I am about to embark on a series of short tales, mainly obituary type articles that ran in the newspaper at the time of the occurrence, and I will try to add dates as I am able. The series will be about several young people who left this world too soon – one is a suicide, one is a murder, the others were taken in freak accidents.
The very first story is an account from the famous author Arthur Krock, who was raised in his grandfather’s house on East Main Street that most every one of my generation remembers as the Barren County Board of Education, previous to their current location in the old Post Office on West Washington Street.
In the story, Krock talks about his aunt, who was injured at a young age, and gives an abbreviated version of her struggles and her family’s, as they tried to deal with the tragedy of her life. The reason of my coverage of her story, and the others, I will make as clear as I can here. The area of East Main Street where Krock grew up was known for many untold years to be visited on dark, lonely nights by a young woman, dressed all in black. Sometimes her face is covered in a veil, sometimes she has a large bouquet of flowers, sometimes a covered basket – and sometimes she has no head!
I have not heard of any sightings of her in the last 20 or so years, but when I was younger I was treated to several tales. She supposedly came from the area of the old Seminary school that sits back on May Street. She would wander along the lane beside the Nazarene Church, and then meander across East Main Street and up the slope toward the old house in which Krock grew up in. Sometimes she’d go back the other way. Stories have been told of both houses being haunted. In fact, that whole neighborhood, stretching from May Street to Carnation Drive, and from East Main Street to Southfork Creek and the confluence of the Big Spring at the end of East College Street, has been known to carry a pervasiveness of the eerie.
In the years following the Civil War, the area was known as Bowen’s Tobacco Patch. and was nothing but open field and a steep embankment down to Southfork Creek where Carnation Drive is today. The old Seminary house was the only dwelling on that side of the road on that section until the Bowen’s sold out. Several bad things have happened in that neighborhood in times past, but there were many good times as well.
The other area of interest I wish to cover lies in the general vicinity between Lick Branch Road and Hwy 90 East, or better known locally as the Burkesville Road.The area is enclosed from Bethel Church to Vernon School Road on the south at 90E, and between the Hollow Road intersection to the vicinity of where Vernon School Road comes out onto Lick Branch Road. This stretch of Lick Branch Road in the early 1900s was known as the Haunted Woods. Now most of the area has been filled with houses, but back when I was still a child, the residents of the area still called it the Haunted Woods.
From Bluff Spring Road and out toward Kino on the Lick Branch Road is famed for another lady ghost, who some say is headless, other’s admit she’s a hitchhiker, and the older generations connected her to the place known then as the Scott farm. She would jump on the back of your wagon, or your horse, and ride as far as the Scott farm. I’ve even had a few tales that started on the other side of the woods, through the woods to the Scott farm. I’ve not heard any tales of her getting into a car or motorized vehicle, though people have claimed to see her standing by the road, usually at the entrance to the old Scott place, which as far as I know has been abandoned for living on. It is only used for farming purposes now.
I’ve been told a man was hung in that section of woods, and some claimed you could look into the woods from Bluff Spring Road, and see him hanging from the tree on some dark nights, and sometimes even in the day if you knew right where to look. The upcoming features will be on a section of the woods near the old community of Elbow Springs. Here the Baileys had a store, there was a blacksmith shop at one time, at least three roads met there, and there are at least three graveyards in the vicinity – the Bowles-Nichols Cemetery, Groce Cemetery, and the Bunch-Slayton graveyard where Revolutionary War soldier Callum Bailey is buried.
Many tragedies occurred in this area, the most well-known being the murder of Radford Bailey, of which I wrote in an earlier article entitled The Brothers Adwell and The Bailey Murder – 17 November 1855. The area is not agreeable for any sort of farming, because it is mostly shrub growth, woods, and rocky outcroppings. On a visit to the Groce Cemetery, the closest to Elbow Springs, and the most likely to be the area closest to the tragedies as well, one is not stricken with a sense of peace as much as a sense of finality. The infant mortality rate was quite high in this family, as is evidenced by the graves.
On an end note to this installment, where the Haunted Woods are, my father’s parents and the John Mauk family lived for many years on the Bluff Spring Road side, not too far from the place where the man was supposedly hung. I have stillborn twin uncles buried there in the yard.
On the other side of the woods, in a house long gone, my mother’s mother was born. My great-grandfather lived in a house behind that one for many, many years, and it may even have been where he died. My grandmother’s family moved to town at one point when she was very small, but came back to the country life. They were there in March of 1918 when alarming occurrences began appearing in the night skies. The whole neighborhood began to fret that the world was coming to an end, and my grandmother often talked about some of their silliness with a chuckle. Several months later the same neighborhood was ravaged by the 1918 Flu Epidemic, when my grandmother lost a brother one evening, and her mother the next morning.
I myself have never seen the two ladies, and I can’t say that I’ve seen the hanging man in those woods. Someday soon I plan to get out there on my father’s parent’s old place and see if I can locate the infant uncles. All of these years, and I’ve never set foot on the actual site. All the ones that could point me to the exact place are gone now, but I’m hoping some sort of signpost has been left.
Time goes on, but yet stands still. If I see the old lady, I’ll tell her you said hi!
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