BENTON – Nobody likes to be afraid – right?
Wrong. Absolutely and positively incorrect. The holiday that concludes the month of October is offered as Exhibit A in support of that judgment.
While it may be true that some of us fear fear, many of us embrace getting the bejabbers shocked out of us. We avidly seek out the experience.
It isn’t that such thrill-seekers want to be harmed; rather, it is the adrenalin rush that comes with the threat of being harmed that explains the motivation.
So says Texas Tech University’s Dr. David Rudd, chairman of the Department of Psychology at the Lubbock, Texas, school, as quoted in a 2006 article by John W. Davis on the Texas Tech Today website.
“People like being scared because they enjoy the autonomic arousal and the associated safety of, say, a scary movie, because it gives them the rush without the risk,” Rudd said.
This is an explanation of the long-standing popularity of horror movies, scary stories and all the legends associated with Halloween.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is also known as the visceral nervous system. “Visceral” is plural for an anatomical word referring to internal organs; the phrase “visceral reaction” means, literally, a “gut reaction” in American slang.
The ANS, without need of any conscious command to do so, controls things such as heart rate, respiration, salivation, dilation of pupils and other things which may result in the manifestation of symptoms in someone who becomes excited – or scared.
From Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” to Hardin’s Chainsaw Slaughterhouse, there has never been any significant shortage of stimuli for those who seek it. And it did not require an author and publishing company, a filmmaker nor even creation of a commercial enterprise by a local entrepreneur. All it took was for a story to be told, and re-told, and embellished, and for the imagination (and the autonomic nervous system) to take over and do the rest.
A selection of local legends and myths follows, as narrated by some local self-styled paranormal psychologists (or, as they call themselves, “ghost hunters”:
•The Glowing Tombstone, Oak Level Road near the Purchase Parkway overpass
BACKSTORY: There was a gravestone in a cemetery which was adjacent to a barn. If a car’s headlights were aimed precisely, the glare would cause the tombstone to glow an eerie blue color. The stone reportedly marked the grave of a 2-year-old girl and its inscription eulogized her by stating, “‘She was the sunbeam of our household.”
GHOST HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE: The barn has been torn down, so this legend is part of historical folklore now.
NOTE: There are other “glowing tombstone” legends from the area. According to local teenage paranormal psychologists, the cause of the tombstones’ glow is “probably ghosts.” At a visit to a private cemetery in the Land Between the Lakes, some members of a ghost-hunting expedition waited outside the gate. One tossed a rock into the cemetery and the others came running out, claiming to have seen some glowing red eyes and have heard something moving in the trees. Needless to say, they were not amused when they learned about the rock-tossing.
•The Blair Witch House, Possum Trot
BACKSTORY: The house was supposedly the former residence of a Ku Klux Klan leader who allegedly lynched African Americans in his barn. He and his wife got into an argument and she murdered him. Supposedly there is a well in the back. If you look in it, you can see the bones of the lynching victims.
GHOST HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE: It’s an overall creepy house with lots of graffiti and satanic symbols. The only piece of furniture in the house is a broken-down piano. Don’t go without some sort of protection, because the house is sometimes used by the homeless. None of us was scared until we stepped outside just as a train was coming past and the engineer blew the horn.
•Monkey Man’s House, Benton
BACKSTORY: Legend has it that a man used to kidnap and rape teenage girls at his house. When police caught on to his antics, he suddenly disappeared and no one knew what happened to him.
GHOST HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE: It’s a small house. Be careful on the porch, because it is falling to pieces. Creepy satanic symbols in the barn out back.
•The Underpass, Benton
BACKSTORY: On a side road south of town, if a driver stops in a concrete tunnel and changes the radio station, screaming can be heard through the radio speakers.
GHOST HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE: Didn’t work, but went with really bad friends who kept rolling down the windows and screaming.
•Hotel California, Land Between the Lakes
BACKSTORY: Reputed to be a ritual site for a local vampire clan from Murray. The leader of the clan was convicted of murdering his friend’s parents. The name comes from graffiti written on the side of the cement structure. By legend, it was to have been torn down but could not be found and still stands somewhere in LBL today.
GHOST HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE: We never found it. We think we found the location on google maps, but it got too dark too fast and the ticks and chiggers got to us.
•The Battery Factory, Draffenville
BACKSTORY: Reportedly this facility, across the road from the present site of Marshall County High School, was the site of an explosion which killed 30 people.
GHOST HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE: Just graffiti-covered walls and big empty buildings. Creepy shadows and funny footsteps, but a fun place to go to play Ultimate Frisbee.