Excerpt 11 – The Battery Carriage House

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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Haunted hotels are a dime a dozen here in the South. Anywhere from a secluded bed and breakfast to the Best Western down the street may have something there, depending on the veracity of local lore, but few accommodations in our corner of the country are said to be haunted with pirate ghosts and departed gentlemen. The Battery Carriage House Inn of Charleston, South Carolina is one of those very few.

If legends are to be believed, Charleston is already stuffed to the gills with spirits wandering freely throughout the city, so it takes more than a little bit of notoriety for a building to win the title of “Charleston’s Most Haunted Inn” year after year. Many first-hand accounts have come out of the Battery Carriage House and continue to do so as the hotel proudly remains in business to this day. They even list the rooms reported to be haunted on their own website.

Well before all that had been established folklore in Charleston, the Battery Carriage House was property that had been purchased in 1843 by wealthy commercial agent Samuel N. Stevens for a sum of $4,500. He apparently lived in the building and renovated it until 1859 when he sold it to John Blacklock, who soon abandoned the house once the Civil War began advancing down on South Carolina. He still owned the house and sold it in 1870 to Colonel Richard Lathers of the Union, who went on to renovate it further after its damage during the war. Despite his efforts to fit in and use his new property to bring peace between the North and South by inviting leaders from both sides to break bread with each other, Lathers was not well liked in Charleston, and it soon found yet another new owner with phosphate mining businessman Andrew Simonds. His descendant, Drayton Hastie, now owns the property and, according to the history of the property as written on the website, it seems to have had a reasonably happy history with no murders or unusually tragic deaths occurring inside the hotel.

So what exactly makes this the most haunted inn in Charleston?

The answer to that seems to be as puzzling to the staff as it would be to anyone else. It is said that many small abnormalities take place all throughout the property – window shutters opening and closing by themselves, glowing lights, footsteps, being watched by those that can’t be watched back… standard features of a hotel haunting that do not seem to have easily identifiable sources.

Then there are three hotel rooms that are said to have concentrated activities, as reported, again, by the hotel itself. Room #3 seems to have once been either a portal or a meeting site for many random spirits to gather in, as one couple found out. At an undisclosed time, a man and his wife were sleeping in the room when the man’s cell phone started blinking and making noise the first night they were staying. Stirring from their sleep, they remembered the phone had been turned off and they were not able to get a phone signal in the room when it was on. Soon after that, something started illuminating from the bathroom while the faucet began to release water on its own, and the night ended with the both of them watching shapes and energies float in and around the room presumably until morning or until they fell asleep. On the second night (yes, they were brave enough to stay a second night), the activity started up again with the glowing form appearing in the sitting room and the other shapes and energies joining it. Again, the brave couple simply stuck it out through the night. Some time later, by some wild stroke of luck, they ran into another guest at the hotel, named Susan, who was clairvoyant and offered to help them restore some order in their room. Susan went with them to Room #3 and found there really was an enormous spiritual presence there. She commanded the spirits to leave and the couple reportedly had a much more peaceful night. This account ends on that note and it appears that that room is no longer haunted, but whatever the entities were, or why a medium with that kind of power would only exorcise one room are different mysteries altogether.

I would suppose one reason for that is that a more famous haunt of the hotel is known affectionately as the “Gentleman Ghost” of Room #10. He is not a threatening spirit in the least, though his general activity may be quite scary all the same to the women who stay there. It is said the Gentleman Ghost has a habit of wanting to crawl into bed with any woman who sleeps alone in Room #10, and if the woman protests or screams (who wouldn’t?) the entity will simply exit the bed, go back to his business through an entertainment unit that used to be the original door to the room, and not bother the lady any further. I’m not sure how this ghost qualifies as a gentleman for that habit, nor was I able to find out what happens if someone does share the bed with him, but he seems to carry a reasonably pleasant presence all the same and is even said to smell like fresh soap (somehow).

But the entity haunting Room #8 is no hygienic cavalier, he’s a headless torso wearing clothes from centuries past that appears on the bedside to any guest unfortunate enough to wake up and see him. It is said that this ghost has a menacing personality, rasping and growling at the living without the need of his head, and can even be touched. One man, who stayed in the room in 1993, woke up to find the terrifying shade in front of him on the bedside, reached out to touch the figure in front of him and felt the fabric of his overcoat (described to be something like a coarse burlap). The man screamed when the headless torso started growling, but before the entity could do anything harmful, it apparently just vanished before the guest’s eyes; leaving him thoroughly shaken by the disturbance and no longer skeptical of the supernatural.

There are two ideas as to who the headless man could be – one is that he was a Civil War soldier who lost everything above his neck in a munitions accident, and the other is that he might be the pirate ghost of Stede Bonnet, “The Gentleman Pirate”, from the early 18th century who was captured by Colonel William Rhett and eventually executed for his crimes. Stede is said to haunt several places around Charleston already after his appeals for a pardon failed to generate anything but a hanging for piracy. Apart from the ghost having old clothes, though, there doesn’t seem to be any way to properly guess his true identity.

