I went for a nighttime stroll down an old familiar sidewalk a week or so after the hurricane. The damaged neighborhoods of Pear Street were lit more by the growing moon than the occasional proof of generator electricity. I wished that a lot of the well-known old timers— who have now gone on, who use to live down that way— were around to talk about what has happened to this place that I call home. I know that many of them loved the neighborhoods and the streets and the town as much as I do. So, I guess that the disfigured beauty out in the chilly darkness was colored with a little melancholy for me on that night. I could feel something that I believed to be the spirit of the town all around me, as I walked. I stopped for a moment and asked the town if it was going to be alright. And I was sad at the thought of certain trees that I will never see again, the always present buildings that will probably have to be torn down— and the people, and the good old days. I said a little prayer. I remembered to have some faith. Then I made my way back through the dark night, still using my flashlight to guide me, this time to the place where I had parked the car. I soon took the road toward home, with a sleepy head and a heart slowly becoming comforted; realizing that tomorrow is another day, carrying with it the hope that will hopefully grow from a clear blue sky. . .
Ulyssus P. Cuthbert had been a mean-spirited, bitter man for all of his 83 years, and didn’t have a friend in this world because of it, save one- old Willum Watson. Willum was a kind-hearted widower, and had met Uly years ago, and felt sorry for him.
Will was spending time with his ornery friend way out in the middle of nowhere, on a lonely, faraway night that was like something out of a bad dream. The dreadful rain was constant, the winds were howling, and the lightning was snapping like the devil’s whip. Any other night like this and old Willum would have stayed home, which was almost half a hour away. But Uly was sick with what seemed to be pneumonia, and needed some help and company in his pitiful and weakened state- even though he probably didn’t deserve it. Will noticed, from the very minute he arrived at the little one room shack early that morning, that maybe Ulyssus was actually worse off than he thought. (Uly had complained about his advancing condition for almost a week over the phone, until Willum finally resigned himself to keep an eye on him for a couple of days.)
Up and down. Up and down. Do this and do that. Come here and go there. In fact, Willum had waited on Uly hand and foot nearly the whole time on the day he arrived, until almost midnight. Willum finally tucked him in after a few warmed over peas and hamhock were eaten. Uly’s coughing was deep and harsh, and his breathing was labored. Afterward, Will wearily washed the few dirty dishes, and then eased over to a chair near the warm and flaming hearth. He rocked there, but told himself not to fall asleep, since he needed to listen out for Uly as he rested a while on his cot. Willum could see Uly lying there, from across the room where he sat by the fire.
Even so, the soothing warmth of the crackling flames, the hypnotic back and forth motion of his chair, and the rhythm of the unending rain pounding on the rooftop. . . and the rumbling thunder. . . and the whistling tempest. . . made Will drowsy and nod his tired head. CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! Will jerked awake just a few minutes later from a sudden crack of lightning! “Stay awake old boy,” he told himself. And he did for a minute or two, but tiredness quickly overtook his worn-out bones and his exhausted muscles- and he drifted away again. CRASH! Will was jerked awake once more by a violent clap from the storm outside. “Stay awake old boy, stay awake. Uly needs you to stay awake.” He could tell that Ulyssus was breathing with much uneasiness as he lay on his rustic bed. Will struggled to keep his eyes opened, but he just couldn’t do it. . . he just couldn’t do it. . . he just couldn’t do it. . .
CRASH! CRASH! Willum jerked awake again, but this time something was different. This time, the commotion wasn’t from out in the stormy darkness. Will heard a pot lid spinning on the wooden floor. And as he blinked a few times in that direction, he could soon see in the dreary shadows of the cupboard that a dark and brindled dog was there, anxiously sniffing along the bottom drawers. Willum couldn’t understand where it came from. His mean old friend couldn’t stand animals of any kind, and the nearest neighbor that might own a dog was maybe seven miles away. The fact that the door and the windows were locked up tight made the presence of a dog even more confusing.
Will waited to see if the dog appeared to be an angry animal- it was muscular and athletically built, and Willum somehow did not trust its disposition. Then, just as he made up his mind to get up from the rocker and see to it, the dog moved toward him out of the shadows; sniffing with its head held low, as if it was on some kind of mission. A particularly strong rumble of thunder was heard from outside. And at that same instant, Will eased back in the rocking chair; in shock and terror-stricken at what he saw, as the light from the simultaneously swelling fire flickered upon the advancing animal. The dog raised its head as it came near, and what old Will saw that put such a fright in him was that the unexpected beast had something else where a normal dog’s face should be. This animal had what looked like the contorted features of a horrific gargoyle, like ones he had seen perched on ancient churches when he was in the war. Willum held his breath and did not move as this unreal creature came right up to the chair where he sat- frozen.
