As my father’s side of the family originally came from that part of the State (after migrating from Georgia sometime after the Civil War), I’d long been familiar with the legend of the Witch of Hinds Road and her fiery-eyed familiar. In town, or close enough, this past weekend, as I’d driven down to catch a double-feature of THE LOST BOYS and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET at the drive-in there, I made it a point to leave early enough to make the visit to Hind’s Road, Gadsden, Alabama’s most notorious stretch of unpaved roadway.
The story is, an old witch lived down in the bottom of a hollow, or “holler” in the local vernacular, in a shack by a pond. She used to kidnap children from town, tie their hands and feet together and throw them into the pond as sacrifices. She’d used her sorcery to conjure up this huge black dog to guard her property. When the people of town had finally had enough and tracked the witch down, setting her shack afire and burning her alive—the hellhound must have been sleeping on the job that day—her evil spirit remained (as did the dog) and has been haunting the area ever since. Of course none of that ever happened. It’s pure folklore.
Doing some digging, it seems there was a house located on the site, where an old woman lived alone (probably after her husband had died). She wasn’t a witch, just a nice old lady. She did, it seems, have a big black dog, but it was hardly conjured from the infernal realm. And the house did burn down at some point after the lady died, but it wasn’t an act of vigilante justice carried out by the bereaved parents of murdered children.
The irony that Freddy Krueger is a child murderer who was burned alive by the bereaved parents of his victims isn’t lost on me. Considering I’d made the trip primarily to watch Freddy in a movie in the town where a supposed witch had supposedly committed the exact same crimes of which he was guilty in the movies, it was a cool dollop of serendipity.
By the way, the fact that there never was a witch or a hellhound hasn’t stopped numerous people from seeing them throughout the years. There are even those who claim to have been chased by a shaggy phantom beast with glowing red eyes, and to have seen the bodies of children floating in that pond. Has communal belief in something that never really existed somehow brought it into existence? If human perception really can affect reality, as scientific studies have suggested, then who knows?