Tag Archives: arkansas

The Ragman

Main piece:

“So when I was growing up, I was raised by a single mother and my grandmother, my mom’s mom, stepped in to help raise me while my mom was working so I spent a lot of time with her in her house in her neighborhood and she was much older for a grandmother, she was born in 1911 and she didn’t have my mom until she was almost forty so she came from another generation and mostly spoke German at home where she grew up on a farm in Arkansas. I don’t know if this is where the story comes from, but I have no idea where it comes from. But she was a great grandmother and would never use violence or anything to keep us in line but if we were misbehaving, the most ominous threat was that if we didn’t get back in line and start doing what we were supposed to do, that the next time the Ragman came by, she would leave us out and tell him that he could take us away. So my sister and I were terrified that there was this- there also was this man that wondered occasionally in the neighborhood at twilight and I think he was probably, if not homeless then verging something on that, but it was back in the day when I don’t think i’d ever seen a homeless person in my small town. So he was always pushing some small cart and I think when she was first living in that home there was a man who came by to take pots and pans and whatever little knick knacks were broken so he was known as the Ragman and he’d take trash or whatever and take it away. So that’s really it, is that- I think in my sisters and I’s mind we associated it with this specific man but it was this nebulous threat really of this Ragman that was gonna come and- we we’re going to be taken out with the trash if we didn’t get back in line and we did not want to be taken away by the Ragman so we got back on the straight and narrow.”

Background:

My informant is originally from Joplin, Missouri and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s lived all across the United States but lives there currently with her husband and three kids. Her mother lived in the Ozarks in southern Missouri for most of her life and so the entire family has ties to that specific area. Her grandmother, who told her the story of the Ragman, was born in Northern Arkansas but spoke primarily German in her household as both her parents had emigrated here.

Context:

This piece was brought to my attention through research into legends from Missouri which I used to approach my informant. She has told me about this phenomenon several times but this specific conversation occurred in the living room of her house in Kansas City when I asked her about using the story for the archives.

Thoughts:

This piece seems to be a variant on the classic archetype of the boogeyman. The goal of the monster in this case is to scare children and teach them to stay in line. The parts I find most interesting about this iteration of the boogeyman-like creature are the name and the legend’s relationship to the grandmother of the informant. First, the term Ragman is usually tied to a street vagrant or another unsavory type individual. As such, this would make sense on why the informant and her young sister might be afraid of the Ragman as he seemed to be a dangerous man. Another common use of the name Ragman is when in association with the devil. This would further emphasize the role of the Ragman as an evil doer. The other major component of the Ragman story is the role of the informant’s grandmother. While it cannot be said for certain, her upbringing was heavily entrenched in German folklore and traditions which might result in the Ragman having ties back to German folklore. This shows the ability for folklore to transfer and adapt to new locations, with this example showing German folklore adopting to the cultural landscape of the Ozarks and Southern Missouri culture.

The Haunted Tilly Willy Bridge in Arkansas

Main Piece:

“Right outside of Fayetteville, there’s a famous bridge known as the Tilly Willy Bridge and it’s a very old bridge and it’s torn down now but it still has a lot of legends about it. Mostly, there’s this legend of a lady dressed entirely in white who fell off the bridge into the nearby creek and died so now her spirit haunts the area including a nearby field. It’s a common attraction for people to go to the bridge to try to see something scary.”

Background:

The informant for this piece is a woman in her late 40s who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was born in Joplin, Missouri but moved south to Fayetteville and has lived there for almost 18 years by now. Fayetteville is a college town as it is adjacent to the University of Arkansas. Due to the proximity of the town to the Ozark mountains, the Ozark culture influences the town alongside the culture of those going there for college. 

Context:

The piece was shared with me via a phone call with the informant. This exact topic was brought up in response to my general question looking for local folklore of the Fayetteville area. 

Thoughts:

I think this bridge is used in a similar manner to other pieces of ghost folklore. The bridge is used by the town to establish a communal identity coming from knowledge of the story. Fayetteville is also the convergence of several cultures, as it is the college town for University of Arkansas, making the Tilly Willy Bridge possibly the result of several different cultures converging on the town. The use of ghosts in this story is also useful because it shows a lack of interest in the past and the non-urbanized world. As mentioned before, the town is somewhat close to the Ozark Mountain Range, which is known for its isolated communities. As such, inventing a story about a haunted area of the wilderness would incentivize staying within the boundaries of civilization, which makes complete sense. Making the abandoned bridge haunted also shows the classic bit of American folklore wherein the past is haunted as a means of putting one’s perspective towards the future. The final bit of folkloric importance in this bridge is how bridges are common places of superstition and liminality, as seen in other cultures. In that regard, the Tilly Willy Bridge fits into this tradition.

