Hopkins County Folk Lore
The Ghosts of Lick Creek ChurchBy Contributing Editor, Carolyn Buntin Eveland
October is a transition month for those of us in the central southern region of the US. The weather pendulum swings from cold to warm, cool to hot as the month marches on to winter. However, October is most known for the special day of Halloween.
As that day of special fun creeps closer upon us, tales of ghosts, goblins and witches occupy the thoughts of our children. Most of all however, they are dreaming of all the candy the practice of "Trick or Treating" will bring to them. To a few of us older ones, it's a good time to warm your feet by the fire, sip a cup of hot cocoa and tell the spookiest of ghost tales... On the other hand, remember when we ourselves became the ghosts.
Travel back with me to the late 1950's to the site of Lick Creek Church and Cemetery. The road is named, what else, Lick Creek Road, located off hwy. 109 between Dawson Springs and Beulah. This was an empty little stretch of uphill road with nothing but the church and graveyard standing there. Surrounded by thick woods on both sides of the road, the little one room white church stood all alone surrounded by old, fading tombstones.
The church services had long been abandoned when I was growing up but still opened its doors once a year for homecoming and graveyard "cleanin' off." The deserted church still housed the old pulpit, wooden benches, and an ancient upright piano. The doors were never locked as people just kept breaking in anyhow. The place held a reputation for being haunted for as long as anyone remembers.
Boys and young men of this era were much afflicted with an ego disease called "Who's The Chicken"! Males were taught to be anything other than fearless, was a sign of being a sissy. Any form of cowardice was considered a life-altering stigma. A dare would be taken on almost anything and common sense was hastily disregarded. No one wanted to be labeled a chicken! It was a "guy thing" no doubt.
This tale begins at the home of my parents located about two miles from the church. Young people of the neighborhood were gathered in the front yard forming plans for a Halloween party. Naturally, the subject of haunted sites came up with Lick Creek Church being named in particular.
We had grown up with the old tales, which on this night were becoming more exaggerated than ever. Finally, a dare came from the roughest boy in our neck of the woods, Alexander. We used to kid among ourselves that his given name was the reason he was so hell bent on proving himself a bully. He insisted that we call him Al, but out of defiance, we never would. "Why don't we just mosey on down to Lick Creek, walk around in the graveyard and church for a real good look-see. Whoever ain't with me is a chicken"! He bragged that only a real man "would know" these ghosts' stories were nothing but old wives tales. It was stupid to give these stories any credit what so ever.
Now this pushy character had the name of being a mean bully. The other fellows mostly followed him meekly; the main reason being their reputations as brave and daring young men were at stake. We girls had been told in no uncertain terms that we couldn't accompany them to the church, this was not the place for a bunch of terrified, clinging women, as Worm informed us. At the words "clinging women", several male eyebrows shot upward. Junior then made a half-stab at convincing the others to let us come along. Alexander soon shouted him down and the others didn't dare contradict him. So off they went, in an old beat up Hudson that he had traded a shotgun for.
The broken muffler roared, gravel flew, as squealing tires drowned their mighty rebel yells. The ringleader, Alexander, was 20 years old and considered himself an authority on anything you could name, no matter what. He was seldom invited along to the neighborhood doin's, but always showed up anyway. He was thought to be a bore by all the young ladies and a braggart by all his male peers. However, the fact of the matter was no one had the courage to tell him what they thought. Not if they valued body and limb that is.
Ronald, the sometimes preacher/sometimes backslider always wore a white button up shirt. I suppose, just in case the urge hit him to preach, he would be properly attired. He had the longest arms, which didn't fit his short legs and torso at all. He was a comical sight with his long arms hanging almost to his knees. His older brother, called Worm by his mother and thus by all of us, sat in the back seat. As long armed and willowy as Ronald was, Worm was short, squat, and low to the ground. Both boys looked oddly oriental, which they vehemently denied. We affectionately dubbed them Ching and Chang when out of earshot. The fourth one, Junior, was the love interest of all the young women. Besides his good looks and curly hair, he was most charming with a shy demeanor accompanied by excellent manners. He was much the envy of the other local males who never stood a chance with any girl if Junior was around. He was most adored by his female fan club and we all vied for his attention, without admitting it to each other of course.
