1989

All posts tagged 1989

I am really conflicted about this one. Stone Mountain is really a lovely park, and the monumental sculpture on the face of the stone is very impressive, but the entire park (at least the two times I’ve been there) really does glorify the Confederacy, and the Confederacy is sort of the exact opposite of my political leanings.

The centerpiece of Stone Mountain is the stone itself, a quartz monadnock and is a natural landmark. And some of the sculpture on the face is the work of the same man who created Mount Rushmore. It is also the location where the current Ku Klux Klan was formed, back in 1915. But I didn’t know about this part when I developed my fondness for the park.

Okay, now I’m having a memory of something that happened on my now-ex’s and my 1992 Florida trip and I’m pretty sure it was at Stone Mountain. There was a bobcat in an enclosure of some sort and it was looking at something very intently. My now-ex and I followed the cat’s line of sight and saw a frog. The frog seemed to be twitching strangely and as we were puzzling it out, one of the workers there came by and pointed out that the frog’s leg was inside the mouth (and, of course, the, you know, esophagus and probably stomach) of a garter snake. The employee said that no one was going to win this one, the frog leg was too big for the snake to actually eat, and so he put his hand on the back of the snake’s head somehow, making it let go of the frog, which hopped off. Then the employee picked up the snake and handed it to my ex. We took turns holding it for a while and watched people reacting to us holding it. The best one was a family with a little girl and the girl wanted to stop to pet the snake. Her parents were horrified. If you’re still out there, little girl (you’d probably be in your mid-30s right now), you made a fantastic impression on us. You rock, as it were.

We did the laser light show at dusk both times I went to Stone Mountain and it was very “the South shall rise again,” and all, but I was very impressed with the way that they made the carvings on the mountain seem to actually move.

After the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, there was quite a bit of discussion of whether the South Carolina flag should still have the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on it and whether that flag, or any other sign of pride in the Confederacy should be displayed on government property. And while I agree that they should be removed from governmental buildings where people have to go to do business (courthouses, the DMV, and so on), I get hung up on things like Stone Mountain, because it has actual artistic value. Aside from being the largest sculpture of its kind in the world (a title that it may someday lose), the initial carvings were done by Gutzon Borglum, who is famous for being the man who made the monument on Mount Rushmore. Those carvings were later erased, I guess, though I swear that I read something about how some of his carving is still there. I’ll publish this now, but come back and edit it later if I can ever find that reference.

As a result, I expanded my idea so that areas that have Confederate memorabilia that has genuine artistic and/or historical value can move them to a park or parks where those who want to see them can, but those who don’t want to see them can avoid them.

I have very little hipster cred, so I’m going take the opportunity to do the hipster thing here and say that I knew about the Bell Witch before it was cool. In 1989, my folks and I were driving from Chicago to visit our family in Florida (remember them?). As we passed into Tennessee, we passed a sign that said, “See the Bell Witch Cave” or words to that effect. My folks were always up for a cave (and for a good supernatural story). So, long before An American Haunting, or Bell Witch: The Movie, we heard the story from the current owners of the cave.

I was looking through the photo album of this trip and saw pictures of a cave. “I wonder if that was the Bell Witch Cave. It would be about the right timing for that.” So I searched for ‘Bell Witch Cave’ on Google Images and saw a (considerably less overexposed) shot of this same location on someone else’s website. So I can say with about 90% certainty that this is, in fact, a picture of the Bell Witch Cave.

According to the legend, in the early 19th century, the family of a farmer named John Bell began to experience something that was generally thought of as supernatural. He, his family, and visitors to his home, heard voices. Sometimes it was the voice of a woman, at other times it was the voices of other people. It was reported that the voices, at one point, began repeating the words of two church services taking place simultaneously in two different churches miles from the Bell home.

The entity claimed to be “Kate Batts’s witch.” Kate Batts was a neighbor that the Bells had had problems with over some kind of economic transaction, either the purchase of land or of slaves. Given the time period that this story took place in, my money’s on the latter. At any rate, the apparition was given the name “Kate” and would apparently respond to that name.

In the end, “Kate,” presumably the spirit and not the neighbor (though in my memory, it seemed that the man telling the story was unclear on this point), fled to the cave.  There are several legends of her interacting with people in the cave.

Do I believe in the Bell Witch? I try to keep an open mind about things like ghosts, because I have seen some things that seem unexplainable (and on several occasions I was by myself, so they couldn’t have been practical jokes or anything of that nature). But I do wonder if the Bell Witch was real or was an attempt to slander a neighbor who had a grievance.

Next up: Stone Mountain, Atlanta. I may have to see if there are any public domain photos of the park because I don’t have a single one in my collection.