Have you ever heard of the ghost who pulled his coffin in Marion Junction, Alabama? This story involved many respectable, local citizens of the town and made the newspaper all the way to Philadelphia in 1892. He is the transcribed version from the Philadephia Times of 1892.
Alabama Ghost story published in Philadelphia
September 18, 1892
From the Philadelphia Times
Marion Junction, Ala., August 29. –
That there are such things as ghosts, even the more intelligent portion of the community about here is beginning to believe, while the excitement among the negroes and the more ignorant of the people is something incredible. This belief comes from the singular occurrences that are taking place on what is known as the old creek road, leading from this town to Uniontown, and which is well-nigh abandoned roadway, having been superseded in use by the country people by a new turnpike. It is said that the old creek road is haunted by the ghost of a man, who is to be seen nightly, pulling after him his coffin.
Tramp who killed Nancy Pratt?
This phantom is thought to be that of a tramp who was lynched near here in 1889, and who was thought to have committed a murder, the victim being an old lady living on the creek road. This woman, one Nancy Pratt, was found in the creek with various marks and wounds on her head, and it was thought that she had been killed before she was thrown into the stream, and the tramp, who behaved in a suspicious manner, was captured and hung for the crime. This much is certain, that he was found in possession of some jewelry that was identified as having belonged to Mrs. Pratt, though in defending himself he declared that he saw the old lady run out of her house and throw herself into the creek, with her head all bleeding from wounds that were self-inflicted, and that, satisfied that she was drowned, he entered the house and robbed it.
This story, however, won no credence, and and he was hanged to a tree not far from the spot where the body of his victim was removed from the water, but it subsequently developed that the old woman had threatened time and again to take her life, and doubts began to assail the lynchers as to the justice of the deed, though no measures of reparation were possible. A story was soon in circulation that the ghost of the tramp had been seen on the road, though little faith was put in it by the intelligent country people, and the road, soon becoming deserted for the new turnpike, the whole affair was forgotten.
Dr. Hardeman was the first to encounter the ghost
But recently the story of the ghost has been revived by the experiences of a number of responsible citizens and farmers of the vicinity, who are ready to vouch for the strange sights they have witnessed on the old road, which has of late been traveled owing to work being begun on the other. The first to renew the old tale was Dr. Hardeman, of this place, who, returning from the bedside of a patient late one night, was amazed to see issue from a clump of trees just ahead of him the figure of a man. The night was a very dark one, and the doctor wondered at his being able to see the man so plainly, for he was able to make out the figure’s dress and features. It was clad in a dark suit and wore a wide-brimmed straw hat, but no coat and vest, while about his neck was coiled a rope, which trailed behind it several feet and which was so tightly drawn about the throat as to swell it to three times the natural size and to give the face a horribly bloated appearance.
This struck the doctor as most remarkable, though as he was a newcomer in the neighborhood, and had never heard of the tramp’s death, he did not take a super-natural view of the figure, but hailed it several times. The figure looked back at him with a sort of unearthly light in its puffed out eyes but made no reply. The doctor whipped up his horse in an endeavor to overtake the phantom, but the horse began to rear and snort as if in mortal terror and refused to go forward, and upon being whipped and spurred by his rider finally threw him into the middle of the road and galloped off in the opposite direction, leaving the doctor to walk home.
He was resolved to discover the mystery
The phantom vanished from view in the timber that bordered the road, and unnerved by the terrible appearance it had presented the physician decided not to follow it, but proceeded to go home, though resolved to find out the mystery the next night. So, arming himself well with both shotgun and revolvers, together with a bull dog and a young man named Looseman, he took up his stand close to the spot where the ghost had issued the night before, and waited until the hour for it to make its appearance. But this it did not do, though the watchers heard a loud moaning or lamentation coming from a large tree growing close to the road and from which the figure had come the previous night. The dog evinced the same terror the horse had, and at last made a frantic dart at some invisible body, which sent it flying back over heels, but the animal, returning to the attack with every appearance of uncontrollable rage finally was thrown at the feet of the watchers, who on looking closely at the animal saw that it was dead with a broken neck.
