Sunday, April 25, 2010

once you've seen a BIG HEADED WOMAN...well...

when i was growing up in clewiston, fl,

one of those small, three traffic light towns, we lived in one of the only two houses out on the sugar refinery property about 4-5 miles outside of town. across the road was a piece of property that looked to someone passing by, like a big clump of woods. there were little dirt roads on either side, so the woods kind of sat in the open part of a V. on one side was sugar cane fields and on the other was a railroad track. we called it "ghost town." when it was daytime and it wasn't so scary to walk back there, you would find the remnants of an old community that had been destroyed by a hurricane in 1926.

there were maybe 8-10 tiny wood houses back there, all leaning and falling apart. there were even some old headstones in a small cemetery that were broken and scattered.

when we were in our teens and our friends would come over to the house (which in my case, wasn't all that often, because i spent the majority of my teen years...grounded. for life. my parents thought i was "wild.") we always liked to walk over there and scope things out and find "treasures." sometimes there were huge piles of trash and furniture, like someone had just emptied all the contents of their houses out on the side of the road. occassionly me, or my older brother or sister would have a party at night, in our garage, (always with my parents there, just in case you were thinking this was done when they were away from home. wild girl that they thought i was) and we would gather up our nerve and act all brave when one of the boys would suggest walking over to ghost town. but, we never got that far. somebody would inevitably scare a girl and we would all scream and go running back to the house. i think the boys did that because secretly, they were too scared to go back there themselves at night time. they eventually tore it all down after we moved to ga.

we moved to savannah in 1996. and soon after arriving, we began hearing all the stories that savannah is so famous for. they have alot of haunted tours in the downtown area, and ghost walks that take you down to the old historic cemeteries at night. by candlelight.

one of the tours is even done in an old, decked out hearse.

if you're downtown at night on riverstreet, there is sometimes this guy, all dressed in black, from head to toe that jumps out at you and scares the heebie jeebies out of unsuspecting tourists. all in an effort to get you to sign up for the hearse ride. it's really, really popular at halloween, as you can imagine. and downtown savannah, while beautiful in the daytime, can be downright eerie at night, with all the moss hanging off of every tree and all the old houses that look like they are centuries old. the cobblestone streets and all the town squares add to the spookiness. and the historic cemeteries...i can't even tell you. they have some of the most elaborate headstones known to man, and i cannot even imagine how scary it would be to walk through one of them at night time, especially by candlelight.

once, when my brother, ray and his wife, pat, came up to visit, we all gathered our nerve and decided we would go on one of those walking ghost tours. we all had our tickets and we met at the designated place..our guide had on this black, gauzy outfit and was holding a candle, and we were psyched. we were ready to see some ghosts. and wouldn't you know it, it began raining. hard. so instead they let us go on a tour of one of the famous "haunted mansions."

we were touring the downstairs parlor, when we decided we would sit down and wait for the rest of the group to come in. mama and someone else sat down on this antique couch and one of the legs broke completely off. and the front corner of the couch was now sitting on the floor. my brother was trying to prop it back up on the leg, discreetly, so the guide wouldn't see that we had broken it and make us pay for it. no telling how much money they could have charged us for an antique couch. we were dying laughing and to this day, we think it was a set-up. we walked up this huge staircase as the guide began telling us that sometimes, late in the night, you could hear marbles rolling down each of the steps, as a child played at the top of the landing. they said that lights would inexplicably go on and off, all by themselves and one thing after another, which of course, none of us witnessed. we began going through each of the bedrooms, looking at old clothes that were supposedly the original owners, (yeah, still laid out right where they left them over a century ago) and suddenly we noticed that all of the menfolk in our group had disappeared. we didn't see them leave. we didn't hear them talking. had a "ghost" gotten them? was this another set-up? we went down the hall to another bedroom, which faced a street that was lined with "row houses" and there we found all the men standing at the two windows, jostling each other to get a better view at something across the street. pat and i managed to squeeze in until we could see what had them so interested, and there, across the street, in the upstairs bedroom of one of those row houses, was a woman. an almost naked woman. who was soon going to be very naked! she lay down on the bed and she stretched and then got up and began bending over and removing every stitch of clothing she had on. and pretending that she didn't know that people were watching her. she got completely naked, like it was just the most natural thing to do, in front of an open window, at night, in downtown savannah, and then she walked over and closed her curtains and turned out the lights. we had just paid $15 a piece to see a stripper ...strip. and i have a hunch it was all planned that way. and us girls...we were ticked off. and our menfolk? they were scared... because they knew they were in trouble when they got home!

