"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Poltergeist of Cisco

The archives of the Humble Oil & Refining Company are about the last place where you’d expect to run across a first-rate poltergeist account, but it just goes to show that we live in a funny old world.  In 1948, a folklorist and historian was browsing through the company’s papers when he came across a letter that had absolutely nothing to do with oil.  It read:

Jan [illegible] '26

Mineral Wells

Manager Humble Oil Co. Cisco

Dear Sir

I know you will think I am batty but I hope I am not. I understand from Mr. R T. Woodson who is figuring with you to lease the old B Y. Woodson farm 6 miles south of Cisco. B Y Woodson was my wifes Grandfather.... Now this is a Spooky Story but Its a fact In the Early day in the Setling up of that Teritory B Y Woodson bought that place from yet an earlier Setler with the one Room log-house which Still remaines in part & after living there some years thare got to be some Strange things going on thare would be Knocking on the wall outside & finally whatever it was would get up Stairs while the family was all in the Room & throw Rocks Eggs Butcher Knives & all Kinds of things from up Stairs & they would rush up Stairs & make a Search & not a thing to be found & hundreds of People went thare & witnessed that performance & the mistery was never Solved & Every one believed that there was Some Kind of Treasure under the house & all at once all of that monkeying quit. If you will go & have a look around just whare the house stands you will find a Tea Pot dome with lots of black Oil & gas rocks on it & thare may be oil there. I forgot to say that the first Strange thing that happened thare was late one night my wifes father & another man was in the Room Setting by the fire & all of a Suddent a small cole black little Negro Boy Stood before them & Said nor done nothing for a flew minutes & then Vanished. Say I'll be(t) an oil well you wont go down there & spend a night in that house all alone. Now if you Will put down a well at the South West Corner of the log Shack you are bound to get a big oil well as thats whare the Spook always started to perform. I go down thare every Fall to gather Pecans... Let me hear how you like this Spook Story.... yours Truly

A C. Traweek

714 E. Hubbard St.

The historian was naturally intrigued, and wondered if there was any way of gathering more details about this bit of The Weird.  After asking around, he was directed to a Cisco oil man, O.G. Lawson.  Lawson was delighted to do a little sleuthing.  In April 1949, his efforts were rewarded when he found an elderly man named Lafayette Walters, who had known the Woodsons well.  Walters introduced him to R.T. Woodson, the last surviving member of the family, who had been a boy of twelve at the time of the “spook story.”  This enabled Lawson to piece together a fairly complete account of those strange days, which he eventually published in the “Journal of American Folklore,” for October-December 1951, under the self-explanatory title, “Texas Poltergeist, 1881.”

B.G. Woodson, along with his wife and six children, settled just outside of Cisco in 1877.  The Woodsons were a hard-working lot, and their farm proved to be a fertile one, so the family soon became one of the most prosperous households in the neighborhood.  They were well respected for their industry, their piety, and their honesty.

In March of 1881, the family’s busy, but pleasant, existence suddenly took a bizarre turn.  One evening, the Woodsons were sitting around the fire when they heard knocks on one of the boards covering a crack in their house.  The father went to the door, but saw no one there.  When the knocks continued, Mr. Woodson decided they must have been caused by a harness hanging on the front porch being knocked around by the wind.  However, taking the harness down failed to stop the noise.

After that, the family heard the knocks nearly every night, usually preceded by the sound of a cat mewing.  The sounds generally ended at midnight, with the closing flourish being a noise resembling a large bird, such as a turkey, flying straight up in the air.  

Other disquieting things began happening.  R.T. Woodson, who shared a bedroom with his brothers Bose and John, recalled that at night, the boys would hear a small animal running up the stairway and into their room, where it hid behind a large trunk near their bed, growling and “popping his teeth.”

After several weeks, the pragmatic Woodsons were able to shrug off the strange phenomena.  Their neighbors, however, took a deeper interest.  Rumors spread that the weird noises were a sign that buried treasure lay somewhere on the Woodson land.

After a while, the Woodsons became relaxed enough to “prank” what they assumed was the family ghost.  They would ask the entity to “make a noise like a broom” or “go like a drunk man,” and the spirit would immediately oblige.  The spirit would answer simple questions, giving one knock for “yes,” and two for “no.”  On one occasion, during a visit from a neighbor named Ira Townsend, someone mischievously asked the ghost, “Did Ira Townsend ever steal a sheep?”  When one particularly loud knock rang out, Townsend indignantly retorted, “That’s a lie!  I never stole a sheep in my life!”  However, after a moment he remembered that, yes, when he was in the Confederate army, he was once desperate enough for food to grab someone’s sheep.

The ghost’s repertoire expanded.  During the day, rocks would periodically be thrown into the living room from upstairs.  The stones were usually decorated with a letter of the alphabet, but efforts to use them to form a coherent message were unsuccessful.  At night, the spirit would hurl around knives, forks, salt cellars, and bottles.  When anyone would be in the barn, they’d be greeted by a rock shower.  However, despite the size of these bombardments, no one was ever hit by them.  Sometimes, when a hen was sitting on eggs in a corner of the living room, the eggs would disappear from under her only to be thrown into the room from upstairs.  Oddly, the hen never seemed disturbed by this.

On at least one occasion, the ghost could be charitable.  Mrs. Woodson occasionally suffered from indigestion, which she would ease by chewing a little tobacco.  One day, she was feeling unwell, but had no tobacco.  As she was sitting by the fire, lamenting her loss, something fell into her lap.  It was a hunk of tobacco.

The Woodson front door was held shut by a wooden pin inserted in a hole in the door jamb.  One evening, in front of the entire family, the pin was thrown to the floor.  That happened repeatedly that night, but never when anyone was looking at the pin.

The strangest event of all took place when the oldest Woodson boy, Columbus, and a friend named Charlie Rucks sat up in the living room all night, in the hope of finally solving the mystery of these manifestations.  As they were sitting by the fire, a black child aged about three years old suddenly stood before them.  After a few minutes of staring silently at them, the child vanished as quickly as he had appeared.

Four weeks and one day after the first spectral knocks were heard, the family breakfast was interrupted by a rock thrown down the stairway.  That proved to be the “spook’s” farewell message.  After that, all the supernatural manifestations ended, for good.


  1. here's the oil connetion-"If you will go & have a look around just whare the house stands you will find a Tea Pot dome with lots of black Oil & gas rocks on it & thare may be oil there"

  2. Reading this all I thought was WOW and I am glad I wasn't there

  3. Strange indeed. Why the sudden cessation? And why the child? A ghost of the boy whose death caused all the ruckus? Very odd...


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