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Filtering by Category: Ghost stories

Serpent Tales: Down To The Bone

Amanda Herman

Their daughter came home with cuts on her arms. The girl was a gentle and friendly soul. No one would mean her harm. 

 

“Who would do this to you?” 

“The little girl that plays with me in the field.”

“What little girl? What’s her name?”

“She doesn’t know her name.”

“The girl doesn't know her own name? Where does she live?”

“Under the porch.”

 

“…our porch?’

“Yes ma’am.”

“Well, when your little friend comes back, I want to have a word with her.”

“She can’t speak, mama.”

 

Her parents became more concerned than they intended after that conversation. They watched the next day when their girl was expected back from the fields to see if they could spy their daughter with her new friend. Sure enough, their daughter was sitting under the old oak by the road with a little girl that neither parent had seen before. A little younger, a little paler, she didn't speak, yet she got along fine with their little girl, so the parents’ minds were eased for a spell, until the sun was almost set. Just as the last rays faded from the sky, the unknown child pulled out a bone from her dress pocket, swiped their daughter’s arm, and then jumped away from their daughter, seemingly struck with fear from harming her friend. Then she crawled across the dirt patches in the yard and scurried underneath their very own porch.

 

“Git back out here right now, ‘fore I call your mama!”

 

No one answered.

No one was there.

 

Their daughter didn't seem nearly as shaken as they were. Though, she did tell warn how the interaction between herself and the other child was going to play out. The next day, her parents repeated their actions, hiding in the same place, spying the same child getting along well with their daughter. This time, just as soon as they saw the sun leaving the sky, knowing the little one would reach into her pocket at any moment, the parents leapt out from behind the house and called to the girl, “What do you think you're doin? Where’s your mama?” The little one flashed up on her feet and stared the mother down with the dark and telling shadows where her eyes surely should have been. The child rushed at the mother all at once, on hands and feet, not enough human, and too innocent to be called creature. Right before the mother’s eyes, it whipped out the bone from her pocket and swiped it cleanly across her arm. The fear she expected to wash over her never rolled in, she only worried for the child, not of herself. Following closely as the little one scampered back to the porch, gnawing and scratching to reach the underbelly of the wood slats, the mother raced for the toolshed. Returning with a crowbar and a shovel, she handed one to her husband.

 

“Help the poor child.”

 

She pulled up the boards and the father dug until he saw her. Hands around her face, shoulders curled to one side, both feet tucked under her hips, the little girl’s bones lay, finally found, ready for rest.

 

Serpent Tales is a series of folktales from around the South that I have been researching, writing, and reconfiguring for a while. We share stories to strengthen the ties that hold us to each other, to those that came before us, to the roots from which our best tomorrows can grow. The original pointillism artwork for this story pictured above was created by Sean Herman and can be purchased at the Serpents Store in downtown Mobile, Alabama.

 

We Are The Serpents of Bienville

We birthed from ancient bogs where fog concealed marauder’s scorchings 

left from the fires of freedom, and loss thereof its spoil. 

The wicked soils birthed nourishment, shores lined themselves in feast.

No heed to Iberville omen, the harbinger of bones in the harbor just back.

And now we revel with the saints and haints rekindled year again,

and jubilee on in holy shallows knowing each of us shall join them

under the oak once more with only wampus to guard our souls.

 

Keep treasure Mauvila in your heart, they knew what we forget.

Brand the surface with what you will, it still passes with master to grave.

It wasn’t only Creek that saw our slither boding.

We are Bienville’s serpents.

