There is something very comforting about a ghost story. This statement may sound like a contradiction but I consider it more of a paradox. Being frightened or scared is a feeling that most would consider uncomfortable, but it is an uncomfortability that most embrace and enjoy. How else do you explain the fact that nearly ever town has its own ghost story and I guarantee that we all, at one time or another, have heard or told a ghost story. There is something very comforting in the uneasiness of these frightening tales, something that takes a nostalgic grip over us and brings us back to a time when we were easily frightened by the shadows with unseen sources in our bedroom nightlights. These ghost stories take us back to a time before our rationale said that’s just the house making normal noises, instead our minds told us that something more was lurking in the dark, something frightening and unusual. Perhaps this is why I am fascinated with ghost stories, specifically stories that take place in the Upper Cumberland area of Tennessee, as that is where I grew up. These stories bring back memories from my own childhood, when my biggest responsibility was deciding if I was going to spend most of the day outside or playing video games and before my innocence was corrupted by the real world.
Depending on whom you talk to the story of Crazy George is different. Some insist that the legend of Crazy George is nothing but hoopla. They claim that they have family members who knew the famed George when he was alive and was far from crazy and the tragic train accident that killed him was, well a tragedy. Others claim that there never was a George and no one ever died on the old train tracks that run under his infamous bridge. One young man whom I inquired about Crazy George snapped at me, “You won’t find anything on that bridge because there ain’t nuthin’ there”. He went on to explain that his grandfather made up the story so him and his buddies could go their and drink whiskey and be left alone by their wives and kids.
The ones who do claim that George did indeed die there and is still there today, tell several different versions of the tale. One version goes that George was a construction worker who was building the bridge and one day he got drunk, fell asleep on the rail road tracks, and a train came by and decapitated him. Another version, which I can only assume was created because the bridge did not play an important enough role in the first story, was that George was just some drunk guy on the bridge. He stumbled and fell off the bridge just as a train was rolling by. The train beheaded him. Yet another version, involving the bridge even more so than the last, says that George’s car stalled on the bridge, a train came through, hit him as he was trying to get out at which point he was decapitated and now he haunts the tracks and bridge looking for his head. The part of the tale that they all have in common, other than the decapitation, says that if you go there at night your car will stall on the bridge and you will see a light coming toward you from the railroad tracks. The light is George looking for his head.
The “Witch’s” Cemetery or Stamps Cemetery (the less popular name) is located within walking distance from George’s famous bridge adding to the overall spookiness of the area. Stamps Cemetery is something right out of a Universal Monster movie. Just add a fog machine and film it with a black and white camera and one could easily expect to see The Wolfman prowling through it. The head stones stick out of the ground as if they were dropped from an airplane and fell into the ground in a jagged manner. The cemetery is referred to as the Witch’s Cemetery because one of the crumbling stones appears to have a pentagram (a symbol often associated with witchcraft) etched into it. Legend says that if you touch the pentagram at midnight you will unleash an evil demon. Many other locals swear they have found cows, lambs, and sheep slaughtered near the cemetery in a ritualistic fashion and many claim that it is a hot spot for some strange satanic cult.
I had always intended to go to the cemetery at night until one local man offered me an alternate explanation to the “pentagram” tombstone. This man said that he believed that the stone probably belonged to a forgotten soldier and that the faded pentagram symbol was probably a war decoration. For some reason this made the graveyard more real to me, and it somehow felt wrong to rummage through there at night. I did for a moment contemplate, while trying to rationalize going to the cemetery at night anyway, if it was better to be a forgotten soldier or the source of one of the most intriguing ghost stories of the Upper Cumberland. My warped mind decided that it was better to be the immortal demon, but perhaps the man in the grave did not think the same, so I decided to leave the Witch’s Cemetery alone.
My sense of adventure was not entirely depleted, though. I did make the journey away from civilization up to the thriving wilderness of Buck Mountain Tennessee to Crazy George’s Bridge late one night. My wife drove me their as she is more familiar with the area than I am. We pulled across the bridge with our breath held and I waited for our car to die. Sadly the car made it past the bridge unscathed. We turned around in a small gravel area on the side of the road and made a second attempt, to no avail. My frustration growing, I suggested we simply park on the bridge. We both sat there in our car looking down the railroad tracks. The thought did cross my mind that it was a bit unsafe to be parked in the middle of the road, but my sense of adventure clouded my better judgment. In fact, it crowded my judgment so much so that we turned the ignition and the lights off and sat there in the pitch black dark. I rationalized my dangerous behavior by thinking of Tom Sawyer and had he not taken a risk and ventured off into the cemetery with Huck Finn in search of a wart cure their incredible adventure would have never been. It only occurred to me later that the potentially fatal flaw in my logic was that Tom Sawyer was a fictional character and this was reality. Luckily an unsuspecting car coming up Buck Mountain did not hit us, but I have to admit that I did feel a heavy uneasiness sitting in the pitch black on the infamous Crazy George’s Bridge, and as much as I wanted to tell myself that I was simply fearing an on coming car, I cannot help but think it was something much more than that.
Regardless of if there was ever a George that died on those train tracks or if the so-called witches cemetery is nothing more than a cemetery, these locations give Tennesseeans something to be excited about. These stories are passed on from generation to generation, and no matter what I say about the bridge and the infamous local cemetery it will not change how the southern locals, whom are steeped in tradition, feel about these creepy locations. My experience with these supposed haunted locations have been fun. Though, some may see my visit there as uneventful, I believe that no adventure in the paranormal is uneventful and at the very least I learned a lot about the local folklore of the area in which I was raised.
Author: Jonathan Kaulay Copyrighted © paranormalhaze.com