There were about 12 of us there that night. We sat fairly close together. I don't know If we sat that way by conscious decision or not. Someone wondered what would happen If we were attacked by wolves or some other dreaded creature. We decided that if that happened, then the ones of us on the outside of our circle might be killed, but the rest of us would probably survive. Subconsciously, maybe we just felt safer being closer together.
We sat huddled together, like this for awhile. We talked a bit. Laughed and joked around a bit. But as time went on we talked quieter and quieter. We began to listen to the surroundings a bit more. The rustle of the leaves. The creaking of the trees.
Occasionally, one of us would try and scare one of the women.
"Did you see that, Sally? I thought I saw something over there in the bushes! Maybe it was something evil?"
Sally just laughed and remained calm. She was unfazed.
Or later on...
"Did you hear that, Susan? I think I heard a noise! What in God's name was that!"
Susan just smiled a week little smile for a brief moment, but then got a more serious look on her face and said: "I am not sure I am liking this very much anymore!"
The rest of us just laughed.
Susan was easy to pick on.
But as the night wore on and the midnight hour approached, we noticed that the breeze had stopped. The air became very still. The clouds were still slowly rolling across the sky but the area around the cemetary became very quiet.
Our conversations soon were in whispers. It seemed to become very eerie. It became very easy to start to imagine things. Maybe there were beasts around. Were the ghosts of Quantrill approaching? Some of us talked quietly about what we knew about Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence in 1863.
We became mostly silent as a group and any conversations we had were brief and quiet.
Nobody was laughing much anymore.
Midnight was nearing.
Then somebody farted!
Everybody heard it. And it wasn't a small fart. It was a real Horatio Hornblower type of fart.
Raucous laughter ensued!
We laughed and giggled for a bit. There was a brief discussion about who did it. Some of us thought it was Susan, but she denied it and even got a bit mad when we didn't let up on her.
There were a few moments of laughter after that, but they eventually came fewer and farther between. Soon it was quiet again and we felt like we were very alone at the top of that hill shrouded in darkness.
Suddenly, the moon peeked out as a hole in the clouds opened up in the sky. We were suddenly bathed in a soft moonlight. It wasn't bright, but it took us by surprise. We were able to see much better now, but it wasn't exactly a comfort because the surroundings took on a new and somewhat scarier pall.
We were very quiet again as a group now as we surveyed the surrounding area in the new light. Someone said it was just a few minutes to midnight.
A moment later we heard some rustling in the grass off to the south side of the cemetary. It almost sounded like it could be the hooves of a horse. Maybe two horses.
We all heard it. We all listened intently. We all wondered If Quantrill was really going to arrive. This was just for fun wasn't it? For most of us it was starting to not be fun anymore.
The rustling continued. We couldn't see anything that might be the cause of the noise, but it seemed to be getting closer. We were very quiet and breathing heavily. There was much tension in the air. A sense of dread.
Without warning, two deer suddenly appeared running quickly along the south fence. The deer jumped the fence and ran directly toward us. Susan screamed! Others of us gasped and ducked instinctively. The deer charged right by us, then eventually jumped the fence on the north side of the cemetary and disappeared into the trees.
Nobody moved or said anything for a moment.
Finally someone said: "Far Out, Man!"
Someone else said "Damn!"
Susan said: "Let's get the hell out of here!"
There was no discussion. We left the Stull cemetary never to come back again. Of course we told many people about our experience that night. They probably told their friends, who told their friends, etc.
The legends live on! But we were there at the beginning!
I came back to the scene of this event on my recent trip to the Topeka area. Things had changed a bit. But this cemetary (the real one south of town) still seems to be a very strange and forboding place.
Gateway to Hell? I think not.
Quantrill? Probably not.
But something lurks there!
And it is not friendly!