Alabama Oddities Collection #26

Amanda Herman

JIMMY LEE SUDDUTH

Jimmie Lee Sudduth was 3 years old when he discovered his magical folk art medium. He was playing outside his house the woods of Fayetteville Alabama in 1913. He mixed together mud and honey to paint a face on a tree. One week later, the face was still there, so he went to work decorating his parents' house and surrounding trees with paintings of people, animals, and landscapes, adding his hand carved dolls and toys to adorn the porch over the years. He refined his mud/sugar paint techniques, identifying 36 different shades of mud just around his home. He painted on wood with his fingers because "they never wore out." His first art exhibition was held at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa in 1968, and his folk art was finally discovered by collectors at age 61. His subject matter expanded with his fame, as he became fascinated with big city skylines. He still used mud and sugar to paint until he was 82 years old when he couldn't collect his own materials anymore. He switched to commercial acrylics, but still painted in his home until the age of 96, refusing to move to a retirement home until the last year of his life. He died in 2007 at 97.

SPARTA DOWN THE WELL

I hear there is a haunted well in the ghost town of Old Sparta in Conecuh County, Alabama. There is nothing near the well for miles. Legend holds that if Sparta was built on top of Native burial mounds, the town's well would have been dug straight through that sacred land. The sounds are just whispers from far away, but grow to murmurs and cries and shrieks as one approaches the well. This curse was not contained to eerie noises, however. Reports were found of a gallows, built just next to this well, bursting into flames, being reduced to ash and taking the courthouse down with it. Both the gallows and courthouse were completely rebuilt, and both burned to the ground in the same manner as before. The town of Sparta is said to have been happy and thriving in 1899 and completely abandoned by 1923.

MONSTER OF LAKE MARTIN

A diver for the state of Alabama was searching for a missing person at the bottom of Lake Martin. It was mid day, and the water was somewhat clear. He made it to the bottom of the lake before noticing the movement coming from underneath a large object, which he assumed was a large rock of sorts, though it was quite a bit more slimy than the surrounding debris. He leaned in to rest his hand on the rock, to steady himself, and he placed his forearm upon the only knob poking out of this smooth surface. The rock winced. The knob blinked. The diver shot off to the surface of the lake as fast as he could, and never agreed to step foot below the surface of Lake Martin again. He recalls seeing the whiskers toward the front of the large mass, assuming that the creature was a giant catfish. At least, that's what I heard. 

ANGEL OF DOTHAN

Dothan translated into Hebrew reads as "the door to the eternal covenant," or "the gateway to salvation." So it's either very curious, or not curious at all, that during the early 1990's there was an oddly large number of reports from locals picking up the same curious hitchhiker in Dothan, Alabama. The folks all reported picking up the same old man in a ball cap, walking down the highway, asking for a ride into town. He would get in the back seat and answer their small talk attempts with the same line, "I am the archangel Gabriel, and I am about to blow my horn." Upon completion of his statement, drivers reported that he just vanished.

JOHNSON AT THE CROSSROADS

We've all heard of the "27 Club" superstition, involving the deaths of Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse, but did you know that the phenomenal blues musician, Robert Johnson, also died at 27 by "unknown circumstances"? It is said that this Mississippi prodigy was mentored by Ike Zimmerman, an accomplished blues guitar player from Grady, Alabama. Ike would meet Robert in cemeteries in rural Alabama to teach him all that he knew, and Robert's talent was so incredible, and his fame came so quickly, that a story was told of how Robert Johnson met the devil at a crossroads and sold his soul for the talent he now possessed. He wrote songs about running from the devil and being chased by hell hounds. Johnson's mysterious death at 27 carries its own lore. Some say he was killed by a woman's jealous husband by laced whiskey, others assume he died from syphilis, but most agree that his death was part of the bargain made at those crossroads.

ALABAMA BLIND BOYS

The Blind Boys of Alabama have been performing together for 79 years. They met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, in 1937. The SIX boys were being trained to assemble brooms for a living when they each joined the choir at school. Seeing as they enjoyed singing together more than making household goods, they stuck with that. Their original name was the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. Member Vel Traylor passed away in 1947, leaving the group with five members. An agent placed the group in a competitive position against another group, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the name change for the Alabama boys followed. Founding member Jimmy Carter still leads the group today. These men are also known as the longest running and most influential gospel group in the world, from singing at benefits with Martin Luther King, Jr. to holding concerts at the White House, the Olympics, and on Broadway. They are the epitome of the idea of staying true to yourself, following your passion, and loving what you do. For tour dates and recent project info, visit blindboys.com

