My name is Jefferson, and this is my true ghost story. Some say there’s a difference between legend and lore. I suppose it’s up to you to decide.
Ya see, ‘round about 1953 the state got the idea to dam up Bean Blossom Creek to make a new water source for Bloomington. It was finished around 1956 and named after a politician by the name of Lemon. Same as many other chapters in Brown County history, certain things became displaced in the process. Homes, animals… a church and a cemetery. Yes. You heard right. Holy ground was desecrated by the state in order to make way for their flood. Like the second coming of Noah I tell you. They claim that the graves were moved to other cemeteries through the area, but I have a hard time believing it. This is an old county, and it’s not unusual to have grave markers disappear with time and weather, or graves go unmarked altogether. Wooden crosses and caskets fading into the memory of the hills and hollers. So no sir, they couldn’t rightly say they moved all of the bodies.
When the creek was dammed and the water rose up, it swallowed the low country in a great, slow, groaning yawp. The creek become reservoir drank in all the land she could, as if she were a great bluegreen monster. She slurped and supped to carve out Riddle Point, she made the eastern swampland. That creeping giant even inched under the shuffle creek trestle, daring the mighty locomotives to cross her path. Yes, the mighty waters had power over all, with one exception. In the west end, where the water is the deepest, there’s one hilltop that dared not be swallowed up. The very spot where the church and cemetery had been. They call it “Cemetery Island”.
Now, all of this happened before my time. This is the lore my grand dad handed down. He saw it all. And he also told me to never go near Cemetery Island, least not at night. He said it was infested with poisonous snakes, but likely he figured that was the only thing that might keep a young boy off the holy land. And sure enough, when I was old enough to know better, I was looking for a catfish hole one night. Dark as pitch with the moon behind the thick clouds. Fog rolling off the dam… I pulled my little boat close to the island.
At first it was something you could feel more than hear, like a far off train coming across the shuffle creek trestle, or a powerful wind yet the air was still. Like a hundred ancient eyes rising up to look at you and ask why their rest had been disturbed by the waters. And least of all by YOU. The moon momentarily peeled back the clouds, to reveal the shadows dancing between the trees, gathering ever closer to my johnboat. Urging me to leave them and never return. I pushed off from the island and as I floated back, the shadows retreated and the ghosts sank back to their resting places.
Now, when I hear the train cross the trestle, and hear the wind come round riddle point, I think of those restless souls, and I leave them be.