The Day the Devil Came Down to Arkansas

Call his name and the Devil will appear they say.  One day two Arkansas boys found that out.
Call his name and the Devil will appear they say. One day two Arkansas boys found that out.

Many’s the man who they say has met the devil and won, but I don’t know of anyone who’ll look you straight in the face and say they did.  Daniel Webster supposedly did; Andrew Jackson confronted the Bell Witch, but even he didn’t claim to have bested the hag.  Let me add to the list names you never heard of before, and probably never will again: John Chesselden and James Arkins.

They were just two country boys, living out beyond the bounds of civilized society, in what is today Arkansas but back in 1784 wasn’t even considered part of the U.S.  One bright May day they left the frontier settlement of Kenfry in the northeast part of the territory to visit a friend in an outlying hamlet.

The distance as the crow flies was about twenty-five miles, but they had to pass through a forest called Varnum’s Wood, which had a reputation for being haunted.  Why, only a few days before, one of the boys said, old Isaac King had encountered the Devil himself and barely escaped with his life.  His friend scoffed at the tale and then in a prideful boast declared he was not scared of any demon and defied Old Scratch to appear.

In 1784, two pioneers confronted a headless Devil in Arkansas.  They were lucky not to lose their own heads that day.
In 1784, two pioneers confronted a headless Devil in Arkansas. They were lucky not to lose their own heads that day.

Pride goeth before the fall, they say, and not longer after his prideful boast, the two lads encountered a puff of black smoke and a strange beast which soon congealed into something resembling a human—only a human without a head and hovering eight feet above the ground. Even without a head, however, the Demon talked up a storm, tempting the two boys with thrones and dominions beyond the ken of mortal men.

Of all that befell the lads that day, I haven’t room here to say; and, anyway, I gave a complete account of it in Chapter 6 of Dixie Spirits. That and other true tales that defy logic and reason unfold as best as can be told by this humble scribe.  Suffice it to say that the two young men only just escaped being dragged to Hell.  When they made it to safety, few would believe their tale, until they showed the local folk where the demon had moved a giant boulder; a boulder so big a dozen men couldn’t move it if they tried.

Happy Halloween from Dixie.
Happy Halloween from Dixie.

So if you wander in a haunted wood during the dark of the moon, I advise you to not tempt the Devil, else Old Nick takes you up on your offer.  And if all I say is not the gospel truth, well, then: God Bless the Devil!

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Halloween Hauntings Part 6: The Happy Hollow Horror

HALLOWEEN HAUNTINGS PART 6

The Happy Hollow Horror

For this Halloween tale, neighboring Kentucky gets the nod. It involves an incident that happened many years back, during the 1930’s to be exact, yet it remains a much talked about and bizarre mystery to this day. 

It happened in the Pennyrile district of Kentucky, where many strange things have been known to happen.

To this day the Ragland house is believed to be haunted.
To this day the Ragland house is believed to be haunted.

Happy Hollow lies just outside of Greensburg, Kentucky and from the name of the small rural community, one might easily imagine it was a place where nothing ever, ever went awry, and where the folk were all amiable and content with their lot in life. One would be wrong

One bright sunny morning, the Raglands were sitting down to breakfast in their farmhouse, and looking forward to their morning repast.  Led by the patriarch of the family, they had said the blessing over the food and were just about to dig in, when suddenly they heard a commotion at the front of the house.

With nary a warning the front door flew open, startling one and all.

For a second he was too startled to move, but before the father could rise from his chair to go see who it may be who had barged into their home, he heard heavy footsteps moving in measured cadence down the long hallway from the front door.

Soon there came into view a ghastly  procession came marching down the long hallway towards the kitchen in the rear of the house.

As it came close, the Raglands could see what looked like a group of pallbearers all dressed in black and upon their shoulders they bore a small coffin. But the men bearing the black box were unfamiliar to their eyes, in a community where everyone knew everyone. Moreover,  no one had died in the family, nor knew they of any neighbor’s death. But that was not the oddest thing about this weird intrusion into their home.

Atop the coffin lay a lamb, the symbol of a slaughtered innocent.
Atop the coffin lay a lamb, the symbol of a slaughtered innocent.

Atop the coffin lay a lamb.  The lamb was white as snow, but smeared with blood, for it was headless and blood was streaming from the ghastly wound.

All the time as they marched toward the family, the apparitions in black said nary a word.  Without turning their pallid faces to look at the Raglands, or say a word of explanation, they marched past the family and out the back door.

Like dreamers suddenly awakened, the Raglands jumped up from the kitchen table to see where the pallbearers had gone.  Nothing was visible in the back yard. The ghastly ghostly pallbearers had vanished.

In due course, the local constabulary were called and they canvassed the house and  grounds for clues to who the strangers may have been. Neither the sheriff nor his deputies could find any trace of footprints front or back.

Apparitions or ghosts don’t always take human form.  There are accounts of black dogs—hounds from hell they call them—that appear out of nothing to bedevil folks.

The raven, a carrion beast, is universally thought a harbinger of death; for not only does it feast on the flesh of the dead, it has even been known to appear before they die—as if it had foreknowledge of their death.

There are also rare accounts of apparitions appearing as a lamb, generally white.  It is thought the white lamb symbolizes the soul of an innocent—a young child—who has died prematurely or violently.  That this lamb’s head was missing was even more curious—and most sinister.  Was this apparition trying to send a message from the grave?

In Happy Hollow and surrounding communities they still talk of that day long ago as if it were last week.  Moreover, the house where it happened has not been occupied for many years and in the area it has a reputation for being haunted.

It is a reputation not totally unjustified.

If you like this and other such strangeness, then you will find a fuller account in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South
Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South