Complicating matters further is a second account reported on the hotel’s website – another couple was staying in the room when the wife was woken up by the sounds of the window shutters moving on their own. Suddenly, a shadow moved over the shutters and she went into the bathroom to turn the light on, presumably so she could see what it was that just moved through their room. Later, the husband got up and found there was a frosty-looking face in the mirror that soon disappeared. Whether or not this was a different entity or a strange manifestation of the headless man’s identity is just as inexplicable as everything else going on at the Battery Carriage House, but now we start to see how the hotel keeps its title.

One has to wonder if there is more to the history of the inn than the official public version wants to share. The Gentleman Ghost, for example, is said to be the spirit of a college student who jumped off the roof of the building to his death, yet the same management that openly admits to the hotel being haunted does not mention this in their account of the building’s history (for obvious good reasons). It is rather unusual that the most haunted inn in Charleston would be clean of the human calamity that typically inducts spirits into the physical world in the first place.

Then again, if their afterlife is as constantly depressing as the entities we experience sometimes make it out to be, maybe ghosts just need a vacation sometimes like we do.

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 10 – Squeezer/Wampus Cat

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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Speaking of tiny little creatures with long arms, we venture west of North Carolina to Tennessee where there was, or still might be, a widespread belief among children in an even more exaggerated and far more humorous gremlin called Squeezer.

The Squeezer legend belongs to an extended family of “boogeyman” tales – stories of unspeakable evils that prey on children from the closet, underneath the bed, or the darkest corner of the room that their nightmares always spring from. Nearly everyone remembers going through this phase in their lifetime with some evil beast that existed in the bedtime ritual without question, no matter how outlandish it was described to be, and Squeezer fits that model to a tee. Being only 3-4in. tall, about the size of a soda can, it somehow has arms that are long enough to wrap around a person several times over, with large muscles in those arms to squeeze anything it has in its grasp until its prey breathes its last breath. Furthermore, it can apparently speak English, hold an intelligent conversation, and even be noticeably hurt and sensitive if you do not respect him as a boogeyman, which is more of a job title for him than anything.

Just what kind of a creature is this, anyway? How would something like that even be able to move with such imbalanced proportions, much less be able to terrorize and render harm on someone?

I first came across this legend in the book More Haunted Tennessee by Charles Edwin Price about nine years ago and he tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Jeannie and a friend who was staying over for the night. After the lights went out, a pair of long, bony hands came up over the foot of the bed and reached toward Jeannie, but instead of cowering in fear as she saw them approach, she instead grabbed a baseball bat that was nearby and repeatedly bashed the little devil with it.

To her surprise, the monster actually pleaded for her to stop. When she did to listen to what it had to say, Squeezer, as it introduced itself to Jeannie, tried to put up another menacing front that was quickly shot back down as the two girls started mocking his name and absurd body structure. Squeezer then became vocally disappointed that these two girls were not afraid of him and told them that they needed to be scared so he could do his job right. The girls only laughed harder at him, and his patience proved even shorter than his stature when he lunged forth to squeeze them anyway.

Jeannie and her friend fought back and put up a good struggle against the pint-sized puck until Jeannie’s father came in and told them to quit horsing around. Little Squeezer, though, was gone by then, and the girls went back to bed.

Very soon after the light went out, though, a set of bony hands came up over foot of the bed again. Jeannie, almost casually, reached for the bat to give Squeezer another good thrashing… when another set of hands reached up onto the bed alongside it. Then another, and another, and another still.

Now Jeannie had a good reason to be genuinely afraid – Squeezer didn’t leave so he wouldn’t get caught… he only went for backup.

By now, we have a pretty good idea what the point of this story is, not all ghosts and monsters have to be dripping with blood and leaving a body count just to tell a good story. There are actually quite a few tales of supernatural beings that are far from the dark, sad and gruesome blights we usually hear about. Some can be quite lighthearted and even beneficial – I even remember hearing about one ghost out in the world somewhere that would make a Shower of Money rain from the ceiling to help its hosts pay off a financial crisis.

Another mythical beast from Tennessee that seems to inspire as much mirth as it does mayhem is the famous Wampus Cat, a legendary cougar/cat with six legs (and possibly a spiked ball on its tail) that is said to be the tragic spirit of a Native American woman. This curious maiden, for whatever reason, decided to dress in cougar skins so she could spy on the men of her tribe while they were out in the fields. It’s not known why she was spying on them, but the medicine man was still not too pleased when he found her out there and, as a major consequence for a minor offense, immediately placed a curse on her that would keep her trapped in the form of an enchanted cat for seemingly all eternity.