HOMER ON THE RIVER

There is a legend of a man living on the banks of the Conecuh River. His name was Homer. He fished and cut shingles for a living, isolated by choice, except for the one day a year he would wander into the nearest town. The people knew to expect him coming down the road, naked as the day he was born, with a scraggly beard not quite long enough to cover him. The townspeople would give him clothes, a haircut, and a handful of goods, and he would thank them for their generosity before heading back down to the river for another year. Legend of Homer holds that he never learned how to swim, so every year, to get to town, he would simply hold his nose and walk across the bottom of the river to cross.

Hauntings of the Daphne Masonic Hall

Amanda Herman

The woods around the Haunted Masonic Lodge in Daphne, Alabama are not haunted by the spirits called upon by the weirdly rumored rituals that go along with masonic conspiracy, but by a man and his brother involved in a devastating accident. A group of Union soldiers were transporting supplies when they were ambushed by a group of Confederates. The wounded were taken to a shelter, but one man that was shot in the head was unresponsive to those trying to help him. Obviously effected by the bullet lodged into his brain, and unable to acknowledge anything happening around him, he did not go with the other troops, and in his now muddied and tattered uniform, helmet nowhere in sight, he wandered into the woods near present-day Whispering Pines. A group of women and children found the man and offered him fresh water and food, but he as still unaware of their presence. He just wandered blankly through the dense trees until the Union troops returned. The women and children tried with all their might to convince the man to hide, to no avail. Once spotted, the Union General shouted to the wounded soldier, “Stop, or I’ll shoot!” The second bullet that hit the man that day went through his heart, and he passed away. The general approached the man, and he began to feel panicked when he realized it was one of his own. He began to weep uncontrollably as he rolled the body over and admitted to himself that he had just shot his own brother. The women and children witnessed the whole scene. As the shocked general heard the confederates returning to the area upon alert from his gun sounding, he ran back to the safety of his infantry. The women, wanting to show the fallen soldier the respect deserved, they hid his body until they could return in the night and give him a proper burial. But when the fighting was over that night had finally fallen, the body was nowhere to be found. It is said that the man is still wandering the woods, unaware of his surroundings, unaware of his death, and that his brother is still weeping for him not far away.

 Photo provided by Jay Radio Photography. Check out his  website  and follow his adventures on  Facebook !

Photo provided by Jay Radio Photography. Check out his website and follow his adventures on Facebook!

Another haunting that is focused around the Haunted Masonic Hall in Daphne, Alabama is that of the Confederate soldier that was placed in the woods to protect a hoard of valuables that were collected from the townspeople. The Union soldiers that traveled through the area were rumored to raid the villagers and take whatever they pleased, so the people gathered what they loved or needed and placed it all in the woods until the troops passed. When the folks returned to the area where their valuables were being held, they found that the hole was empty and the guard was shot. The Confederate guard is said to still haunt the woods around the area, and when the spirit found that a building was being erected in his area around 1920, he went ahead and made himself at home. The now vacant building was first a grocery store, then a Masonic Lodge, and later donated to the Daphne Police Department. It’s rumored that even the men who were trained to serve and protect felt a little too vulnerable in such a paranormally active building. 

Ever since its very first days, reports of feeling a presence being inside with you have been abundant. The ghost, or ghosts, in the area are known to make a racket, but never really bothered anyone until Mr. Cauley Burnett, in 1940, was just having a day and wasn’t in any mood to be putting up with the paranormal show. He cursed the spirit that was banging around in the upstairs corridors, and the instant those harsh words left Burnett’s lips, a cold wind rushed down the stairs and slammed into his chest. It was as if a hand was gripped onto his neck, lifting the large man off the ground and up the wall. As Burnett gasped for air, he spit our any and every bible verse he could pick from his racing head, and just when he thought he was at the end of his struggle, the grip lessened and he fell to the floor.