I have been putting off writing this in hopes of finding out more about the historical aspect of this legend, but it seems that any family records or other has been lost to time. Thus, I have gotten my own notes together, and have agreed with my muse to put pen to paper, and then to Urban Legends of Barren, what I have come to discover and accept over the many years I have known about this place.
Depending upon who you’re talking to, it’s variously spoken of as Martha Devine Hole, or Martha’s Divine Hole. I’ve even heard it called Martha’s Vines Ford. Many a local person can remember in their youth swimming at the Divine Hole, or professing Christ at the altar at the White’s Chapel Church, and then being driven down the hill to the old ford, and being translated by the waters of Martha’s Divine Hole in baptism, where several folks got right in with you!
Martha’s Divine Hole is a unique spot in the local area. The history of this place and it’s legend is well-known, and has become embellished over the years, which only adds interest to the place. The most well-told tale came to me many a year ago from the old ones of the area, and it goes as such –
It was said that Martha was a young girl, sometime in the late 1800s. Some tales have it her last name was Devine, some say Chism, but most of them have no inkling if her name was Devine, or if she even had a last name. While riding in a wagon, she fell off into the creek. The spot she fell in was quite deep with a dense growth of vines. Martha supposedly got tangled in the vines and drowned at her young age here. The place is located at the end of White’s Chapel Road, off Hwy 90 East, before you get to Poplar Springs Road. When you pass the White’s Chapel Church, the road slopes downhill to the creek.
Another tale goes that something broke on the wagon as it was coming down the hill, and it was out of control by the time it reached the creek. In this version, Martha fell out of the wagon and was either running to catch up or she was run over by the careening vehicle. I’ve heard a few tales of people coming down that hill really late at night and seeing something running down the road in front of them that looks like a young girl, but there isn’t anything there. One guy even ran his truck off the road in a pretty serious accident that he was lucky to walk away from.
The spot has always been very popular for picnicking, swimming, and young people searching for haunted places to get a quick thrill, or a not so funny scare. Many a person has come back from a trip to Martha’s Divine Hole with an experience that they will never forget. Many others have continued to go back to the place for the peacefulness it sometimes invokes.
The bridge at Falling Timber Creek on White’s Chapel Road rarely disappoints the thrill seekers. Up until a few years ago, all this bridge amounted to was a low-water ford, one that would easily become impassable after a heavy rain, when flash floods are unpredictable in most of the area. The bridge crossing is not actually where Martha drowned, because the original road and ford were about a quarter mile downstream.
The legend goes if you stop your car on the bridge, turn off the car and headlights, someone in the car must call for “Martha” to show herself. There are numerous claims of a number of different experiences at this place. The most common event that has taken place here is the sighting of small white lights. These lights have been seen shooting back and forth on top of the water on either side of the bridge. Methane bubbles up between the rocks on both sides of the creek there, and I’ve seen streaks of it in the water. I’ve witnessed firsthand that it will ignite in a blue flame that flashes up and dies very quickly. Anyone not familiar with this phenomena, it is very common along several streams in the area known as the Barrens. Most people would be startled to see sudden flashes of light when nothing is there!
Something else I have experienced firsthand is the appearance of thick fog in a short amount of time, even on balmy summer nights. The fog has been said to come from underneath the bridge (an almost impossible feat as all the bridge consisted of was a couple of culvert pipes covered with paving), and rises up on both sides of the vehicle the visitors are in. It has also been noted that the water in the stream will pick up its pace or slow down in an instant.
One of the most startling experiences talked about, and I can also assure you that I have witnessed personally, is the appearance of small hand prints, which usually occur on the car windows or on the rear of the car no matter which direction on the bridge you are facing, or even if you’re parked at the Divine Hole itself. The fact that the vehicles I’ve seen the prints on are owned by people that have no children in their lives can be an unnerving experience, to say the least.
There are only 4 places in this area that I have heard of this particular phenomena, and I’ve seen the proof at 3 of them – Martha’s Divine Hole, the area around the crossing where the Swinging Bridge was near Buffalo Ford, the old Richardsville Bridge just outside Bowling Green, and the bridge off of Hwy 231 near Halfway in Allen County. I’ve been to the Allen County site, but we only drove through, and didn’t actually follow the “stop and see what happens” ritual.
I am unable to explain these recurring events, and each of the phenomena are not experienced together whenever you go there. I am not a believer, per se, in ghosts, but I do have opinions on supernatural phenomenon, and I’m a “gotta see it to believe it” kind of person. I’ve seen enough in my lifetime to believe there are things under heaven that have no logical explanation.
These things have never been known to me to have hurt anyone at this particular place, but such experiences can sure make you hurt yourself if you are fainthearted. One should never embark on such an excursion if you don’t truly have the fortitude to see it through. Life is not like a Ghost Adventures television show….
On a parting note, if you are truly brave, get out of the car with a flashlight, lean over the side of the bridge (either side from what I’ve heard), and shine the flashlight down into the water. I’ve been told that a few claim to have seen the face of a girl just under the water, staring back at you – Just sayin’!
The popularity of this spot has been curtailed since a true bridge and guard rails have been installed, but I’m sure you won’t find a trip to the bridge a waste of gasoline, if you really are of a mind to have an “otherworldly” encounter on some late night down a dark country road in rural Barren County!
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