She was said to haunt the Cades Cove area of Blount County in East Tennessee, and many hunting parties of the early 20th century in that area went out looking for her when she was sighted… at least that’s what the men all told their families. In reality, they were just looking for an excuse to get away from their near-puritan families and have a moonshine party in the basement of the local grocery store. The image of the Wampus Cat today still inspires festivity as the sports mascot of at least six schools in the U.S.

The power of folklore can touch and shape our society in very significant ways. Stories can make us feel heartache from hundreds of years ago, scare us smart or silly, educate us with the wisdom of generations in just a few minutes’ time, or even give us an excellent opportunity to put down our fears and have a good time with the company of our fellow men.

After all, if the stories can’t be fun once in a while, what’s the point in telling them?

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 9 – The House of the Gnome

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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From South Carolina, we travel to its northern brother to find a town called Murphy in Cherokee County. The site of Murphy is no stranger to stories and legends of bizarre creatures, as they have been said to exist there since the days of the Cherokee Native Americans when they referred to it as Tlanusi-yi – the home of the giant leech Tlanusi that was said to live in the Hiwassee River near Murphy. Of the modern folklore, there are stories of clocks that growl at you, microwaves that cook without aid of electricity and several more, almost routine, stories of haunts you can find in most towns, but one house is said to have them all beat with a very strange visitor you can only find in Murphy: The House Of The Gnome.

Probably the best account of this elusive creature was a story said to take place in the 1950s when a family with two boys moved into a three story house that, previous to their entry, had no history of abnormal activity. Indeed, once it began, it began slowly… waiting almost a month for the family to get settled in their new house before the two boys started hearing strange laughter coming from the hallways. Then, in the following weeks, there were loud knocks on their bedroom doors from someone demanding their attention, yet the hallways would always be empty when they went to see who was keeping them awake. Then there were soft footsteps and shuffling heard on the staircase and third floor of the house. The boys went to their parents and told them all about the sounds they were hearing. The parents, as parents usually do, laughed and reassured them that there wasn’t anything weird going on in the house – it’s only making the same noises every other house in the country makes on a regular basis.

It was true, the boys had next to nothing to go on but noises, and there wasn’t any history of death, murder or ritual in the house, so it couldn’t be haunted. Yet the noises continued unabated. Something was in that house, but what?

Then one day, one of the boys was listening to a record player in his room when his brother and a visiting friend came tearing in, hyperventilating, saying they found the creature that had been making those noises and it was in the bathroom. He laughed at them and humored them as he made his way to the bathroom, but he wasn’t laughing when he opened the door and found a small humanoid figure, barely over 2ft. tall with a twisted-up face and arms so long that they just couldn’t be real, staring and laughing right back at him before bolting out between his legs and disappearing in one of its many hiding places.

From there on, the “Gnome”, as they called it for lack of a better word, would turn up at the oddest of times throughout the months and always scamper away before anyone could get their hands on it. They heard his little laughter in the hallways and his constant dashing and jumping in the walls and rooms they couldn’t see it in. Finally, when their father finally saw it for himself in the master bedroom, he decided enough was enough and the family moved out one week later.

Decades later, the house was said to be cursed by this gnome, or whatever it was, as no one would stay in it long enough to find out what it was… and what it wanted.

Not much more of this creature seems to be known, but there is a similar legend also coming out of Murphy, North Carolina that ties back in with the Native Americans that lived there before it was settled. The Cherokee used to tell stories of a race of small, bearded, humanoid men with pale skin they called The Moon-Eyed People. They were pale and nocturnal beings as the sunlight was too bright for their eyes. The Moon-Eyed people also came from Hiwassee before it was Murphy, and they were often in conflict with the Native Americans until a major skirmish with either the Creek or the Cherokee tribes forced them to retreat from their homeland up into the mountains. They dug themselves into the caverns and rock, and presumably still survive there today with mounds and small walls built throughout the Southern Appalachians.

Is there a connection between the two legends? Could this gnome be some sort of otherworldly “answer” to the persecution of the Moon-Eyed People? It is just a bit too coincidental that two different legends about similarly structured beings would exist in one town, but as there are further tales of little people and monstrous versions thereof existing throughout the state of North Carolina, there may be a whole untapped reservoir of history, folklore and crypto-anthropology/zoology that we’re missing out on.

Maybe instead of looking back at history for answers to our mysteries, we should start looking down?

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 8 – Hot Rod Haven

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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Just two days before I starting writing this entry, I learned of a surprising statistic regarding modern teenage drivers – only six out of ten teenagers have their license as opposed to eight out of ten some thirty years ago, according to a study conducted by the Universe of Michigan in July of 2012. This shift, which might go as far as to shock many who remember the days when they couldn’t wait to get their driving licenses as teenagers, comes as the American lifestyle and the world at large morph into unknown shapes due to a high dependence on current networking technology, a stuttering and unpredictable economy, and what some people consider a “coddling” of the current generation.

