They say that every legend has some basis in fact. This is the legend of Creepy Hollow...
In the 1800's, much of this land was farmed by a man named Elias Atrum. Not much was known about Old Eli (as the locals came to call him), since he kept pretty much to himself; but we know that he was born July 2, 1819; he had a strict upbringing by rigid and distant parents--and that's being charitable. Obedience was demanded, failure was punished, and discipline was severe. As he was an only child, Eli grew up very much alone. The farm was the extent of his world. Contact with folks in town, even with neighbors, was discouraged. Necessary travel was all that was allowed.
When Eli's parents died in the late 1850's, and the farm became his, Eli was already in his late 30's. It looked as if his loneliness ended when Norah, the pretty young daughter of a neighboring farmer invited Eli to come courting; some said that Norah's father had his eye on acquiring Eli's land through marriage...but Eli didn't care. For the first time, he was actually happy (though his upbringing left him poorly equipped to show it).
Sadly, Eli's inability to express affection wore quickly on his young bride. They were childless. Whatever Norah's father's true motives may have been for tying his daughter to an emotional vacuum like Eli, they died with him when he had a sudden and massive heart attack. Eli now controlled Norah's family's farm as well, and he expanded.
Such an expansion required Eli to take on hired hands, which was a problem for someone so extremely closed-off. He did not want to hire locals, as he was also growing increasingly paranoid that those around him were jealous of his holdings. As the Civil War had ended, there were drifters heading northward looking for any kind of work. Here, Norah was useful; both charming and desperate for human contact, she could compensate for her husband's harshness towards those few that he hired. Such kindness would also be her downfall.
A lengthy drought caused crop failure for the farm; animals began dying; even the barren apple trees seemed to moan in the night wind. Old Eli couldn't grow anything, it seemed. He let all the farmhands go but one; and that "one" was at his wife's insistence. Thomas Watson had been a Union soldier who found employment on the Atrum Farm. No matter the chore, Tom handled it cheerfully and ably. Though Eli worked him hard, he never complained--and he always had a smile for Mrs. Atrum.
Many in town already knew what Old Eli wouldn't allow himself to suspect: That Norah and Tom were lovers. Rumor had it that Norah was with child. Even then, Old Eli never said a word. And when, one day, Norah and Tom vanished (presumably to find a new life together somewhere else), Eli remained silent.
You'd think that a man who'd endured that much hardship would crack at some point, but not Eli. He kept to himself, and he kept about his business. About the only change people noted on his property was the appearance of a couple of new scarecrows in the fields. Suddenly, it seemed his fortunes turned around...the animals began to flourish, and the crops came back better than before. No matter how bad the weather, insects, or other conditions afflicted his neighbors, Old Eli always had bountiful livestock and crops. Old Eli's corn was taller and sweeter than any around, and notable for it's peculiar red coloring. There were occasional problems with the livestock though, who had become considerably more aggressive towards people.
Eli continued to hire drifters as farmhands...oftentimes rough characters who came and went, but little noticed by the locals. Each departure marked by a new scarecrow in the fields. Eli had also changed, not for the better. His paranoia extended to outright rage if anyone even came near his property, so no one did--not that they ever had much reason to before. The Atrum farm was an accepted "no man's land"...no man's but Eli's; the isolation that had always marked his life now became a palpable force that could make the hair on the back of your neck stand up if you got too close to the Atrum Farm. It wasn't a place you'd speak of, and was purposefully ignored by all.
As work in the area became more plentiful and industrialized, fewer drifters came through. That was when the children began to go missing from the nearby town. The increasing outrcry from the townsfolk over these disappearances eventually lead the authorities to the one place no one ever went willingly...the Atrum Farm. The discoveries made there haunt us to this day...
A number of deputies were seriously injured by the insanely aggressive livestock and in confrontation with a select few 'farmhands' trusted by Eli to do his dark work. Once they were overcome, the locals and law enforcement officials began finding human remains in the feed troughs. What they found in the butchering shed defies description. When the 'scarecrows' were examined, they were found to be corpses dressed in rags......men...and one woman...in various stages of decay; their dripping blood and rotting flesh providing a gruesome fertilizer.
Most of the missing children were found alive, but that was little comfort when it became clear that they were completely under Eli's power. Brainwashed, deranged, and zealously loyal to their new "father", they did his evil bidding without question.
At the edge of the cornfield, they finally found Old Eli, armed only with a bloody grass knife. Then and there, he did something no one had ever seen him do before: He laughed. A long, hard, crazy laugh that had been building, twisting, and warping inside him for all his years. In a terrifying rant directed at all present, Old Elias Atrum shouted that he had work to do...that his work would never end...that this farm would always be his, that we would be present at every harvest. With that, he took off into the cornfields. The posse that followed couldn't find him, though some were found later with their throats slashed, their blood soaking into the ground.
The manhunt for Elias Atrum lasted for weeks, but no trace of him was found. It was assumed that he'd fled the area, and that was fine with everybody...
Until the following fall.
The farm had been abandoned, for no buyer would touch it--yet the red corn came back. New scarecrows appeared. And noises were heard--screams...pleading...animal sounds...crying children...and hollow, ringing, insane laughter--but no one was ever seen.
Once October ended, so did the sounds and strange sights. Had Eli returned, or was it some sick joke? As years went by, there were reports of the same every October, but the locals were none too keen to investigate, and let the matter stay closed. It was an unspoken agreement that you didn't go near the Atrum farm if you had any sense.
After about fifty years, the abandoned farm and the legend of "Old Eli" were tales told by parents to misbehaving children...'Old Eli's gonna gitcha if you don't stop hitting your sister!', and so on. The story had come to be regarded as just that--a story. Local kids dared each other to race through the abandoned cornfield to the Atrum family cemetery on the other side. The site of the old farm had become known as 'Creepy Hollow,' an image that a new generation of town officials wanted to put down forever so they could attract buyers for the potentially valuable land, so they hired a carnival to set up on the site that autumn, and offered free admission to everyone in town. The elders among them stayed away; but young people and children being what they are, the carnival (complete with big tent) was packed.
At the height of the merriment, the big tent caught on fire and went up like dry tinder in a strong wind. The cause: Unknown. Dozens of townspeople and carnies were burned alive. No one went near the place--in October, or otherwise--for years after that. The dark history of Creepy Hollow was firmly established and respected.
Still, young people and children being what they are, Creepy Hollow persists...the cries, the voices, the apparitions--wraithes or fantasies? If you dare to walk this trail, you'll know one thing is certain...There's something in the corn.
"Creepy Hollow"...come live the story, or die trying!
Creepy Hollow Story written by: Dick Terhune
The Voice From Hell