Ghostly Excursions for Halloween

Guest blogger Sara Marie Hogg is an Ozarks Mountain woman.  Her first volume of poetry, Dark Shadings, Spattered Light, was published in 1990.  Her published works include Blade Chatter, which received second place for both illustration and short fiction in the Global eBook Awards of 2011.  She is currently working on The Scavenger’s Song, a crime thrillerWith thoughts of Halloween, she provides some possible ghostly excursions into the Ozarks. The ghosts are there year round.

As a rule, hill people are skeptical of things that they did not witness or observe.  They usually believe it if their grandfathers or great-grandfathers reported it. They are reluctant to tell outsiders of strange happenings for fear of ridicule, but in these ancient Ozarks Mountains there have always been foxfire, water-witchers, eerie lights, noises and tales of ghost riders on country lanes.

The Joplin Spooklight

In the early 1950s, there were reports of a “walnut storm” in a small settlement. In fact, walnuts  rained from the heavens on more than one occasion. A chicken with its head cut off had continued to run and flap its wings for several days before it dropped, finally, and gave up the ghost, provided a chicken has a ghost. The most amazing event was a rain barrel that kept filling itself.  It was examined by scientists and re-located, but it continued to overflow.

I always had a tendency to believe some of these old Ozarks tales – or maybe I just liked the eerie feeling they gave me, especially if told properly by an elder.  When the leaves are turning, there is a nippy bite in the air and you can almost smell that cider steam rolling off of big cauldron-like kettles, well, hat is also the best time to pick up the scent of ghostly ectoplasm.

If you would like to have an inexpensive and memorable change of pace, may I entice you to take your own ectoplasmic excursion into some of the dark recesses, foggy bottoms and nooks and crannies of the Ozarks?  There are too many spirit magnets in the area to list, but I will tell you about a few of the most enduring – ones I have heard about since I was as small as a wart on a toad.

The haunted Crescent Hotel

The Hornet Spook Light has also been known as the Joplin Spook Light, and has been around for possibly two centuries, or longer. The light is located on the Missouri-Oklahoma border in an area known as The Devil’s Promenade and can be found on a four-mile stretch known as Spooklight Road. You can find plenty of good Hornet Spook Light videos on You Tube.

The Landers Theatre at 311 E. Walnut Street in downtown Springfield, Missouri, was built in 1909, and it is Spooked!  Please note that I used a capital “S.” The ghost of a bygone janitor is seen frequently, as well as the apparition of a baby falling from a balcony, accompanied by the pitiful wails of the mother. There are many unknown spirits moaning and groaning in the theater.  The oddest thing of all is that the ghosts have not only been viewed by the audience, their wispy personifications have also been witnessed by the actors performing on-stage.

People on the streets below have reported seeing ghosts seen in the windows of the building, even during those times when the theater was standing vacant. The Landers has a colorful history.  It has been used as a movie theatre and a legitimate stage theatre. It was the thirty-fifth theatre in the world to acquire “talkies” and was named to the National Register of Historical Places in 1977.

Near Forsyth, Missouri, lies the grave of Alf Bolin – the grave of his headless body, that is. The head was removed and carried on a pole to

Ozark for public display.

The Old Springfield-Harrison Road

                    It was exhumed by moon by sun,

                    By steel-toed boots, by horses hooves

                    And outlaws on the run

                    In these old Ozarks Hills,

                    There’s one thing we know for sure

                    The more things change,

                    They stay the same, seems so, anyway

                    And this applies to clubs and knives and guns,

                    The men that hunt them down

                    And make them pay

                         –from Incident Near White River by SMH

Alf was a bad man who pounced out from behind Murder Rocks

and bushwhacked unsuspecting travelers. He did not start out bad, hear tell, but he ended up that way, and maybe as many as nineteen people fell victim

to his ruthless ways. Alf supposedly amassed a treasure from his talents as a highwayman, and the fortune has never been found.  When he was finally stopped in 1863 by the fatal blows from a piece of a plow, his head removed and turned in for the reward. His his body was supposedly buried “just up Swan Creek road and south of the Taneyville-Dickens Road, just beyond the forks.”

Does Alf Bolin haunt these parts?  Yes, I believe I have actually seen his ghost several times. The headless spirit of Alf Bolin can be seen hovering down by Swan Creek, and the sight of his ghost has given me shivers on lonely moonlight rides home ater working the late shift at the nursing home.

If you wish to scare up some related spirits, you might take Highway 76 from Forsyth to Kirbyville, and then drive down to Murder Rocks, themselves. More than one observer has claimed visits by spirits of Alf’s poor victims along the highway  Murder Rocks is located off of 76 south on JJ.  You will have to beat around in the bushes until you spot the giant Murder Rocks, and be careful of private property infringement. Oh, by the way, there are also copperheads and rattlesnakes to deal with.

If you drive a little farther south, down into Arkansas, you don’t want to pass up a stay at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. It is known as America’s Most Haunted Hotel. The staff hosts nightly Ghost Tours and have planned a Houdini Séance for Halloween night.

The ancient Crescent (built in 1886) was once famous for mineral baths, and it currently boasts the New Moon Spa if you feel the need to be rejuvenated and pampered after having the wits scared out of you.

There is another haunted hotel in Eureka Springs, the Basin Park Hotel, and you can check into the Paranormal Pair package which includes tickets to Eureka Ghost Tours.

This is just the tip of the “spirit-world ice berg” of the Ozarks, but it will get you started.  You may wish to take a tape recorder, a thermometer for determining cold spots, as well as possible portals, and a camera that will accommodate a very slow shutter speed.

According to Ozarks superstition, it is very hard to sneak up on a ghost, much less “ketch one.”  Two frustrated old ghost-hunting hillbillies were once heard in a cemetery chanting, “Up, dust! Git up, dust!”  It is, however, much more entertaining if the spirits or ectoplasm just come of their own accord.









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