Old Macdonald Had a Ghost!

The southeastern part of the United States has always been a haven for Ghost stories. Something in the hearts and brains of farmers, maybe caused by years of isolation, causes their minds to wander and every sound in the wilderness can be a ghost. Ghost stories are no less prevalent in the isolated regions of the countryside than they tend to be in more established cities.

Fork You! The Pitchfork Flies in the Air in Clem's Spooky 1925 Pic

Hypotheses abound attempting to explain the mysterious origin of these anomalies that have been reported by both cranks and upstanding members of society. In this case, it was both. In 1925 hired hands at Boyd's Cattle farm in Sarahland, