Outskirts of Nashville

*Update* The Legend of Sugar Flat Road

das kapf

Guys. I’ve never been more disappointed in my life.  I got a hot tip that das kapf – aka the Legend of Sugar Flat Road resided in Chattanooga, TN.  I went to the Ghost Tours of Chattanooga at 57 East 5th Street in Chattanooga and told them I was a wildly famous blogger and they didn’t care one bucks tooth about how much I loved Lebanon’s own Yeti.  They do have a hologram of ye ol head but they no longer own the the legend itself.  Before the lady literally shut the door in my face, she let me know that she sold it back to someone in Lebanon and now it’s haunting the woods of the Cedars of Lebanon Park.  Can’t wait for Spring y’all! Stay tuned for the next update.

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The Bell Witch

 

bell witch

I’ve put off talking about the Bell Witch because honestly I’m scared of her.  I grew up with the story in Hermitage, TN and I’m an Adams from where she was from so I was told not to tell it.  But here I go.

My mom bought me a Bell Witch book for Christmas this week simply called The Bell Witch.  It’s edited Brent Monahan but is the memoirs of Richard Powell – who married Betsy Bell, the most tormented of all the Bell Children.

I never read prologues because shit they’re mostly boring but I wish I had because I nearly crapped my pants at the beginning of chapter 1.  It begins:

“You first heard about the “Bell Witch” when you were 7.”

I WAS 7 WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THE BELL WITCH.  For ten seconds I literally thought the book was talking to me.  I read it over and over again until I realized Richard Powell was talking to his daughter.  It goes on to describe the first-hand account he lays out about the Bell Witch, Kate Batts, “in the event of his death.”

Kate Batts, Monahan describes as a unique American poltergeist – a weirder Beetleguise because she could hurt people.  I guess all the other poltergeists are just flashes of light and opening of cabinets but Kate Batts was something else entirely.  No, she could rip the covers of the Bell boys’ beds while simultaneously pull the fire out of Betsy Bell’s hair.  And it’s not just the Bell’s that seent it.

They enlisted the help of their neighbors once the hauntings got so bad.  That’a when slick Willy, Richard Powell, gets involved  – who by the way is a teacher in the town.  In the first six pages he describes how, “In keeping with the nature of the revival, she wore a simple linsey-woolsey dress without ribbons or lace, and yet she was exquisite to look upon…She was just shy of thirteen…”

So – Richard, a man of the world from Wisconsin or some shit already has an agenda because he later married Betsy Bell.  The 13 year old.  I’m no spring chicken and I get that older men married MUCH younger girls back then and even now in  most parts of the world.  My grandpa was away in WWII and was dating my grandma probably before she had her first period so whatever. BUT this is where the story gets good.

Kate Batts was definitely a weirdo.  By the time and even by today’s standards.  But was she a witch?  Was she the first american comedian?  Was she just a freak?

I dunno.  But here’s the deal.  She had a lot of “negroes” that she “took care of” and were in her retinue.  She was always begging wool and needles from townsfolk and people already started talking like she was a witch because they thought they were makin voodoo dolls and doing witchcraft.  Kate was married at the time, but her husband fell ill so she was essentially a woman of the world – and we all know that means trouble.  She went to church, but always late and one time sat on some dudes head who was really feeling that ol’ time religion and it really harshed his “jerking exercise.”

So, I do wonder, did the town cry witchcraft because she was different?  Because her slaves were her tribe and she was just a wild lady?  I mean, seriously – did her energy REALLY rip the covers off the Bell kids and pull their hair or was she so despised the family made it all up? Hatfields and McCoys aint got shit on this neighbor feud.

Did she hate John Bell because because she was a wackadoo christian (John Bell was thrown out of the church btw).  Did the joke go too far?  Or did she know something that we don’t know?  I think there’s something in Kate Batts that hated the Bell men but why? Did she think she was pious? Or was she harmed by them?

Do women just act out for no reason? Let’s be real – there was no poltergeist.  So what the hell was going on that it still remains in Tennessean’s collective memories?

There might be an interesting parallel with a recent Nashville Ballet Performance’s interpretation of Lizzie Borden.  In Nashville treasure, Paul Vasterling’s interpretation, Lizzie was being raped by her father and her mother stands by.  She is justified in an almost feminist way when she removes her clothes and murders her family brutally with an ax., shown beautifully thought ballet and lights of course.

Was she a feminist or completely insane?  I just wish I had the answers.  What do y’all think?

The Mystery of Lyncoya

Did you know that Andrew Jackson never had children of his own, but the brain child of the Indian Removal Act adopted a Creek child? Paradoxical enigma that he is, Jackson sent home a child found on a battlefield (disputed either the Battle of Talladega or the Battle of Horseshoe Bend) with his dead mother and raised him as his own. His name was Lyncoya. Lyncoya received the very best education and had hopes to attend West Point but because of his ethnicity he could not. Instead, he became a saddle maker and died of tuberculosis when he was around 16 years old.