we heard about another story that had been brewing around savannah for many, many years. the legend of TIGER RIDGE. the stories had it that this was a community, about an hours drive from savannah, out in the boonies of effingham county. a community of big-headed people. two-headed people. people with twelve fingers and as many toes. people that would as soon shoot you, as look at you. a community of inbreds. you know. people that cohabitate with other family members. incesteous relationships and deformed dwarfs. people with extra eyes and other body parts. scary, scary people. people always said to stay away from TIGER RIDGE, if you knew what was good for you. the stories made it sound like there was a community of some kind of other worldly freaks living just outside the city limits. characters you would see in the freak show part of a county fair. where you pay $1.00 to see the "half man, half-woman." or "the head of a man on the body of a pig." don't go out there alone," they would say. or "make sure you have a gun with you, cuz those people don't like strangers coming into their community."

there was an article that came out in the savannah news about TIGER RIDGE.

it told about all the rumors and it debunked alot of them. and confirmed some too. it told about how the people that lived out there had decided to allow people into the community for the first time, i think to dispel alot of the rumors, by putting on a fantastic light display for Christmas. they were taking donations of old christmas lights and they would repair them and string them up and they just went nuts with all the decorations they started collecting. they claimed to have 10,000 or so lights up and were inviting people to come out and take a look and leave a small donation, or better yet, any old Christmas decorations or broken light strings. for the next year. this went on for several years and the display got larger and larger. people started coming from all over the country to see it. (or so the paper reported.) the paper made it sound like a spectacular light display that you shouldn't miss seeing at least once in your lifetime.

so, a few years ago, we started getting the itch to go. and see the big headed people. to see if it was really true what people said about them.

instead of waiting until Christmas and going in the dark, my mother and i decided one day, that since we were close to that area for other reasons, we would ride down there and check out the community. in the bright light of day. we vaguely knew the directions and we ended up on this really long road. in the middle of the woods. we kept going further and further, thinking that this was all just a hoax or that we were on the wrong road, when all of a sudden we came upon this old, ramshackle house. there were a bunch of old cars, all rusted and broken down, with car parts scattered from one end of the yard to the other. and there was a large group of men standing around one of them. the front door was propped open and there, sitting in a chair, right in the front doorway, was a BIG HEADED WOMAN!!!. we looked at the men. and they looked at us. and they started walking. towards us. and i accelerated. we were scared half to death. and praying that there was a road we could turn off on and get the heck out of dodge! as we got further down the road we both noticed at the same time that there seemed to be a "pall," a misty fog, like a curtain hanging right over the road and we were driving right into the middle of it. now i know you're thinking that it was just our imagination. but you would be wrong. it was like being in the twilight zone. and as we came out of the fog, we realized that we had come to a dead end. it struck us, then and there, that we were going to have to turn that car around and go back past those men and that BIG HEADED WOMAN!! there was no other way out. and we remembered the stories about them shooting people who ventured into their community to gawk. and we had definately come to gawk. and they knew it. as we got closer to that old house i told mama to "hang on" i might have to take that car sideways, but we were going to get out of there alive. we were not going to meet our Maker at the hands of these TIGER RIDGE big headed, multi-toed people. i floored that accelerator and flew right past them. and they were gawking. at us. at the two idiot women with terror written all over their faces, who were flying by them about to pee in their pants! I'm pretty sure that to them, WE were the freak show. it was totally ridiculous, but when you get caught up in "legends"...well, you start to take them as truth.

