Halloween and ghost stories are hand in hand traditions this time of year, and you have no doubt heard your share of them, as have I. So here are a few stories I’ve got mostly from family, some explainable, others….not so much.
My uncle Gill Day told about an old abandoned house on Ridge Road (Claiborne County) owned by some Laymons. It was told that strange noises came from the house at night: Rattling, thumping around, moaning and so it was thought to be haunted, or “hainted” as Gill called it. He had heard the stories for years, and so was taken aback when he went by the house one day and heard thumping and bumping noises. He was creeped out by it at first, but managed to screw up enough courage to go take a look. Turns out that the new owner of the farm had penned up a bunch of pigs in the house.
Sometime back in the 1920s my wife’s grandmother (Momsie) was sitting by a tall hedgerow, waiting to see if she could catch her husband carousing and perhaps messing around with another woman (this was during Middlesboro’s wilder days). As she sat there she could hear someone on the other side of the hedge cutting hay the old fashioned way with a scythe. The tool makes a distinct, methodical swishing sound as it cuts, so she recognized the sound beyond question. The noise would even pause every now and then as if the user was stopping to rest. She finally grew tired of waiting, and looked around the hedge to see who was cutting hay, but there was no one there and no grass had been cut in the entire field. It spooked her pretty good, and still baffled her 60 years later whenever she’d tell it.
In his younger days my uncle Shelby Day worked at a CCC camp near Tazewell in the 1930s, and the camp kitchen once had a surplus of canned goods they were giving away. So he got quite a few, put them in a large white flour sack and walked home carrying them. They grew heavy by the time he got to the farm road leading to the house. So he decided to lean the sack against a tree up off the road a little, knowing it would be safe until next day. Except for the fact that in the dark the white sack looked a whole lot like something boogerish standing in the woods by the road. At least that’s what my Uncle James thought when he came by later that night and saw it glowing in the moonlight. This was an isolated place before there was electricity or street lights, and so dark back then was extra spooky. When James saw this apparition glowing beside the tree, he hoped it was someone in a white shirt, and ordered it to step into the road. After several attempts to get a response, he lost his nerve and leveled down on the sack with his pistol, killing quite a few cans.
There was an old house (it’s always an old house) in Lonesome Valley (Claiborne County) where, on a moonlit night you could sometimes see a silhouette of a young girl standing in the yard and combing her hair. The house is gone now, and apparently so is the girl.
My father in law Elmer Maxwell was a locksmith during his retirement years, and was changing the locks in an old house (see?) in Middlesboro. He was working in a room that had an obvious slant to the floor. As he worked he heard the sound of one of his screwdrivers that he had lain on the floor rolling, and assumed it was rolling downward on the uneven floor. But when he looked, it was actually rolling upslope, and continued to roll towards him, stopping on its own beside him. He was all alone in the house, and needless to say he finished the job as quickly as he could and got out of there.
Cue the eerie music. If you still have elders around, record their ghost stories if they have any. Makes sitting around the campfire a lot more interesting.
Steve Roark is the area forester in Tazewell, Tennessee for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.