Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Cradle That Rocked By Itself

This story is a classic ghost story. Like most ghost stories it has several versions. 

It is perfect for sharing with children because it is shorter in length and has a smaller amount of characters so children can follow along easily. It is also appropriate because it is a little spooky but not enough to cause nightmares.

Over the years I have heard it on recordings and read versions of it in several different books. One ghost anthology that includes it is Maria Leach’s book entitled, The Thing At The Foot Of The Bed.  

There is a nice traditional recording of it at the end of this post. The following version of it is one I have shared with children for many years. 

The key to telling shorter ghost stories is to tell them as opposed to reading them. Another key is to make them your own by adding personalized touches.

It was a dark and stormy night along the coastline of Maine. The wind rattled the doors and windows of the houses that dotted the cliffs that overlooked the raging ocean. 

The fierce wind crashed the waves violently against the rocks along the shoreline that lay below. 

Several ships that had been caught in the storm struggled to survive. 

In one warm cottage, that was set high on the cliff, a young woman was cooking dinner when she paused and turned toward her husband.

"Did you hear that?"
Her husband tapped his pipe gently and looked up from the table, "no".
"I thought I heard a baby crying."
He shook his head, “its probably just the wind." Seeing his wife perplexed look he continued. "Or it could be them seals. You know how those baby seals sound just like human babies."
His wife looked him in the eye, "I think I know the difference between a human and animal cry."
The husband shook his head kindly, "how could it be? In this storm?"
The two sat and ate their supper in silence. Being newlyweds they were not used to disagreeing yet. Neither went outside to check.

The next morning as the newlywed couple walked along the beach they sadly surveyed several items that had washed ashore from one unfortunate ship that had broken to pieces against the rocks the night before. 

The husband spotted a cradle. The storm had battered it about but it was mostly intact. He picked up the stray pieces and took it home where he repaired it.

In the following years the couple used this cradle for each of their babies. They often noted a very odd occurrence. 

When there was a storm and the wind blew the cradle would rock by itself. Sitting on the floor in the couple’s warm living room the cradle would rock as if someone were sitting next to it and gently rocking the baby. 

This happened frequently and since their babies seemed to enjoy it the couple paid it no mind.

With the birth of their last child the wife’s sister came to visit. The family gathered at the kitchen table to eat supper. The proud aunt glanced into the next room, surprised she asked, “Who is that woman rocking the cradle?”
The father looked and then turned to his sister-in-law, “What woman, there is no woman, the cradle rocks by itself.”
“There is a woman. She has long dark hair." She pointed toward the other room.  "She is sitting next to the cradle rocking your baby.”

The couple rushed to the door that separated the kitchen from the family living room. 

The cradle was indeed rocking but no one was there. The wife quickly went to the cradle and picked up her baby. 

The husband took the cradle outside and chopped it up. He put the pieces on the woodpile. 

In the following weeks as the couple burnt this kindling in their fireplace the wife could hear a wailing baby cry in the distance. After all the kindling had been burned the wife never heard the distant cries again.

This 1970s version is from an album entitled, "Selections from the Haunted House and Other Spooky Poems and Tales".

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