Hopkins County Folk Lore
Hopkins County HauntingsBy Contributing Editor, Carolyn Buntin Eveland
This is the last story in the Halloween series for this year. I hope you have all enjoyed hearing about the spooks and haunting tales of Hopkins County. I will close this series with two more stories on this subject. In the meantime, enjoy the season and the fun that it brings.
The Shy Flat Cemetery Hauntings
An old church stands outside Dawson Springs on Highway 109 South. It sits back from the road surrounded by trees and a cemetery. It's not hard to find as it is located just past the Outwood Facilities on your right if coming from Dawson.
The church and grounds has a long rumored history of being haunted. Repeated tales of apparitions and manifestations have surfaced down through the decades and people still swear to this day that they have encountered ghostly spirits in this lonely place.
In the 1950's, the hauntings increased to such a large scale that it was no longer possible to pass them off as superstitious mumbo jumbo. Blinking lights had been spotted in the woods behind the cemetery and they were not stationary lights either. These mysterious blue and sometimes orange lights would first blink in one section of the woods then at random sites all around the gravestones and church. High-pitched screams pierced the night echoing throughout the grounds while morbid moanings manifested all over the cemetery. Some folks had even seen white ghostly spirits floating effortlessly yards from the ground only to zip away in an instant. No amount of investigation by brave souls into the hauntings revealed any trickery or fraud involved. There were simply no human factors to be found.
Soon the word began to spread. The surrounding populated areas soon responded to the rumors. With the eternal human fascination for the macabre, tons of people visited the cemetery every night for weeks.
One evening near Halloween, our family, along with many of our neighbors and friends, attended the hauntings at Shy Flat Church. It was an event and as such our families made the most out of the occasion. "Sody Pop" was packed on ice chipped from the block of ice in our refrigerators. Snacks of popcorn, peanut butter sandwiches and all manner of finger foods were brought along for the night.
When we arrived at the church, it was just becoming dusk. Several vehicles were already there but as darkness descended, the little parking area overflowed with cars and trucks. They maneuvered those automobiles between headstones, at the back of the church, and packed the little lane that led to the church from the highway. The beds of pickup trucks were jammed with youngsters and teens, men sat on hoods and fenders and even a few people, not wanting to give up their creature comforts, placed their cushioned lawn chairs amongst the graves. I expect if anything were going to arouse the anger of the dead people buried there, it would have been old Aunt Emma. She weighed three hundred pounds if she was an ounce and appeared to be stuffed into her wooden yard chair, hips, and thighs hanging over the seat. One hand held an RC Cola atop her ponderous belly as she munched from a bag of orange candy slices perched carefully atop a tombstone. There was simply no room in her lap for them; she didn't have a lap. We heard murmurings from different sources that "Aunt Emma simply had no respect for the dead" as her wooden throne was "spraddlin'" a grave. (that's "straddling" for you city slickers out there)
There were so many automobiles present it was exactly like attending a drive in movie, except there were no lights of any kind to illuminate the black of night. People strolled back and forth between cars visiting with friends and relatives. Men chortled in beefy tones that they were only there to appease the wife and kids while women used their children's curiosity as an excuse. None of the adults admitted that they had come to Shy Flat for a thrill of excitement. Only the children admitted that they wanted to see "a real spook".
My friends and I were irritated, frustrated and just plain ticked off at those persons who just wouldn't shut up and allowed children to run around the headstones, whooping like a wild pack of dogs. How in the world could any spirits make themselves known with such hubbub going on! We were deadly serious about this haunting business and we were there on a mission. Besides, we smugly congratulated ourselves; we had the inside scoop on what was going to happen tonight. Our Ouiji Board had told us!
People had been waiting an hour in the darkness and nothing was happening. They had done all the visiting they could do. The snacks had all been devoured and the grownups were getting bored. The crowd became quieter giving the "haints" just a few more minutes to show up or they were leaving.
I guess threatening ghosts with "perform or else" worked. Momentarily someone yells, "Did ya'll hear that!" Instantly hands were clamped over children's mouths, partners were told to "shush" in mid sentence, Aunt Emma's hand froze in the candy bag. All became quiet.
There it was again. It was an ungodly sound if there ever was one. Beginning with a low, drawn out moan, the sound gradually ascends to a loud and trembling "ooohhhhhhh". Before it ended, a similar sound came from the right side of the cemetery. Kids climbed in Mamas laps, little girls hugged each other and hid their faces while young boys suddenly materialized close to Daddy. The grownups looked all around, craning stretched necks from right to left.
