The following excerpt is from “The Complete Pitty Pat Hollow Tales” in Curtis N. Coulter’s 2022 book This Is the Way I Heard It . . . Not only does Coulter’s exceptional storytelling and wit transport the reader inside his beloved Sale Creek community, the very place that inspires his craft, his stories are also relatable throughout the Appalachian region. Appalachia Bare is very honored to showcase Curtis Coulter’s work.
from “The Complete Pitty Pat Hollow Tales”
Because of chapters in two of my books concerning some of the funny business going on around Sale Creek, I have been privy to people informing me of many more scary tales—some real and some . . . well, probably bald-faced lies . . . but I have heard a little bit of everything in the world not just about Pitty Pat Hollow but about spooky foolishness all over town. Some of the most believable tales have come out of Coulterville. So, for your Halloween reading pleasure, I submit the following.
Many of those occurrences have occurred in the last 30–40 years, some within the previous fifteen years. Unlike the Pitty Pat Hollow episodes, the nemesis in these stories always seemed to remain silent, visible but silent. Usually the experiences involved a wispy, transparent apparition lurking near the intended victim like the spook that bedeviled the Shipley, Elsea, and Iles boys on the upper end of Shipley Hollow Road. In the case of the Coulterville episodes, some have actual dates and times assigned to them. Also, in Coulterville, the manifestations occurred on the road, along the railroad, at the crossings, up in wooded areas, and along timber roads.
Coulterville Road runs parallel to Highway 27 on the north end of Sale Creek. As the crow flies, it is about a mile and a half from Pitty Pat Hollow, so a mobile spook would have no trouble covering that distance or even taking up new residence there. If it is not the same apparition as the Pitty Pat, then it could very well be a scheming look-alike or a close relative.
Several stories involve a young woman who lived there in the 1970s and 1980s. The first one took place between the hills on the upper part of Coulterville Road near the railroad crossing. Two girls were walking along that section near dusk one evening, returning to the home of the first girl. As they walked along talking, they became aware of a pale phantom in the road ahead. When retelling the story, she said that this same thing appeared to them on more than one occasion.
“Several times when my brother, a couple of friends, and I were walking up towards McDonald Farm, we saw an eerie figure of a woman in a wedding gown standing in the dip between the two hills just south of the upper railroad crossing. At times we got our nerve up to keep walking towards it, and it disappeared, but there was always a puddle that looked like blood where it had been.”
“The other thing that happened to just me was that I was home and my son had gone somewhere with my mother and father. I was sitting in their living room. It was dark outside, and I was watching the Cosby show on television. Behind me, I could sense that something had started walking down the hallway behind me, going back and forth, not necessarily making sound but like a presence of something or like the floor moving. When I finally got up enough courage to run, I took off and ran out of the house to my grandparents’ house and beat on the door. When Grandpa opened it, I jumped in his arms. All the dogs were going crazy. He went outside with a gun, but he didn’t see anything. Later, when I was talking about it, our next-door neighbor said that the dogs woke her and her husband up, and they looked out the window just in time to see a big, black shadow almost ten feet tall going up the side of the hill towards the Martin Cemetery from Swafford Road. As a result, I still do not go to my parents’ house after dark if nobody is there!”
In addition to these encounters, she also spoke of sitting in her grandparents’ yard in the summertime, talking until after dark, and occasionally seeing lights moving up or down the railroad tracks. . . no sound . . . no figures . . . just lights. That two-mile stretch of railroad has recorded over sixteen fatalities since 1901, including several murders of hoboes who were either killed and thrown off trains or else thrown off while alive and died on impact. There was also one shotgun slaying in that area as well.
“We heard things at the lower railroad crossing when we lived down there in one of Roy McDonald’s houses that sat behind the long brick chicken house near the railroad crossing. My brothers always said that there were claw marks all over the trees back behind where that old house stood beside a large sweet gum tree that still stands down there along a ditch.”
Two of the most detailed accounts of abnormal behavior took place in 2004 and 2009. Both stories involved a deputy fire chief from the Dunedin, Florida Fire Department. A 500-acre tract of land beginning at the lower railroad crossing in Coulterville and extending to Sale Creek Mountain offers some excellent deer hunting. Two men from Dunedin, Florida, leased that tract of land for deer hunting. They arrived on the weekend before Thanksgiving that year. Early each morning, their truck headlights could be seen moving across the field as they drove to a location near their tree stands.
Around noon on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a truck pulled up to my driveway, and the driver came to my door. When I answered my doorbell, he asked my name and if I had written a book called A Sentimental Journey Down Country Roads. I replied yes, that I did. He said that he and his partner had been hunting the 500-acre tract near me and had had a very troubling experience just that morning, and he wished to tell me about it to get my take on it.
On Wednesday, November 24, 2004, they left their truck around 5:30 AM and ascended the first tall hill where the first tree stand stood. One hunter climbed that stand while his partner went over the ridge to assume his position in a tree in the next hollow. After that, the two men communicated using walkie-talkies.
