.

The Midnight Gambler

Biddle Street has many open areas and empty lots today, but in 1884 the street was crowded with old brick houses packed tightly and filled with people. Near the Eighteenth block of Biddle there was one such old brick house where an old man had lived. Old Dan was a well-known river gambler and the only friends he had were old time gamblers as well. He had died ten years before and the house remained vacant for most of those years.

A gentleman had called the newspaper with a story of a ghostly performance that he witnessed from his second floor window across Biddle from the old house. A reporter accepted his invitation to show him where the apparition was seen.

First, the reporter visited the family that was living in the house, but they said they knew nothing about it being haunted nor had they seen or heard anything unusual. So the reporter assured them that he gets many of these kinds of calls and they usually turn out to be wild imaginations or whiskey fueled dreams and he bid them goodnight. Across the street the reporter was greeted and led to the second floor window and by a quarter past ten, the moon was shining brightly. Then a figure in a stove pipe hat appeared trudging up the far side of the slanting roof. Removing the hat and setting it upon the tippling chimney, the figure seemed to set upon the shingles at the apex. Opera glasses were required to make out the actions of the shadow on the roof across the street. The hazy specter seemed to remove from its coat-tail pocket a deck of cards wrapped in a bandana or handkerchief, and continued through motions that seemed to be shuffling and dealing and placing money from a pocketbook on the table - the pantomime of a cardgame, although the opponent was not apparent.

"That's the way it goes every night," said the host. "They play there until after midnight. Pretty soon you'll see old Dan ring in a cold deck on the other fellow." During the play it was observed that the figure dropped a couple of cards in a casual movement of his arm and pull cards out from the back of his coat collar in the same sweep. Once he stuffed a whole hand under a shingle and pulled a complete set of five new ones out of his boot leg. There must have been some protests made by the unseen player because play halted occasionally and the figure gestured wildly.

At about ten minutes after night had reached its meridian the final hand was played. Dan took a single card on the draw and palmed it while pulling another card from his opposite sleeve. He pushed his pile of money and a pocket watch and chain to the center of the table and laid out his cards. But while clutching for the pot, he froze, staring across the table. In the next instant he was up and drawing a revolver from his hip. His forearm recoiled as if he fired. The gleam of the weapon and the lash of the discharge could be seen but no noise was heard. Sweeping the stakes into his hat he turned hurriedly and scrambled over the roof in the moonlight.

"And that's the way it ends every night" said the man across the street from the old gambler's house on Biddle Street.

Devil At The Confluence is available at the better bookstores including Border's books.

No comments:

Post a Comment