It used to be a cultural pastime and a fundamental fact of life that teenagers of every size and shape waited from the onset of puberty to sweet sixteen with bated breath for the coveted laminate card. It was the first true step to independence and adulthood. The attitude was that they could go wherever they want, as fast as they want, and wouldn’t have to answer to anyone… until they got busted speeding or cruising with the sleazebag boyfriend/girlfriend that their parents disapproved of. Indeed, they often learned the hard way that they had to create places where they could explore their new-found sense of freedom without getting hassled by their folks or the cops, so they came up with hangout spots where they could race, make-out, and further “explore” the joys of adulthood. Hot Rod Haven in Louisville, Kentucky is one of those places.

Mitchell Hill Road is the official name of the road the teenagers used to call Hot Rod Haven and from the 1940s to the 1970s, if you wanted to prove your manhood, you raced down that dangerous road with another local hooligan while fans cheered you on. It was a very popular spot for teenagers and also very dangerous, as it had a wild selection of twists and sharp turns snaking through the woods. Upwards of twenty-five deaths had been reported from between those decades and two of them, a pair of adolescents who fell victim to Hot Rod Haven, have long been rumored to still be roaming the street.

The traditional version of the backstory to the haunting on Mitchell Hill Road goes that, in September of 1950, a car crash claimed the life of a young woman, name of either Sarah or Mary Mitchell, and her boyfriend, a boy by the name of Roy Clarke, as they missed a turn and drove right off the hill. It was said that they were buried at the top of the hill next to each other, with members of their family going so far as to be planning to be buried next to them on that same hill to honor them. Sarah or Mary’s grave is marked by a statue of an angel.

Years later, the director of the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society went to verify the facts in the story and found that, yes, there are two grave markers on Mitchell Hill Road for a Sarah Mitchell and Roy Clarke, buried side-by-side. Before that, he found that Sarah Mitchell and Roy Clarke were high school students who died on Mitchell Hill Road, but the details of it were completely different. It was September of 1946 and the two were actually on their way to a school dance when Roy lost control of his car and crashed. In terms of folklore, this is an interesting find where the details of the backstory are false, yet still lead up to proving the conclusion is true.

As a result of that tragedy, strange things are said to occur on the road, with travelers reporting a ghostly girl wandering around the grave-site in her dance dress and that pictures taken on the road will sometimes come back with strange orbs in the background. In the years following their deaths, when the legend was growing, teenage drag-racers used to go to Sarah’s angel statue on the rumor that if you touch its arms, and they were cold, it would foretell that someone was to die during the race (this meant that many kids likely chickened out of racing, forgetting that stone statues are usually rather cold to touch anyway).

But the strangest legend that comes from Hot Rod Haven does not appear to have any connection to any of the deaths that occurred on the road, and may exist as a dark and perverse conglomeration of the residual spirits and energies left behind by those who were killed by Mitchell Hill’s unforgiving bends and unsecured ridges. There is a car that occasionally appears, without warning, behind very scared drivers who know there wasn’t a car there just a moment ago. It only turns its lights on to flash the driver before disappearing as mysteriously as it appeared. If they happen to be driving on a bad night, it will even try to run them off the road just because it feels like doing so. Either driven by an evil spirit, or an evil spirit manifesting as a vehicle itself, this car does nothing but add more danger to a road that has already claimed at least twenty-five lives in recent memory.

If there is anything we don’t need more of on our roads, danger is one of them. With so much to worry about on the highways and alleys already, maybe today’s teenagers are actually quite sensible to wait longer to experience the roads for themselves. After all, if it hadn’t been for reckless teenagers all those years ago giving kids behind the wheel such a bad image today, state laws and car insurance companies wouldn’t be as quick to make it even harder for them to drive in the first place.

History can teach us surprising ironies sometimes.

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 7 – The Thirteen Bridges

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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Montgomery, of the eponymous county in Alabama, is the capital city of the state with a long history of growth and cultural accomplishments for the South – being the birthplace of Nat King Cole and Big Mama Thornton, the city where Hank Williams Sr. got his start to a legendary career, the first city in the U.S. to install electric street cars for public transit as far back as 1886, and an important city for the civil rights movements of the mid-20th century where Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man and where the famous “Selma-to-Montgomery Marches” took place in 1965.

With a city as historically significant as Montgomery, it follows there would be ghost stories that circulate well-known halls and buildings. Huntingdon College is haunted by the spirits of The Red Lady and The Ghost On The Green, both victims of suicide, the Tallapoosa Entertainment Center casino is supposedly built on a Native American burial ground, the Maxwell Air Force Base has shadows that wander the student dorms and randomly soak sleeping cadets, and even the State Capitol Building itself is said to have a confederate woman that wanders the halls and turns on the bathroom water faucets for no apparent purpose.

And then you have stories coming from areas around the city that are not as well-known, but considerably more interesting. The legend of The Thirteen Bridges is one of them. Now known as Barganier Road and located just outside the city of Montgomery in Cecil, Alabama, the former Thirteen Bridge road was named quite literally after the thirteen little bridges that went over creeks and lakes and was rumored to be a place where thugs and gang members sometimes hung out.