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs

Main piece:

“The Crescent Hotel is a famous building in Eureka Springs with a long history because now it’s a common ghost attraction and makes a lot of local haunting lists. The building which began as a hotel for elite visiting Eureka Springs later became a tuberculosis ward during the plague and there were rumors about doctors who experimented on their patients trying to find cures to diseases like cancer”

Background:

The informant for this piece is a woman in her late 40s who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was born in Joplin, Missouri but moved south to Fayetteville and has lived there for almost 18 years by now. Fayetteville is a college town as it is adjacent to the University of Arkansas. Due to the proximity of the town to the Ozark mountains, the Ozark culture influences the town alongside the culture of those going there for college. This specific building is located outside of Fayetteville in an area called Eureka Springs. The hotel is just one of many structures converted to a tuberculosis ward to fight off the diseases in the 1900s. Similarly, in the past there have been similar stories of abandoned and haunted hospitals. 

Context:

The piece was shared with me via a phone call with the informant. This exact topic was brought up in response to my general question looking for local folklore of the Fayetteville area. 

Thoughts:

I feel as though this piece is interesting as it represents an amalgam of other similar haunted buildings. The Crescent Hotel began as a hotel for the elite members of society, but the business went under. This keeps in the theme of haunted buildings having ties to old money, and I feel represents a distrust of those with extreme wealth. This also makes sense in context of the location, which while not poverty-stricken, by no means has a large population of extremely wealthy inhabitants. The hotel is also described as a tuberculosis ward, which while not entirely accurate does reflect a fear of doctors and disease. This is a common fear and is often featured in similar structures like haunted hospitals. In my opinion, what differentiates this building is how the history of the building as both a hotel for the elite and hospital combines these two separate but similar stories into one extremely haunted structure.

The Romantic Exchange of Notes at Spoofer Stone

Main piece:

“Spoofer Stone is a rock located on the campus of University of Arkansas outside the building known as Old Main and it was used back when the campus was divided by gender for lovers to exchange notes by putting the papers in the cracks of the rock. SInce then, it has become a spot for romance and the campus has special events there and even been proposals there for people who have gone to University of Arkansas”

Background:

The informant for this piece is a woman in her late 40s who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was born in Joplin, Missouri but moved south to Fayetteville and has lived there for almost 18 years by now. Fayetteville is a college town as it is adjacent to the University of Arkansas. Due to the proximity of the town to the Ozark mountains, the Ozark culture influences the town alongside the culture of those going there for college.

Context:

The piece was shared with me via a phone call with the informant. This exact topic was brought up in response to my general question looking for local folklore of the Fayetteville area. 

Thoughts:

I think the Spoofer stone is interesting in how it has become accepted by the University. The stone used to serve as a meeting spot for couples, as the school was originally divided by gender and disallowed the men to mingle with the women. This was gradually changed over time, but originally, the stone allowed people to interact behind the official authority of the school system. I feel like this is often the intent of folklore, to go around typical restrictions of the system. In this regard, the stone is a rebellious use of the student’s abilities to circumvent the system. Now, the stone has been accepted as a historic part of the campus of University of Arkansas. As such, it still remains folklore, but the people involved have changed from the students to the students and the administration. This is not to say that this shift devalues the stone, but instead it is interesting as it shows how folklore can change meaning over time.

Little Boy at Little Rock

In Little Rock, Arkansas, there is a ghost story about a young boy who wanders very early in the morning through the streets and enters any home that he finds open. They say that the little boy is lost and looking for family members to be with. This story comes as a result of “ghost” encounters and “poltergeist” events happening at homes.You can get rid of the little boy “ghost” by placing small toys outside of your BACK door so the “ghost” is tricked into leaving the home.

Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.

Naciemento de JesusChristo

During Christmas time, the whole family gets together right before eating dinner. In this family ceremony, everybody gets a Jesus looking treat, usually something the mom of the family makes, and everybody then kisses Jesus on the forehead and then eats the head. It’s to symbolize Jesus and the Holy Spirit being in you. This always happens between the hours of 2am-3am after Christmas Eve. The time is important, because that is the time in which it connects to the “witch hour” where Evil is supposedly the strongest.

Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.

The Legend of Boggy Creek

The interviewer’s comments are denoted through initials JK, while the interviewee’s responses are denoted through initials MB.