As with anything Andrew Jackson, there is perhaps a darker side to the story.

Historians speculate that Lyncoya may have been brought home as a plaything or ‘pet’ for his other adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. It was not uncommon for African slaves to tour the world in “Human Zoos,” and some think that his initial intentions might have been more along those lines given Jackson’s betrayal of Native Americans just two short years after Lyncoya’s death.

For whatever reason, historians can document that Lyncoya was well cared for, although the romanticism that he warmed Jackson’s cold, black heart may be just that as his body has never been found. In 2003, cadaver dogs searched the property of the Hermitage looking for slave burial grounds and for Lyncoya. While the rest of the family, and even Jackson’s most loved slave Alfred are buried in the same area, but Lyncoya still remains lost today.

Below are the graves of Alfred (buried close but still separate) to the large gazebo-esque monument atop Jackson and his wife, Rachel. The rest of the family lie in the bottom right section of the grave site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prehistoric Tennessee

I know I talk a lot of bullshit on this page, but here’s something that is absolutely true: During the Paleozoic period, Tennessee was covered by a warm shallow sea.  The sea was home to my favorite pre-dinosaur – the trilobite, along with corals and more sea creatures that today is mind blowing to think about living in the Volunteer State.

You may have collected Indian Money as a kid (I still do). To me, they are even more special to find than a shark’s tooth while combing the mud or the sand because Indian money is actually a 245-750 million year old fossil of a crinoid.

indian money

Crinoids are echnoderms (think sea urchins, star fish, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, etc.). Also known as sea lilies, they look a bit more like plants than animals.  The Paleozoic crinoids that lived in Tennessee thrived in shallow waters and tide pools. Although you will not find crinoids living in the murky, warm waters of Old Hickory lake, they are not extinct. Crinoids of today live in deep sea but rarely wash ashore.

The next time you’re out by the Harpeth River dig your toes into the mud and see what comes up. You just might find a piece of history.

Wizard Tree

In a time not so long ago, in a land not so far away lived two teenaged adventurers.  One; yours truly, and the other – my partner in crime.  After an afternoon of skateboarding at the old Donelson Hospital, we decided to drive down Old Hickory Boulevard, past the Hermitage and arrive in the then incorporated town of Lakewood, known mostly for it’s speed trap by Nashvillians.

But we had heard another story.  One of mystery and intrigue.  About halfway down Debow Street stood the large, carved tree, locally referred to as the Wizard Tree.  Under the cover of darkness, those brave enough to face it arrived to soak in it’s power.  The legend was that a man accidentally drove head first into the tree, and upon impact, had a vision of God speaking to him.

Now, you know that the holy ghost just loves to appear to people as chips, bananas and as cinnamon buns, but the wizard tree was something else all together.  The man who saw the vision deemed it his responsibility to carve the tree up, to bear witness to the face he saw.

A funnier story is that the man on the tree manifested himself after losing a pie eating contest with the devil and would play telephone with people who came to visit him from hell.

The tree was known around town to have powers, and the man on the tree looked much like a wizard, dubbing it the appropriate “wizard tree.”  Now friends, those were the days before cell phone cameras when we used our minds for memories so I do not have, nor do I know anyone that has a picture of this tree (if you do please add it to the comments!).  But I can tell you one thing: it did exist.

There’s a nice marina bar now over in the neighborhood and I drive by Debow sometimes just to see what’s happening.  The tree is no longer there and the street feels different.  My adult mind also wonders how a man could have possibly crashed into the tree on such a narrow, small road.

But those thoughts are no fun.  I think I’ll just sit on Old Hickory Lake and remember things the way they were.

Raining blood

I’m pretty sure it’s been grey since November now, and I would just about take anything in the sky over the constant gloomy reminder that it is no longer summer – anything perhaps except blood. However, that’s exactly what appeared to happen one night in 1841.

On August 17, 1841 slaves working on Mr. Chandler’s tobacco farm in Lebanon, TN reported that a red cloud floated overhead and drops of blood and flesh poured down from the cloud. It was undeniable that there were bits of fat and blood around the property causing a Dr. Troost to visit the property, after which he reported his findings in the American Journal of Science.

He hypothesized that a powerful wind “might have taken up part of an animal which was in a state of decomposition, and have brought it in contact with an electric cloud (http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/exhibits/myth/mythcellaneous.htm).

blood 2

Unfortunately, it was later determined that the meteorological phenomenon was a hoax by the slaves (American Journal of Science, 44: 216).  No word on their punishment for their mischief…