The strange dog lowered its muzzle once more, and began to sniff around the motionless rockers of the dusty chair, and the motionless feet of old Will- but it surprisingly didn’t seem to notice Willum sitting there at all. Then the devil’s whip snapped a wickedly loud crack out in the dismal and violent storm. And at that, the dark dog perked up it’s ears, turned it’s head toward Uly’s cot, and rushed toward the sick and sleeping old timer, with a frenzied excitement.
Will watched with a panicked but silent disbelief, as the hellish animal made a low growling sound deep down in its throat and jumped up on the bed of old Uly. It briefly sniffed over the strangely unresponsive body of the sleeping man; starting at the feet, then quickly moving to the poor man’s torso and throat. Then, without hesitation, this fantastic and bizarre animal sat upon Uly’s chest, bent over toward the man’s face, reached down with his two front paws, and stretched Uly’s mouth wide open! Then the beast stuck its demonic snout down the mouth of old Uly Cuthbert! CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! The devil cracked his lightning whip with the violence of a thousand angry minions. And just then, the secured door to the outside ripped open from the force of a strange and powerful draft, and the dark dog bolted from the now molested body of Ulyssus P. Cuthbert, out into the raging darkness.
Willum Watson right then took his chance and urgently rose from the rocking chair to head for the door. He made it there in no time, and began to push shut the door against the force of the wind, when he saw out in the yard- in another flash of the devil’s lightning whip- that the demon dog was out in the deluge, aiming for a large stack of drenched firewood. Then he heard it. He hoped that the sound might just be the wind crying around the corners of the cabin, but it was not- it was a voice meandering in the wicked winds. Meanwhile, the demon dog splashed and slipped in the mud as it negotiated a turned, but kept its footing, and disappeared behind the wood pile. Then, there it was again! It was the voice of old Uly Cuthbert from behind the same wood pile, now rising above the noise of the storm. “Help, help, help! HELP! Oh God, oh God! He’s GOT me! He’s GOT me! He has G-O-O-O-O-O-T M-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E! Ah-Ahh-Ahhhhhhh! Oh GOD! OH MY GOD! Oh my G-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-D!!!!!!”
CRASH! Willum Watson jerked awake in the rocking chair from the sound of the thunder, and the throbbing, pulsing, flickering fire! He paused for a quiet second or two, in shock at what his sleeping mind had just conjured. He very soon came to his senses, thanked the Lord, and was relieved that he had only been dreaming; but quickly realized that the unnerving sleep which had overtaken him had lasted for much too long. So, as the storm continued to wale and rage outside, Will pushed himself up from the place where he sat and hurriedly made his way across the hard wooden floor- in the throes of guilt over his sleepiness- to the cot to see about old Uly. But he had somehow an uneasy feeling as he approached his repose’d friend. Then, as he stood there beside the cot, Will nudged Uly with a gentle hand. “Is everything okay Uly? Is everything okay?” But the unconscious man did not move, and he did not stir among the grim and dancing shadows. In an instant, the hearth fire swelled, as the devil cracked his lightning whip once more. And in that brief, violent flash of spasmodic brightness, Will could see that his once unloved, unreasonable, and friendless friend was no longer for this earth. Yes, Ulyssus P. Cuthbert was, sadly, dead and gone. But what sent a rush of unforgettable shock deep into the very being of Willum Watson, as he gazed at his unfortunate friend in the convulsing glare, was the startling evidence that not only had Uly died lying there on that dark and stormy night- but that he had died. . . with his mouth. . . wide. . . OPEN!!!!
Several distressing and disturbing reports have recently surfaced across our local community. Many citizens have witnessed strange occurrences, especially over the last couple of weeks. And the reports seem to be escalating. In addition to the sudden, extreme cooling off of the weather, the following incidents have been reported:
- Quite a few late-night listeners claim to have heard strange beeping patterns, feedback, unusual static, and muffled, far-off voices on the local WYBT radio station, on the AM dial.
- Homeowners within the city limits of Blountstown complain that their municipal tap supply now tastes like aquarium water.
- Local star gazers and evening pedestrians at Sam Atkins’s Park reported last Monday night to have seen a large, green and yellow comet-like object, right above the tree line, briefly streak across the sky, then suddenly vanish. An unusual green cast over the moon, as well as stars which appear to change locations each night, have also been reported at the west end of town on Highway 20.
- Several citizens have reported the number 674-5044 show up on their land line answering machines and cell phones very late at night.
