Weird

*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.

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?

Straight Outta Carthage

advisory

1985 saw the rise of of hip hop and hair metal in the music charts, which terrified mothers across the country. One woman decided to do something about it, and her name was Tipper Gore. Tipper, wife of former VP Al Gore of Carthage, TN; created the Parents Resource Music Center (PRMC) which is responsible for the Parent Advisory stickers on every single CD I ever ordered on Columbia House when I was 11 years old.

She, along with several other women whose husbands were in politics formed their own gang, “the Washington Wives,” and set out on their quest to shelter each man, woman, and child’s ears from offensive lyrics about sex, dope and any other Bible sin.

It started small with the Filthy 15 (Wikipedia) which they coined as “porn rock”:

1 Prince “Darling Nikki”
2 Sheena Easton “Sugar Walls”
3 Judas Priest “Eat Me Alive”
4 Vanity “Strap On ‘Robbie Baby'”
5 Mötley Crüe “Bastard”
6 AC/DC “Let Me Put My Love Into You”
7 Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
8 Madonna “Dress You Up”
9 W.A.S.P. “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”
10 Def Leppard “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)”
11 Mercyful Fate “Into the Coven”
12 Black Sabbath “Trashed”
13 Mary Jane Girls “In My House”
14 Venom “Possessed”
15 Cyndi Lauper “She Bop”

Before the stickers were put into place, the Senate held a hearing where the “offending” porn rock musicians could come to say their piece. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Frank Zappa and John Denver showed up to fight against censorship. But we all know how that turned out…

The Washington Wives couldn’t stop there. They needed real live maryrs and created a modern day witch hunt based on their wacky lore.

As a trippy hippie leftover from the 70’s, Tipper and her girls were also concerned about subliminal messages in songs – especially when played backwards. None more plagued by the witch hunt was Judas Priest, who were blamed for the deaths of two teenagers. The two kids reportedly shot themselves after listening to Judas Priest and the going theory was because there were subliminal messages in the lyrics telling the kids to commit suicide.

Here’s a fun list with videos of all songs with allegedly satanic messaging in them when played backwards:

Here’s To My Sweet Satan: The 15 Creepiest Backwards Messages In Classic Rock

The 80’s were such an interesting time. Cocaine is a hell of a drug…

Hootenany

Well, my heart’s just broken. A word that sounds like it should have traveled on the tongues of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled in KY and TN is undoubtedly a Midwest word.

If’n you’ve never heard the word before, today it’s used for a wild party that is thrown together. It has an element of not being exactly planned, where one and all might “raise a ruckus” through hootin’ and hollerin’ all night long.

Here’s a timeline, although no one is quite sure when the word came into use regionally:

1906 – The earliest written use was in a historical novel by Richard T. Wiley set in the 1790’s. The book, Slim Greene: A Narrative of the Whiskey Insurrection, used all sorts of colorful language that is unclear if these are words he thought  people used in the 1790’s, or if he thought these words were ridiculous and that’s what people sounded like back then. All signs point to “hootenany” being a “thing” that you don’t really know the word for.

Some other fun examples of “a thing” he uses are:

  • Conniplicon
  • Majigger
  • Kerdoodlement

“When I got thar,” he said, “she wuz lookin’ hotter’n her oven, an’ wuz a-shakin’ that conniplicon at the lummix, an’—”
“Shaking what?” interrupted Colonel Bayard.
“That hootenanny that she shovels her bread with — that long-handled majigger, you know.”
“Oh, the oven-peel?” asked the Colonel, as if a light had just dawned on him.
“Yes, I guess that’s what they call it. I’ve allus been ust to Dutch-oven bakin’, an’ don’t know much abaout these new-fangled kerdoodlements.”

1940 – A man from Indiana by the name of Terry Pettis moved to Seattle and was working on a fundraiser for the Democratic convention. They needed a name for a party and Terry suggested a name from from home, “hootenany.” Wingding was also in the running.

1941 – The party was a hit and became an annual event. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie got invited to play the Second Annual event with their band the Almanac Singers. After the party, they brought the word around on tour with them all the way home to New York City where they began to call their parties “hootenanies.”

1946 – Over the next five years, Guthrie’s career explodes. In an interview with Time Magazine the interviewer asked where he got the word “hootenany.” Loving a good tall tale, Guthrie replied with an outright lie.

