Witness: Justin Stephens
Location: Chimney Rocks, Johnson County, Kentucky
Date of Encounter: September 15, 2010
Here in the mountains of Kentucky there are all kinds of stories that you hear growing up. Most of them are bull. So naturally you grow up around here being somewhat skeptical. I know I always thought of most of these stories as a parental tactic to keep children from sneaking out of the house or deterring them from exploring dangerous places. I have a few pretty good stories but this one in particular is the one that still gives me goose bumps.
About 14 years ago my wife and I bought our first home. It was a dream come true and still is. We live in a farm house that sits on about 500 acres of land. When we first moved in I met my only neighbor. He was a elderly man and like me was a US Army veteran that had served in a couple different major campaigns during World War II and the Korean war. He was a real no nonsense kind of guy. After we had been there for some time I made a habit of going to his house pretty regularly and sitting on his porch to keep him company. His wife had past shortly after we had moved in and I would go down and check on him from time to time. Most of the time when we sat on his porch he would tell me the history about the land we lived on. I found out that his great great great grandfather had been a slave owner. He told me that the slaves weren’t treated like “slaves” but rather once they had been purchased the land that I now own was once the land of the families that worked for him. They were each given 100 acres to support their own families. Each of the “slave” families were welcomed in the local community and traded freely with the local farmers in the area with livestock, milk, eggs, and whatever else they raised. My elderly neighbor even told me about an elderly couple he remembered as a boy that still lived in a house where mine is now. Actually, because the chimney still stands I can tell you that the house was about 1000 feet from my back door. He couldn’t recall the old man’s name but the woman was named Betsy. She and her husband ran a trading post close to the main road at the time and made a living selling soap and other products they made on their homestead.
One day I asked him about a spot of about 19 acres in the main back of my property. This particular spot was littered with half-way deteriorated chimneys and surrounded by dead trees. I always thought it was weird and uncomfortable. The old man told me that most of the families had built close to each other and that in that particular spot there were two families that worked well together, but didn’t really socialize with the rest of the community except to trade. At the end of my road there used to be an old, one-room church house where everyone would meet for church on Sundays, and from what I’ve been told afterwards they would share a meal, all except the two families that lived on the acreage the furthest away. Years later they learned that these two families had returned to their original religious beliefs of which I’m not real sure, but what I was told that it was an ancient form of voodoo that originated in Africa.
Now, I never really gave it much thought after this. Years passed and the old man was placed in a nursing home, after which I was offered the first option to purchase the old man’s property. At the time I couldn’t afford it, so my father opted to buy it. A couple years after this in the Fall of 2010 I was hunting with a friend. We decided to camp overnight and enjoy a night in the woods before getting up in the morning to hunt. As we rode through the hills on our ATVs, I decided that we should camp at the back portion of my property of what is now named the chimney rocks. It is good flat land, and a big plus was I thought it might freak out my buddy by telling him the stories that I had been told after it was dark and we had settled in for the night. After all it was just a bunch of stories, or so I thought.
As the sun went down and finished putting up the tent and built a fire. We sat around for a while talking and finally I told him the stories that my neighbor had told me. He sat there hanging on to every word until a limb from a tree came crashing down from the opposite mountain from us, startling him. We had a good laugh over it and changed the conversation shortly after. After we had sat around the fire for a good while it began to sprinkle and we decided to go into the extra large tent and sit at the table and have a game of cards by the light of a lantern. As we sat there the raindrops falling on the leaves around us occasionally caught our attention giving us the feeling that something was walking around the camp. We would stick our head out of the door and make sure it wasn’t a bear and then return to the table. As it got later we decided to go to bed. as I unrolled my sleeping bag on my cot I could hear what sounded like footsteps stumbling through the rocks that were laying scattered on the ground from the chimneys that had started to fall apart. I poked my head out of the tent again and scanned the area with my flashlight but there was nothing there. Jon had already laid down and rolled over just long enough to ask what it was. After I told him there wasn’t anything outside he rolled back over and went back to sleep. I crawled into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I don’t know what time it was, but I woke up to the sound of something screaming. Jon was already sitting up in his cot reaching for his gun. I was slipping on my boots when we heard it again. I listened intently to the direction it was coming from. I peaked my head out the door again and there was nothing there. I wrote it off as a bobcat. I’d heard bobcats scream before and it really didn’t sound like it, but I wrote it off that the only thing it could’ve been was a bobcat. I can’t lie, though, I was a little freaked out. We both laid there awake not able to close our eyes for the noises that are natural in the woods, like the rain drops on the tent or the sound of the creek water running over the rocks. Every sound was amplified. After about an hour, and just past 1AM, we finally settled down. The fire was dying down and we really didn’t need it, but it made both of us feel better knowing that it was there lighting up the outside so we built it up and then finally went back to bed.
