Is there room in the Para/Crypto/Fortean world for a gun-toting, paranoid, bipolar, opinionated bastard? A lonely romantic in search of his lost soul? A knight, Samurai, gunslinger, born in the wrong century? A self-destructive, doom-driven survivor seeking redemption? A heavy drinking gonzo outlaw cryptozoologist whose ego is exceeded only by his libido?
No, there isn't. That's why I'm here...

05 February 2010

Sand Mountain Wrap-up

While I could go on and on about the stories, legends, and curious wonders of the Sand Mountain, Alabama region, I'm going to wrap-up this little case study with this final post.
So far, I've discussed the famous UFO's and cattle mutilations, Bigfoot, "Sea Serpent" and Thunderbird sightings, and those pesky black unmarked helicopters.
Today I'll mention a few other odd and curious items about the area I've managed to find.

Religion: Get Some!
(apologies to Jimmy Buffett!)

By and large, the people of the South, including residents of the Sand Mountain area, can be described as religious and conservative. Mind you, that's not saying they're bigoted or intolerant, in fact, they're some of the nicest people you'll find anywhere. Most of the counties or towns and cities are "dry", meaning no alcohol is sold. Among those that are "wet", the majority have "Blue Laws" in place, meaning no sales on Sunday.
In the more remote areas of Sand Mountain, there are a few small churches that still engage in the practice of snake handling. If you're unfamiliar with this practice, it's just what it sounds like. They handle snakes. Venomous snakes. Rattlesnakes (which really do taste like chicken, btw!), copperheads, major poisonous critters. And I don't mean in a careful manner. They pick them up bare handed, pass them around, sometimes even kiss them. They take the Bible passage about "taking up serpents" quite literally as a gesture and show of faith. I'm all for freedom of religion, but that's not my cup of tea.
What's odd is that, given the overall religious conservatism, there seem to be a lot of schools with "devilish" mascots! Red Devils, Blue Devils, and Albertville High School's "Aggies". Technically, "Aggie" has something to do with agriculture, however, the school's mascot is a sort of "imp" (as anyone who's ever dined at the "Aggie Burger" can tell you!). Not really a devil, but more of a mischievious, trickster-like figure. Could the juxtaposition of Bible-belt conservatism and all those "devils" running around set up some kind of cosmic imbalance?

Speaking Of Religion

I have a few relatives in Albertville. My cousin and aunt used to tell us about a house that was owned by "Devil Worshippers". They showed it to us once. It's a big house on top of a hill, with big windows facing the road. They said that on some nights, you could drive by and see robed figures standing in a circle through the windows. The reader should bear in mind that in the South, the term "Devil Worshipper" could be applied to anything from Druids/Wiccans to people who wear Alice Cooper or KISS t-shirts in public, so I've always taken their story with a grain of salt.
I did some searching on the web, and I did find a reference to the "Witches Wall" in Albertville. From the description, it doesn't appear to be that same house. The story is that "Satanic rituals" were once held in the house, and if you stand by the wall at night, you can hear the sounds of evil laughter and screams (yep, screams again!).
I can't verify if in fact any kind of Satanic or Demonic activity was ever performed in the area (apart from my cousin's Ouija board!). But some paranormalists caution against such activites because they can open a portal. Connection? Maybe, maybe not.

A-Haunting We Will Go

I mentioned at the outset that I don't really get into ghosts or haunted houses. Those interested in finding a haunted house, cemetery, building, school, or other location will find quite a few listed on the web.
However, a few "hauntings" aroused my interest.
Albertville's Main Street Strip: in the early 1900's, a tornado tore through downtown Albertville, killing many people. To this day, business owners and patrons along the Main Strip report feeling a chilling coldness even on hot summer days, and at night, witnesses report hearing people screaming in the empty streets. Any ghost hunter worth their KII meter will tell you that loud, audible screams are NOT typical of hauntings. The various "ghosty" reality shows would give their eye teeth to capture such a phenomenon at one of their haunted sites.
I've always found it interesting that the sound of "screaming" is witnessed at the scene of other paranormal phenomena. I have theory that what we hear as a scream is in fact an effect of a "portal" or gateway being opened. Much like breaking the sound barrier produces a sonic "boom". Just my thoughts, I can't really prove it or anything.
Another haunting of note (to me, anyway) is the ghost of Nancy Dollar's dog. Nancy Dollar Lived near DeSoto Falls. After her death, thieves broke into her house, killing her faithful dog. (there's more to the story, but I won't go into the whole thing). Anyway, to this day people report seeing a "phantom black dog" on the property near Nancy's old cabin. "Black Dogs" or "Hellhounds" enjoy a long folkloric tradition in European history, but not so much in the US. They've always been an interest of mine, so this tale made me take notice.

Beneath Sand Mountain

Of course neither I nor anyone else can guarantee that you'll see a UFO, black helicopter, ghost dog, or any other bizarre creature here. But I can assure you that you'll find some of the most beautiful, picturesque scenery anywhere. Sand Mountain is home to many national and state parks, resorts, and tourist destinations. Some of these include: Bangor Cave, Rickwood Caverns, Cathedral Caverns, (hmm.. is there a pattern here?) DeSoto Caverns, Russell Cave, (yeah, I see a pattern developing here) Sequoyah fact, Jackson county, Alabama has more caves per square mile than any other county in the US. The region is literally honecombed with catacombs. Feel free to don your tin foil hat and ponder the possibility of secret underground military installations, subterranean alien bases, passages to the Hollow Earth, a society of Bigfoots living in the network of tunnels and caves beneath the mountain...

The "Vibe"

While I've never travelled the area extensively, I have visited my relatives in Albertville, spent an anniversary with my wife at a lodge on the banks of Lake Guntersville, been mountain climbing in Mentone, and I passed through the areas of Gadsden, Attalla, Oneonta, and more when I travelled to and from school at Jacksonville State University. Despite all the heavy weirdness I've discussed here, I never felt any kind of ominous or foreboding "vibe" from the area. In my case, it's more of a sense of wonder. It's the kind of place that makes me want to explore, travel off the beaten path, and hopefully someday spend more time enjoying the area.
If you travel through or near the area, take a camera. You may not capture a UFO or any other high strangeness, but you'll find enough natural beauty to make it worth the trip!


Autumnforest said...

Great summary. Of course, where you find highly conservative religious types, you also find the most titillation about vices (hence the priests and fixation on devils). So, the people might be more liable to describe weird things as devils. I ghost hunt with people who are really religious and when things happen, they think it's evil, demons, and possession with ensue. The citizen's explanatory style is important in considering why so many "dark creatures" show up where they are. In other states, it could be explained by a panther, a bigfoot, or just animals in the woods. The fact that the mountainous area is limestone and sandstone and pocked full of caves is really significant. If you do any reading about mining towns, especially those in Mexico, it's in and around the caves that creatures and UFOs are sighted. Why? There's a lot of theories we could insert there. I'm sure you've hit them all. I like your explanation of a scream being a sonic boom of sorts. We had one at Aspen Grove. She screamed at twilight in the summertime at the creek where a nurse supposedly drowned herself. It had a very weird quality because you could be right near it and it was as loud as when you heard it acres away. It sounds like beautiful countryside. I admit, it'd be a blast to camp there and just study the sky and woods for a time. Lucky you!

Jeff said...

Mount Shasta is another mountain that is a paranormal hotspot. Interesting how certain areas seem to have so much paranormal activity.