Being told that we couldn't come along just fueled our determination to do it anyway. With more than a touch of defiance, we girls jumped into my mother's car and off we sped after them.
There was Pearl, big boned and fun loving; she was more of a dare taker than any of the males in our group. She could fist fight like a man, her many brothers giving testimony to that fact. She rode her gray stallion with a fury, bare backed. The horse stood 17 hands high, and no one could ride him but Pearl. Never the less, she was a pretty girl and much sought after by all the young studs but she was in love with Junior.
Also along that evening was Mary Alice, the most bashful of all the girls in our crowd. She had an upturned nose, big brown eyes and seemed to be the most feminine of us all. She was usually just along for the ride, without actually participating in some of our schemes. She was in love with Junior too.
Then there was me. Outgoing was a mild word to describe the young me. Quite athletic in those days, I was always ready for a laugh, a trick, or a contest. This contrasted heavily to my serious side, which wrote poetry and short stories. I too, was in love with Junior.
We soon spotted their taillights as we hit the Six-Vein Stretch. They were just turning onto Lick Creek Road. Fuming from yet another episode where we were told what we could and couldn't do by these same people, a plan began forming. We pulled over to plot our scheme of action. Tonight we were going to be the ghosts and spooks of Lick Creek Church.
Driving without headlights, I turned the car onto the edge of road about ¼ mile from the church. Searching the trunk, we found our weapons of destruction in the form of a lug wrench, a couple of paper sacks, and a small whiskbroom. We didn't know what we were going to do with these items, but soon our imaginations kicked in and the fight was on.
Sneaking to the other side of the road but in front of the church, we hunkered down, barely sustaining our giggles. Just a minute or so later we spied them working their way down the hillside cemetery, heading for the church. Pearl quietly filled her hand with tiny gravel pebbles. Standing behind a tree, she let fly with the stones, placing them several yards behind the ambling boys. They each stopped, looking apprehensively over their shoulders in the direction of the sound. "Just a night animal", Alexander announced, and they took a few more steps. It was my turn. I threw another handful of gravel right behind them this time. No runaway horses could have made it any faster to the church than those four, fearless ghost hunters! We could see them perfectly in the moonlit night. Hiding just a few feet across the one lane gravel road, we could hear everything they said as well, as each proclaimed they had only ran because the others did.
"Goin' in this here church is a piece of cake" each agreed, though in rather falsetto voices. "There ain't nothing to it" we heard one nervously boast. At this point, we were almost discovered since Ronald came across the road to turn on the car headlights. Alexander had parked his car with the headlights pointed towards the front of the church. Ronald reached inside and flicked them on while we were lying on our stomachs not two feet away. Fortunately we were not discovered since it seemed like old Ron was in a big hurry to return to his human companions as fast as possible. Stubby legs flew across the road with long, gangly arms flapping around him.
Headlamps now illuminated the front door of the church. Each person cautiously craned his head forward, peering into the semi-darkness before stepping gingerly inside. Soon all four were through the door. Impatiently waiting, we girls soon heard the loud talk of Alexander followed by hearty guffaws of the other three. We were safe to whisper now and further our plans. Then in perfect sync, without a word, we crept silently to the church.
Standing outside in the darkness a few feet from a rear window, we could see inside the church but they couldn't see us. Worm was holding up an old hymnbook in the beam of the headlight, Junior was sitting on a bench, chin in hands, elbows on knees, and Alexander was examining something held in his hands. Ronald stepped to the pulpit and began mock preaching. They all laughed. The timing was perfect.
Ducking below the window, I blew up one of the little brown sacks we had confiscated from the car trunk and popped one loudly. No sound came from the church. Then suddenly footsteps thundered towards the door. Pearl and Mary Alice slammed the church doors shut, inserting the shaft of the whiskbroom through the handles. We were amazed at how well this last minute plan had come together for we had only thought of it while standing outside the window a few moments before. Ingenuity is a great thing indeed.
