And you thought we were through with Maple Hill Cemetery? Today the Talegaters swap strange stories about the Cursed Sea Serpents of Tennessee River, haunted tombstones, and Alabama's First People from which this very state and several towns are named.
There is a serpent swimming beneath the Tennessee River unlike any other. This serpent is said to place a death curse on any unwitting bystander who happens upon it. Also breaking tropes is a ghost said to speak to you through your dreams about simultaneous events occurring elsewhere.
The Talegaters also talk about the native tribes who once flourished throughout the region, only one of which is federally recognized by the state today. The last of Alabama Indians standing on ancestral ground is the Poarch, a band of the Creek Nation. You can learn more about and support them by visiting their museum and gift shop in person or online.
Check out more on these topics by listening to The Talegate Podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or any other fine podcast directories; and please rate, review, and subscribe. OR simply follow the link our user-friendly website at www.thetalegatepodcast.com! Also, be sure to follow us on Instagram @thetalegatepodcast and write us with your own stories at TheTalegatePodcast@gmail.com.
Episode 8: Alabama’s First People, Maple Hill, Cursed Serpents of Tennessee River
FLORIDA MAN: Howdy folks, and welcome to Dashboard Chats!
CHEESEHEAD: As the name implies, we are recording these segments from our dashboard on the drive between our main interviews to discuss the tales and urban legends that aren’t quite fit for the mic.
FM: That’s right! Ain’t every topic ripe for recordin’ but that don’t make them any less interesting.With that, I’m Harrison, the Florida Man.
CH: And I’m Aaron, the Cheesehead. Today we come to you from Alabama, but not for long.
FM: Thank god.
CH: 1-10 only covers about 66 miles of Alabama at its westernmost tip.
FM: For anyone wonderin’ how Alabama got its name, it’s thought by some to have come from the Choctaw phrase “vegetation gatherers" used to describe the indians in these here parts. Other sources say it means “campsite” or “clearing.”
CH: So some of the Alabama natives are actually called Alabama?
FM: At least by the Choctaw and other speakers of the Muskogean languages. Nowadays, and perhaps ironically, there is only one surviving settlement of the Alabama nation and it resided exclusively in Texas some three states away. Though some likely absorbed into the Seminole confederacy back when it formed.
CH: Interesting. I’m thankful they are still around to tell their stories and live their lives. I just wish they could do it on the land of their ancestors.
FM: Raw deal for sure. Some statistics I found show only around 2000 of them are left and their language pretty endangered. Alabama aside, the state as it currently is was once home to numerous tribes, many of which will probably ring a bell.
CH: As I mentioned before, I don’t know much about the natives in the south, but if you say so.
FM: Well I just mentioned the Choctaw.
CH: Vaguely familiar.
CH: Isn’t that the tribe every white person in the south swears they’re 1/18th percent of?
FM: You ain’t lyin. Where are we now?
FM: You just named a tribe.
CH: Okay but more specifically, we recently left Mobile.
FM: And Mobile is also the name of a tribe which once thrived here, too.
CH: Wow. Wait, once?
FM: Yea. From what I could find, there is only a single federally recognized tribe left: Poarch Creek Indians which I believe are part of the larger Muskogee. And I’ll be sure to drop maps of where all the nations of Alabama’s first people once called home on our instagram, so check us out @thetalegatebodcast if you do feel so inclined.
CH: A shame that our Alabama trip is so short. I-10 only passes through for an hour or so.
FM: Heck yea, we’re about to cross into our third state, baby!
CH: And a doozy of a state it is, Mississippi. But before we cross into the The Magnolia State, let’s round out this one with a few more spooky tales and urban legends.
FM: Got one in mind?
CH: Indeed I do. Now, we visited Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville during our last DBC, and even had the horrifying experience of meeting an entire playground of ghostly children. However, I’ve uncovered an additional layer to this sad little story.
FM: Yea, that was prolly the creepiest night of my life. Swingsets moving by themselves, disembodied giggles echoing through the fog...plus who ever that ghost girl was who seriously wanted to play hide and seek.
CH: So they could just be kids ceremonially buried within the grounds of Maple Hill anytime between now and 1822. But as it turns out, there was a string of child abductions in the 1960s who some speculate were less-than-ceremonially dumped within the cemetery’s soil.
FM: Well damn, Cheesehead, now I almost feel bad not playing hide-and-seek with them. Heavy emphasis on the almost.
CH: And that isn’t the only haunted graveyard story from Huntsville I got for you. Only, this one took place in a family cemetery at their estate. Story goes that a teenager named Sally Carter went to pay her sister a visit 1837, but got sick and suffered an untimely death. They gave her a charming little tombstone which read, “
My flesh shall slumber in the ground
Till the last trumpet's joyful sound
Then burst the chains with sweet surprise
And in my savior's image rise."
FM: Huh. Ain’t as cryptic a message as I reckoned it’d a been. I’ll take a stab and say she haunts her burial grounds?
CH: Yah, she sure does, but apparently Sally Carter haunts more than just her burial grounds. She has the ability to communicate with you through your dreams.