- An anonymous teacher of mathematics at the Blountstown Middle School claims to hear what she termed as faint UFO music coming through the walls of her classroom. So far, none of the other faculty, staff, or members of the student body have heard these alleged sounds.
- The BHS Tiger football team has recently beaten teams that they have not beaten in many years; and the crowds have been unusually large, although many of the townsfolk do not recognize most of the fans.
- Mysterious lights have been sometimes seen to be floating across the windows from within both local funeral homes. But these reports have not yet been verified.
- There have supposedly been what some might call “shadow people”, seen by a few sources known to be reliable, outside after dark near the area of Calhoun/Liberty Hospital on Burns- hiding behind trees.
- McMillan’s Nursery has hired three new part-time employees, after three previously hired workers either spontaneously left or disappeared on the job each day for three consecutive days. An unexpected shipment of Giant Egyptian Fly Traps was recently delivered to their business, but up to this point no connection has been made.
- The entire city’s supply of gasoline seems to be making a vast majority of vehicles’ engines knock and sputter, but so far most are still able to make it home every night.
- City utility bills have all been rerouted to Pensacola this month- making them arrive in the mail up to three weeks later than usual.
- Eggs from several local food vendors have been found to have bloody spots to an abnormal degree. USDA has been notified.
- Strange, glowing orbs were seen of late in many local graveyards, by passing traffic. There have been several instances of newly cracked headstones and slabs, as well.
- At least five reports were made of tall, hairy creatures lurking near the former Pender Peanut property in northern Calhoun County. One homeowner also says that she saw something similar on the eastern end of Parrish Lake Road.
- Many have recently complained that dogs appear to be barking and howling more frequently than usual, and that late-night cat fights are being heard more often than what is known to be normal.
- All of the one hundred or so exterior security lights on the individual buildings at Blountstown High School have turned an odd shade of purple. This cannot be explained, or apparently changed, even though several new bulbs have been installed.
- Certain residents, and late afternoon boaters, along the Chipola River, claim to hear what sounds like distant, native American chanting, accompanied by the sounds of rattles and drums.
- What are being described by some as near-invisible, silvery “angels” have been said to be clinging to several steeples and church spires, half an hour before sundown for the last week- as if keeping watch.
A few experts, conspiracy theorists and regular citizens are warning that a peculiar and unwelcome force is beginning to converge upon the fair community of Blountstown proper, as well as outlying areas. But these claims have been widely discouraged and refuted.
I was at my cousin Chip’s house during the late, late afternoon hours of a summer day; before the sun had completely sunk away for the night (the gloaming is what the old folks use to call it), when something happened that disturbed both of us- Chip and me- on a mind-blowing, emotional level. Even after all the years that have since passed, it’s hard to think about, or even speak of- much less write about. I have never mentioned any of this to anyone, until now.
We were the only two people there; settling in for a Saturday night of Doritos, and Cokes, and a weird show or two (or three) on the tube. We were in the living room, watching an episode of Destination Truth. I think it was the episode about investigating a monster catfish in Ecuador or something. We were admittedly getting a little freaked-out by it, there in the room’s dimness. Chip was sitting at the far end of the couch, in the darkest corner of the living room. I was sitting at the other end of the couch, near the large opening to the kitchen- the kitchen being behind us, on the other side of the wall where the couch was.
The light in the kitchen was on, and it shed only a moderate amount of illumination, which filtered out through the wide archway between the two rooms. Otherwise (except for the flickering glow of the television in front of us), the house was totally dark.
So, about two-thirds into the show, a loud and violent SLAM was heard in the kitchen. I turned around to look, and everything seemed normal. I turned back to Chip and asked him what that was, but he just quietly shrugged his shoulders, although looking slightly surprised. Immediately, another SLAM was heard; then another, and another- SLAM. . . SLAM. . . slam, slam, SLAM! I turned my head toward the kitchen again, as we both remained seated on the couch. What I saw then sent overwhelmingly deep, profound chills down into my very core.
The door to a room off from the kitchen (what I had always assumed was the laundry room, but had never really known for sure- having never gone in there) was violently opening and closing at quick and loud, random intervals, with extreme and varying degrees of openness. I looked back to Chip and said, “It’s the laundry room door. What IS THAT?”
By now, he had his knees up to his chest; still at that gloomy spot on the far end of the couch, as the television continued to sporadically flicker and flash in the dark room where we sat. Yes, Chip was hugging himself like he had just lost his Mommy. And with eyebrows raised, his two peepers were bulging out of his head; and he was saying nothing. But the look on Chip’s face told exactly how we were both feeling, better than any words ever could. His reaction actually concerned me at that moment, because Chip is a real macho sort- former high school weight lifting champion, football expert, ladies man, friendly but often serious demeanor, etc. Meanwhile, the banging and slamming WOULD NOT STOP!