He said, “We was playin’ for the Lumber Workers’ Union. We was singin’ around in the shingle mills. There was a lady out West out there in the lumber camp and her name was Annie and so every time they’d have a songfest Annie would outshout all of them. So people got to call her Hootin’ Annie but the name got spread all over and so out there when they are going to have a shindig they call it Hootenanny.”

And that, according to Time Magazine, is when hootenannies began.

To hear the full, hilarious, podcast Lexicon Valley put together on the origins of hootenany, click here.

 

 

 

 

The Blue Fugates

If you’re a Southerner, I am sure that you have at least been made fun of once in your life for being inbred.  If you’re from one of the other directions, then I’d be willing to bet that it has been you who have made this ‘hilarious’ joke a time or two.

While most of us are not barefoot and pregnant with our uncle cousin’s baby, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  My mother, a proud Kentuckian and scientist, would always joke that inbreeding isn’t a problem; unless you’ve got bad genes…

One fascinating case of genetics are the Blue Fugates of eastern Kentucky.  Benji Stacy, pictured below, was born in 1975 “blue as Lake Louise.”  The doctors were in a panic and Benji was rushed to the University of Kentucky Medical Center for a transfusion, when his relatives remembered that his great-grandmother Luna had the same blue skin.

Blue-Fugates-Kentucky-Family

Martin Fugate settled with his family in the 1820’s on the remote banks of Troublesome Creek, near Hazard, KY. At the time, there were very few families established there and intermarriage was common. Fugate’s wife, Elizabeth, was the carrier of the recessive methemoglobinemia gene. The Fugates intermarried with Fugate cousins with the last names of Combs, Smith, Richie and Stacy; producing more and more blue children carrying the gene.

As the world developed and people began to “marry” people other than their cousins, there were less and less blue Fugate descendants.  Benji was the last known blue person born in 1975.

The Body Farm: A Life After Death

While I have made reference to the lore of one Body Farm around Percy Priest Lake before, I’d like to also tell you about a very real Body Farm in Knoxville that is purposefully FULL of gore. The University of Tennessee’s forensics department and CSI teams from around the world get first-hand experience while studying decomposition of bodies just by going to the 2.5 acre peaceful “farm” down the Alcoa Highway. There they can take their pick of over 100 rotting bodies placed in crime scene scenarios that have been exposed to the elements for varying amounts of time. Graphic (obvious) warning: these pictures are not for the weak.

There is nothing nefarious about how the bodies came to the research facility. Wikipedia cites that the facility receives over 100 bodies each year, of which 60% are donated by family members. You can however pre-register yourself if you want to be a part of this highly respected forensics program. Their policy is here, and for questions, contact:

Dr. Lee Meadows Jantz
Coordinator of the Forensic Anthropology Center
Department of Anthropology
250 South Stadium Hall
Knoxville, TN 37996-0760
Phone: (865) 974-4408
E-mail: donateinfo@utk.edu

Serenading with Firearms

Happy Epiphany! If you’re like most people in the South, you may have no idea what this means.  January 6th is a day celebrated around the world as the day God manifested as Jesus Christ, and is, what came as quite a shock to me, the 12th day of Christmas in the song.

While Epiphany most often takes the backseat to Christmas in North America, it is still celebrated and preferred by some of the old timers in parts of Appalachia, referring to it as “Old Christmas.”

I drank too much wine on New Christmas Eve to tell about the serenading tradition, so I figured Epiphany is as good a day as any since Old Christmas is the most revered as a holy day, and the end to the whole Christmas season.

Would you believe me if I told you that deep in the hollers in Appalachia children roam the streets with guns and fireworks in costumes and the occasional blackface to terrorize their neighbors on Christmas Eve- as tradition??

Well, that’s exactly what happened for years, known as serenading and is a practice that is fading fast.  Like a Mischief Night gone awry, when the kids set off serenading, the neighbors know exactly what to expect. A Foxfire Christmas details many stories about this tradition, one such described by Tammi English and Holli Hickox where children would show up together around midnight on Christmas Eve and all at once shoot off shotguns and fireworks, ring cowbells, and make as much noise as possible to scare their neighbors.  Often, “the neighbors would invite them in and give treats to everyone such as oranges, apples or even small toys (21-22).” It was also common for the kids to play tricks on their neighbors such as painting their horses faces black with shoe polish (30) or taking apart a neighbor’s wagon and reassembling it on the roof (24).