According to the first hunter, they got into their tree stands, settled in, and waited for daylight. They frequently conversed over their radios while they remained in their tree stands. He said that his radio began to crackle with static at one point, and then he could no longer make out anything that his partner said. At that point, he lost all communication with his partner. Then, something very frightening happened on his side of the hill.
“I was sitting there in my tree stand, when all of a sudden, I became aware of something coming over the side of the hill. It was still dark in the woods, and the only way that I can describe this thing is that it was blacker than black. It moved silently and diagonally down the hillside until it appeared to be directly under my stand, and then it was just like it came up over me. I’ll tell you right now. I was so scared that I could not move. I have never been so scared in my life. My hair was standing on end, and it just paralyzed me. I could not even breathe or move; I was so scared.”
“In just a minute or so, it was gone. When I was finally able to move, and the fright had left me, I got down out of my tree stand. Very shortly after that, I heard my partner coming across the hill. When he walked up, he had an odd look on his face. I said, ‘Did something . . . odd . . .’ Before I could finish the sentence, he finished it for me. ‘Did something odd happen, oh yeah!’”
In the other hollow, his partner had experienced the very same frightening specter coming up his tree and enveloping him.
After good daylight, the two hunters retraced the path that the thing had taken from the top of the hill to the first hunter.
“It was like someone walking in a bunch of newly fallen leaves when they get disturbed and turned over, you know. That’s the way it looked. It was just like a man had walked along there and disturbed those leaves on the ground,” he said.
They were so intrigued by what had just happened to them that they left the woods late in the morning and drove to the Dayton Library to see if they could find any kind of material about strange occurrences in the area. That is when they found my book with a chapter called “Tales of Pitty Pat Holler.” At that time, they returned to Sale Creek and asked someone at the post office how to find me.
The first hunter defended himself by saying, “I’m not crazy. I am an educated person and deputy fire chief from Dunedin, Florida, so I am not a looney. What I am telling you is true. It happened to my friend and me. I’m not lying!” He further went on to ask, “What do you think this could have been?”
I replied, “Well, this is a long way from its regular haunting ground, but I would say that you have had a visit from the Pitty Pat of Pitty Pat Hollow.” At that point, I told him that I had no idea what he might have encountered, but the nature of the tale was very similar to the Pitty Pat Hollow tales.
Five years later, the same two men came back with three or four more hunters. They pitched several tents alongside the railroad right of way and about three hundred yards south of Coulterville’s lower crossing. The camp remained in that location for about a week as the men hunted the 500 acres of land. The same man came to my home on November 28, 2009, around 1:30 PM, and related the following story.
“Every time that we hunt this piece of property, something strange happens. We were camping down at the lower end of that field yonder, and one night two of us got up to go to the toilet before we turned in for the night. When my friend and I got up to go to the latrine, both of us saw something, and I’ll tell you what it looked like and how it appeared. It looked like a man wearing old-timey clothing and a plumed, feathered hat. He was standing along the overgrown wire fence there along the railroad. What do you think that could be? He was wearing a feathered hat. We both saw him at the same time wearing that hat. My friend is a pretty good sketch artist, and he drew a picture of what he saw that night. Now, why would anyone wearing that kind of garb be walking around an area like that at eleven o’clock at night?”
I told him that the only activity that I could recall in that particular area was some Union troops patrolling there and rifle pits placed along the road in the fall of 1863. Still, I was not aware of any stories particularly involving someone wearing a plumed hat, nor had I ever heard of someone being killed in that vicinity.
“And that’s not all,” he continued. “We have seen funny stuff up there in the woods all the time, too. I have been sitting up there on the hillside, and a cloudy vapor would just float by, just like a little wispy cloud all by itself going between the trees. Other people with me have seen, heard, and felt terrifying things. We, ourselves have heard strange noises and felt presences of someone but have never seen anyone at the time.”
“There was a man with a lot of logging equipment up there. He told me one day that he had never had so much equipment torn up in his entire life. He said that he had more than one piece of equipment that seemingly jumped out of gear, rolled down a hillside, and struck trees, causing damage to them. Right now, some of the guys that came with me have said they are never coming back.”
A man walking his dogs along an old timber road on that tract in 2020 described another recent encounter. As the man walked along the rutted path, he came to a section of the road where overgrown bushes and fallen trees had almost completely blocked the way. As the dogs nosed around that clump, they began acting strangely. They suddenly stiffened up and started growling as they walked. Their tails were between their legs instead of wagging straight up, and their hackles were up from their necks to their tails. They began walking almost stiff-legged as they returned toward their human master.
At the same time, the man said that he felt as though something was watching him from very near, and the hair on his neck and head seemed to stand on end. His spine tingled as well. He said that the feeling was one of a visible presence in the nearby thicket. Even though he was carrying a .30-30 rifle, he recalled breaking into a spirited run (actually, an all-out run for life) and getting out of the area very quickly with his two dogs in hot pursuit. After a couple of hundred yards, the dogs calmed down, and he no longer felt the imminent presence. He returned home by another route along the railroad tracks.
