Witch Dance – Let’s Go Camping!

My new book is inspired by a campground on the Natchez Trace Parkway, just south of Tupelo, Mississippi, called Witch Dance. At the entrance stands a sign which reads:

The very name conjures visions of eerie midnights, swirling black capes and brooms stacked against a nearby tree. The old folks say the witches gathered here to dance and wherever their feet touched the ground the grass withered and died never to grow again. Impossible? Maybe so, but look around. Look for a hidden spot where no grass grows.

The sign and the place bring to mind one of my favorite authors, poet Jack Prelutsky. One of his poems, The Witch, inspires wild imaginations of scary witches. 

She comes by night, in fearsome flight,
In garments black as pitch,
the queen of doom upon her broom,
the wild and wicked witch

Another tale of Witch Dance that I find interesting is the story of a group of Chickasaw Indians who lived on the spot and were massacred by the hostile Creek Indians. Legend has it the Great Spirit turned the soil the color of blood, cursing it for all time. That is why the ground is red in Mississippi.

If you’ve ever read any of my books, you know I always look for the connection between the place, the truth, and the legend.

The result of the above is my book Witch Dance. Here’s the blurb:

Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.

When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.

The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.

With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two-thousand-year-old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?

Grab a copy at Amazon for the pre-release price of only $0.99 until the release date, Sept 15.

I didn’t mean for it to happen, but sometimes synchronicity takes over. I believe instances of synchronicity are the way you know you’re on the right path. They happen frequently in my life.

The opening chapter of Witch Dance starts August 25, 2018, which is a little easter egg for my family, as August 25th was my mom’s birthday. The story takes place over three weeks (and 2000 years) and ends Sept 15 – Release Day!

Coincidence?

witch dance cover

 

A to Z – Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m writing about history.

L is for Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge

 

 

 

stuckey's bridge from VA Iron and Bridge Co on wikiTrue? Not true? Half true but blown way out of proportion?

The Legend

In the 1890s, Old Man Stuckey, a former member of the Dalton Gang, ran an inn on a stagecoach route along the Chunky River in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. He could often be seen at night on the bridge, waving his lantern to passing flatboats carrying produce and cotton up and down the river, and flagging down coaches who had been traveling all day. He offered weary travelers a soft bed and a hot meal.

According to legend, he murdered them in their sleep for their riches and buried their bodies along the banks of the river.

In 1901, the Virginia Bridge & Iron Company began rebuilding the dilapidated bridge by his inn and found the remains of Stuckey’s victims. The sheriff and his posse hung Stuckey from the very bridge he used to attract his victims. They left his body hanging for five days before the noose was cut and his body splashed into the cold water below.

Old Man Stuckey must have been a serious psychopath or sociopath (psychopaths are genetic, sociopaths are created, but both have the same personality traits). Since there was no record of his existence at that time, I wonder where he came from and what kind of background he had that made him so nuts. In writing the book “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge,” and investigating Old Man Stuckey’s exploits, I started by researching the Dalton Brothers – Bill, Bob, Grat, and Emmet. What I found interesting about them is they did not set out to be outlaws. They were all initially U.S. marshals. Bill lived in California on his successful farm with his beautiful wife and is not in the Wanted Poster below. I assume his wife wouldn’t let him go that day.

Dalton Gang

Bill was involved in California politics, and the local farmers were trying to keep the railroads from running through their farms. When his three brothers (the hotties pictured above) showed up, their manly testosterone levels escalated, and they came up with a plan to teach the railroads a thing or two. They attempted to rob a train, but being inexperienced, bumbling train robbers, the result was a total fiasco. They fled empty handed under gunfire.

Somewhere between that humiliating failure in 1890 and their terrible deaths in 1892 while trying to rob TWO banks – across the street from each other – at the same time – in broad daylight – which resulted in a shootout – and most of the gang getting killed, their fine morals and upbringing obviously went astray. Boys will be boys.

800px-Dalton_Gang_memento_mori_1892

The photo here is from Wikipedia from the 1892 shootout. The middle two are Bob and Grat. Their boots were removed. They are all in handcuffs. Who took their boots?? And why are they handcuffed?? And what’s up with the gun in the photo?? So, they had a town photographer, but no town doctor to know if they were dead or not, hence the handcuffs??

Anyway, Old Man Stuckey’s story starts with the Dalton Gang on the very day of this bank shootout. Old Man Stuckey didn’t pick very good friends.

 

The Backstory of the STUCKEY’S BRIDGE TRILOGY

Here’s a little background on the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy.

stuckey's bridge from VA Iron and Bridge Co on wikiMy childhood: I grew up in Meridian, Mississippi and heard the legend of Stuckey’s Bridge my whole life. It actually began in a book about the area written in the 1970s. The local paper, The Meridian Star, picked up on the legend from the book and the story spread like wildfire. The bridge instantly became THE place to party on the weekends, searching for ghosts and frightening girls into cuddling closer. (If you want to go there: head south out of Meridian on Interstate 59. Turn right at exit 142, then a quick left onto Meehan-Savoy Road. Travel 2.2 miles until you see a dirt road on your left. That is Stucky Bridge Road. The bridge will be about two miles down the dirt road. It is now closed, so you’ll have to turn around to leave. After you read the following legend, you may not want to go.)

