The Cabin: Backstory, Part II: A Paranormal Event

As I wrote the other day, my love of fairy stones was, in part, why I wanted to write The Cabin. But my desire went far beyond my love of these magical stones. My family has a secret that took place in our family history about 150 years ago. A paranormal event.

My triple-great granddaddy came to this country in the late 1700s. He settled in Virginia and built a cabin there to call home. Eventually, he took a wife, with whom he had several children. When his wife died, he wed her sister, and had several more children. In all, triple-great granddaddy and his two wives bore fourteen children. The youngest was a girl—I don’t remember her name. What I do know is that, in the early 1860s, during the Civil War, this young woman of about 20 years of age bore a child, a boy named Erasmus, out of wedlock. Then, she and her child vanished from our family tree. No one seems to be able to figure out what happened to her, or her child.

Fast forward more than a hundred years, to more or less present day. One of my father’s second cousins got into our family genealogy in a big way. Our family name, Houff, is unusual in that it was misspelled when the original Houff, triple-great granddaddy Benjamin, came to the States (it had originally been spelled with an “a”, Hauff). Because of this error, all the Houffs in the United States are descendants of Benjamin, and thus related.

My dad’s cousin traveled a great deal on business, and he always made a point of looking up the name “Houff” in the phone book whenever he landed in a new city. One year, he traveled to the Pacific Northwest, where he found numerous Houffs in the phone book. Excited, he made a few phone calls, and eventually found one who agreed to meet him face-to-face.

Both my dad’s cousin and the Northwestern Houff were more than surprised when they met face to face. Benjamin was Germanic, and he and all his descendants we knew of were white. The Pacific Northwestern Houff was black, and he told the cousin that all the Houffs he knew were black (and, apparently, not into tracing family history). So the question arose: where did a black branch of the family come from, since all Houffs are descendants of the white Benjamin?

My father’s cousin and his newly-found relative were not able to figure out an answer, and to my knowledge, no one to this day has definitively figured it out.

When I heard this story, my fiction writer’s mind immediately leapt to the young woman who so mysteriously vanished from our family tree during the Civil War. A young woman having a child out of wedlock in the 1860s would have been a pariah under the best of circumstances, but what if that child had a black father? Living in a Southern state like Virginia, the young woman would have been in serious trouble. Her only chance of being able to raise her child would be if she somehow went north, some place where a child of mixed race would have a fighting chance for a normal upbringing.

My thought is that this is where the black branch of my family came from. But however nice a story that is, it’s not exciting. I’m sure my ancestor wasn’t the only young woman with child who had to move to another state in order to raise her child without scandal.

But what if … ? That’s every fiction writer’s big question, isn’t it? What if she didn’t simply slip away in the night and travel north? What if something more sinister was going on? What if the baby’s father was in mortal danger? What if Elizabeth (as I named her in my book) was also in danger? The what ifs … went on and on.

And thus, my novel, The Cabin, was born, of a magical stone and a woman who vanished into thin air off my family tree.

If you are intrigued, you can read the first four chapters by clicking on the widget, below. Then, I hope you’ll click the buy link and add The Cabin to your library. The book is currently available for Kindle and in multiple eBook formats at Smashwords. And, I’m very happy to announce, the brand-new print edition is now also available at Amazon. All editions are from Vanilla Heart Publishing.

Read. Enjoy. And believe in the mysterious, because magic is indeed all around us, if we only open our eyes and believe.

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About Smoky Zeidel

Smoky Zeidel is an author whose deep connection to nature is apparent in all she writes. She is the author of three novels, a short story collection, and three works of nonfiction. When not writing or exploring nature, Smoky spends time gardening, camping, meditating, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.
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5 Responses to The Cabin: Backstory, Part II: A Paranormal Event

  1. This isn’t the kind of question one can solve with a quick look at It would be fun to know for sure.


  2. Smoky Zeidel says:

    I think I like not knowing. I like my version of events!

  3. How interesting! This sounds like a book right up my alley! Paranormal events, fairy stones, the 1860s, woman on the edge. Not to mention that my own grandparents had dairy farms and when I was little they had a collie that I adored. I can’t wait to read this book!

  4. Pingback: Multi-genre author Smoky Trudeau Zeidel answers the Dames’ Dozen « Dames of Dialogue

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