I will say, it can be so much fun to research stories that have been passed down. Looking up and researching legends and ghost stories I heard as a youth usually around a campfire, can be inspiring while I work to write. Even my daughter has become intrigued to hear the stories and legends of her hometown.
One of those stories that intrigued me and I remember a bit different from what is published was the Mysterious Horse Hoof Prints. I was taken to see the prints as a youth, and probably wouldn’t be able to locate them today without directions from the locals. As the story goes, back in the early 1800’s it was forbidden to horse race on Sunday. There was this wild young man, Jesse Elliott, who seemed to live to defy the rules and laws, enjoying his free spirit and spirits of the still. He met a mysterious stranger on a black horse around Bath, North Carolina one Sunday. The stranger challenged Mr. Jesse by telling him, “Your stallion could be beaten.” The foolishly wild young man accepted the challenge by telling the stranger to meet him at the track in an hour. Supposedly, Mr. Jesse went home to get ready for the race and was warned by his wife to not race on Sunday. It is said, her final warning was, “I hope you’ll be sent to hell this very day!”
At the track, when Mr. Jesse arrived, he found the mysterious stranger was waiting for him. Both men seemed confident and calm as they agreed on the terms of the race, even though it is said, Mr. Jesse stated something about the stranger bothered him, but he was eager to win the race and take the man’s money.
The race was on, and both horses galloped down the lane. Now I was told as a youth, Mr. Jesse’s horse was falling behind, and he decided to take a short cut to by-pass the curve ahead and take the lead, but others say Mr. Jesse’s horse was taking the lead. As the story continues, Mr. Jesse was heard to have shouted to his horse, “Take me in a winner or take me to hell!”
I remember sitting around the campfire, the voice of the storyteller getting softer as he leaned closer to continue the story, “And at that very moment, as the horse reached the curve in the track, Mr. Jesse’s horse suddenly twisted his head, reared and dug its hooves into the ground. Mr. Jesse was violently thrown, breaking his neck against a large pine tree and killed instantly.” I would get goose bumps listening and watching him speak with his hands.
It’s said, after the race, the stranger disappeared, and Mr. Jesse’s horse was never again seen, but the horse hoof prints remain, even today. To add to the story, there are those that believed Mr. Jesse went straight to hell that moment, and others that believe they continue to hear him and his horse galloping the area. Of course, the storyteller would add that last tidbit that would take my breath that some say they have seen a dark horse and his rider’s head bobs of a broken neck.
Goose bumps would cover my arms as the hair would stand, when I continued to listen to that soft tone, almost a whisper, as I was told about folks that have attempted to bury the hoof prints with leaves, pine needles, and soil, and they would reappear. I would get shivers listening to the various attempts mentioned over the past hundred years. There is one encounter of chicken feed that was spread around and in the prints. The chickens would not eat the feed from the prints but only on the ground around the hoof prints. Even today, there is still the mystery of why the hoof prints remain and the story still fascinates me and people of all ages.
- Creative Storytellers (swoolard79.wordpress.com)