Nothing was to be seen, however, and at daylight the doctor and his companion returned home, resolved, though, to keep watch again that night. This they did, and were rewarded on this occasion by seeing the ghost glide from the clump of trees before referred to, this time dragging after it its coffin. The doctor called on it to halt, but there was no response. whatever, though the phantom turned and looked at him with a grin, which increased the horror of its appearance. Young Looseman gave it one glance and broke and ran toward the town, leaving the doctor alone with the ghost. Lacking the courage to accost it at a nearer distance, he also turned about and made for home, arriving there breathless and full of his story, which was received with ridicule. But on the persisting in it a party of townspeople was made up to go and watch the spot for the ghost.
A large group from town turned out
These, comprising Col. Nugent, John Young, George Fuller and several other well-known citizens, repaired to the haunted locality the next evening armed with guns and pistols, as from the doctor a earnestness in relating his narrative it had come to be thought that a hoax, at any rate, had been attempted on the young men, and it was resolved to ferret out the jokers. As the night advanced the watchers dispensed themselves along the road so as to command its length, and, weapons in hand, waited for the coming of the hoaxers. It was a little after midnight when the moaning sound was heard from the tree.
The sound increased into a sort of bellowing or tremendous crying that resounded through the woods, striking terror to all that heard it. But, resolved to stick it out to the last, the crowd hung about for nearly an hour longer, and at last saw the ghost come walking past them carrying its coffin on its shoulders this time. The rope was twined about its neck and trailed on the ground.
Seeing this Col. Nugent stepped forward and placed his foot on the length only to be violently thrown to the ground the next moment insensible. It was some hours before he recovered sufficiently to describe the sensation he had experienced on stepping on the phantom rope. He said that he was thrilled through and through with a shock something like an electric current, and which was severe enough to deprive him of consciousness. He declined to meddle any further with the phantom which he is persuaded is a ghost. On the colonel falling insensible, the others of the crowd fired upon the figure, which vanished in the smoke with a loud laugh of derision, and was seen no more that night.
Judge Blackmore accepted a wager
These stories are confirmed by the experience of Judge Blackmore, of this neighborhood, who is a noted skeptic on spiritualism and who accepted a wager that was made that he could not face the phantom of the creek road without fear. The judge, who is perfectly fearless, armed himself well and took up his station even a few nights ago to watch for the spectre, which he defied to frighten him. He soon found that his horse was very restive, and kept starting at every sound, so as to compel him to keep a tight rein on the animal. Had it not been for this the horse, he would most certainly have thrown him by the sudden start gave when the judge saw almost under his forefeet a man looking up at him. The man’s face was swollen fearfully by the rope it had about its neck and was grinning up into the judge’s with a hideous sort of mirth. The judge, started in spite of himself, reined his frightened horse back and struck at the figure with his riding whip, but his arm fell to his side well-nigh paralyzed by the stroke.
The figure then walked alongside of the judge’s horse, continuing to grin and snicker to itself as if mightily amused at the judge’s attempt to solve the mystery of its being. At length the judge made another cut at the phantom, which he refused to believe to be such, when the spectre threw its long arms about the gentleman, dragging him from his horse, which broke away down the road whinnying terror. The judge fell to the earth with the ghost, which clasped its fingers around his throat in an endeavor to choke him, but the judge, being a very powerful man, grappled with the fiend or whatever the thing may be called, kept its talons from his throat and finally threw it off.
Judge Blackmore paid the wager
It returned to the charge, however, and laid hold of him once more, but stumbling over the coffin that it dragged after it, fell to the ground, when the judge, who had had enough of the affray, ran down the road in the direction of the town. Pursued by the phantom, he ran all the faster until he came to the first house, against of the door of which he fell panting and half fainted. The inmates opened the door and received him into the house, though the spectre said to have hung about all night peer into the windows and knocking loudly at the doors. It vanished at daylight, however, and has not been seen since. The judge will not talk about his adventure though he has paid his wager and no longer holds in open derision the belief of the country people in their ghost.
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