Halloween’s around the corner. Here’s a little haint tale for the occasion from Putnam County, Tennessee.
About one mile and a half east of Cookeville the Buck Mountain Road is crossed by the old Sparta-Livingston Road. Turning to the left here and going about a quarter of a mile in the direction of Livingston one reaches the scene of the noted ante-bellum mystery. The large and dismal swamp that once covered several acres on either side of the road is now only a memory, due to the propensity of modern man to clear, drain and cultivate the soil. But the name, “Booger Swamp,” still clings to the spot after nearly three-quarters of a century.
One dark night in the early fifties a well-known minister of the gospel, whose name is not essential to our story, was passing this lonely spot on horseback, when suddenly an apparition appeared before him—or, at least, he said it did. After a great deal of discussion and several futile efforts to induce the spook- seeing brother to retract his story, he was finally arraigned in a formal church court and tried, convicted and expelled from the ministry. According to his story, the apparition was a pure white body floating about a yard above the ground and “about the size and length of a weaver’s beam,” to use his exact language. It made some effort to communicate with him, but his horse became unruly and dashed away.
A History of Putnam County, Tennessee by Walter S. McClain, Cooksville, Tenn., Quimby Dyer & Company [c1925]
A “haint” is an unsettled or angry dead spirit; the term, like “hag,” is of Germanic-British origins. A haint can range from a ghost to an undefinable something that scares the bejeevers out of you. In the same way a haint tale covers everything from a ghost story to a yarn about an odd event. A haint tale doesn’t even have to be scary; some are quite funny. But there are two common ingredients shared by every haint tale. One is that it must involve frightening a character, the listener, or both. The other is that it must include the supernatural, or supernatural overtones. Sometimes it can be a normal event perceived as supernatural, but the paranormal must get mixed in there somehow or other.