We could not believe our eyes as pinpoints of blue lights appeared in trees and throughout the cemetery. Muffled whispers could be heard from disbelieving witnesses, "There it is, over there!" There's one just over that tombstone by the church. See it!"
As suddenly as they would appear, they would disappear. A high pitched wailing filled the air and seemed to come from all directions! It was so frightening that my friends and I could hardly breathe. At this moment, a filmy cloud was seen to rise from the ground and hover in mid air. Holy Cow! I had seen all I wanted to see! To heck with the Ouiji Board, shouldn't we just get out of here, like NOW!
Car lights from several vehicles flashed upon the apparition. "Good Grief! You can see right through it!" Indeed, you could, that is we did see right through it as soon as we untangled our arms from around each other's necks. This floating ghost was so transparent that we could see the illuminated trees behind it. At this point several cars hurriedly backed out and sped away. How we wished that we could leave ourselves, however we were virtually trapped by the surrounding cars.
Several men and a few gangling boys ran immediately towards the ghost. There was at least one feminine call of "Charles, get yourself back here!" but it fell upon deaf ears. The spirit lowered itself slowly to the ground and disappeared from sight. When these men reached the obvious spot where the ghost had stood, there was nothing. They looked on the ground, in the trees, behind tombstones and around the church; finding only rotted sticks, fallen leaves, and discarded wreaths for their efforts. Those same men walked a little faster as they headed back to the crowd to report their findings.
The crowd was quiet now as more and more people began to leave the cemetery, some of them not so slowly. Not one soul was laughing or poking fun now. Even old Aunt Emma, who had never moved at anything less than a turtle's pace, had disengaged her massive hips from the chair with amazing speed, and with the agility of a spear throwing Amazon, catapulted it into the bed of the truck with a hefty one arm throw! I have always wondered if she left her orange candy slices resting upon the tombstone that night.
People talked of the event for weeks to come as more hauntings continued at the church. I slept with my little brother that night and I'm sure that many a Momma was awakened throughout the night by little charges having scary dreams.
It was a most hair-raising evening for all of us there. While more open-minded persons confessed to what they had seen, others laughed it off saying it was everybody else's imagination. Preachers announced from pulpits across the county that the graveyard was demon possessed. Reprimanded Christians bowed their heads in shame when faced with the truth. The truth being, according to certain Pastors, that by going to Shy Flat Church to view the hauntings, these Christians had been tricked by the Devil himself and put in his service. How? Well, by giving that low down demon the publicity he wanted, that's how.
In a few months, the rumor mill circulated the news that the Shy Flat manifestations had been proven a trick after all. Some say it was the work of soldiers from nearby Ft. Campbell Army Base. Other rumors had it that a group of boys from the senior class of Dawson Springs High School were the culprits. It was told that fishing line, curtain sheers and little flashlights had been used.
I, for one do not know. Nevertheless, I do know that I felt extreme fear and at the same time, excitement that one night at Shy Flat Church, and it has given me a story to repeat at many a campfire over the years.
To the humans who played the tricks, or the restless spirits that performed for us all that night, whomever or whatever you are, I do want to thank you for that unique experience, but I never want another one like it.
* * *
During the 1920's, a young family lived in Madisonville, the county seat of Hopkins County. Mandy Holloman was known as an exceptional mother and wife to her loved ones. To all that knew her, it was common knowledge that she lived for her family and made their home one of love and happiness.
Mandy was also an avid gardener. The yard at their home on West Broadway was filled with vibrant colors of every description from the flowers she had planted there. She had also planted a tiny oak tree in her back yard shortly before tragedy struck that sweet family. Mandy was found in her home, mysteriously shot to death.
Several decades had passed and few Madisonvillians hardly ever thought about Mandy Holloman anymore. Then something begin to happen to the plain oak tree that had continued to grown in the back yard of Mandy's house, the same tree that she had planted twenty years earlier.
It was an amazing sight. The tree came into full leaf and the foliage took on the exact shape of Mandy's profile. Townspeople found the resemblance astonishingly accurate and soon curiosity seekers began arriving in droves to view the "Mandy Tree".
The tree gained wide acclaim and was presented in "Ripley's Believe It or Not." The tree kept the shape of Mandy's profile for several years until it finally died.
There are still photographs of the Mandy Tree in existence today.
Who knows what caused this strange phenomenon? There are no answers for the logical minds out there. Some would say it was just a coincidence, a chance resemblance.
Perhaps Mandy just didn't want to be forgotten.
Copyright © 2000 by Carolyn Buntin Eveland
Nancy Trice, © 2000