It is said that the bridges are haunted by the spirits of a woman and her child who died in a car accident after driving over the bridges. Supposedly, you can count thirteen bridges going through the pass one way, but only twelve bridges going back. On some nights, like Halloween, you may even hit something that looks like a dog. When you go outside to check on it, it will appear dead and then the woman and her child will appear to you in the distance. Then the dog will suddenly get up, dart towards the thirteenth bridge and disappear with it, leaving only twelve bridges. The canine spirit is the dog that caused the car accident in the first place and died along with the woman and child.

Another variation has it in reverse, saying that you will only count twelve bridges going across the first time, and the thirteenth one will appear, covered in a strange mist, when you go back. If you look into the mist as you cross it, you will see the face of a girl who died there and will try to pull you into the water.

Another reported experience was that, years ago, a teenage boy moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and was introduced to the legend as a local test of bravery. The boy and a friend took a car to get there and the boy was to stand on the bridge for five minutes. As he stood there, he slowly became overwhelmed by the presence of something he couldn’t identify. When he turned to look for his friend, both he and the car were gone. The car couldn’t have left on its own as the gravel grinding under the tires is too loud to not notice it leaving. The boy went off to look for the car and found that it was back on the other end of the bridges – in fact, the car had never left… it was the same bridge he had stood on previously. Somehow, he had moved from one end of the road to the other without noticing it.

Thankfully, the former Thirteen Bridge road is closed, likely due to the sad shape of the bridges and the increased traffic from curious kids and seedy individuals who usually gravitate towards those sites, but the legend and its bizarre experiences grow to this day.

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 6 – The Devil’s Stomping Grounds

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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The devil’s mischievous influence doesn’t end there, and it has been rumored for decades that he has marked territory in both Carolinas known as The Devil’s Tramping Grounds or sometimes alternately known as The Devil’s Stomping Grounds. For the sake of clarity, we’ll refer to the mysterious ring in Chatham County, North Carolina as the “Tramping Grounds” and the one in Lancaster County, South Carolina as the “Stomping Grounds”.

Both legends refer to a unique circle of dead earth where the devil is said to dance at night. The very laws of nature are warped inside each circle where nothing will grow, no ants, worms or spiders will be found inside, no sound can be heard from inside the circle, there is an intense assault of negative emotion when you get inside it, and if you leave objects inside the circle overnight, by morning it will kicked outside by the devil himself as he dances. Both rings are also said to have existed since the days of the Native Americans who used each ring for different purposes. In North Carolina, it is said the local tribes used it to hold tribal ceremonies and dances. The South Carolina circle’s legend goes further, suggesting the Stomping Grounds were the execution sites for both the Catawba and the Waxaw tribes, and that evil spirits also gather there to collect more souls for eternal condemnation.

The stories surrounding the blighted patches make up a very loose mythology, and there are further claims to the legend that are inconsistent and bordering on ludicrous. As I researched, I found that one person even alleged that he and a group camped inside the Tramping Grounds circle and were all separated in morning… with one person found more than a mile away! Even in this realm of study, that is a very extraordinary claim, usually something you would hear reported on the news if it really happened.

It may be that The Devil’s Tramping and Stomping Grounds fit more the mold of an urban legend, which can be similar to ghost lore, but may have certain elements of its mythological makeup that can be tested to verify claims. In this case, there are more definite parameters to the legend, as opposed to a haunted house where the ghost of a woman may appear in one of several forms in any part of the house on the occasional night if she feels like it, one could actually go to either the Tramping or Stomping Grounds and see if these abnormalities truly operate on a regular basis.

In 2011, a college group from Elon University in North Carolina set out to do just that. Two groups went out to test a majority of the major claims about the Tramping Ground and found that:

1. The ring being cleaned before daybreak is completely false.
2. The ring being incapable of growing vegetation is completely false.
3. The ring being completely deaf at night is completely false.
4. The ring being tramped by the devil himself is likely false, as one subgroup did hear footsteps they could not easily explain while another subgroup did not hear any.

And while the Devil’s Tramping and Stomping Grounds being distant twins might seem like a unique quality that adds more authenticity to the legend, to some at least, the truth is that there are similar ones all over the country – there is one fitting that description much further south in Lake County, Florida, for a start. In fact, compiled volumes of natural phenomena show that strange circles have been pervasive in human history for centuries. The crop circle craze that started in the mid-20th century is the most immediate thing that may come to mind, but even before that were reports of perfectly round discs of ice forming randomly in frozen bodies of water that spun slightly on their own accord. The devil’s fascination with circles even appears in an early account from Herefordshire, England in the Summer of 1678 when a farmer quarreled with his hired hand over a payment for cutting his crops. The farmer refused to pay his asking price and said he would rather the devil himself do the job. That night, a red, fiery glow was seen in his field, and the next day there were perfect circles cut into his crops. A woodcut of that scene called the “mowing devil” became quite famous.