FM: Last night, dreamed about drowning in a lake of purple Fanta and having to drink my way out to survive.
CH: Yea, I don’t think Sally has anything to do with that one.
CH: But she did visit a boy’s dream back in 1919 who was staying at her sister’s mansion where she died.
FM: Can you imagine how disgusting it’d probably be being a teenage girl entering a teenage boy’s dream?
CH: I can imagine it, actually. Sally, you are one brave little lady. Anyway, in his dream, Sally asked him to fix her gravestone. As fate would have it, the next day he checked out her grave, only to discover that the tombstone had indeed toppled over from last night’s storm. Ever sense, countless sightings of her have prompted people, mostly other teens, to check out her tombstone.
FM: We covered this a bit back when we met Dev of the Devil’s Chair in Cassadaga, FL. But for y’all new listeners, what Cheesehead just described is called “Legend Tipping:” a term coined in the 1970’s regarding a youthful rite of passage. More often than not resulting in the disrespecting and even harm to the historical site itself. Listen, visitin’ these places is one thing, but there ain’t no excuse defacin’ people’s shit like that. Just don’t be a jerk. Trust us, even if there are spirits there, they usually ain’t the friendly kind.
CH: And while Sally seems friendly enough, her gravestone was regularly vandalized and eventually destroyed due to repeated and unwanted visitors. Sally herself was exhumed and relocated to an undisclosed area in Maple Hill back in 1982. And the house she died in operates as a clubhouse for a gated community, so that’s interesting.
FM: Clubhaunted House, more like. Seems like Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville is a happenin’ place to be for a active spirits. Pretty scary.
CH: Pretty scary? I’d like to hear you tell an Urban Legend better!
FM: Oh I got one, alright. The Serpent of Tennessee River.
CH: This again? I feel like if you’ve heard of one sea monster, you’ve heard them all.
FM: Usually, I’d agree with you, but not this time. No, this monster is something different.
CH: So it doesn’t have an elongated neck and flippers?
FM: It’s described as “20-foot-long creature with large fins slithering near the banks.”
CH: So again...he’s a Nessie clone.
FM: BUT, this one had an additional layer to your average sea serpent. Back in 1822, there had been several sightings of these river monsters lurking the Tennessee/Alabama rivers. Our boy, Buck Sutton, probably the most hillbilly name this side of Appalachia, saw a 25-foot long serpent rising from the water, and claims he saw it “clear as day,” so it ain’t one of them vague accounts neither.
CH: So far, so Nessie.
FM: Well you what ain’t so Nessie? Layin’ a death curse on anyone who sees yous like the damned Woman in Black.
CH: Whoa! This monster doesn’t play around.
FM: I’m tellin’ ya. Knowing this, Buck Sutton naturally freaked out.
FM: Reportedly died only a few days later.
CH: Ah geez!
FM: And he weren’t alone. According to newspaper columnist of the Spartanburg, S.C., Herald-Journal, E. Randall Floyd back in a 1993, guy named Billy Burns died in 1827 after layin eyes on the beast and again with Jim Windom in 1829. Still people report similar sightings throughout the region.
CH: Never thought I’d say this, but I think I’ll take Florida’s gators and sharks!
FM: Good choice. Now, it worthy to note the Alabama once was home to the very elongated sea beast, Basilosaurus. Discovered in 1834, it was named after the legendary Basilisk because paleontologists originally assumed its bones to be reptilian. We know one that it was actually a mammal and an early form of whale swimming these parts some 45 million years ago.
CH: Pretty far removed from today’s fresh water rivers, but I’d believe just about anything at this point.
FM: Basilosaurus lived during the Eocene epoch and hypothesised to grow some 70 feet in length. Curiously though, the longest stretch of its body belongs to it’s serpentine tail.
CH: AH, so I can see how discovering its bones, one might assume it to be a serpent.
FM: Exactly. Didn’t help that charlatans of the 19th century piggy-backed on the fascination with the whale’s discovery and sea monsters, forged skeletons 114 feet long just to capture the imagination (and money) of the saps ain’t know no better.
CH: Gotta make that money, honey!
FM: Yea, but I think deliberately swindlin folks crosses the line.
CH: Oh holy hoymotherfuckin shit! Speaking of crossing the line [honk honk], We just crossed over into Mississippi!
FM: Hell yea! Should be welcomed with open arms, ‘cause Mississippi is known as the “Hospitality State!”
CH: I have a sneaking suspicion that the nickname and subsequent “hospitality” comes with a pretty huge asterisk.
FM: Only one way to find out!
CH: I was afraid you’d say that. I think cruising into a new state is a pretty good place to stop.
FM: I agree. For any questions, corrections, or stories of your own, y’all just drop us a line at TheTalegatePodcast@gmail.com and follow us out on Instagram @Thetalegatepodcast for photos, cast info, updates, and more.
CH: We’ll also post links for further learning on native american history and ways you can show your support.
FM: Poarch Creek Indians Museum and Gift Shop is a must-see if you’re passing through Bama.
CH: Huh, we’ll have to stop in there on our return trip back home. Well, back to your home. See yah later, Talegators!