|By Bill Umstead, 1968|
I thought the Betts Ghost had long been dead. I had heard little about him for the past thirty years or more until a week or so ago, when I was talking to one of our citizens, who used to be well acquainted with the peddler ghost that haunted the Nighcut area for many years.
This fella told me that one morning last fall he decided to go squirrel hunting. he got up before daybreak, walked up Nighcut Hill, but on his way he decided to stop at the ghost rock and rest a spell.
He sat on the rocks, so he said, for an hour. He heard nor saw no squirrel, but all at once he heard something drop as if a large rock had tumbled down over the hill.
He looked through the brush and spied a large object, the likes of which he had never seen before in his life. This large object was moving along slowly.
Well, about all I could say to him was to ask him what he had to drink for breakfast.
Such were the stories told many years ago that excited not only the kids but many grown-ups.
As the story goes, a peddler of came through the Brooksville section and was found robbed and murdered as he camped under the rocks at the foot of Nighcut hill.
The old road used to go up by the rocks and then meandered around the hill and across to the Big Root side. Many people traveling this road, especially at night, saw or heard the ghost. Sometimes he would be walking along the road, with no head on, or sitting on the rocks with his leather cases open.
A peddler, for those who might not know, was a man, usually a foreign-born person, usually a large robust man carrying as many as two large leather cases strapped across his back.
He came often through the country years ago peddling merchandise. His wares were usually an assortment of all kinds of fancy materials, dress goods, which he hoped to sell to housewives.
Many people were skeptic and afraid of peddlers and they had a hard time obtaining a place to stay overnight. In many instances they slept in barns, haystacks or under rocks, or so that is the way the story is told.
I doubt if much of it is true, but some of it may be. The Betts Ghost was the real thing to many people and many hair-raising tales were told about this ghost.
My father lived at Brooksville and he passed on to me many incidents that took place about this ghost.
One the stories, which was real, took place involving a traveling salesman. The drummer, as such salesmen were called, came to Brooksville to call on one of the merchants. He spent considerable time there and it was getting late in the evening when he departed for Grantsville.
Some persons in the store began to relate the ghost tales and it was certain that the salesman heard them. The man seemingly was much interested and acted as if he was scared. This, of course, prompted a few of the pranksters to lay for the drummer at the ghost rocks.
In the bunch was a nearsighted fellow. He could not see too well after dark. They were waiting for the salesman with one fellow sitting on the rocks with a white sheet pulled over him.
The drummer approached, riding his horse down the hill, but he paid little attention to matters. He rode up close and pulled a gun out of his pocket, opening fire with bullets bouncing off the rocks. The boys scattered in all directions but the nearsighted fellow fell off the rocks and almost broke his neck.
This incident, father said, about broke up the scaring parties from the Brooksville side, but many more were carried on by others for several years.
Not for thirty or more years had I heard one thing about the old peddler until the fellow mentioned at the beginning of this story told me what he saw.
Maybe the old fella is still up there in the rocks. Even so, he is getting pretty old as it has been seventy-five years or more since he was killed.
He lives, still, in the legend of the Betts Ghost.
Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 1/11/1968.