Inside the Ozark Mountain region of Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri is a cultural heritage rich in folk tales and legends of the supernatural. Perhaps this is the case because many of the early European settlers to this area were of Scottish and Irish ancestry; people that migrated to North America with stories and songs that often spoke of otherworldly encounters, and whose beliefs and practices were still steeped in the old ways of paganism and witchcraft. It may also be the case that closeness to Nature and the observation of its intricate workings inspires human beings to weave tales of the occult. Then again, it may really be true that other existences parallel our own and at certain times the veils that separate the worlds from one another become exceedingly thin or are somehow cast aside long enough to give us a glimmer of the beyond.
Whatever the explanation, the legends of
old persist and are still today, supported by fresh reports of ghostly
sightings and encounters with unseen entities and nature spirits.
Paranormal investigators have no trouble keeping themselves occupied
here, and it's not unusual for them to travel to this very spot on East
Mountain as they continue with their never ending quest to verify the
supernatural. East Mountain is of particular interest, not only because of its history and the existence of so many cemeteries, both maintained and abandoned, but also because of an occurrence that took place many years ago.
Ghost Hallow is a rather isolated and rugged tract of private land that is situated due east of the Walker Cemetery, of which I posted last week. More than anything else, it resembles a heavily forested ravine and dry creek, which seems to extend southward as far as the eye can see when viewed from the large rock formations, which stand like a fortress on its north end. Considering how close the hallow is to the center of town and one of its busiest thoroughfares, it is amazingly secluded and lends to the occasional visitor a sense of being in the middle of nowhere.
Not far from Ghost Hallow stands the Walker Mansion, which was built after the Civil War by Judge David Walker for his daughter Mary and her husband, James D. Walker. Before that, only a log cabin owned by an attorney named Matthew Leeper stood on the site. Accounts vary as to the time during which the events I'm about to describe took place, but the general consensus and the progression of area history point to the early 1850's; more specifically, the winter of 1853.
Mr. Leeper, who was likely also an Indian agent Commissioned by President Jackson, was planning to depart from the area for a while. Rather than leave his East Mountain cabin vacated for an indeterminate amount of time, he decided to allow a newlywed couple from Forth Smith to occupy the structure during his absence. As the story goes, the young bride began cooking in the fireplace without having removed her wedding dress. While she was tending to her tasks, the young woman got a little too close to the fire. One of the crackling logs suddenly sent out a barrage of sparks, which quickly ignited her dress. In a panic, she ran out the back door and into the hallow screaming as she burned--perhaps hoping against hope that she could find some water in the dry creek.
The unfortunate lady died that night, and her body was stored on site until the arrival of spring, at which time some say her grieving husband brought her remains back to Fort Smith for burial. No one knows what happened to the young man after that, but there are those who say that the young bride can still be still seen from time to time, running with her clothes afire, her screams audible.Others say that an unknown young woman can sometimes be seen walking the grounds surrounding the Walker Mansion. There are also those who consider the mansion itself to be haunted. I have never asked its current residents about that however.
It's easy to discount such legends as the result of vivid imaginations or superstition. In all honesty, I cannot say that I have either seen her or been witness to her screams; but then again, I have only been in Ghost Hallow two or three times.and I live approximately a quarter mile's distance from it. Still, I have spoken to folks who claim to have heard her anguished cries and I have no reason not to believe them. After all, how can I discount their stories when I myself had what I consider a ghostly encounter one summer night? How can I disregard their accounts when I have received independent validation of other paranormal occurrences previously related to me?
Those stories however, are for another time.