I rationalized to myself, “Surely this has to be the result of an air draft, or some other type of occurrence that is unique to this house, but having some sort of logical explanation.” Another part of me thought, “A heathen criminal had been hiding in that dark room all along; waiting for his chance to terrorize us, then who knows what- like something out of one of those gut-wrenching stalker movies!” But the biggest part of me feared that this incessant craziness was the workings of an evil, paranormal presence! Or the Devil Himself! Either way, my mind could not believe what I was seeing, as the door kept slamming over and over, menacingly and tauntingly- deafeningly loud, with no indication of letting up!
Then something changed . . . in me. In the few short moments after the slamming began, I almost immediately got over my all-consuming terror and confusion, and quickly became outraged that whatever was behind that door could be doing this to us; controlling the now ultra-frightened state of our deepest souls. So, I got up (door still slamming), walked into the kitchen, faced the door (still continuously slamming), and decided that I was going to confront this sinister mystery. SLAM! SLAM! SLAM!
Looking back, I do not know how I would have defended myself against what I thought was inevitable doom, or death! I did not have so much as a rolling pin or a brick in my hand. But my fists were clinched and I was determinedly bracing myself for the worst. Then as the door to that little, pitch-black room persisted to open and shut before me with extreme, exaggerated force- like something out of a nightmare- I breathed one brave, deep breath and shouted, “WHAT’S GOING ON IN THERE?”
And that is when the door flew open, crashing suddenly and violently against the kitchen wall! Unbelievable panic and disbelief flooded my entire body, as I heard the unforgettable utterance of a single, piercing, screamed-out word, “GOTCHA!”
That is when Shelby and Colby jumped out from among the shadowy confines of the washer and the dryer and the piled-up clothes, onto the kitchen floor; with wide, idiotic grins on their guilty, useless mugs. Those two brainless brothers (and our now former friends) had seen through the window that Chip and I were watching t. v., as they walked across Chip’s darkening yard, on their way home from a bit of late afternoon fishing. They decided to sneak in, by way of the back door to that laundry room, to see how badly we would scare. Well, it really, really worked, obviously!
I was totally infuriated, to the point of wanting to shoot them down, or slam their heads against a concrete wall; or grab them both by their necks and throw them as far as I could across the kitchen! But I quickly realized, right then and there, that they had just given me about the best rush I’d ever had in all my days. It was a seriously great prank, and I could not help but respect them for their unwavering commitment to it.
But their time is coming. . .
Chip is still on the couch, by the way.
One of my student’s mother once told me that she and some of her friends would occasionally swing out by Cow Pen Pond Cemetery up in Jackson County, to kill an hour or so during summer break- when she was in high school back in the 1980’s. This close group of teenagers would look for any new graves whenever they would go there; or the oldest date that they could find on a tombstone, or which family plot had the most infants buried, or whatever. And they always went during the day because they were too scared to go at dark.
One particular afternoon (sometime in August) it was getting very late, and the regular gang of four or five friends happened to be out in the area of the graveyard, riding home from some bowling and a little pool up in Marianna. So, they all decided to turn down the long dirt drive of Cow Pen Pond Road for just 15 minutes or so, before they headed home to Blountstown.
When they pulled up to the front of the graveyard, the kids got out of the car and started walking toward the first row of headstones. But they stopped cold when, in the dwindling light of the setting sun, they could see and hear much rustling in the distant trees and bushes that surrounded the property on three sides; beyond the last set of graves- maybe 50 yards away from where they stood watching this unexpected and confusing activity.
The rustling was because twenty or thirty mysterious figures in dark, hooded cloaks were pushing aside the vines and brambles of the woods- emerging from all up and down that thick, dense and darkening tree line. As the first few of them stepped from the woods out onto the grassy ground, they saw the kids and motioned to the rest. At this, the cloaked graveyard visitors quickly and silently slinked back into the shadows.
Meanwhile, the teens only watched these shrouded intruders very briefly; then made a beeline for their vehicle, and high-tailed it out of there! (They didn’t hang around to ask any questions.)
The mother who told all of this to me many years ago swore that it was a completely true story. And she said she has never, never, NEVER gone back to that weird and unsettling place. . .
Colby Godwin was in serious danger of missing his twelve o’clock, Saturday night curfew. He was zooming down a dark and lonely stretch of a dark and lonely highway- heading for the small, rural community of Altha, where home and a warm bed were waiting for him.
