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The Legend of Ol' Chickchaw

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Part I: The Legend

Here is a typical modernized variation:

You should never drink from the Ol' Chickchaw.

Have you ever been told not to drink from the crick by the pioneer boneyard?

It was in the deathly heat of summertime. The weather hot, humid and rainy. A traveler named Redmond, from the city arrived into town with the intention to camp and fish in the woods. He stopped into a bait shop to buy a can of worms and to get something to drink.

“Yer not from 'round here, are you, fella?” observed the clerk at the shop.

“No, I'm not, I just got up here from Chicago, I'm planning on roughin' it this weekend.” Redmond replied, confidently.

There was a bit of condescending laughter at this, the smile on Redmond's face fades.

“Where you camping out at?” somebody would ask.

“By Chickchaw creek, in the next town.” said the traveler. The laughter, which had been fading, stopped abruptly.

The clerk would say “I know yer not from around here, so here's a bitta friendly advice: Go to Holly Pond a few miles east. That crick ain't worth messin' with.”

“How'd you figure” asked Redmond.

“It's cursed by the Vondevol. Haven't you heard the rhyme?” a patron recited: “When the wind is screaming In the dark of night, When the shadows dance In the pale moonlight, The Vondevol is hunting. For his next prey, He'll drag you to the Chickchaw, He'll take you away.”

Another patron piped up “It's 'silver moon light', Doug, not 'pale.'”

Redmond laughed at this. “You actually believe that?” he asked.

The clerk gave the traveler a dark look, the store went silent. “All we're saying is that strange things happen at or because of that creek, and if you know what's good for ya, you'd not go screwing 'round there.”

Redmond left the store, and settled a camp spot just a few yards away from the creek. The first day of fishing the weather was clear and sunny, but he didn't catch anything. The second day was rainy, but he ended up catching two small fish. The third day was practically a storm, but Redmond ended up catching a dozen or so already dead fish. He just ended up hooking on to them. He didn't catch anything live that day.

At night he settled in the tent, planning to go home tomorrow. He tossed and he turned, but the rain on the tent's canvas, and the heat, the howling wind, and the rumbling thunder kept him awake. The rain stopped very suddenly, but the wind kept howling, like a wounded dog. Are there wolves around here? thought the traveler. The howls became more distinct, and louder.

“Voooonnnnnn-daaaay-vooooooolllllll” the wind cried over and over again. Redmond sat up, and checked outside the tent. The moon had peaked out from the clouds, a thick crescent. But Redmond's jaw dropped when he saw how still the trees and creek were. The trees should have been violently thrashing each other, and the creek should have been running incredibly fast, slish-sloshing to its brims. The trees' shadows were still moving, as if they were thrashing in the wind.

Redmond sealed himself inside of the tent. The wind sounded like that word, the word from the shop, the Vondevol. The urge to run overcame the traveler, and he picked up his feet, abandoning his tent, and ran off into the night.

About a week later the tent was discovered, along side foot prints in the muddy ground. The foot prints stopped midway, to the road, despite the fact the ground was still saturated. The traveler was never seen by another person after, at most, the night he disappeared.

At this point in the story somebody would usually ask, “How do you know what happened to him if he was alone that night?” To which the story teller would reply, “Because he wasn't alone that night.” implying they were either the Vondevol or possessed by it. In other variation, the traveler has a friend, or a local guide, so that was never really a question of its internal logic.

Part II: Historical Background

The meandering Chickchaw running through three towns in the north-east usually has never been used to drink from or to fish from. You were always told not to. Why? Superstition? Pollution? Well yes. Although the pioneer cemetery was moved in the early '60s, people were still hesitant. The cemetery was located 15 yards from the creek, which was neither good for the creek or the cemetery. When the creek flooded, it brought up bodies as well. The water itself had been polluted by the putrefying bodies. The general rule of thumb for burying a corpse is at least 200 feet from a body of water.

Suspicions arose concerning the lake, with some condemning it as “evil” for attempting to resurrect the departed. The idea of a body of water having malicious intent is laughable now, but at least they knew in the 19th century not to drink corpse-tea. Many people reported illnesses as early as 1793 tied to the creek.

