The story surrounding his death has become one of the most well-known ghost stories in Alabama.
Why, you ask? It turns out that the minister was charged for desertion of the Confederate Army. During the civil war, Dale County became lawless and the people ruthless. Though hard to imagine now, the nearby forests contained many deserters and Unionists. The citizens created their own guard to protect themselves from these invaders. He had served in the 15th Alabama Infantry and even was captured at Gettysburg. After being returned home, he continued his service as the commander of the Home Guard—or the Buttermilk Rangers as locals called them.
Their mission was simple—capture and punish all deserters for treason. There are two versions of Sketoe's run-in with the Guard. One of them suggests that Sketoe offered papers saying that he hired someone to serve in his place, but they didn't believe him, of course. After all, he was a minister. Not a wealthy member of society. Besides, the Confederacy had already repealed its substitution laws in early To muddy things even more, some argue that no records have ever surfaced that Bill Sketoe served in the Confederate or state military.
But the memorial sign that's there now says he served for three years. Ward was a wanted man. He'd killed a Confederate officer and shot a member of the Home Guard. Breare—the Guard leader—was hell-bent on retribution—to stomp out all traitors amongst the great people of Newton. And even though no hard evidence ever connected Sketoe to the riot, he was destined to meet the wrath of the Home Guard. The legend goes, Bill was detained on December 3rd, as he crossed the bridge over the Choctawhatchee River in North Newton rumored to have been on the way to purchase medicine for his long-sick wife.
He was dragged by the Home Guard to the nearby woods. The men then threw a rope over a post oak limb and slowly shimmied the noose around Bill Sketoe's neck. A friend of his pleaded for the minister's life but to no avail. Breare asked Sketoe for his last words, and the minister asked to pray. Instead of praying for himself, though, he prayed for the people who were killing him. You may be familiar with the passage in Luke chapter 23 verse 34 in which Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
This only further ignited Breare's rage, and he tightened the noose, sending Sketoe's body into the air. But Sketoe was a large man—both in statue and weight.
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The tree limb bent, and his feet still reached the ground. The men hurriedly dug a hole around his feet. And Sketoe eventually succumbed to the strangulation. Since that fateful day, the hole has become the real mystery. I first heard the story of the hole that wouldn't stay covered when I was probably around eight. While traveling through the sites, I decided to have lunch with my parents and asked my mom, who is a Dale County native, when she first heard the story.
She said she was young, really young. I've heard several renditions of the tale over the years, but the gist is always the same — the hole that the Home Guard dug to account for Bill Sketoe's height was still there. For years, this thirty inches wide and eight inches deep hole never went away. Locals have covered it with everything—ranging from trash, dirt, and debris, and everything in-between.pl.niwikybopi.gq
Hole, A Ghost Story by Joseph Duncan | | Booktopia
But the hole refused to be covered. It was as if a member of the Home Guard was sentenced to re-dig it over and over again. Sometimes being completely re-dug within hours of being covered up. There was a natural explanation, though. Mary Fleming, a Newton local, knew all the about the hole, having seen in on numerous occasions. She said that after the war, one of Sketoe's friends by the name of Wash Reynolds secretly kept the hole cleared but blamed a supernatural force. Possibly in an effort to put fear in the still-living men who had killed Bill or maybe to just keep Bill's memory alive.
But Reynolds denied this claim. In a bridge was constructed over the site of Bill's lynching, and later in , after flooding concerns, Bill's hole was finally covered with tons of rock. Now, this site is gone, and no one can see the infamous hole. But the site is still talked about amongst curious youngsters. Sketoe family members and Newton officials have erected a monument there. People are still wondering about the truth behind the legend. In fact, it's still a popular place for visitors and paranormal investigators.
Ask the locals about the story, and they'll tell you about the Methodist preacher. They'll tell you how he came home from the war to take care of his beloved wife, and ended up paying the ultimate price. The most haunting thing is… According to legend, Captain Breare was out riding his horse and was struck by a fallen limb.
Another member of the Guard, the one who supposedly dug the hole, was found dead in a swamp. And one died after being thrown off of his mule. In short, all the men on the Home Guard reportedly died pre-mature, mysterious deaths. And I've even heard that people have reported seeing a man walking alongside the road in that area. It's all a little unnerving, right? But it's sad too. After I left the site, I traveled about 15 minutes to visit Bill Sketoe's grave.
It felt only right to pay my respects after spending the past week or so researching him.
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I was surprised to pass my Aunt's home while traveling there, I haven't been by there in a long while, and suddenly memories and ghosts of my own past emerged. My grandfather restored that house to its original condition all by himself when he was in his 70s. My great uncle had lived there before they owned it and loved to collect old things, things that held memories and secrets of the past. Still angry over the recent death of her father, ten-year-old Ashley moves with her widowed mother into the upper floor of a house owned by mean-spirited Ms.
Cooper, who dislikes children. In spite of Ms. Cooper's warnings to stay out of the house's overgrown and neglected garden, Ashley goes exploring and meets a younger neighbor, Kristi. Kristi tells her that the neighborhood kids believe the garden is haunted by a ghostly cat, and that they hear mysterious crying coming from the hedges. Later that night, Ashley also hears crying in the garden.
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Ashley convinces Kristi to help her clean up the garden. While pulling weeds, Kristi uncovers a buried box containing an antique doll named Anna Maria, along with a handwritten apology from a girl named "Carrie" addressed to "Louisa. The girls hear Ms. Cooper approach and quickly hide the doll, but Ms. Cooper, seeing the cat, is terrified. That night Ashley returns to the garden, takes the doll, and hides it in her room. In the morning, Kristi and Ashley quarrel over which of them gets to keep the doll, causing Kristi to storm off in anger. The white cat reappears, and Ashley follows him through a hole in the hedge.
On the other side, she meets a girl named Louisa who is dying of tuberculosis. Louisa shows Ashley her collection of dolls, but tells her that her favorite doll, Anna Maria, was stolen by a girl named Carrie. Ashley realizes that Anna Maria belongs to Louisa and promises to bring her back.
Upon arriving home, Ashley discovers that Kristi, still angry, has told Ms. Cooper about the doll. Cooper demands Ashley give her the doll.
Ashley tries to explain that she promised to give the doll back to Louisa, but hearing the name only makes Ms. Cooper angrier.