With all the banging and jerking on the doors by the frenzied four, it took them several seconds to hear the ghoulish scrapings coming from the sides of the church. Pearl was on one side with the lug wrench, I was on the other with a broken limb. I don't know where Mary Alice was at the time, probably seated serenely with her back to a crumbling tombstone. We ran, crouched from the front of the church to the back, dragging our tools in zigzag patterns along the outside walls. There was much yelling now and the door was about to give away. Time to do something drastic! Taking off my sock and inserting a stone into it, Pearl and I set it afire with a match we had found in the trunk. In just a second, a good little blaze was going. I flung the sock hard through the broken rear window. They weren't yelling now, it had become out and out screaming!
Retreating immediately, we hid, belly down behind a tombstone. We didn't stop to realize that we were lying prone upon someone's final resting place. Recalling it later, we hoped that whoever we were imposing upon was having as much fun as we were.
The first to dive through a window was the fearless leader, Alexander. He didn't try to open the door for his howling companions, instead ran in giant, bounding strides to his car. Junior came tumbling through next with Worm almost falling out on top of him. Last came Ronald, his short legs churning high in near rotation. He seemed amazingly coordinated though, even with his arms thrown skyward as he ran. He was repeating something over and over. We think it was the Lord's Prayer.
The Hudson zoomed up the hill barely giving the passengers time to shut the heavy doors. We laughed aloud on our little jog back to Mom's car, our legs weak from the excitement of it all. What luck it was for us that in their flight for safety, the males and their wounded egos had taken the farthest way back to the highway. We had plenty of time to zip along home without being discovered.
Arriving about five minutes before them, we were sitting, cool as cucumbers, upon the lighted front porch indulging in seemingly casual talk. The Lick Creek Ghost Busters emerged from the car, curiously silent.
In the porch light, we could see the pale color of their usually robust complexions. With pious curiosity, we implored them to tell us if they had carried out their dare. Their drooping little shoulders pumped up just a bit, as Alexander mumbled, "Nothing out the ordinary". Junior, leaning on the front of the hood, was reluctant to join us. After much coaxing, he came to sit on the porch steps with his back to us all. Eventually, we noticed a very large, wet area on the front of Junior's pants. Our hero, our heartthrob, our gentleman had peed his pants!
The men didn't tarry long that night. Each claimed tiredness or some hugely important task had to be done before bedtime. We were only "lowly women" but that night we had put the fear of God into those men.
The next night, we revealed our little secret to the fabulous four. They refused to believe it. They thought helpless women couldn't have pulled a trick like that on men and gotten away with it. When we described the details of that night, purposely reminding them of the frightened screams they had emitted while locked in the church, they denied it! However, there were three county girls with fantastic throwing arms, and a plan of genius, that knew better.
For one night, we saw the male ego shattered, excessively so, and in a big way. We still recall their high-pitched screams, the frantic attempts at escape, and peeing of the pants. It was a most rewarding fun filled night and we gloried in our victory, then and now.
Oh by the way, Junior was voted out as our dreamboat. We just couldn't take the chance that he might become frightened while out on a date with him.
Copyright © 2000 by Carolyn Buntin Eveland
The graphic being used for the Folk Lore pages is Lick Creek Road taken in winter of '99. The cemetery is just around the bend at the top of the graphic. It sits on both sides of the narrow gravel road. The sign is on the south side [right] and just east of where the church stood. There has been a lot of problems in the past few years with flooding in the area west of here with the water washing out our drive. The county came in last fall  and cut the ditches deeper on both sides of the road. This did several things. . . it made the road narrower, and it made it impossible to park in the parking area that Carolyn mentioned [seen in photo above] except with a pickup... I definately don't want to attempt it in my car for fear of tearing off the bumper.
If you want to see photos of the flooding last January 3, you'll find several photos here.
Nancy Trice, © 2000