Many years ago, my grandfather, Lacy Howell, told me of a story that happened to him when he was a teenager living in the mountain hollows of Martin County, Kentucky.Â He had been courtinâ?? a young girl that lived several miles from his home in a nearby hollow.Â One evening he decided to go visit her after finishing his chores at home.Â He told his father that he would be back before dark and left ridinâ?? bareback on Ole Bessie, the familyâ??s mule.Â After staying with his sweetie far longer than he had intended to, he knew he must get started back home. There would be work in the corn fields the next day and he would have to rise before 5:00 a.m. to do it.Â Â
As he slowly headed back towards home, he knew he would have to pass through Dark Hollow.Â Dark Hollow was a dreaded place that everyone in Martin County knew about and did their best to steer clear of.Â It was an area of about 50 yards long and about 30 feet wide that was almost totally dark, from one end of it to the other, even in broad daylight!Â After dark it became a pitch black tunnel and you could not even see your hand if it was held right in front of your face.Â Many tales had been told about strange happenings that could not be explained by even the strong of heart and mind and almost all the tales involved events that happened at night.Â Going through this place was definitely not something my grandfather liked doing, but when he was in the arms of his pretty sweetheart it was the farthest thing from his mind.Â Now, it was the only thing in his mind.Â
Riding home on Bessieâ??s back gave him a lot of comfort.Â It sure beat walking through Dark Hollow all alone.Â Her body felt warm and reassuring somehow.Â It gave him extra courage on this chilly night as they neared the entrance of Dark Hollow together.Â He was praying real hard that everything was going to be alright, right up until the second Ole Bessie stopped dead in her tracks, almost sending him flying over the top of her head.
This was the moment heâ??d been dreadinâ?? ever since heâ??d heard the horrible stories told by the unfortunate people that had managed to travel through this place after dusk.Â Only God knew what he was going to have to face in the next few minutes of his young life.Â Â
Ole Bessie was probably the smarter of the two and appeared to have made up her mind to stay right where she was standin.Â Her feet were planted firmly in the soft sand of the creek that crossed the entrance of Dark Hollow.Â In a way my grandfather was mighty glad about it.Â Still, he knew he couldnâ??t stay in this one spot all night, so he firmly nudged Ole Bessieâ??s sides with his feet to get her started.Â Reluctantly, she stepped forward into the darkness and the unknown with my grandfather on her back.Â Â
After traveling only a few feet from the entrance of that dreadful place, something unimaginable happened.Â A hairy creature about 5 feet tall came flying out of the trees and jumped right onto the back of grandpas mule causing Ole Bessie to rise on her hind legs and scream in such a horrible way it caused the hair to raise all over my grandpas body. It was a scream like no other scream!Â Â Heâ??d never heard an animal scream like that. Â He had never been so scared in his life!Â He just knew this was the end of him and Bessie.Â Both of them disappearing in the middle of the night, not leaving so much as a piece of skin as evidence to let others know what had become of them.Â His life flashed before his eyes and he could only imagine what his poor parents would go through when they checked his bed and found it empty.Â Â
Itâ??s often been said that animals have a sixth sense about danger and he wished he had listened to his mule from the get go, but it was too late now.Â All that was left to do now was give his mule full reign and allow her to get them out of this situation.Â Whatever had jumped on the muleâ??s back was breathinâ?? hard down his neck and its breath was horrible! It smelled rotten and sickening. Â Grandpa leaned as far forward as he possibly could and held onto Bessieâ??s mane with all his strength.Â Â He was not about to be bucked off and left alone with this monster to be its supper. Bessie was kickinâ?? and buckinâ?? like crazy with everything in her.Â Grandpa had no idea she could do half of the flips she was doinâ??, but he was sure glad she was fightinâ?? so hard.Â She was runninâ?? just as hard as she was buckinâ?? and it was during one of these bucks that the THING went flyinâ?? off. It let out a murderous squall as it hit the ground. Grandpa could hear the leaves cracklinâ?? and branches breaking as it tried to gather its self.Â Thank God it was off!!Â Bessie had her head down, was headed toward the other end of that dark place. Hope was finally in sight.Â Grandpa was gasping for air and hoping against hope that it couldnâ??t catch them before they reached the other side.Â He didnâ??t dare look back!Â
After what seemed like an eternity, Bessie cleared the horrific area, but didnâ??t let up until she reached the barn yard and was safely in her warm stall.Â Grandpa jumped off her back and checked her from one end to the other and found several claw marks on her back side.Â A few spots of blood seeped out of the wounds, but they werenâ??t life threatening. Some how it had not managed to get a good enough hold on Bessieâ??s tough skin.Â Â Poor Bessie was breathing so hard, Grandpa thought she might fall dead from a heart attack.Â Luckily for him she didnâ??t.Â She was the only mule they owned.Â She would live to carry him another day to see another sweetheart that would eventually become my grandmother.Â But, they would never again take the same chance they took that night when they traveled through a place called DARK HOLLOW.
When my grandpaw was still alive, I never tired of hearing this story.Â Now my grandchildren beg to hear it over and over again. I often wonder what it was that jumped on the back of ole Bessie that night and how lucky my grandpaw was to escape like he did.