Clan Cornelius spent some time yesterday evening lining out just which tales of terror we will indulge ourselves in over the next few weeks leading up to All Hallows Eve. The traditional fare will be represented of course: Sleepy Hollow and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are annual mandatory viewing in our keep. But other tales are in the offing, and we watched some trailers to explore them. This activity came back to haunt me at 4:35 a.m., when I was awakened from my slumber by a disembodied female voice. She intoned:
Reaching for my blunderbuss loaded with silver buck-and-ball, I leapt from my bed, slowly recognizing that it was only Ceili’s Bluetooth speaker, dying on the kitchen counter. Her last words were:
Ah, yes, we do love this Samhain season. I bugged out of work with just enough shooting light left in the day yesterday, and headed out to Zimmerman Butte for a bit of Frontier Partisan biathlon (that’s kettlebell complexes and shooting for the new folks at the campfire). On the way out and back, I listened to the relatively new podcast Texas Tales. There is no state in the union more loaded with folklore than Texas. This yarn was about what is purportedly the most haunted piece of ground in Texas — The Devil’s Backbone:
Fall is in the air and the undeniable truth that Halloween is just around the corner. As we enter into the spooky and scary season, we thought we would do podcasts that frankly just give us the heebee jeebees.
As you drive through one of the most beautiful landscapes in Texas, it is hard reckon with the fact that so many horrific events have taken place there. It seems at times, that the spirits of the dead have never left. Explore with us Devil’s Backbone. One of the most haunted places in Texas. Beautiful by day. Scary as hell by night.
Captain Schwertfeger reports that he has traversed the Devil’s Backbone in the Texas Hill Country more than once. If he experienced anything… unusual… I expect he’ll fill us in in the comments section.
Anyhoo, spectral Confederate cavalry thundering through the night, the shade of a hanged family-murderer, a spirit wolf, a Comanche or Lipan Apache lurking around a hunter’s tree stand… these are in the x-ring of the haunted frontier.
The podcasters also make mention of Baby Head Cemetery, which I’d never heard of. WTF is up with that name? We’ll let its historical marker do the talking…
The marker is circumspect. The tale goes that the Indians — presumably Comanches — impaled the baby’s head on a stake as a warning to settlers to clear out and stay out. I believe this is more than mere folklore. I am quite sure it happened. The Comanches were a great warrior people, but their cruelty was unsurpassed and very well-documented.
On our next visit to Captain Schwertfeger’s Austin outpost, we need to make a swing through the Texas Hill Country. I definitely want to visit the Devil’s Backbone Tavern, which sounds like my kinda joint, especially if they’ve got some of that good Texas country music cooking. I love this story:
The Devil’s Backbone Tavern certainly has long been a favorite “haunt” for musicians and music fans alike. The Tavern has become a haven for singer–songwriters and locals. Todd Snider, wrote the song “Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern”. Snider recalled driving along the Texas Hill Country backroads and trying to find a bar in which he was scheduled to perform. He never did locate that bar, but he did stumble across the Devil’s Backbone Tavern. After going inside to ask for directions, Snider decided to stay and play for the patrons there instead. According to Snider, the song has served as a personal reminder as to why he chose to pursue a musical career.
“Written in Mission, Texas, February 1932; suggested by the memory of the hill-country above Fredricksburg seen in a mist of winter rain.”
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds’ leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.
Vista upon vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista–hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.
It was a gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.
It was so long ago and far away
I have forgotten the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,
And hunts and wars are like shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.
Oh, soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,
To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,
How many deaths shall serve to break at last
This heritage which wraps me in the grey Apparel of ghosts?
I search my heart and find Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.
[A] case can be made that the Puritans were the only Americans who actually dwelt in a sword-and-sorcery universe.
The people of 17th-century New England lived in an enchanted universe. Theirs was a world of wonders. Ghosts came to people in the night, and trumpets blared, though no one saw from where the sound emerged. Nor could people see the lines of force that made a “long staff dance up and down in the chimney” of William Morse’s house. In this enchanted world, the sky on a “clear day” could fill with “many companies of armed men in the air, clothed in light-colored garments, and the commander in sad [somber].”
All that, of course, militates toward watching The Witch.