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.
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…
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.