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Eavesdropper

Eavesdropper

There is an old tale which claims that at midnight, on Christmas Eve, the cattle will kneel in the barn and speak with one another. Once an old Maryland man decided to test the tale by hiding in the barn at midnight to listen. So he climbed a rope to the window in the hayloft. He lay down on the rough gray boards, covered himself with hay and waited.

Around midnight, he saw all the cows in the barn kneel. At first he could not make out any words, but then, he heard the cow underneath his hiding place say to its neighbor: “I am afraid our poor old master will not live out the year.”

“Oh dear,” exclaimed her neighbor. “What a pity.”

The old man was so frightened by the cow’s words that he hurried over to the window, wanting to get away from the barn as fast as he could. But his sweating fingers slipped on the rope and he fell to the ground, broke his neck, and died.

Since then, the people in Maryland have never eavesdropped on the cattle at midnight on Christmas Eve.

You can read more Maryland folktales and ghost stories in Spooky Maryland.


Copyrighted content: This is a retold folklore story by S.E. Schlosser, who owns the copyright. This version of the story may not be reproduced, reprinted or used in any other way without the permission of the author. Teachers may link to or photocopy this story as part of their classwork.

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.