All the same, the two rings make for a great ghost story to tell late at night and many kids who hear about them at friends’ houses or scout trips often remember them fondly. While it’s important to separate fact from story in any serious inquiry to the subject, folklore today isn’t about facts, it’s about fun. It’s fun to hear stories about real life places with fantasy realms hidden somewhere in there.

And in the mountains, there is no shortage of hidden realms waiting to be discovered by an unassuming traveler who has no idea what he or she might be in store for…

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 5 – The Hearse Wagon

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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Another story from the Uwharries is a much darker tale of the hardships families had to endure before the new eras of Appalachian living could replace the old ones. Stories like The Hearse Wagon often describe in very fine, morbid detail how these mountain lifestyles could quickly fall apart when tragedy strikes.

Cromer and Cora Calvert lived like most reasonably normal couples did in the Uwharries in the old days. Cromer was a mountain man through and through and could often be found hunting and roaming the hills as he pleased. There was no more satisfying lifestyle in the entire world as far as Cromer was concerned, and he found time to enjoy it even as Cora produced for him children to raise. Life was good for the Calvert home in the mountains.

Then, one day, as Cromer and Cora were in their middle years, Cora became sick with an incurable illness, and all the doctor could do for them was advise Cromer to make his wife’s last days as comfortable as possible. Cromer was heartbroken, like any man would be, but his heart was torn into two halves for two loves: his wife and his hobbies, and he could not be there for both.

To make it even more unfortunate, Cora’s illness was very slow to claim her life, but quick to deteriorate her from a sprightly and lovely woman into a bedridden shadow of her former self. Her mind raced with the fears of death. Her personality turned arsenic and unreasonable, abusing Cromer for any reason she could find, lashing out at the children and the neighbors who visited to try to brighten her day, and making sure everyone around her could be as miserable as she was. She would often wake up screaming in fear that the “hearse wagon” was coming to get here any day now.

Once a free man who could hunt, hike and explore as much as he wanted, now Cromer was a prisoner to this vile husk that used to be his wife and he would be chained to her for several years. The thought of catering to this woman who was going to die any day now anyway eventually became too much for Calvert to bear, and he took matters into his own hands by smothering Cora with her pillow until both their agonies ceased. It was a struggle, and the last thing Cora said before she died was an oath that, someday, the hearse wagon would come for him too.

Her funeral came and went without anyone suspecting Calvert of foul play. Not long after her death, he resumed his activities in the mountains, overjoyed for the shackles to be broken at last, but he only enjoyed them for a short time as, not long after she uttered her curse, Cromer started hearing sounds outside the house that sounded like a wagon pulling up to the door, waiting for a few minutes, and then speeding away. Many late evenings, Cromer would hear, as clear as day, something pulling up to the door, but he would never see anything. Interestingly enough, other visitors who stayed with Cromer also heard the sounds of a wagon driving through without ever seeing it.

Cromer’s life continued on a slow, downward spiral for which he never recovered. In his loneliness, he married Cora’s younger sister (so much younger, in fact, she was apparently able to produce him a new brood of children) and this at least kept him from losing himself completely to despair as he got older, but even that would be short-lived as he, too, became ravaged with illnesses that twisted him up from the inside and out. He became a bitter husk just like Cora. The hearse sounds continued all the while and he knew that any one of these nights now, it was going to stop and it wasn’t going to leave without him.

Finally, one night, the infernal clomping of the otherworldly coach became so loud that Cromer suffered an anxiety attack while his second wife was preparing his pillow and collapsed on the floor, having succumbed at long last to his first wife’s curse. The sound of the ghostly wagon was heard driving out of the yard, and this time, it would be gone for good.

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 4 – The Cavern Near Plant #5

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

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It is difficult to imagine the history of the Southern Appalachian Mountains without coming into images of the coal mining industries from the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. The United State experienced a huge industrial boon after the Civil War lead by machines hungry for coal. Early settlers found and noted many ripe veins of coal in the vast Southern mountain ranges. Many other minerals, like gold, talc and copper, were eventually discovered as well, and mining corporations were just as eager to get their hands on them, too… at any cost.

But life as a miner was almost no life at all, and the history of mining is as dark as the energy source they dug for. It was virtually a prison for the crime of being impoverished as many poor families sent their patriarchs to dig for money, and they wouldn’t go back home for months to years at a time. Many times, they never came back at all. A miner in the old days worked seven days a week, ate and slept in the filthy conditions he worked in and rested only when he needed his strength to mine some more. Safety regulations and workers’ rights wouldn’t be acknowledged for decades to come and management, at best, couldn’t be trusted. When you put all that together, you have a recipe for disaster as unfocused, weak and sloppy men make mistakes that cost lives.

A mine is just about the purest darkness there is in the mountains, and so nearly every abandoned one that can be found is rumored to be haunted from top to bottom with the souls of dead miners who never made it back out. One of those is known simply as The Cavern Near Plant #5 in Georgia, which has reports of several spirits wandering around the tunnels and surrounding hills.

