This week is a re-run of an article of Oct. 28, 1998 for this Halloween time. My hope is that you readers will not have such a fearful time while celebrating the Halloween time.
Now is the time to pass along an old folklore tale of Pike County. Chris Woodyard of Beavercreek, Ohio, author of Haunted Ohio and other ghostly story books passed this along to me.
The first version was compiled by Erasmus Foster Darby (David K. Webb) of Chillicothe — first published in 1953. He mentions that the story of the haunted stump is an old and thread worn story insofar as the basic theme is concerned. The story of Pike County’s is the only one known in Ohio. Who can conscientiously swear they are not true?
So now here is the first version.
Only two or three people are still alive that can tell you about the ghost of the amputated hands and the story of the haunted stump; and those few behave as if they were not free to relate the whole story.
All those who have heard the tale have different versions but this is one which happened several years ago near the present site of Pike Lake close to Morgantown.
Possibly, this tragic affair occurred shortly after the American Civil War (1861-1865), because in that period of time, ghosts were especially active all over the world. This country was no exception, for real ghosts haunted up and down the countryside in all parts of the land. No respectable American community was without at least one fairly active ghost.
The custom in those days was to stage community log burnings (often called log-rollings) when new land was cleared. Folks from near and far would attend the log-burnings; the farmers, preachers, schoolteachers, blacksmiths, lawyers, doctors, housewives, politicians, old-maids and all the young folks too. No healthy person could afford to miss such an opportunity to visit old friends, have a good time and maybe meet new people. Besides, this was a chance to fill an empty stomach with good food.
At this particular log burning, an immense throng was present for many miles around and by night fall many, many great log fires were burning briskly and brightly. The cleared area was lit up like daylight. Food was consumed, along with cider (some was probably hard stuff — very powerful at times) and music and song were in the air with dances in progress. Meanwhile, everyone by turns, both men and women were tending the log fires for the fun of it.
One outstanding beautiful young lady, about 18 years of age, seemed to be having more fun than all the rest; with a long pole in hand she was helping young men keep the burning logs in order; and huge logs were on every burning pile. It was dangerous but thrilling work to push and shove on the great red hot flaming trunks of the trees of yesterday and watch the glowing sparks soar skyward. Often clothes and hands became scorched as noses and cheeks became red and eyes smarted from the heat.
As the pretty young maiden and her boyfriends laughed and worked merrily with their poles at one large burning pile, a gigantic flaming log broke loose from the top of the roaring heap and came swiftly rolling downward. Somehow, the young lady’s fire pole got caught underneath the burning log and the moving log came to a stop on top of her youthful hands, pinning her to the ground with the red hot coals which covered the outside of the log. The terrible heat and the weight of the log caused her to scream out in mournful agony. Quickly, helpful and efficient hands pried the log off of her once beautiful hands and set her free; but her hands were smashed and burned terribly.
Legend has it, the girl leaned against a stump, wringing her hands and all of a sudden, both hands fell off and into the top of the stump. The girl later died but for many years afterwards, anyone traveling by that stump on a moonless night would see two charred hands rise up from the stump or feel the cold clamminess near it until the stump finally rotted away.
Happy Halloween to you all.