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Tom Chaney: Yes, I Can. And, Yes, I Did

Of Writers And Their Books: Yes, I Can. And, Yes, I Did! Tom says, I reckon it was scarier of a night before the electric came and lit up the dark corners of the room, a review of Tales of Kentucky Ghosts by William Lynwood Montell . This column first appeared 5 September 2010.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Galilean Twins

By Tom Chaney

Yes, I Can. And, Yes, I Did!

William Lynwood Montell, folklorist par excellence, has done it again.

He who brung us tales of Coe Ridge; who has chased Ghosts Across Kentucky; has tracked down Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky; and has run to ground Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes, has plowed the ground again with his Tales of Kentucky Ghosts [University Press of Kentucky, 2010].

Over the past three years, Professor Montell has used his vast array of sources both academic and otherwise to ferret out "new" folktales from across the state.

He has organized this collection by type of tale and cross-referenced them by county. I am pleased to find a couple of Hart County stories included as well as a number of tales from Barren, Butler, Metcalfe, and Monroe counties.

One of my favorite graveyard tales is included. Attributed to a Logan County source, I have heard it from other parts of the state as well.

A man is returning at midnight from having a drop too much taken at the local tavern. He decides to take a short cut across the graveyard. A new grave has been dug across his accustomed path, and he stumbles into it. Try as he might he cannot climb out, so he settles in for the night.

Directly, another man in the same state of contentment falls in the same grave. He, too, tries to climb out without success. The first man awakens and says, "You can't get out of this grave."

"Scared to death, the other fellow leaped out of the grave, then yelled back, 'Yes, I can, and yes, I did.' "

One of the more interesting and scary tales is from Butler County.

A couple moved into a four room farm house which had been abandoned for some time. They soon discovered why.

The house was equipped with a shared chimney serving the kitchen cook stove and the living room fireplace. The wife was able to cook with no problem.

As the weather got cooler the husband laid a fire in the living room. As the fire burned more and more brightly they heard the anguished cry of a baby. The crying resumed whenever a fire was built in the living room.

They learned that the couple who lived there before had lost a two-year-old child who had burned to death in that very fireplace.

One Hart County story concerns a house with strange doors and windows.

The house was isolated. When a new couple moved in they found the windows and doors would not stay shut even when locked, bolted, and nailed to with tenpenny nails.

One night the storyteller's aunt was sleeping when she felt the bed quilt being pulled off the bed. Half asleep, she grabbed for the covers and took hold of "the coldest and clammiest hand she had ever touched."

And then there is the Fisher Ridge Light.

Mean John Bishop had run off all his boys. His wife never left the place.

He kept a pair of extraordinary fox hounds and would use them to train hounds for others.

One night he was out with his hounds and a client and his hounds when they encountered a light which appeared to be about head high and move about. The hounds came whining and cringing at Bishop's feet.

Mad, he wanted to follow the light. His companions refused.

One night soon after, he went out alone with his hounds. About three in the morning he returned in a daze. He took to his bed for three days. During that time he neither spoke nor ate nor cussed.

He got up, went to Horse Cave, sold the dogs. After that he never hunted nor did he allow anyone else to hunt on his place.

One untold story of a non-haunting in Hart County is not in the book. Sometime back around 1915 eerie lights were seen by folks who passed by the Cosby Church out beyond Legrand. Shadowy figures would rise and fall by lamplight.

One young man of the Three Springs community vowed to either solve the mystery or be taken by the Cosby haints. He tied his horse across from the graveyard and snuck up to a window. The shadow of a raised hand appeared. When the fist was opened two die clattered against the pulpit. The crap shooter was heard to cry, "Come on, snake eyes! There's preaching here tomorrow!"

Some of the notes on sources are most as interesting as the stories themselves. As is common, nigh all the tales were told as though they were actual happenings.

I reckon it was scarier of a night before the electric came and lit up the dark corners of the room.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney -

This story was posted on 2015-08-23 01:51:20
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