Written by John Kerr
No campfire? No problem… Step right up if you dare, and leave your inhibitions at home. This quaint mountain town is full of terrors that have nothing to do with traffic. Something wicked this way comes, if only you know where to look. But mind your step dear reader, the dead walk among us…
Down Went the Jimmys
They say we have too much entertainment. All you have to do is reach into your pocket and a device will give you any movie, music, or any connection you might want. I put it to you that when we don’t have a high level of entertaining possibilities our base instincts come crawling like sugar-starved over indulged toddlers looking for a fix.
Case in point: In 1835 James Henry and James Sneed were convicted of stealing horses. At that time a few thousand people lived in Asheville. When those two were sentenced to be hanged, ten thousand people showed up. They traveled from all around for days to attend, a testament to how bored people were. It was either watch two men die or another day of hard work.
It was a celebration, too. People arrived the night before and essentially tailgated. There were songs, dancing, and, ironically, the occasional horse theft. What was it like for those two men the night before their execution? Hearing the brouhaha outside and knowing their impending doom brought so much joy could have planted the seeds of future hauntings. They were being made an example of. An example that sometimes justice was arbitrarily vindictive.
The next day the two were brought from their holding cells at the courthouse jail. They were put on a cart and made to sit on their own future coffins as they were paraded down Broadway Avenue towards the gallows. After being brought up to the platform, and before moving on with the rest of the death sentence, the two were given the opportunity to address the crowd. James Sneed said, yes, he cheated at cards; yes, he cheated on his girlfriend; and if he had filed taxes, he would have cheated on those as well; but he claimed never to have stolen a horse and he defied his accusers to say otherwise. The man who had accused both James’ only turned and walked away. Now the crowd got excited because the moment was at hand. The thought of two men dying gave life to the mob. The blood lust rose to a kind of mass hysteria. Hoods were placed on their heads and nooses about their necks. Last rights were read, but the condemned would be hard-pressed to hear it over the screams of delight from the animalistic throng. The executioner pulled the lever. Then fate turned the cruel to the macabre. The hinges of the trapdoors were stuck with blood and urine from previous hangings. Because really, who thinks to clean a gallows? It’s not like they had OSHA. The reluctant hinges forced the doors to only open slightly. Instead of snapping their necks, the nooses only strangled the two. It was said that the men appeared to be tap dancing as they tried to find some surface to stand on. The audience was at first stunned to silence and then roared with laughter. Their blood pressure increased trying to overcome the cinch of the noose so the hands of the doomed swelled to the size of their heads. Hilarity turned to horror as the two transformed from men to blue deformed monsters. The dancing pushed the doors down and the show came to a twitchy conclusion. Some cheered and others vomited. James Henry and James Snead were buried only sixty feet from where they were hanged. The crowd looked at each other and knew they were guilty too… of losing their humanity.
Legend has it that on dark nights when the fog rolls into town at the corner Woodfin and Broadway the clopping of hooves can be heard and the swing of a trap door. I don’t think that’s the ghost of the Jimmys. It’s the shame of a mob that needed video games.
The Jackson Building Ghost Speaks
I made it to the top and that became my ruin. You know what’s really bad? I don’t remember my own damn name. It wasn’t distinct; an apostle plus a surname related to some archaic one like Smith or Joiner. When I was alive people feared my name. I’m sure it was only spoken in whispers like Black Beard. Banking in the 1920s was a lot like being a pirate. You found a lone target and plundered it. In ‘29 I lost everything, including my will to live. I went out big, too. It takes guts to swan dive from the top of the Jackson Building. I really could have used the target that’s there on the sidewalk now. Half of me landed on an Edsel; what a mess.
The story is that I’m just a face that appears in the window near the top floor, but when people really see me…they don’t talk about it. You might think being a ghost is pretty fun. You can scare people, which is hilarious. The key is to draw them in by provoking their interest. Appearing as a little girl in a night shirt, facing away is becoming predictable. Everybody knows on the other side of that long unwashed hair is a fleshless skull. I have more style. Who isn’t going to come closer to a meowing kitten poking its head out of a paper bag? The kitten retreats into the bag, and I step out of the shadows shrieking with my bird beak nose and bleeding eyes. That moment of terror is my current addiction. It’s also the downside of this existence. What else do I have? Outside of the time I spend training kittens: nothing.
There is no life to being a ghost. Once, I tried to have a conversation with a demon. He was in possession of a guy in jail next door. So awkward! He kept accidentally falling into the patter he would use on the possessed.
I’m all: “It’s pretty fascinating how Asheville has changed in the last eighty years.”
And he’s like: “It really is because…everyone is talking about you behind your back. You need to stab them in the stomach!”
I’m like: “Dude! You’re not making any sense.”
I end up doing a lot of eavesdropping on the living. I’ve listen to people longer than I was ever alive. I follow their stories like soap operas. Sometimes I become too involved. I start to care. That freaks me out. The face of genuine emotion makes me panic. I’ll create an evil fart smell and break up their conversation. Both will think the other is guilty, but I know…it’s the only contribution I can make.
Hurtling towards the pavement all those years ago I thought I was escaping frustration and pain. Turns out, I was prolonging it. Odd, when I was rapidly heading to the top of my industry I was essentially doing the same thing.
Dr. Vladmir Cutupand-dropoff XIV LaZoom Bus haunted tour guide AKA: Mondy Carter.