Tall tales and legends:

Halloween tradition provides entertainment, good fright

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
One of the oldest traditions of Halloween is the telling of tall tales, legends and ghost stories. These stories provide entertainment, and sometimes even a fright or two, to add to the mood of a traditionally eerie night.
Many people who have grown up in the South have heard stories about people who are suspected of being witches, houses that are haunted, or hollows you don't dare walk into around the stroke of midnight.
This particular Halloween tradition got a bit of an early start Thursday night as more than 150 people gathered at the Carter Mansion for an evening of spooky tales told in the middle of the historic Carter Cemetery.
Local raconteur C. Keith Young entertained the audience with stories suitable for young and old alike.
Those in attendance were treated to a variety of stories, from a tale about a sailor returning home from the Navy to a story from Young's childhood, which he admitted was only partially true.
In the story of Sailor Sam, a big tough sailor returns from the Navy, stops in a sleepy little town in Tennessee and impresses the ladies with tales of his exploits. According to Young, that did not sit well with the men of the town, who decided to take care of the problem by betting Sam a total of $54.39 that he could not spend the night alone in the old Hawkins Mansion, where 30 years earlier the entire Hawkins family died one night and no one knows why.
"There was even tell that the house was hainted. That's haunted for you non-Tennessee folks," Young told the crowd.
Well, during the middle of the night, ol' Sailor Sam got a little spooked and ended up shooting himself in the foot before running out of the house, thus losing his bet with the men of the town.
Tales of haunted houses abound in northeast Tennessee, where nearly everyone knows of at least one place rumored to be "hainted." And for those who like their scary stories to get their hearts beating fast, there are plenty of legends to tell.
Over the years, many authors have written books about the hauntings of the south and of northeast Tennessee in particular. One such book, "The Granny Curse" by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett, even relates some stories that have their roots in Carter County.
Two stories that Russell and Barnett share in their book tell the tale of two particular ghosts who are just looking for a ride.
"An old crime long forgotten has produced an eager hitchhiker in Carter County, Tennessee," states the tale of the Double-Headed Hitchhiker in the book. According to the book, some folks believe the ghost has two heads, one stacked on top of the other, while others believe that the ghost is merely wearing a stove pipe hat. Legend has it that as a car drives around a particular curve on Gap Creek Road, the ghost leaps from the shadows and clings to the car trying to catch a ride.
"Cars outrun the double-headed hitchhiker from time to time. Other times, a driver is not so lucky. After the towering ghost catches a lift, he is through for the night. And what a ride it is! Once the tall figure grabs hold of a moving car, he doesn't let go. You couldn't pry him loose with a shovel. Wherever he grabs the car -- door handle, front bumper or back -- he quickly climbs to the top of the car. The tips of his shoes can be seen at the top of the rear window. The view is worse through the front windshield. Initially his hands appear, five bloody fingertips on the driver's side, then five bloody fingertips on the passenger's half," goes the story. After the fingertips appear, then the ghosts head, or heads, depending on which version of the legend a person believes, appears. "Frightened drivers have swerved to throw him off the car. This is not advised. Others have slammed on the brakes. It doesn't do any good. What the double-headed (or high-hatted) ghost wants is a ride around the curve. And he wants it every night."
According to the story from the book, the ghost is looking for a ride home to get help after he was stabbed one Fourth of July night in the 1920s and robbed of his father's gold pocket watch.
The double-headed hitchhiker is not Carter County's only ghost who is known to jump on passing cars. Another story recounted in "The Granny Curse" is the story of the Lover Lady Bumper Jumper on Dark Hollow Road, near Roan Mountain State Park, who haunts a small cemetery on the side of the road.
"Legend has it that the ghost of a lady named Delinda is looking for a way out of the cemetery on Dark Hollow Road. When a car drives by late at night, she is known to jump onto the back bumper. She can't always be seen, but she can be felt. The ghost's jumping onto the back bumper of the car gives it a little bounce," the story says. "While Delinda can rarely be seen at all clearly, her shadow is distinct. It can be seen upon the surface of the road when illuminated by a car's taillights. A flashlight, however, shone in her direction will pass through the ghost, illuminating nothing. One way to know for certain whether Delinda is on the bumper of a car is for the driver to come to a stop and put the vehicle into reverse. This brings on the brighter back-up lights, which better show the unwavering shadow of a woman with long flowing hair."
According to the legend of this particular ghost, upon examining the graveyard, no stone with the name Delinda will be found. Legend has it that Delinda was keeping company with several of the married men in the area many years ago, and the wives decided to run her out of town, so off to her cabin with their husbands' squirrel guns they went.
As fate would have it, one of the husbands who had been keeping company with Delinda died that day in a tragic hunting accident. The women decided to tend to the preparations for his burial and when people arrived for the wake, the coffin had already been nailed shut. "Nailing a dead person in before he was preached over wasn't the usual way," the book states.
As the story goes, the women of the town nailed Delinda in the coffin with the man she had sinned with so that the two would lay in their sin for eternity. "They say she was lying down in that barn-wood box, lying down in death, as she had in life, cheek-to-cheek with a married man," the book states.
Stories like these and many more will be told tonight as friends and family gather together to entertain, and frighten, one another.
Editor's Note: Selections of the "The Granny Curse" were reprinted with the permission of the book's publisher, John F. Blair Publisher.