that same year, at Christmas time, my two older boys had come home for the holidays, and we decided that we would take the ride out there and look at the lights display. if the paper was reporting that it was ok to go out there, then surely we would come to no harm, right? i mean, people from all over the world were coming. it was me, the middle-aged man who left me for greener pastures, micajah and christian. i wasn't quite as scared this time since i had men with me, so we loaded up into the truck, this time with a "glock" underneath the drivers seat and our cell phones fully charged. we didn't tell anyone where we were going. we drove over and just before we got there, it began storming. i mean, like cats and dogs coming down. this time there wasn't a "pall." you just couldn't see two feet in front of you. we drove down that long, dark road and we finally came to a hand made sign that said turn here for the lights display. so we turned there. and we drove some more. and finally we came to the TIGER RIDGE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS DISPLAY. it was several old trailers on a cul de sac. out in the middle of the boonies. and there were more lights and gawdy displays than one human could fathom. it was pretty pitiful.

none of the big headed people were out taking donations that night. in fact, there was no one else out there in those parts at all. just us. so i got a notion to call mama and tell her where we were. when she answered the phone i said, "you won't believe where we are right now...TIGER RIDGE!" and right at that moment lightening struck and we all started screaming and my cell phone went dead. and back at mama's house i was pretty sure that mama was probably dying at that moment. not knowing what in the world had happened to us that would cause us all to start screaming out in the middle of TIGER RIDGE. a few minutes later when we got back on the main road i got service again and called her and she was still alive. breathing harder. but alive. she thought that maybe one of the big headed people had gotten us. but no, it was just lightening. we made it out alive and the glock never left its hiding place underneath the seat.

i started seriously wondering what all the hype was about. i mean, the Bible says, "judge not, lest you be judged." and we, like everyone else, were judging these people. without having ever even met one of them. is it possible that these were actually good people, just like you and i, and just misunderstood? i googled TIGER RIDGE to see what i could find out about the community. and it turns out that some of the rumors are true. just as many are not. the community actually started out many years ago, with one man intermarrying with a woman from his own family. they had children and some had deformities. over the years, they began staying within their own little community, to avoid people, who gawked, like we did. there certainly was alot of inbreeding and is to this day. but most people who have actually met some of them say that for the most part, they just like to be left alone. that they are really nice people, just a little different from most of us. and they wanted to put on a light display to show that to the rest of the world. they would spend hours and hours replacing burnt out light bulbs in thousands of strings of lights. they would paint large pieces of plywood with the words Happy Birthday Jesus on them. and it would take them several months to prepare for their spectacular light display. on nights when the weather was good, unlike the night we went, they all sit outside in lawn chairs and talk to the people that venture out to their little neck of the woods. they even have a guestbook for you to sign, saying where you came from.

it's a shame that we live in a world where anyone who is not like "us" is a freak, or is someone to avoid at all costs. that we get caught up in stories like the legend of TIGER RIDGE. Jesus loves those people, just as much as He loves us. if it sounds like i'm pointing fingers, i am. at myself. i'm guilty. but thank God he forgives my stupidity, when i ask Him to.

i've been to TIGER RIDGE. twice. i never did see multi-toed people or deformed dwarfs or anyone with extra body parts...just some lights, strung from one end of the community to the next. was scary. that part of the stories is true. and well, once you've seen one BIG HEADED WOMAN...truthfully, twice was enough for me.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

This is hilarious! Before I start, my niece and nephew live in Clewiston FL and are moving to Savannah this weekend! What a coincidence. Regarding Tiger Ridge, I have lived in Effingham almost all my life and have heard all the strange stories. we decided to check out the lights last Christmas. We made the long scary ride down that dirt road and found that they no longer do the lights because of the economy, but we had worked ourselves up so much that I was almost terrified wandering what we are going to do if the car breaks down. lol
I enjoyed reading your blogs. Thank you!