The ABC of Hillbilly Gardens

While traveling recently, I did what I always do, searching Roadside America or Atlas Obscura for things strange or unusual to visit in the area through which I was to be passing. That’s how I learned about Apple Valley Hillbilly Gardens in western Kentucky. This attraction, a folk-art installation and open-air museum (along with Toyland, owner Keith Holt’s massive collection of pop-cultural playthings), isn’t for everyone, but if you’re the sort, as I am, to appreciate oddball sculptures created from junk and themed on cheesy puns, this place is paradise. It’s pure Americana; it’s hokey, it’s charming, and it’s delightful, and Mr. Holt, the artist in residence, will keep you entertained for hours, if you have the time to spend there. They don’t even charge an admission, though donations are accepted.

They’ve got a mummified chicken in there!

Mr. Holt, who has worked as an actor (he’s friends with Angelina Jolie; yes, really), puppeteer, standup comic, and circus clown, was telling me about an encounter he had recently with an ABC—an “alien big cat”. Hearing a racket one night, and owning several chickens, ducks, and other animals allowed to roam freely throughout the site, he got up to go investigate, coming face to face with a large black panther. The beast even snarled at him before slinking off.
According to Keith Holt’s grandmother, Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde infamy, left this shotgun behind when he spent the night at her place while on the lam. It has been conformed that B and C were in the area at that time, so it’s feasible.

Black Panthers aren’t supposed to exist in Kentucky. Not outside of a zoo. You see, “panther” is just a catchall term for any large cat. A “panther” is not a species. When you see a black panther, what you’re really seeing is a black leopard, or maybe a black jaguar. But leopards and jaguars aren’t native to Kentucky. Cougars are—but cougars don’t come in black. Not ever. The odds are a million to one against it. What did Mr. Holt see, then? Somebody’s escaped “pet”? Doubtful. An escapee from a local zoo? Even more doubtful. He saw one of the infamous Alien Big Cats, which may or may not be real cats at all. But that’s a subject for another post.
No photographs of the ABC, unfortunately, but I did capture a snapshot of this giant snake.

By The Evil Cheezman

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (,, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!

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