The legend goes: In the late 1800s, a former member of the Dalton Gang came to Lauderdale County, Mississippi to find his fortune. He opened an inn near the Chunky River and stood on the old wooden bridge at night, flagging down merchants with his lantern, offering them a warm bed and a hot meal. Supposedly, he murdered his victims in their sleep and buried their bodies on the banks of the river. In 1901, the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company began rebuilding the old bridge and the bodies were discovered. The innkeeper, Old Man Stuckey as he is known to the locals, was hung by a posse from the iron rails of the new bridge.

Stuckey's cover_webIf you know me, you know I couldn’t stop searching until I figured out who this Old Man Stuckey really was…that became the first book in the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy, THE LEGEND OF STUCKEY’S BRIDGE. (Check out the book trailer…creepy!)

unnamedWhile writing the story, I didn’t want Old Man Stuckey to be alone all the time, so I had him run across a young boy named Levi. In the story, young Levi took on a creepiness all his own, and I received tons of emails and messages asking what Levi’s past was. As usual with my overactive imagination, I was more interested in his future than his past, so I wrote STUCKEY’S LEGACY: THE LEGEND CONTINUES. At the end of that book, Levi “got his” and the story focused on the young woman he met during the story, Penelope Juzan.

Back to my childhood: There was a second legend around the area where I grew up. Supposedly there was an inn on Lake Juzan in the 1840s where an innkeeper murdered his guests for wealth, much like Old Man Stuckey. The man’s name was Pierre Juzan, and he dumped the bodies in the lake with the help of his Indian sidekick. Toward the end of the legend, one of them killed the other for the wealth of gold they had confiscated.

Side note: There were also a couple different accounts of trunks of confederate gold disappearing as they traveled through the area during the Civil War.

I thought all these stories had a similar thread, and I wondered if I could separate them.

stuckey Gold Cover smallBack to the trilogy: I came to the conclusion that these legends were indeed different stories, but thought they were probably connected in some way. Those crazy ideas in my head became the third book in the trilogy, STUCKEY’S GOLD: THE CURSE OF LAKE JUZAN. 

These tales tickled me pink while writing them, and I hope you enjoy them too!

stuckey Trilogy_ smal

 

 

 

 

 

Update: October 1st release of – The Complete Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy  available exclusively on Kindle at Amazon. Click HERE!

Lori Crane Books at Amazon

Stuckey’s Bridge on News Channel 12

Stuckey's cover_webI got a call from this reporter a couple weeks ago about my book and the making of this segment, but I was nowhere around the county to do a live interview, so alas, no publicity for me. It’s a cool story none-the-less. My book “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge” is based on this story.

Click here to see the video segment – Channel 12 WJTV Jackson, MS – The transcription below is from their website.

In Lauderdale County, no one knows what “Stuckey’s” first name is but people know where to find his bridge over the Chunky River. Now it’s mostly used for a Halloween party spot but local legend holds it’s also the site of Stuckey’s lynching and haunting. NEWS CHANNEL 12’S Jacob Kittilstad looks for signs of ghosts -where dozens have been reported – in this week’s MYSTERY MONDAY.

Wayne Smith said he lives (with his dog Joe) on the property Stuckey is said to have owned in the mid-1800’s. “Everyone that comes here that does see something, They’re frightened by it. And they’ll tell you that they’re frightened,” Smith said. “Murdering people, disposing of their bodies, gold buried along the banks of the river,” Smith said – shortly summing up the story. “We have found through the years of talking to people that he was probably a serial killer,” Smith said.

Legends tell that “Stuckey” operated an inn where he killed as many as 20 people who were waiting to ferry across the Chunky River. After the bridge was built and his crimes discovered, locals held a Kangaroo Court and made an example of the former Dalton Gang member, according to local legend.

“They hung the man and his helper from the bridge. Left him and come back after three or four days to cut the bodies down. And they splashed into the water of the river,” Smith said.

Some people say they can still here that splash nightly (although beavers are the suspected noise-producers). But it’s the other sounds and sighting that are more disturbing.

“It’s more mist-like with a silhouette of a human being or you’ll see a mist with a face in it,” Smith said.

“There have been people who have heard women screaming. And it normally occurs at night,” Smith said.

Paranormal Investigation groups have shared what they call evidence of violent spirits online but some neighbors dismiss the videos as staged. Then there is also the fact that the bridge was built after that story would have taken place. At that point, the legend starts to fall apart but the myth carries on. 

(Note from Lori: the bridge was built in 1901, REPLACING the original wooden bridge built around 1850.)

“People come here and they see, well, we have had some sightings here. One as recent as this weekend,” Smith said. “You have to live here to see what we see and hear what we hear because when we first come here we were skeptical. There’s something here that people are seeing and feeling and when we come to the bridge, We feel it,” Smith said. “I haven’t seen anything but we feel it,” Smith said.

Other neighbors tell NEWS CHANNEL 12 that they have actually met relatives of “Stuckey” who claim their ancestor was accused of murder after a dispute over a hog. But, again, the evidence is lacking.