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The Tales They Told...

Often folklore passed down in an area gives insight into the life, customs, ethics, beliefs and even historical events and family connections there. This is a new section dedicated to preserving the folklore and stories of the people of Houston County. Please submit stories passed down in your families. They should be stories "told as truth" and might be humorous stories of family happenings, ghost stories of the region, stories of the Civil War or other events occurring in the area, background behind a landmark, building, etc. This might be something your grandmother told, your uncle related, you have "heard all your life", or "everyone in Houston County" has already "heard tell of." You will retain copyright to any submissions.

Hill Engine Scare The Ghost of Owl Hollow        

Hill Engine Scare

by Ira Bell

It was about 1928, and my Dad, K. I. Bell, was working the midnight shift the night that the Hill Engine was sent to Stewart to push No. 26 over the hill. In the mean time, No. 104, a passenger train that was due to pass there in about an hour was having engine trouble over about Big Sandy. The dispatcher felt he might have to have the Hill Engine help No. 104 before they helped No. 26. Since rules required that passenger trains be pulled and not pushed, the Hill Engine would have to couple on ahead of the passenger train's engines. So the crew stopped their engine on the main track to await further instructions. Dad told them he would let them know what they were to do. The crew then said they would go into the waiting room and catch a little nap, and for him to let them know what to do and call them in time to move their engine if it was not going to be needed.

Dad was using the telegraph wire so the crew could not know what was being said as he communicated up and down the line. After the Helper Engine Crew disappeared into the waiting room and had fallen asleep, the dispatcher called Dad and told him No. 104 would not need help as they had their engine fixed and that No. 26 was behind No. 104. The Hill Engine was to stay there and help No. 26 when they arrived. Dad did not awake the crew, but eased outside and released the Hill Engine's brake and let it roll down into the side track. Dad then closed the switch and slowly moved the powerful engine up behind the depot. He filled the boiler with cold water to keep it from popping (release of the pressure contol valve that releases steam pressure periodically), and returned to the office, letting the crew sleep on.

Some time later, with the Hill Crew still asleep, No. 104 shattered the still of the night as it passed the depot at Stewart at about 70 miles per hour. Needless to say, when they heard No. 104, the crew immediately came alive, frantically rushing around shouting where is my engine? They had left it on the main line on which No. 104 had just rumbled through. Of course Dad, and some others were standing in the dark laughing, when suddenly the air pump cycled on the Steam Engine hidden behind the depot. This is when the engineer discovered where his engine was. Before he could reach Dad, some of the other men restrained him until he calmed down. Dad was glad when No. 26 showed up and the crew, and the angry embarrassed engineer left to push them over the hill. By the next night all had calmed down and everyone, including the engineer, had a good laugh at the joke that had been played on them. Needless to say, this engineer was reluctant after that to take naps at Stewart while waiting on trains to be helped.

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The Ghost of Owl Hollow

by Gene O. Walker c1998GeneO.Walker

I would like to submit the following incident. It occurred during World War II. We lived on Tank Hill and walked down the back by a path down to Owl Hollow to visit friends and attend the Nazarene Church. There were no street lights and the dirt road  was then very narrow and dark. A very different setting from today. Mist from the branch would rise and it was difficult to see after dark. People reported seeing a strange person walking the road at night.  It appeared to be an elderly woman who disappeared as she came closer to the person. My father, Wiley Walker, known as Uncle Wiley to most everyone in the county did not believe in ghosts. He had lived since 1892 and had never seen one and had tried on numerous occasions to see what other people said were ghosts and there were no ghosts. Late one night, our local watch maker, who lived in Owl Hollow, was walking home, and he saw a woman standing on the wooden bridge across the branch which we crossed to get home. I believe the bridge or its replacement is still there.  As he walked toward the woman, she walked from the bridge toward him. Assuming she intended to hand him a watch as so many people did he held out his hand at a close distance AND THE PERSON DISAPPEARED. Dad never questioned the ghost stories again because he said that person's word and judgment was above question. The sightings continued for some time, then ceased. As I drive down the Owl Hollow Road, now with its houses and street lights, I wonder if any person except myself remembers THE GHOST OF OWL HOLLOW.  

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