When I was a kid, I looked forward to spending a week or two every summer with my aunt and uncle. My family lived in what I considered the “Boonies” of Cherokee County; but my aunt and uncle had moved from Cherokee to the big city of Cartersville. They lived on Douglas Street. My visit to Cartersville had all the makings of a great summer. Everything I needed was within the traveling distance of my bare feet. Their house was a stone’s throw from Main Street; three blocks from the outdoor Olympic sized pool at Cartersville High School, and just a skip and a jump from the Iced-Slurpees of a convenience store on Tennessee Street. An old, wood-framed store was located a street or two behind their house.
One afternoon, early into the visit of the summer of my twelfth year, my aunt sent me to the old store to pick up something she needed…most likely a Coca Cola.
Entering the ancient structure, my nostrils were greeted with the musty odor of old things. Once the screened-doors of the old store creaked to a close behind me, and my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I found it was a place I liked. The older man who owned the store kept a good selection of penny candy on hand and my Aunt Mae had told me I could buy some.
I enjoyed the independence and responsibility my aunt entrusted to me. I relished the idea of doing such a grown-up thing as walking to the store alone. But, the getting there that gave me trouble.
To get to the store, I had to
walk run past a time worn, ivy covered house. The two-story home loomed eerily over the corner of Douglas and Carter Streets. At the corner, I had to pass immediately in front of the house and then turn left onto Carter Street. This journey that took me toward the rear of the shaded property.
Even on the brightest, sunniest, 100° days, there was something dark about that place. Bone chilling quakes rippled through me as I neared the house. No matter how many times I walked to the store, I could never shake the freezing fear I felt when I was near the house. Instinctively, I found myself avoiding the sidewalk in front of the house. Crossing to the other side of Douglas Street, turning left on the far side of Carter Street and then zig-zagging back when I was a safe distance from the “spooky’ house, made me feel somewhat protected. Holding my breath the whole time.
Even now, more than four decades later, I can drive past the place and remember the coldness I felt there, on hot summer days.
This past Valentine’s Day, someone on Facebook posted this question: “Anyone know where the house is in Cartersville that is on the Travel Channel tonight?”
I scrolled down and saw that someone had posted an article with a photo of the house. My spooky house.
Turns out, in the 1930’s, the area of the sidewalk in front of the house had been the scene of a murder. Which led to a kidnapping and a hanging. The murdered man was the Chief of Police of Cartersville….he had been seeing to the arrest of young black man. aged twenty-two years. While the young man was frequently incarcerated, the Chief would send for the prisoner’s beautiful, nineteen-year old wife. And so it went.
One night, the young man escaped and he and his brother drove to the home of the Chief, presumably to bring his wife home. She had confided in him, the details of the Chief’s despicable behavior.
When the brothers arrived at The Chief’s residence, he came outside. He was not willing to peacefully let the girl go. An argument ensued, and somehow the Chief’s gun wound up in the hands of the escaped prisoner.
The gun was fired. The Chief died on Douglas Street, in front of the house… (in the very spot where I had #fullbodychills on hot summer days).
The young man was arrested and jailed. A couple of nights later, local citizens kidnapped him from the city jail and lynched him in downtown Cartersville.
The young bride, fearing retaliation from the friends and family of the Chief, was afraid she would be killed as well. (she believed they would murder her before knew they would let anyone know what their Chief had been doing with the nineteen year old, black wife of his prisoner), She fled town and was never heard from again.
(This is the condensed version of the story, if you prefer to read more about the incident, I’ll post a link to an article written by local attorney Tony Smith. He quotes local historian Ed Bostick, author of “Lynchings in Bartow County” for the Etowah Valley Historical Society. He quotes and names many other local residents. You can read the full account of the murder of Cartersville Police Chief Joe Ben Jenkins, by scrolling down to “1930” at this link: http://www.tony5m17h.net/CartersvilleLynchings.html ) Thank you Phil Bridges for the link.
No matter how you feel about ghosts, haints, haunts, ghouls and lingering spirits….I know I felt something cold and creepy on that street, four decades after the tragic events which unfolded there.
Thank you for reading, Danita