Tag Archives: ghost stories

A Haunted Hollow

Don’t go down that road at night. . . .

In 1899, his work as a surveyor took Lee Fisher away from his wife and young children in Iowa and into the backwoods of eastern Kentucky.  In a series of letters, he shared with wife Adah his impressions of the area’s agriculture, living conditions and people.  Fisher found much of interest in the environs of Floyd County’s Calf Creek, including the prosperous farm of a local fruit grower and beekeeper.  Even more noteworthy, however, were the tales the farmer told him of a nearby gulch—“Bugger Holler”—that was said to be haunted. 

Among the spooky stories:

A man walking through the hollow one night encountered a dog that “turned its head towards him and its eyes began to shine like two balls of fire then it opened its mouth and a light blue flame came out of its mouth,” allowing the man to see “at least 20 feet [!] down the throat of the dog.”

A man riding through the hollow one evening “saw what appeared to be a horse but instead of having a head like a horse it had a head and body like a centaur.”  The man’s own horse “turned around with a snort and trembling in every muscle it ran several hundred yards before he could be stopped.”

A man coming up the road toward the hollow one night “saw a woman standing by the side of the road wrapped in a cloak but without any head on and no matter which way he went she always followed him and it was sometime before he could shake her.”  The experience left him so rattled that he did not “know enough to speak when spoken to.”

An elderly woman passing through the hollow late one night “saw two women standing by the road neither one of them having any head.”

All of these nocturnal travelers seemed to have ignored the conventional wisdom since, Fisher wrote, “it is very rare anybody will pass there at night if they can avoid it.”  He and some of his curious coworkers, however, decided to try some ghosthunting themselves.  They ventured into the hollow after nightfall, “when it was so dark you could not see the road,” but had no luck seeing or hearing anything supernatural. 

The farmer who told Fisher these stories was himself skeptical about their veracity, but hastened to claim that his own house was haunted.  Neighbors had warned him that constructing such a large house for his small family would invite a paranormal presence, but everything remained quiet—at least for a few years.  Then, one night “he heard the most awful noise as if someone had rubbed a stick hard upon a dry goods box and then something like a cannon ball had fallen upon the upstairs floor.”  The pattern repeated itself, and no amount of investigation could reveal its source.  Frustrated, the farmer called for a curse upon whomever or whatever was causing the ruckus, a response that seemed to shame the poltergeist into silence.  But every once in a while it would reassert itself—for example, by causing a bedroom door to spring open and thump against the bed of the unfortunate occupant.

Lee Fisher’s letters and ghost stories are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For other collections about ghosts, spirits and hauntings, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on A Haunted Hollow

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Hispanic Heritage

La Chiquita, Frankfort KY

La Chiquita, Frankfort KY

For this National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), here are a few collections in the Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Created primarily by students, they use interviews, photos, audio and video to document the customs and folkways of Kentucky’s Hispanic communities.

A 2005 folklife project profiled a Hispanic restaurant and grocery store in Frankfort, Kentucky, called La Chiquita.  Both video and photos show a business alive with food, merchandise, music and unique decor.

In 2011, students in WKU’s Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology began an oral history and folklife survey of Allen County, Kentucky.  Their work included an interview with resident John Hernandez about growing up in the county, speaking “Spanglish,” Hispanic foodways, and traditional 15th birthday celebrations known as “Quinceaneras.”

John Hernandez

John Hernandez

At the 2004 Shelbyville, Kentucky Heritage Festival, folklorists captured audio and video of the community’s increasingly diverse population, including its lively Hispanic-Latino culture.

And in 2007, student Linda Perez researched ghost stories and beliefs of the Hispanic community.  Her informants, natives of Mexico and Guatemala, told her stories of the supernatural, including “La Llorona,” an eerily wailing, shape-shifting female spirit whose presence is often invoked to get a child to behave.  Perez’s own husband described a “real life” ghost encounter when, at 8 years old, he came too close to a spirit masquerading as his father in the family’s cornfield, and required a folk healing ritual to recover from the ghost’s attempt to steal his soul.

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more studies of Kentucky folklife, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on Hispanic Heritage

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Fireman’s Record Book Casts New Light on WKU Ghost Story

E. Porter Dodd, Bowling Green fireman (on right)

E. Porter Dodd, Bowling Green fireman (on right)

Many Hilltoppers know the story of the Van Meter Hall ghost.  It is said to be that of a workman who met his death during the building’s construction in 1910-11.  Perched on the roof, he was reported to have fallen through the skylight above the stage after looking up and being startled by an airplane, a novel sight in early 20th-century Bowling Green.  A chance discovery in a manuscript collection at WKU’s Special Collections Library has now provided a factual basis for this story, but with a few twists.

E. Porter Dodd joined the Bowling Green Fire Department in 1900 as one of its first paid employees.  For the next 40 years, as both firefighter and watchman, he kept notes in two record books on people, places and events in town.  Dodd also made lists of local deaths, whether by natural causes, foul play or accident.  On September 2, 1918, Dodd noted an exciting milestone: the “first aeroplane to fly to Bowling Green.”  He was referring to the arrival of an army aviator from Memphis, who had made the 266-mile flight in just under 3 hours and was to exhibit his flying skills at the Warren County Fair.  Unfortunately, Dodd’s next entry records the tragic event that cast a shadow over the festivities: the fatal fall of “a boy” through the “Sky light” at the “State Normal.”

We can go next to the newspaper to find out what happened.  Henry Clegg, a young man from Alabama who had just entered the Bowling Green Business University, had joined other students on the roof of Van Meter Hall at the Western Kentucky State Normal School to witness the history-making flight.  When word came (falsely, as it turned out) of the plane’s approach, Clegg’s eager rush to a better observation point resulted in his fatal plunge through the skylight.  The 20-year-old died a few hours later at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

It seems, then, that over the years both the date of the accident and the identity of the victim became shrouded in myth and faulty recollection.  Thanks to Porter Dodd’s record book, however, we can add another chapter to WKU’s haunted history.  It only remains to be proven whether it is the ghost of young Henry Clegg that inhabits Van Meter Hall.

A finding aid for E. Porter Dodd’s record book can be downloaded here.


Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives