Spooks Of The Hiawassee

The hills about the head of the Hiawassee are filled with harnts, among

them many animal ghosts, that ravage about the country from sheer

viciousness. The people of the region, illiterate and superstitious, have

unquestioning faith in them. They tell you about the headless bull and

black dog of the valley of the Chatata, the white stag of the

Sequahatchie, and the bleeding horse of the Great Smoky Mountains--the

last three being portents of illness, death, or misfortune to those who

see them.

Other ghosts are those of men. Near the upper Hiawassee is a cave where a

pile of human skulls was found by a man who had put up his cabin near the

entrance. For some reason, which he says he never understood, this farmer

gathered up the old, bleached bones and dumped them into his shed. Quite

possibly he did not dare to confess that he wanted them for fertilizers

or to burn them for his poultry.

Night fell dark and still, with a waning moon rising over the

mountains--as calm a night as ever one slept through. Along toward the

middle of it a sound like the coming of a cyclone brought the farmer out

of his bed. He ran to the window to see if the house were to be uprooted,

but the forest was still, with a strange, oppressive stillness--not a

twig moving, not a cloud veiling the stars, not an insect chirping.

Filled with a vague fear, he tried to waken his wife, but she was like

one in a state of catalepsy.

Again the sound was heard, and now he saw, without, a shadowy band

circling about his house like leaves whirled on the wind. It seemed to be

made of human shapes, with tossing arms--this circling band--and the

sound was that of many voices, each faint and hollow, by itself, but loud

in aggregate. He who was watching realized then that the wraiths of the

dead whose skulls he had purloined from their place of sepulture were out

in lament and protest. He went on his knees at once and prayed with vigor

until morning. As soon as it was light enough to see his way he replaced

the skulls, and was not troubled by the haunts again. All the gold in

America, said he, would not tempt him to remove any more bones from the

cave-tombs of the unknown dead.

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