Their suspicions were aroused by three distinct cases George Woodrow of 1821, Scarlett Matheson of 1826, and Abigail Fisher in 1853. Their behavior had all been one in the same: shrieking, convulsions, seizures, speaking in unidentified tongues, all died eight days after the start of the odd behavior, and all had lost significant amounts of weight. George had been swimming with friends in the creek, where he nearly drowned. Scarlett had accidentally fallen into the creek, again, nearly drowning. Abigail had eaten a fish her brother had caught from the creek. The first two cases occurred at night, whereas the third began in the day, however the fish had been caught before dawn.

Around the onset of the Civil War that people tied the cases with another local legend, the “Vondevol”. The Vondevol would ride on the wind at night, shrieking. When the moon was too bright it walked, only a shadow, following you. When the trees stopped shaking but the wind still screamed, you knew the Vondevol was following, about to pounce. The Vondevol would whisper its name in between screams, groaning voooon-daaaaaay-voooolllll vooooonnnnnn-daaaaaay-voooollllll.

If you run fast enough you can escape it. If you can't, well, don't say you haven't been warned.

There are many regional stories about the Vondevol, variations being just another “Wendigo” tale, or even some sort of boogeyman, where it preferred to feed on naughty children.

The Vondevol was a trickster, according to some milder tales. It broke into people's houses and rearranged furniture, knocked things over, and was responsible for, or at least blamed for a variety of different oddities, and blamed for unsolved disappearances. So the new legend goes that the creek was cursed, in that the Vondevol lived inside the creek, and would come out at night to feed on unsuspecting nocturnal people. The locals believed it could also possess people who disturb it.

I became familiar with the tale when a colleague of mine, who is several decades my senior, recounted the tale. He was born in the late '20s, and he said people stopped telling the story in the mid '50s. However, interest in the tale isn't exclusive to us.

Part III: The Albret Huntington Case

Albret (an uncorrected typo on his birth certificate is the cause of this odd name, often erroneously spelled Albert, but still pronounced on his insistence as Albret) Huntington 1908-1993 was a local serial rapist, child molester, and alleged murderer. When standing trial in 1974, he claimed sixteen times that he was either the Vondevol, or possessed by it, or working for it. He was deemed insane. He stated that the Vondevol told him to rape and molest children and women. He also stated that the Vondevol wanted him to start killing the women and children as sacrifice, but he was arrested before he could do so. He also stated that he was the Vondevol, and frequently killed people, boasting that he has killed and eaten hundreds of people.

The case is actually stranger than it appears.

Albret's origins were poor, but not unhappy. He led a relatively normal life, with no clear cause or reason for his actions, no history of abuse or anything similar. He had a wife, Margaret (née Carlson) 1911-1963 who was infertile. They lived in a house on the edge of the Chickchaw. Margaret died from stomach cancer at age 51, causing Albret to spiral into a depressed stage. He committed his first rape in 1941, and was charged with child molestation in the late '50s, but was never convicted. After Margaret's death, he began breaking into people's houses to rape them. He frequently targeted developmentally disabled children.

Albret was apprehended on Christmas Eve, 1973, because he was driving a stolen car. An investigation led to the disturbing discovery of a torn up child's nightgown in the back seat. There was also a cheap rubber mask, a wig, and a suit with nails and spikes sticking out of it. Huntington confessed to over one hundred cases of rape, but the numbers were obviously exaggerated. At least six cases could definitely be tied to him, and he was tried, found insane, and sentenced to Maplewood Home for the Criminally Insane.

In 1984, evidence surfaced that Arethra Martin, a seven year old girl with Down Syndrome who went missing in 1968 may have been kidnapped by Huntington. Her older sister, Aurora, came out and admitted to being molested by Huntington. Aurora's body was never recovered. The local newspaper tried to tie the case to Huntington. He refused interviews. In 1993, a few weeks shy of 85, Huntington released a statement “I never killed the girl. I took her, yes, and I fucked her. I wanted to kill her, but master wanted her for himself.” Huntington was found dead in his room eight days later.

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