by Fred N. Lee
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Sleepy Hollow, England, St. Francisville, Louisiana, and Caesar, Mississippi all have one thing in common—GHOST!! Sleepy Hollow has their Headless Horseman, England has their haunted castles, St. Francisville has their Plantation homes, and Caesar has Bloody Branch, the Cemetery, and the old Hershel Lee house. Let me elaborate—
The story of The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is well read among grade school students. The story unfolds about a man who’s head was removed by a sword and he continued after death trying to find his head to put it back on his shoulders, or so I remember. He finally succeeded and rested in peace, much to Icabod Crane’s relief.
It is a well-known fact that nearly all the castles in England have their resident ghosts. Story after story can be related about visitors who were sleeping in a Castle waking up in the middle of the night to see sinister beings standing at the foot of their beds. I never had a desire to visit England or stay in one of their Castles, at least after I began hearing these ghost stories.
Ghost sightings have been reported in several Civil War era homes in the St. Francisville, LA. Occasionally visitors touring the homes will ask the hostess the name of the young lady who just walked down the hall. The hostess will casually reply that it is only one of the resident ghosts. More than one visitor has chosen to vacate the tour after that announcement.
Now on to Caesar, MS—many of the older folks who lived there when I was just a lad of a boy related the story of how Bloody Branch got its name. It seems that before a road connecting Picayune, MS and Caesar existed there was a trail that most travelers used. Since there were no bridges to cross over a stream, the travelers had to ford the streams, usually at a shallow place where their horses and buggies could easily get across without the women and children getting wet.
The story goes that a man was fording the stream at the exact location of the now Caesar-Picayune highway when something spooked his horse, causing the man to fall over the side of his wagon. A wheel apparently ran over the man, breaking his neck, thus killing him instantly. Ever since the accident, which occurred in the mid-eighteen hundreds, many people have reported seeing a big ball of fire the size of a basketball float over the exact spot where the man died. Many of those telling the story were actually trustworthy storytellers. These sinister occurrences were mostly noticed on nights when there was a new moon.
I myself, being a very brave youngster, never believed this story. However, just to be on the safe side, I made every effort never to cross Bloody Branch at night, especially by my self. I remember on one Sunday instead of going to Church as I was told to do I spent the afternoon with my cousin over at his house. His house, unfortunately, was the other side of Bloody branch. The day drew on until nightfall. I knew I was in serious trouble because my cousin was more of a coward than I and would never agree to walk with me home.
As I approached the exact location where the man was killed, I distinctly remember hearing horse hooves approaching from behind at a great speed. Sleepy Hollow immediately entered my mind. Was this the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow approaching to take the head from my shoulder? Not in this lifetime!! I immediately went into high gear, bypassing the necessity of going through low and second. By fate I was barefooted at the time or else the soles on my shoes would have caught fire. With rocks flying and the heart pounding, I streaked toward the only house in the community with lights where my cousin Pat. By this time I had passed high gear and threw in the afterburner. As I approached my cousin’s house his herd of dogs started barking and running and hiding under his house, some heading out across the field in back of his house, others clearing the road ahead of me, a sure sign the Headless Horseman was gaining on me. Knowing that I couldn’t outrun him I decided to stop, hit my knees, and beg for mercy. That’s when my brother-in-laws big police dog finally caught up with me, began licking my face and had a look on his face as if to say “that was fun, lets do it again.
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Sounds sort of like one of my experiences once. Thanks, Thomas