One story recounts two mine workers who were working on a dozer very deep inside the mine. As they took a break, they saw a man coming towards them wearing a very different set of clothes than the rest of the men. He passed them and seemingly went about his business. The two workers did not recognize him and went to their supervisor to ask who he was. When they described him, the supervisor became pale with a wild look on his face. He knew the man they were describing… he had been crushed to death more than thirty years before.

Another rumor is that the deepest tunnel in the mine, one that had been closed off for years due to a cave-in, is haunted by the spirit of a worker who was killed when the rock came crashing down. Sounds of someone tapping against the rock from the inside reverberate throughout the tunnel walls and remind the men why even the bravest and toughest of them refuse to ever go down there.

A much stranger report happened outside The Cavern one night to a miner’s wife. This miner worked a shift so late that his lunch whistle went off at 2:00AM. His wife often got up with him and prepared his lunch, but this particular night he was in a hurry and accidentally left his lunch behind. His wife then drove up the mountain to deliver it to him, and as she got closer to the entrance, she started to feel very scared without knowing why… until she got to the top of the road, over the railroad tracks, and looked into the valley below. The entire area beneath her was enshrouded by a green mist that twisted, turned and warped itself. It looked like a large cluster of spirits.

The details of this particularly disturbing account end there, but it would beg the following questions – was that a congregation of those who had died inside the plant, or was it a different entity altogether that could be fueling the disturbances in the area? Ghosts roaming around the mountains are quite common occurrences in folklore, but to come across a whole shroud of them covering the entire lowland is a different story altogether that no good can come from.

Almost to illustrate this point was one more shocking report that nearly ended in disaster. One man was operating a dump truck while the other was operating a bulldozer until he hit a tunnel wall. As the other man came to help, they both saw the wall collapse and reveal a hidden cave behind it. They went inside to look and saw a number of crosses stuck into the ground. These were grave-sites, but for who? Why would someone bury a number of people inside the mine and then hide it behind a cavern wall?

But before they could look closer to find some clues for this mystery, the bulldozer behind them started up on its own and came after them. One of the men rushed onto it to turn it off, but it refused to turn off. The other man was frozen in fear and just barely managed to get out of the way. The two got outside the grave-site and watched the bulldozer plow through the crosses and into the rear wall, causing the entire hidden cave to collapse. Whatever was inside there did not want to be discovered and was willing to kill just so it could remain locked away from the world.

Whether any of these reports connect to reveal a very dark presence inside the mine is up for speculation, but not conclusion. Some things in history are probably better left undiscovered, and if stories alluding to the true depth of the mining tragedies in the South are as ghastly as these, we may not want to tread any further.

ghost-03

Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 3 – Earl Johnson’s Pig Parlor

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

real-ghost-story-shadow-figures-in-the-night

Earl Johnson’s Pig Parlor was the name of a farmhouse owned by a reputedly wealthy farmer in the northern mountains of Georgia during the early 20th century, and every Saturday evening it was where he and four of his good friends met, from 1916 to 1921, for a poker game.

Each of the five men was flush with cash from successful business ventures and reasonably well-known in the area, and it is said that, of the five, it was Earl that could be considered the local eccentric tycoon. While most people tending to farms in the Appalachian mountains would want, or need, a large family around to help work the land and provide much needed company while living nearly isolated up in the hills, Earl apparently lived all by himself with no living relatives that could be found. He also lived all by himself without any electricity and had to play the poker games by the light of a few lanterns. Certainly a man with his money and means could find a way to get electricity installed up there, yet, for some reason, he chose to do without.

Finally, it was said that, like many eccentric tycoons with a touch of paranoia about them, Earl did not trust banks and kept all of his money somewhere at the Pig Parlor, obscured from prying eyes and away from any hands that didn’t belong to him. Exactly why Earl wanted his lifestyle set up this way or how these rumors got out is not known, but they would all contribute to the horrifying demise that secured his legacy.

One Saturday night, as Earl and his four friends were enjoying a typical poker outing, with cards on the table and moonshine in their blood, a group of men, who might have heard the local gossip about the Pig Parlor and used it to plan a robbery, stormed the building and killed all five of the players.

The next day, the authorities arrived to a slaughterhouse – all five men weren’t just lying on the floor dead, they were decapitated. Earl and his friends were attacked by someone ruthless enough to take the time and effort to behead five men just to get some money. Who these murderers were, and whether any secret stash was ever found will forever remain a mystery… and that would only be the first mystery of the Pig Parlor.

Some years later, as the farmhouse and property had decayed in its violent abandonment, people started reported that strange lights were seen in the farmhouse on Saturday nights at the same times the men would usually start their poker games. Kids and adults alike would go up to the old Pig Parlor, wait until 9:00PM or 10:00PM, and then see five lights shining in the dark (four lights from inside the farmhouse and one out on the deck, swinging a lantern). These lights are said to be the ghosts of the five slain men who wouldn’t let even death deter them from their weekly poker game.