 

 

MB: The one I remember growing up with they used to scare us with the Legend of Boggy Creek.  It was not in our area, it was by Fouke, Arkansas.  F-O-U-K-E Arkansas.  And um- so this guy claims that he was attacked in his home by a umm, like a big hairy, 7 foot guy, like a big hairy man.  Long arms, kinda like half ape, half man.  And he went to the hospital and he did have a bunch of scratches and cuts, and he was in shock.  He was treated for all those things.  So this was like in the 70s actually, so I don’t know how folklore it is, but his neighbors said that they had seen some things, they had heard some rustling around his home and so they weren’t disputing his claims.  They even said they had shot the thing, but they never saw any blood, and couldn’t find it after they had fired.  But nobody else could really believe the guy, but when people went back to his house there were these strange claw marks all over the guys front door and front porch and everything.  And I think they ended up making a documentary movie out of it.  I’m pretty sure they did.  So that used to scare us all the time.

 

JK: So was that near your place in Hot Springs?

 

MB: No, it was Boggy Creek in Fouke which is a lot further south, closer to Texas and Louisiana.

On sleepovers and bunking parties we’d all talk about it.  It was just a ghost story, but it had enough truth to it it wasn’t a ghost story to us, you know?  I think it was also called the Fouke Monster.  Just like this sasquatch like creature that would haunt all these creeks in Southern Arkansas.  So he would just hang out in the creek system.  And you know why that was so scary for us to?  Because we had a creek running underneath our house, our first house, so that was pretty scary.

 

Conclusion:


This sounded like a classic monster story.  The informant, an Arkansas native, admitted to me that she thinks there are more stories of monsters in the south than there are up north– where she currently resides.  I asked her why she believed this and she told me it’s because people are “a little crazier down that way.”  I liked how this legend gained steam in the minds of the informant and her friends when they would talk about it at sleepovers.  I think getting psyched out with your friends over a monster story at young age is something anyone can relate to.

The Arkansas Traveler

The interviewer’s comments are denoted through initials JK, while the interviewee’s responses are denoted through initials MB.

 

 

MB: The Arkansas Traveler is a story that we always knew growing up, and they have a song about it, I think it’s the state song….. And it’s about a traveler going through Arkansas and he comes upon a cabin and there’s an old squatter, they called him, that’s what they called him, a squatter, like an old hillbilly type, hayseed, and he’s fiddling on his porch and um.. So the traveler, the Arkansas traveler is tired and hungry, and he asks the guy “Can ya spear some water?”, and the guy says, Oh I ain’t got none.” And he keeps fiddling and fiddling all through the whole thing.  And he says, “Well do you have any food?” and the squatter says, “No, nothing in this cabin.”  But he keeps fiddling this whole time, just playing this little tune over and over again.  And then the guy says “Do you know if there’s an inn up ahead?”  and the squatter says, “Might be, I don’t know, never been there.”  You know, he’s a real hayseed.  The traveler says, “Well, do you think maybe I could spend the night with you?”  And the squatter’s like “Well there ain’t no room”  Oh, and it was raining this whole time, I forgot to mention, that’s a big point in the story haha.  So the squatter says, “There’s only one dry spot in the house and my wife and kid and me sleep there.”  And the traveler says, “Well why don’t you mend the roof?”  The the squatter goes “I’m not gonna mend the roof on a rainy day.” And all this time he’s fiddling, fiddling, fiddling.  Then the traveler says, “Well why don’t you mend it on a sunny day?  Go out on a nice pretty day and mend it.”  And the Fiddler says “The roof don’t leak on a pretty day”  So the traveler is just like exasperated and he goes “Why do you keep fiddling that same tune over and over again?”  And the fiddler is like, “I can’t figure out how to finish it.”  The traveler says “Well give me the fiddle” and takes the fiddle and he puts an end to it, you know, he fiddles it up, and he puts an end to it.  Then the squatter looks at him with just this huge smile, like thank you you’ve rescued me from this torture, he’s so happy that this guy has finished his song for him and now he’s let loose from this fiddle and he says, “Oh come on in!! You can have the dry spot!!”  He calls to his wife and says, “Make up some dinner!!” and calls to his son, “Grab some whiskey, we got us a visitor”  In other words, the last word is like, “You can have the dry spot”  cause remember it’s raining.  

 

JK: So the song the traveler completed for the Fiddler is the state song of Arkansas?

 

MB: I think it is the state song, its called “Arkansas Traveler” and that’s why the baseball team is called the “Travelers” (the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals– The Arkansas Travelers).

 

Conclusion:

I found this to be a very interesting story.  My mom is originally from Arkansas– the informant is one of her childhood friends– so I’ve visited the state every couple of years since I was born.  For me, it was especially interesting to hear how the Arkansas Travelers baseball team got their name.  I’ve been to a fair amount of their games and I’ve always wondered why they’re called the Travelers– I was just too lazy to look it up.