Colby was dreading what would happen if he didn’t make it in time, and was driving his second-hand truck like a bat out of the Bad Place- at least 70 mph, maybe 80. He squealed his tires as he negotiated a tight curve, and came to a long straight-a-way when he saw, several yards in front of him- from the outer edge of his headlights- a very large, very tall, black figure rise up from the shadowy, overgrown ditch that ran along his side of the highway. This stranger, which seemed to come out of nowhere, appeared to be very shaggy; but its general shape and size, and its way of walking, were obviously uncharacteristic of a bear.
So what was it, then? Was it human? No, it couldn’t be a person- way out in the middle of nowhere, at such an hour. That would be even more apparent in the few brief seconds that were to follow.
Whatever it was began to take long and steady strides toward the edge of the road; upright but slightly bent over, and swinging its arms like two clock pendulums as it moved. And as it came to the edge of Colby’s lane, it continued its pace, as it stepped out onto the asphalt.
Not knowing what this thing would do next, Colby realized that he needed to give it some room; so he hit the brakes to slow down, as he swerved into the other lane. But the creature kept walking forward, in front of the advancing truck! And Colby, now in a bit of a confused and concerned panic, swerved back into his original lane- as the cryptic being continued to lumber forward on the highway. Then the tall and scruffy thing suddenly stopped in the lane for oncoming traffic, and turned around to watch the truck, just as Colby was about to drive past it.
At this point everything in Colby’s mind shifted into slow motion, like a scene from a Matrix movie. And in this strange, dreamlike state, Colby turned his head to get a brief look at the creature, through the driver’s side window. The beast was standing near the center line, just a couple of feet away! Colby could see that the thing was taller than the roof of his pickup, and was looking in at HIM, as well! Colby immediately gave it the gas, as the beast reached out a long, hairy arm toward the speeding truck.
Colby was rattled, baffled, and understandably nervous, as his beat-up old vehicle barrelled down the rest of the dark and lonely road toward home. It wasn’t long before he pulled into his parents’ driveway, parked right next to the front porch so that he wouldn’t have to cross the yard, and rushed inside- down the hallway to his bedroom. Colby said goodnight to his grandmother, pulled off his clothes, and anxiously jumped into bed. He made his curfew by eight-and-a half-minutes; but he didn’t sleep a wink. . .
Before Tom Stallworth came to live in my little home town to preach at the First Baptist Church in the late 1990’s, he and his wife, Brenda, lived in Austria for a few years, during the time that they were raising their children. He told me a very unusual story at a high school football game last week.
Tom recalls that back then, on a bitterly cold winter’s day, he was heading up into the southern border of Czechoslovakia for a Bible study. It wasn’t too far of a drive from where he and his young family lived. And on that particular day, Tom had one of his parishioners and her husband in the car, as they were tagging along to help out at the Czech church, to which they were going.
Somewhere along the short journey, they passed by a graveyard and the woman with him insisted that he stop. She wanted to see her sister, who had died a few days earlier. Well, she convinced Tom to pull over, and the three of them got out of the car and started walking toward the tombstones of the lonely cemetery.
“So, where is she?” Tom asked. “In there,” was the grieving woman’s reply. She pointed to a little nondescript building, made of old stones. (Hmmm. This is unusual.) So, they walked across the snow in the chilly air toward what appeared to be the caretaker’s shed. But it was locked- obviously. At this discovery, the husband proceeded to force open the door, and succeeded. All three entered the frigid and dingy shack, where they saw the simple wooden casket, sitting upon an iron table on the dusty floor, surrounded by a few ropes and some yard tools and cobwebs.
“I have to see her. I have to see her. I have to see her,” said the distraught sister, with much anguish in her voice. You see, the body was only being kept there until it would be taken to the church for the obit the following day, and the casket was scheduled to be closed for the service.
At this point, Tom realized that he had no choice. So he loosened the three or four wing-headed screws from the oaken box, and the lid released, allowing Tom to push it open to reveal the dead woman’s corpse! This resulted in a sudden and startling, sustained scream from the inconsolable parishioner. The husband could only stand by and support his wife in her grief-stricken state. But I am sure that Tom, on the other hand, must have jumped out of his skin at the unexpected outcome of such a strange and morbid little adventure.
And afterwards, they simply closed the lid, shut the door behind them, and traveled along the snowy road until they reached their destination. I guess you never know what’s gonna happen on the way to a Bible study.
Tom and Brenda are now living a life of semi-retirement, and have moved about 45 miles away to the tiny coastal town of Mexico Beach. Even so, they are still very connected to their former community and friends in Blountstown, and show up at local events quite often. He told me at the game the other night that he has lots more strange stories about his time in the ministry. But, those will have to be tucked away for some other time. . .