I laid there awake for a long time. Jon had already went back to sleep, but I was wide awake. I heard the footsteps on the rocks again, but this time I just laid there I didn’t get up to check anything I just laid still listening, trying to figure out what the noise was. After about 10 minutes or so I heard something run past the back side of the tent. I was really freaking out now. It sounded just like a person running past it. I whispered to Jon to see if he was up. He never answered me. I couldn’t move I was so scared. I wanted to get up and go check it out, but I just laid there trying not to make any noise. I finally got the courage up to get up and get my gun when I heard the runner pass by again. I almost fell backwards but this time Jon was up and heard it too. He jumped up and asked me what that noise was. I didn’t know what it was. We both went outside of the tent and looked around. We didn’t see anything. The rain drops had stopped and the noise had died down to nothing but the running water in the creek. Neither of us went back to bed that night but the story doesn’t end there.
As we sat by the fire we talked about different things and we both had the story on our minds from earlier. He asked me if I had ever stayed in that spot before. I told him no. To be honest I usually didn’t even go there to hunt. Mostly because everything was dead and it didn’t seem like a very good spot to go and a little of it was because it spooked me to go wandering through the rubble by myself. I think we may have dozed off a little here and there but we stayed in our camping chairs all night. By 3am the moon was back out and really bright. It was a full moon that night and you didn’t even need a flashlight to see in the dark. I stood up to stretch and decided I might as well make a pot of coffee. When I stood up Jon and I both heard a man’s voice but we couldn’t make out the words. Then we heard the running again. We both tried to see through the dark to catch a glimpse of whatever it was but we couldn’t see anything. The smoke kept us from being able to see with the flashlight. We thought someone was messing with us. We decided to go back to the tent and lay down. At the time there was kids that lived close to me and they like to trespass onto my property from time to time. I didn’t really care, I just didn’t want an angry parent suing me because their kid wrecked their dirt bike and broke their leg.
We sat there in the tent and decided to teach these kids a lesson. We decided the next time that they came through running we would bust out of the tent and empty our shotguns in the air just to make them think we were shooting all over the place. By this point we weren’t scared anymore, we knew it was the teenage boys from across the road. So we sat there. It took about an hour but it finally happened. As soon as we heard the footsteps run passed the back of the tent we jumped out and just started shooting up in the air. We thought for sure that we’d hear them running up the hill and back to their house but they didn’t. We didn’t hear anything. I finally got aggravated and yelled for them. I said, “Alright boys, we know it’s you. You need to go home.” I told them to come on out from wherever they were hiding but they never did. We had wandered a good ways from camp in the direction of the sounds. When we turned back around to head back, giving up on finding the teens, we saw something that I will never in my life forget. At the back of my tent stood a tall figure. It was standing in the rocks where one of the chimneys had been. Then it bent over and walked to the back of our tent. As it got close to the tent its stride went from a walk to a run as it passed by our tent. Then it was gone. We were so freaked out that we were frozen. Finally we decided to run back to our ATVs and get out of there as fast as we could.
When we went back the next day to get everything we left, there was no footprints and nothing that we had left was missing or even bothered. It was just like we left it. I talked to a guy later after all of this and told him the story. He told me that sometimes ghosts just continuously play out the same thing over and over again, and that it sounded like I had camped right in the middle of a place that this was happening. I don’t know much about that kind of stuff but I do know I will never camp or spend any real amount of time in the chimney rocks again.