We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with the story of the Wizard Clip from West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. The tale takes its name from an unquiet spirit haunting the house of one Adam Livingston, of Smithfield. A sound of shears clipping could be heard at most hours of the day and night, and the unseen snipping produced half moon cutouts in clothing, bedsheets, and curtains throughout the house, whether protected or not. The trouble began in 1794, when a traveler boarding at the house suddenly took mortally sick. Being Catholic, he begged Livingston to send for a priest to deliver last rites. Livingston, an intensely bigoted member of the Lutheran church, exclaimed ‘that he knew of no priest in that neighborhood, and if there was one, he should never pass the threshold of his door.’
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
“Growing up in Cleveland, TN, I always knew in my gut that I’d end up going there,” says guest blogger Tim Hooker in our next segment. “I don’t know if “haunted” is the right word to describe it,” he continues. “But, it is a special place, with “unexplained” aspects. The “It” is the mausoleum at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The mausoleum’s most unlikely claim to fame comes from the red streaks over its portal. They’re simply not supposed to be there. They are not the painted remains of some adolescent vandalism. They defy chemical analysis. They are not a property of white Italian marble. But, they’re there.”
A true ghost story is found in the hills of Burke County, NC, where the eerie Brown Mountain Lights dance along the ridgeline of a low-slung mountain in the famous Linville Gorge wilderness. On clear, moonless nights, especially in March and October, observers see orbs of light rise from the mountaintop and dance along the ridge before lifting and fading into the air. The lights are of various colors, and some even change shades while they are in view. Guest blogger David Biddix, who in 2009 co-authored a photographic survey about Spruce Pine, NC, fills us in on the history of this ancient phenomenon.
We’ll wrap things up with the story of how the post office came to Pine Mountain, KY. The great difficulty in attracting one was that most of the locals could neither read nor write; mail is after all a form of written communication. One man, William Creech (1845-1918), took it upon himself to tackle the issue. He made a first attack on the problem by urging each of his neighbors to send off to both of the leading mail-order houses for their catalogues. If the son-in-law of the family had a different name, Creech asked the farmer to send it off twice. Whenever the necessity arose, which was often, he wrote the cards of request himself.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Pie Plant Pete in a 1929 recording of “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane.”
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.