Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 4....Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble

I'll step away from my Hamlet quotes and move to Macbeth in honour of Halloween.

It's not quite Halloween here in Mississippi. Just a few hours yet. Thought I'd share a couple of the stories I grew up with in Natchez, Mississippi.

Natchez is the oldest town on the Mississippi river. It's where I grew up, where I went to school and where teenagers out on the town for the night frighten themselves by witnessing the Turning Angel at the Natchez Cemetary. I know I was scared sh*tless many of nights but that may have been down to the alcohol consumed on these evenings out.

There is a statue of an angel at the front of the cemetery that, as you approach from a particular angle, appears to turn to greet you. This has been the subject of Natchez legend throughout the years... but the thing about it is, this legend is true. Because of this, the statue has been dubbed, "The Turning Angel". In this case, there is a logical explanation. If you read the inscription on the stature, it says: "Erected by the Natchez Drug Company to the memory of the unfortunate employees who lost their lives in the great disaster that destroyed its building on march 14, 1908." The five girls who were killed are buried under the watchful gaze of the angel. The Natchez Drug Company commissioned the statue, and the artist carved it in such a way to form an optical illusion. Approaching the statue from the correct angle makes it appear to turn as you grow nearer.

Then there is King's Tavern. It's more or less a restaurant/pub but it has an interesting story.

King's Tavern is one of the oldest buildings in Natchez, Mississippi - if not the oldest itself - and was built sometime in the latter 1700s. Along with being a tavern and inn, it was also the city's first post office. Richard King, owner of the tavern, was a prominent man in Natchez of that day.

There is a notorious side to the restaurant, though. In the 1930s, workers were expanding the fireplace and tore out the chimney wall. They found a space behind the wall that contained the skeletal remains of three bodies: two men and one woman. Laying on the floor was a jeweled dagger, which was assumed to have been used in their demise.

The woman is thought to have been Madeline, Richard King's mistress. As the story goes, when his wife found out about the affair, she had Madeline killed and bricked into the fireplace in the main dining room. Who the two male skeletons are is anyone's guess... much of the supernatural mischief today is blamed on Madeline, however.
Workers report hearing a baby crying in the restaurant - specifically, from rooms that were supposedly empty. The story behind the infant's cry goes back to the 1700s when the building was not only an inn, but also the post office and one of the centers of the city's commerce. A young mother was trying to comfort her fussy infant, when a man named Big Harpe - one of the notorious Harpe brothers - walked over from the bar. She thought that he was going to assist her, but instead, he grabbed the baby by its feet and slammed the infant against the wall. As the distraught mother crumpled to the floor to gather the child's lifeless body, Big Harpe strolled back to the bar and ordered another drink.
Upstairs are rooms that travelers along the Natchez Trace used to rent. The staff there at the restaurant told us a couple of stories about the upper floors. The first is about the mirror - we were told to always keep watching it, because sometimes out of the corner of your eye you will see the reflection of someone standing there. Not in the room... just in the mirror!

The other story concerns the bed. Even though no one's used it for many, many years, we were told to run our hand just a few inches above it. Many people report feeling warm spots on it, as if someone had just been lying there. Whether this is legit or just a tavern tale, the upstairs bedroom was a curious place to visit.

With all of the ghost stories and atmosphere, the real treasure at this place is the food - it's incredible. King's Tavern is a wonderful place to enjoy a delicious steak!

Happy Halloween Everyone! Boo!

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