Ghosts of the Prairie

HAUNTED KENTUCKY

THE KILLER GHOST OF
EASTERN KENTUCKY

This Story is excerpted in part from Troy Taylor's book BEYOND THE GRAVE (Whitechapel Press 2000) For information about ordering the book, click here for the Whitechapel Press Page

In 1938, stories of a "killer ghost" began to be told in eastern Kentucky. Even though no one ever saw this malevolent apparition, it was said to have caused five very similar and unexplained deaths.

In June of that year, a man named Carl Pruitt came home from work one night and found his wife in bed with another man. After her lover escaped by jumping out of a window, Pruitt strangled his wife with a small piece of chain. Immediately after, perhaps having just realized the depth of his madness, he committed suicide. He was buried in a separate cemetery from his wife.

A few weeks after he was buried, visitors to the cemetery began to notice the pattern of a chain that was slowly forming on Pruitt’s gravestone. The "chain" was caused by an unusual discoloration in the stone and slowly, it gained links until it formed the shape of a cross. At that point, it stopped growing. A number of local residents suggested that perhaps the supernaturally marked tombstone should be removed from the graveyard and destroyed, but officials scoffed and nothing was done about it.

A month or so after the chain stopped growing, a group of boys were riding their bicycles past the cemetery one afternoon. One of them, a boy named James Collins, decided to throw a few stones at Pruitt’s "cursed" gravestone, probably just to prove that he wasn’t afraid and had little use for spooky stories. Whatever the reason for his actions, the hurled rocks managed to chip several spots from the stone. As the young men started home, Collins’ bicycle suddenly began to pick up speed, to the point that he could no longer control it. It veered off the road and collided with a tree. Then, in some unexplained way, the sprocket chain tore loose and managed to wrap itself about the boy’s neck, strangling him. Rumors quickly spread about this remarkable occurrence, especially after an examination of the Pruitt tombstone revealed that no marks or chips marred the surface of it. The other boys knew what they had seen however and their breathless accounts only fueled speculation about a vengeful ghost.

James Collins’ mother was especially heartbroken over her son’s death. Less than a month after his accident, she went out to the cemetery and destroyed the Pruitt gravestone with a small hand axe. She pounded and hacked at the stone until it lay in dozens in pieces. The following day, she was hanging the family wash on the line. Ironically, the clothesline was made from small linked chain rather than the usual rope or wire. Somehow, she slipped and fell and her neck became entangled in the chain. She twisted and tried to get free, but it was no use and she strangled to death. The legends say that after she died, the Pruitt tombstone showed no signs of destruction!

Needless to say, news of this most recent incident spread. A short time later, a local farmer and three members of his family were driving a wagon past the cemetery. For some reason, the farmer announced that he had no fear of ghosts and fired several shots at the Pruitt stone with his revolver. Chunks flew from the marker and immediately, the horses pulling the wagon began to run. Their hooves pounded faster and faster, until the wagon was out of control. The family members all jumped to safety but the farmer hung on, frantically pulling on the reins. Just as the wagon veered around a curve in the road, the farmer was thrown from his seat and he tumbled forward. His neck snagged on one of the trace chains and the motion of the horses snapped his neck. Once again, Pruitt’s stone showed no signs of the damage that had been done to it.

The local residents were now convinced of the fact that the grave marker was cursed. Things got so bad that the local congressman was contacted and two police officers were sent out to the cemetery to investigate the stories. When they arrived at the graveyard, one of the men began to laugh about the stories and made fun of the idea of so-called "ghosts and curses". Regardless, they took several photos of the stone and then left to go and talk with the witnesses to the events surrounding it. As they were leaving, the doubting officer happened to look into the car’s rearview mirror. In it, he saw a bright light coming from the direction of the Pruitt tombstone. At first he assumed that it was just a reflection from the car’s tail lights, but then it began to get closer to the car. Startled, he began to drive faster, but the light kept coming. He drove faster and faster, always watching his mirror. His partner pleaded with him to slow down, but it was no use. The light was still coming!

Just then, the car swerved off the road and crashed between two posts. It rolled over and over again several times. The officer on the passenger side was thrown clear of the wreck and was only slightly hurt. Shaken, he climbed to his feet and went to his partner’s aid. He found that his friend was dead... but he had been killed before the car had wrecked. As the car had passed between the two posts, a chain that had been hanging between then had shattered the car’s windshield and had wrapped around the driver’s neck. The force was so great that it had nearly severed his head!

After this death, residents began to avoid the cemetery altogether. Only one man, Arthur Lewis, dared to go there. He was determined to prove that the stories of a "cursed" tombstone were nothing but superstitious nonsense. One evening, after telling his wife what he intended to do, he went to the graveyard with a hammer and chisel and began to methodically destroy the grave marker. The sounds of the hammer and the shattering stone could be heard by all who lived near the cemetery... and they also heard the bloodcurdling scream that filled the night too! Several men grabbed lanterns and went down to investigate. When they arrived, they found Lewis dead with the long chain that had been used to close the cemetery gate wrapped about his neck. Apparently, something had frightened him and he had started running, forgetting about the chain that barred the entrance gate. Oddly, even though ten or fifteen people had heard the sound of the man breaking Pruitt’s gravestone, there were no marks of broken places on it.

After this last death, other bodies in the cemetery were removed and buried again in other locations. People gradually moved away and the small burial plot was forgotten. Since Pruitt had no family left to care for his grave, the site became overgrown and tangled with weeds. In 1958, it was destroyed for good by a strip-mining operation. The five strange deaths, all linked by chains, were never explained.

From "Beyond the Grave" by Troy Taylor


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© Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.