When traveling through the old South, East of the Mississippi, but West of Old Georgia, many a tourist have found themselves lost on a muddy track of road and lost somewhere between breakfast and Mexico. However, a very unlucky few have taken a wrong turn in the wrong place, and found themselves wandering lost on an old mill road, close enough to Mare’s Lake to hear the bullfrogs. No buildings stand in this desolate place, not after the hurricane of 1865.
A great wind, like none seen before had swept the Newblood Cotton Plantation that summer, dashing the largest house of the estate like a pile of children’s blocks, and leaving only the ancient, original mansion standing.
Miss Newblood, she weathered the storm real well. It was only afterwards, when the slaves found all four of her children, floating drowned and bloated in the wash that she lost her mind.
It wasn’t long before slaves started disappearing. Most were seen working in the fields all day, but were noticed missing by a foreman around evening. Strangely enough, the lady of the house shrugged off these disappearances, making it clear that she thought no search was necessary. Occasionally, a slave would be found – staked to a tree, disemboweled. Or hung in a shaft of moonlight, his lower half burned off. So it went for months. As stories of the mutilated slaves began to spread to nearby plantations, a general hysteria put a damper on the usually festive autumn months. People who had once slept with open windows to early fall breezes now shut them tightly, and pulled their winter curtains tight.
Then, one night in the beginning of a particularly cold September, all four of the Rotterbill children disappeared from their beds. A cry for men arose, and by midmorning half of the county was searching for them. When a survey of the swamps surrounding the Rotterbill estate ended fruitlessly, it was decided that houses should be searched as well.
Natives of the county, who’s ancestors were present on that day speak only in hushed whispers of the events that took place when the Newblood mansion was searched, and the story is never told to outsides. They have good reason for silence, as not a person in the county was left fully sane in the wake of the tragedies.
At about twelve noon on September 15th, 6 men, 3 white and 3 slaves, entered the Newblood’s mansion. They had knocked upon the oaken front door, but having received no response, they had entered by their own accord. Outside, a group of men and ladies milled about with the wagons being used to ferry the search party from estate to estate. A din of unseasonable buzzing filled the air, as if thousands of cicadas had taken up chorus in the trees about the estate. The ladies gossiped and laughed half-heartedly, while the men peered uncomfortably at the Newblood house.
Suddenly, the story goes, every shutter and door in the house slammed by itself, as if an unimaginable wind had sprung up, and yet every surrounding tree was calm. Before any of those watching could react, a horrible howling sound engulfed the plantation, and shingles began to fly from the roof of the house, whirling off into the sky.
Many of the men rushed up to the house then, tearing at the oak door and window shutters, trying to get inside, but to no avail. Whenever a shutter was pulled loose, it would snap from the man’s grasp and close tightly.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the maelstrom died down. It was a great surprise to the men and women gathered around the house when the front door burst open, and one of the slaves, beaten but still alive, staggered from inside.
None could forget the words he spoke when asked of what had transpired from within. His story, if it can be believed, is that the men searched every room of the house, but none of them were prepared for the horrors they found in one of the attics.
Around a low, wooden table were seated the Rotterbill children, dressed in their church clothes, and made up like they were having a tea party. Each one had been beheaded, but each had been “fitted” with the head of a porcelain doll. Around the table stood several long dead slaves, wearing their butler outfits, and holding trays of teacups and cookies. The stench in the room was unimaginable, and several of the search party members vomited there and then. The frightened slave couldn’t remember much else, except that the house quickly became dark, the doors closed, and a screeching like he had never heard had enveloped all of them.
No trial was held, but the decision was made by all of the men there. They would burn the Newblood house to the ground. And so, once a fire was made, the men took torches to the ancient mansion, and it burned like a funeral pyre. At times, all present could swear that they heard horrible screams and curses from within the inferno, but the razing was completed without incident.
And so, the Newblood Estate was forgotten. The slaves were sold off, and land became choked with Kudzu, and by the road, where the mansion once stood, a small collection of white crosses marks the place where it all took place.
Now, it doesn’t seem like this would have much consequence to the traveler, lost along the overgrown plantation road. And it wouldn’t, really, until they came across a small clearing, where no kudzu or stinging nettles grow. Near the clearing is a tiny pile of rotted sticks and rusty nails. It is here that their trouble would start. Their urge to return to the world of highways and interstates would leave them, and they would begin to wander around in a daze. They would pass rusty, empty automobiles without taking notice. Many tour guides have a small entry concerning the Newblood estate. Find your own authentic plantation artifacts. Indeed.
As night fell, the traveler’s heart would freeze over, and panic would overtake them. Around them, the black swamp would turn red, and the screams of children would assail them from every direction. Finally, in their madness, they would stumble into the charred plot of land where the mansion once stood. They would dig in the soft loam, until their hands began to bleed. They would dig until they found something hard, and cold.
And then, on every occasion, they are pulled back. Shambling beasts from the swamp, mutilated once-men over take them. The walking dead know no remorse as they kill, and the swamp feeds upon the misery of death. And once their deed is done, the dead re-bury what the insane tourist has attempted to unearth. The undead that stalk the swamps around the Newblood estate know old Mrs. Newblood. They know her very well. And in some pit in their bodies, they know that if a stumbling tourist were to awaken her, she would have her vengeance upon those who once murdered her. She, who made a pact with the forbidden, who stepped into the oblivion and returned with a sadistic taste for suffering sleeps in that southern bijou, and calls to those who trespass in her home. One day, the shambling deaths that protect us will rot away, and she will have her day.
And I for one can’t wait. It gets very boring here, listening to the bullfrogs.