According to the legend, it seems the one on the porch holding the lantern is actually the lookout for the other four so they won’t be ambushed again… though what they could possibly be afraid of at this point could be the third mystery surrounding the Pig Parlor.

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.

Excerpt 2 – The Cursed Tombstone

The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.

Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.

cemetery

Love as a marital bond is one of the largest driving forces in ghostly legends that derive from the grave-site – after all, they only vowed to part at death… that didn’t mean they wouldn’t try to come back. Love is an inescapable force to which all things are subsequent. It is a force beyond logic and reason, and when that bond is shared, it creates an illumination that divides the darkness and leads us through the path of life. When that bond is broken, the darkness may consume us and end that path without warning.

Such is the story of The Cursed Tombstone from Eastern Kentucky, as darkness consumed Southern man Carl Pruitt and turned him into an invisible and unstoppable killing machine.

In 1938, Carl came home after a long day at work completely unaware it was the last day of work he would ever have. He expected his wife to be cooking their dinner as she always did about the time he returned, but this evening, the kitchen was empty and she was nowhere else to be found in the house… or so he thought, until he opened the door to their bedroom and found her in bed with another man.

Carl was not able to exact his rage on the quick lothario that scrambled to the front door with his clothes falling behind him, but his wife had nowhere to go. Insane with a million questions running through his mind at the speed of light, Carl grabbed a chain from nearby and strangled his wife to death. When he was able to see through his blinding fury, he saw what he had done to his once-lovely wife and what that was going to mean for him. Carl committed suicide before dawn the next morning.

His wife’s family was not able to sympathize with Carl’s plight and they refused to forgive him for taking her away from them. He was buried in a different county where he could rot for his sins by himself.

But barely a week after Carl was buried, a series of circles started forming around his tombstone. In two months time, the circles formed what seemed to be a cross pattern of chains around his burial plot. Visitors to the grave started taking notice, and being superstitious mountain folk, it wasn’t long before they started whispering rumors to one another about what could be going on there.

A month later, some local boys rode their bikes to the cemetery to see the tombstone they had been hearing about. One boy felt the need to throw a rock at the tombstone to prove how brave he was against curses and broke off a small piece of the edge. When they were riding back home, the boy who successfully chipped the tombstone suddenly lost control of his bike and slammed into a tree. The collision somehow snapped his sprocket chain and caused it to wrap around his neck with such voracity that he couldn’t get it off. It choked him until he was dead.

Many thought the boy died of an near-impossible freak accident, but not his mother. She was well aware of the tombstone’s reputation and went to get revenge with an axe. She struck it several times but, reportedly, was not able to damage it (which seems strange considering how easy it was for her son to chip it with a rock) and left the cemetery with a weight of disappointment on her shoulders. The next day, she was found strangled to death too, by some bizarre altercation with the laundry clothesline in her backyard.

Now the neighbors were getting worried and one of them tried to take it into his own hands to stop the curse. He went to the graveyard with three members of his family, driving past it by horse and buggy, and proceeded to shoot it with his pistol (a very odd choice of weapon for a stationary stone monument). He managed to break off some more stone from the edges, but the discharge of the weapon scared the horses and they took off wildly down the road. They came to a sharp curve; the neighbor fell forward and was strangled by the trace chains of the buggy, becoming the third victim of the curse.

What in the world was going on here? The townspeople were now terrified and went so far as to pressure their congressman to do something about it. Likely rolling his eyes and groaning at the request, he at least sent two policemen to investigate and try to pacify their fears. Neither officer took the assignment seriously and mocked the curse as they took pictures and trod on the scene. When they left, one of the officers saw an orb of light following them from the cemetery in the rear view mirror. The driver lost control of the car and hit a chained link between two posts, throwing both out of the windshield. The passenger officer survived, but the driver did not. He got caught in the chain and was nearly decapitated from a mortal wound the chain inflicted on his head and neck.

The last death attributed to the tombstone came years after, as another emboldened citizen tried to break the curse by breaking the slab in the 1940s. He was also found strangled around a chain somehow.

It seemed like Carl’s writhing anger would never be satisfied. Even in death, he could not find the answer for why the love of his life betrayed him, and the darkness that festered with his twisted soul fed on his anguish until it needed more. What could stop this very literal of chain of disasters from continuing?

The fate of Carl Pruitt’s tomb today is not know for sure. Some accounts suggest that the infamy surrounding the murderous gravestone got so bad that every other person buried in the cemetery was exhumed and moved to another location until Carl’s tomb remained by itself and forgotten over time. Other accounts suggest that his lonely burial plot was finally destroyed once and for all during a strip-mining operation in 1958.

Amazingly, no deaths from the strip-mining account are reported. Was there just not a chain handy this time?

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Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.