Author Archives: John Keating

The Ant Face Girl

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



MB:  This one scared me, oh my gosh.  Part of what scared me is what my grandmother said after.  You can add that to the folklore I guess.  So Ann, it was so funny, said “I don’t know if I want to tell you his story because it’s so scary, it’s been bothering me”.  And I said “Cmon cmon just tell me.”  This is when we were kids keep in mind.  And she says “Ok fine.  It’s this story about girlfriend and boyfriend and the girlfriend goes to the beach and she falls asleep there.  And when she woke up there were ants all over her face, all over her face.  Like red ants, stingy red ants all over her face.  So her face ballooned up, she got them all off.  And her face ballooned up, I mean have you ever been stung by a red ant?


JK:  Yea I think I have.


MB:  They can sting you and she got stung all over the place.  So she goes to the hospital and they bandage up her face.


JK:  Did this take place anywhere specifically?


MB:  My sister told me Galveston, Texas, right on the water.  So they bandage up her face and they’re like, “Whatever you do, DON’T itch.  DO NOT ITCH YOUR FACE.”  But when you’re healing like that, oh my gosh, it’s just indescribable, just irresistible to itch.  I mean it’s just like ahhh, all you can do.  But they had her face bandaged up, they even tied her hands, they’re like “DON’T ITCH YOU FACE.”  They tied her hands.  And um, but she had a boyfriend and she begged her boyfriend, going nuts, just going nuts that she’s not able to get at her skin and it itched so badly, because it was healing we think right?  But she convinces her boyfriend to undo her bandages and undo her hands and she started itching her face….. and ants…. crawled out.  And they had made all these tunnels and everything in her face….. like an ant farm.  Isn’t that awful!?!?”


JK:  Wow yea, that is nasty.


MB: Ohhh yea, it always bothered me.  So Ann told me cause she was so disturbed by it and then once she told me she felt better about it, and I was so disturbed by it then– I was like carrying it.  So I told my grandmother– Granny, who i called Granny– and um, the funny thing, what does my Granny say but, “Well, I suppose that could happen.”  Haha.  Which totally freaked me out.  There were so many red ants in Arkansas and you would get stung and it would itch, it would really itch a lot.  It hurt.  And the recovery itched.  But the itching she was feeling was the ants crawling around in her skin.  My imagination would think there are all these channels and tunnels in her skin.”



This story comes from my mother’s childhood friend, Mary.  She was originally told it by her older sister.  It was crazy to hear her tell the story in person and watch her face contort when she talks about the ants crawling out of the girl’s face.  It’s been almost 50 years since she first heard this, and it still fully geeks her out.  This story has the one aspect found in any great horror story: it is believable.  What’s more, Mary could relate to it because she grew up around red ants.  The cherry on top is her grandmother telling her, “Well, I suppose that could happen.”– Just the worst thing to tell a scared little kid who is looking for some kind of comfort/adult wisdom.


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).



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.


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.



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 Watermelon Boy

“So I used to go up to camp every summer for like two weeks at a camp called Camp Belknap.  It was in New Hampshire, in Wolfeboro, right on Winnipesaukee.  Fun time, it was an all boys camp.  Did all the typical camp things like play sports, shoot bow and arrows, go swimming, boating, sailing– all that stuff.  And then of course we would tell stories at night when we were back in the cabins.  My first year at the camp I was like 11.  I’m already missing home, and mom and dad and all that, and one night my counselor, who was probably like 17 or 18 tells us this crazy scary story about this Watermelon boy.  He had gone to Camp Belknap back in like the 1920s.  They called him watermelon boy cause he had a huge head.  Big dome, shaped like a watermelon.  So my counselor tells me that the kid used to get bullied cause he was a little weird, looked funny, wasn’t that good socially.  Finally one day, the kid had enough.  Took a rifle from the rifle range and shot a bunch of other kids.  Now this is tough to hear for me cause I’d already been to the rifle range a couple times and really had a good time shooting at targets and shit and what not.  So after the kid does this he runs into the woods somewhere near the highway that runs past the camp.  They never found him.  Now the story goes that he lives in a little shack in the woods and comes out to terrorize little kicks in the camp.  Just this guy with a massive head and really long fingers.  The story scared the shit out of me,  couldn’t sleep for like the last two nights I was so scared.  The worst part was, they had all these pictures of all the campers that had ever gone to the camp.  So me and some of my buddies go to check the pictures out and sure enough, in one of the pictures from the 1920s, one of the grainy, black, and white ones, there’s this kid with a massive head scowling in the first row.  We totally thought he was real.  It’s funny I was recently talking with one of my buddies who i went to the camp with and the story came up and he said it’s banned at the camp now cause it scared too many kids haha.  Crazy.”




This is a classic, campfire story designed to freak out little kids.  It clearly did it’s job with my friend, Jack.  When he told this to me, I was surprised an 18 year old counselor would tell this grisly, violent story to a bunch of 11 year olds. I guess that was the kind of camp that this one was.  During the recitation, it was interesting to see Jack recall the horror that he once found in this story.  You could really tell it used to rattle him as an 11 year old.


The two interviewee’s will be denoted through the initials ER and FK.


ER: “Mr. Keaton, remember when were up at Shawtown, and we’d go in the boat, and we’d go over to the other lake and we’d go under that bridge, and you would always say: “Mooobbby Dick”


FK: “Yea, well, Moby Dick, cause when you kids were all small, especially the girls, and we used to go over, ya know, from our lake, down the river, and go under the bridge.  And we called it Moby Dick’s bridge…  And I told the kids “When you go over there, you can look around that bridge” and I says, “Moby Dick lives there.”  They says, “Whose Moby Dick” I says, “You know, Moby Dick, the one in the story.”  “Ohhhh”  So they’d come back from that little lake, I says, “Did you see Moby Dick?”  And they says, “No we looked all over Mr. Keaton, we couldn’t find him.”  They were all looking for Moby Dick”


ER: “Yea it was pretty funny, I remember thinking “How could a massive whale live under this little bridge?”  But you told us he did and we believed you.  Everytime we, uh, went under that bridge, we’d make our voices real low, low as we could, and say “Mooobyyy Dick”.  And now everytime I go under a bridge in a boat I still say it.  And I’m 56 haha.


Conclusion:  This is a funny little story that has remained firmly in the mind of Evan (ER), a buddy of my Dad’s.  Frank (FK), a friend of my grandfather, was always playing little tricks on the kids and telling them stories like this.  I thought it was hilarious that Evan, who boats frequently in the waters off of Cape Cod, still makes his voice real low and says “Moooobyy Dick” every time he boats under a bridge.  Pretty funny habit/superstition to have as a 56 year old guy.