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The ghost who solved a probate error

By Thomas D’Agostino

James “Pink” Chaffin was not an avid believer in ghosts, that is, until his father paid him a visit. Pink’s father, James, had been dead for four years and in the meantime, Pink and his brothers, Abner and John, had felt slighted and dismayed that the will produced by their other brother, Marshall, awarded their father’s full estate to the latter. Still, they toiled on with their lives, realizing that their father may have awarded Marshall and his wife Susie everything as a gift for taking him and his wife in when their home burned to the ground.

A year after the father died from an accidental fall, Marshall passed from heart failure, leaving his wife with everything. Unfortunately, she was not about to share her inheritance with the three remaining brothers. It was in 1925 that Pink began to suspect something about the will was amiss when his father started appearing to him in his dreams. He always appeared sad but said nothing until one night he appeared before Pink wearing his black overcoat and actually spoke to him, stating he would find the will in the pocket of the same overcoat he always appeared in. After this encounter, Pink enlisted the assistance of his neighbor, Thomas Blackwelder, as a witness in order to find the will.

The two traveled 20 miles to Pink’s brother’s house where the coat had been stored in an attic. His brother John brought them to the garret where the coat sat. Opening the coat, they noticed an inside pocket sewn shut. Upon tearing it open, a rolled-up piece of paper fell onto the floor. The paper had one sentence, “Read the 27th Chapter of Genesis in my daddie’s old Bible.”

Pink traveled to his mother’s home, dragging his neighbor and witness along. The two searched the home and soon produced an old bible from a bureau drawer. The pages were decrepit. Blackwelder opened the bible to Genesis 27 and found pages folded together forming a pocket. In that pocket was the last will and testament of Charles Chaffin, dated January 16, 1919. The document gave equal share of land and holdings to all brothers. The document read;

 “After reading the 27th chapter of Genesis, I, James Chaffin, do make my last will and testament, and here it is. I want, after giving my body a decent burial, my little property to be equally divided between my four children, if they are living at my death, both personal and real estate divided equal if not living, give share to their children. And if she is living, you all must take care of mammy. Now this is my last will and testament. Witness my hand and seal.

James L. Chaffin”

In court, both Pink and Blackwelder corroborated that the deceased elder Mr. Chaffin had instructed them on where to find the last will. Toward the end of 1925, the will was tendered for probate, causing quite a stir in Davie County, North Carolina. To authenticate the will, Pink gathered almost a dozen of his father’s old friends who testified that the writing on the document was in fact James Chaffin’s. Even Susie could not deny it.

The will superseded the previous one and everyone was awarded their fair share of the estate. In the end, Pink was forever convinced that his father made his nightly visits to correct the mistake that was made in the original probate. James Chaffin had his day in court and Pink never saw his father again.

By Thomas D’Agostino may be reached at