That same man recently told the author of this book that one of his dogs will not go back into that area; he refuses to go into the 500 acres, especially around the two-acre lake location. He said that they had walked that area numerous times with no problem, but in the last week or so before telling this, the dog exhibited strange behavior as if he senses danger of some sort. The dog remains at the entrance to the field and acts as though it senses something sinister. It appears scared even though its master always carries a high-powered rifle and has never encountered any wild animal threat.
In addition to all of these experiences mentioned above, people in that part of Coulterville Road have often heard strange noises at night about dusk. A recording was even made of the sound and played to a biologist who said that he had never listened to an animal (at least a known animal) make that kind of sound.
It is no wonder that several people will not wait for a train to pass while sitting in their vehicles at the crossings but instead will turn around and drive back up or down Coulterville Road or back to Highway 27, where they drive around for a few minutes until the train passes. People who have not done so have reported feeling the presence of something almost like it was in the vehicle with them while they sat in their cars or trucks. Hair began to stand up, and legs and arms started to tingle. That is fact and not fiction. Just as the fear instilled by the creature in Pitty Pat Hollow, the apprehension experienced by people along Coulterville Road has almost become legendary as well.
Sale Creek Mountain has not been spared spooky episodes, either. One case involved a man baling hay there in the late summer of 2020. The field was about half a mile from Clifton Bend Road on the left side of Leggett Road. Michael Santola clarified before telling the story by saying that he does not believe in ghosts and things like that. Still, the episode he described was bizarre at best and scared him very severely because of the time of day in which it occurred and the setting where it happened.
On that summer evening, he had baled a field of hay and was in the process of using his tractor to load the bales onto his goose-neck trailer. It was starting to get dusky dark when he noticed that he had missed a bale along the wood line. As he drove toward the bale, he saw a man standing in a bare spot between two trees in the tree line. He was wearing worn-out work clothes and had a tall, brimmed hat on his head. His attire was more or less a dirty navy color. Michael said that he could not make out any facial features in the gathering darkness other than that the man was white. At the time, the man was about 50 yards away.
Michael said that it was so unusual for someone to be staring at him in the edge of that wooded area at that time of evening that he reached down in the floorboard of the tractor to pick up his firearm that he always carried in remote areas. He said that his focus on the man was only interrupted for a couple of seconds, but when he looked back, the man was gone. He said that the episode scared him so badly that his hair stood up so briskly that it made his skin hurt and itch. He raced the tractor back to the trailer and hurriedly placed the bale on the trailer, got in his truck, and drove off, not bothering to tie the load down until he turned out on Leggett Road, where he added only two straps to secure the load of hay.
Many years before this occurrence and in the same field, his wife had a similar experience while helping her father, Keith Daniel, gather hay. It had already gotten dark on this particular day, and Brooke was driving the truck while Keith drove the tractor and picked up the bales. They were working in the same field and only about forty to fifty yards from the location where Michael reported his episode.
Brooke had stopped the truck and was shining a flashlight around the field looking for bales that might have been missed when suddenly, she saw a man walking out of the tree line toward the truck. She dropped the beam of light down so that it did not shine right in the man’s eyes because she thought he was coming over to talk to her and Keith. When she shined the light in his direction again, he was gone. They were in an open field, and there was no way that the stranger could have gotten out of the hayfield in two seconds without the light finding him. Brooke described him the same as Michael. He was a white man wearing jean material pants and a white T-shirt.
The eeriness of the whole episode was that there were no houses within a half a mile of the field, and the time of day was gathering dusk. There would have been no reason for anyone to have been in that area at that late hour, and by the description of the person, they were wispy in appearance and not wearing modern-day clothes.
Added to the rest of the bizarre occurrences of Pitty Pat Hollow, Black Oak Ridge, and Coulterville Road, it makes it incumbent upon every person in all of those areas to be very careful.
Now, if on this coming Halloween night or any night some of you non-believing tush hogs decide to test this thing out, and you venture to Black Oak Ridge, Pitty Pat Hollow, Coulterville Road, or Sale Creek Mountain, and an apparition starts chasing you, here’s a quarter. Call someone who cares because nobody is a’comin’ out to save your hiney! Not your friends, not your dogs, not your family, or anyone else in their right mind will come to your rescue. You’re on your own, Howie! So, if that thing gets after you, run . . . run for your life . . . and keep on truckin’ as fast as you can!
As a sixth-generation native of Sale Creek, Curtis’ roots run deep in the town where his ancestors were original settlers in 1819. He is the author of five books, numerous periodicals, published geograhical maps, and other historical information about the communities of Sale Creek and Coulterville. Retired after a 40-year career with Hamilton County Schools, he continues to live in Sale Creek with Alice, his wife of fifty years. There he remains deeply committed to his community’s past, present and future.
For more books written by Curtis Coulter, click the following images from Coulter Publications:
**Featured image from Piqsels/ piqsels.com