This tradition at its height is as much lore now as the ghost of Christmas past, and the customs of the old country only live on through fruitcake and the faint glow of candles in the window.

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…

The Curse of Davis Market

I do a lot of things half-assed; this adventure was no exception.  On a steamy, late July day, my former college roommates and I left Nashville to return to the town of Murfreesboro (20 whole minutes away) where we had all attended Middle Tennessee State University. Our mission: to break the curse of Davis Market.

Davis Market, situated at the crossroads of Main Street and Tennessee Boulevard, is best known as being one of the many veritable “Center(s) of the Universe.”  They sell Boone’s Farm and other fine malt liquors, incense, alien pipes and other terrible shit college kids (and me) love.

davis

Legend has it that once you purchase something from Davis Market, in the Center of the Universe, that Earth’s gravitational pull snares you in to returning to Murfreesboro.  Another variation is that Murfreesboro will “follow” you forever.  Soldiers go away and think they have died in Iraq only to wake up at the VA hospital in Murfreesboro. Expecting mothers with weeks left in pregnancy who are just passing through will spontaneously give birth and have to go to a Murfreesboro Hospital. New construction forces a town to move their cemetery and all the bones end up in Murfreesboro because of one asshole who didn’t break the curse. And the higher you get, the sillier the stories become.

We definitely did not want this to happen to us so we grabbed a shoe, a hammer and some nails.  There are two parts to breaking the curse of Davis Market, neither of which we fully executed.  One is to nail one shoe to a particular tree in “Peck Forest” (the trees between the Admissions Building and Peck Hall), and the other is to pee on the geographical center of Tennessee.  We all brought symbolic shoes but when we got to the tree, one of the boys whined that it would hurt the tree to nail our shoes into it.  We ended up stuffing our shoes into holes in the tree because we are weenies who feel bad for trees.

shoe

We had stopped off at Davis Market on the way to Peck Forest and got some Boone’s Farm so we would be ready to pee when we got to the geographical center of Tennessee. Unfortunately, as soon as we rolled up to the stone marker, some kid comes out of nowhere and just sits down next to us. I’m pretty sure the City just pays her to hang around and act creepy so we asked her to take our picture and left.

center

Keeping in mind that we have come nowhere near breaking the curse of Davis Market, the same four of us were sitting in a bar in Nashville a week later and the notorious MTSU Philosophy professor Principe waltzes through the door.

The curse continues to haunt us and must be overcome.

Come for the Heroin, Stay for the Polar Bears

 

Polar Bears (6)

I posted this image on Instagram the other day and got one of two responses. Some were intrigued and wanted to know more about where and what it was, but the people who already know where it was, they wanted to know what the hell I was doing there.

One PM went like this:

Friend – “Are you getting drugs?”

Me – “No, do you need some?”

Friend – “OMG Why are you in Edgehill Angela? You should stay out of there”

Me – “I just stopped to take a picture.  I swear I went right back to my safe little village of East Nashville just after.”

Bordering the likes of the Belmont Mansion, the Condos at 2600 Culture Wipe Pike,  and Music Row; Edgehill is the last real holdout of gentrification anywhere around it. In 2013, it “won” one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the U.S., but Nashvillians know it better for the six foot tall, 800 pound polar bear statues.

snow dome

So, why are there polar bears in Nashville, TN, the very  home of the snow dome? The answer is custard.

A man by the name of Gio Vacchino of the Mattei Plaster Relief Ornamental Company created the bears for the Polar Bear Frozen Custard shops on Gallatin Road and West End Avenue (in Nashville.  No one knows for sure how many more he created for shops all over the Southeast).  Custard wasn’t quite the craze everyone thought it would be I guess, so after WWII, the shops closed and the bears were bought by Reverend Zima Hill for his front yard at 1408 Edgehill Avenue.  He also placed two in front of the local funeral home.

The two at the funeral home were sold (one lives next door to the famous meat and three Monell’s in Germantown; the other is broken and in a backyard down the street) and the other two ended up as property of the city once the home at 1408 Edgehill was sold (1408 Edgehill is currently a halfway house called Oxford House- Polar Bear).

Students from Tennessee State University were a part of the team to restore the crumbling polar bears, and in 2004, MDHA created the Polar Bear Plaza at the corner of Edgehill Avenue and 12th Avenue South.

In the winter make sure to drive by and see them all dressed up for Christmas with garland, just waiting for the snow that will never come.