Now this story happened when I was a young buck in my late teens, long before there were highways or motels. Back in the old days, folks would travel miles down long dirt roads to get from one place to another. People would get mighty tired after being on the road so long, and were always looking for a place to sleep. That's the dilemma I found myself in. For two days, I'd been steering a wagon full of farm equipment destined for Zanesville. Night was falling fast - as were my drooping eyelids. The last thing I wanted was to fall asleep and steer my team of horses into a ditch. So I figured I better find a place to catch a wink or two, even if it was on the cold, hard ground. As luck would have it, I passed an old farmer walking home from a long day in the fields. I stopped him and asked where I might find some lodging. "There ain't nothin' between here and Zanesville," the farmer said. He then pointed toward a small dirt path that split away from the main road into a dense pine forest. "That there's a short cut that'll git you there in half the time. But I wouldn't travel on that road at night." "Why's that?" I asked. The old farmer spit a stream of tobacco juice into the bushes and said, "'Cause ever'body knows that road is haunted." Well, I had been traveling long enough to know that country folk made up a lot of tall tales to pass the time. So I just grinned, patted the old man on the back and said, "Thanks, old timer, but I'll take my chances, ghosts or no ghosts." And with that, I steered my wagon into the forest. A couple of hours went by, and I was starting to think that this so-called "short cut" wasn't so short after all. All I could see around me in the darkness was thick, impenetrable forest. My lantern cast eerie shadows on the stark pine trees. Strange night creatures chattered amongst themselves in the shadows, as if waiting for the forest to swallow me alive. Finally, the trees broke on one side to reveal a small, white clapboard church sitting on a small rise. The windows were dark, but I figured the door was probably unlocked. After all, preachers encouraged their flock to pray whenever they could, even at odd hours of the night. So I tied his team to the front post, walked up the stairs, and opened the heavy door with a loud creak. Sure enough, the church was empty, So I stretched himself out in a pew in the back and chuckled to himself. I couldn't believe my luck, finding this place so far out in the woods. It was almost enough to make me consider going to church again on Sundays! But I quickly shook that thought off and fell into a deep, much-needed slumber. Moments later, I awoke to a sudden thumping sound coming from the front of the church. I lay quiet for a moment, thinking an animal had crawled inside. I heard it again, louder this time. I reached for my extinguished lantern, but couldn't find a match to light it with. Cursing under my breath, I peered over the pew in front of me. My eyes took awhile to adjust to the darkness. But when they did, I saw something that made me jump. Standing by the pulpit was a small figure in white, rocking back and forth on her heels slowly. "Who's there?" I called out, only to be answered by a low, painful moan. I found the matches in my pocket. I tried to light the lantern, but no luck. I looked up, and a chill ran through me as I saw the figure had moved closer. I could see it was a woman in a torn white dress, her long, stringy hair hanging over her face. She was moaning louder now as she approached me. I found myself backing away toward the door. I tried to light the lantern again, but still the flame wouldn't catch. I looked up and saw that the woman had moved even closer. I noticed that the front of her dress was stained with mud. "Wh...what do you want?" I asked her, my voice cracking with fear. I backed up against the door, but it was closed. The woman moved closer and closer, her moans growing louder and louder. I fumbled with the lantern again, striking another match. This time the flame caught, and as I lifted the lantern in the air, I gasped - the woman was standing right in my face, her eyes crazed and bloodshot, skin pale and cracked like some long lost china doll! She reached for my face, and even in that split second, I could see that her fingernails were broken and dirty. I flung the door open and ran to my wagon. I could hear the woman's bare feet thumping down the church stairs behind me. I frantically untied the horses and leapt into the driver's seat. And right before I sped away, I swear I felt the woman grab my shirt, trying desperately to pull me off the wagon. I rode swiftly away from the church and did not stop until I reached Zanesville, just as the morning sun cracked the horizon. I found a local restaurant and collapsed into a chair. With trembling fingers, I lit a cigarette as the morning breakfast crowd stared at me strangely. "You all right, Mister?" the Manager asked as he poured me a steaming cup of coffee. I shook my head and told him the story of the ghost I'd seen in the church. The Manager stared at me for a moment, then sat quietly beside me and said, "That weren't no ghost you saw. I think you saw Mary Ann Finch. And the Sheriff's been looking for her for days." The Manager went on to explain that Mary Ann was a young woman who'd escaped from a nearby mental hospital. Seems she had delivered a baby girl out of wedlock a year or so ago. She was so scared that the townsfolk would shun her that she killed her baby, and buried it deep in the forest where no one would find her. But her guilt only festered inside her, eventually making her crazy. So much so that her family put her in the hospital. But while she was in there, she cried out that she had had a change of heart, she wanted her baby back and wanted to dig it up , lying somewhere out there in those piney woods, cold and alone. Problem was, she couldn't remember where she had buried her. One night the doctors went to Mary Ann's room to give her her nightly sedative, but she was gone. Most folks figured she had run off into the forest, but nobody was too eager about going in there and finding her. Later that morning, the police went back to the old church, but all they found were a bunch of muddy footprints. I didn't stick around long enough to find out what ever happened to Mary Ann Finch. I delivered my equipment as promised and rode back home, swearing never again to take a questionable short cut, no matter how much time it saved, And I also learned that I shouldn't easily dismiss the tall tales that older folks might tell me. 'Cause there may be a germ of truth in them after all .if you listen hard enough.