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Myths and Legends of our Own Land, by Charles M. Skinner, [1896], at


The hills about the head of the Hiawassee are filled with "harnts," among them many animal ghosts, that ravage about the country from sheer viciousness. The people of the region, illiterate and superstitious, have unquestioning faith in them. They tell you about the headless bull and black dog of the valley of the Chatata, the white stag of the Sequahatchie, and the bleeding horse of the Great Smoky Mountains—the last three being portents of illness, death, or misfortune to those who see them.

Other ghosts are those of men. Near the upper Hiawassee is a cave where a pile of human skulls was found by a man who had put up his cabin near the entrance. For some reason, which he says he never understood, this farmer gathered up the old, bleached bones and dumped them into his shed. Quite possibly he did not dare to confess that he wanted them for fertilizers or to burn them for his poultry.

Night fell dark and still, with a waning moon rising over the mountains—as calm a night as ever one slept through. Along toward the middle of it a sound like the coming of a cyclone brought the farmer out of his bed. He ran to the window to see if the house were to be uprooted, but the forest was still, with a strange, oppressive stillness—not a twig moving, not a cloud veiling the stars, not an insect chirping. Filled with a vague fear, he tried to waken his wife, but she was like one in a state of catalepsy.

Again the sound was heard, and now he saw, without, a shadowy band circling about his house like leaves whirled on the wind. It seemed to be made of human shapes, with tossing arms—this circling band—and the sound was that of many voices, each faint and hollow, by itself, but loud in aggregate. He who was watching realized then that the wraiths of the dead whose skulls he had purloined from their place of sepulture were out in lament and protest. He went on his knees at once and prayed with vigor until morning. As soon as it was light enough to see his way he replaced the skulls, and was not troubled by the "haunts" again. All the gold in America, said he, would not tempt him to remove any more bones from the cave-tombs of the unknown dead.



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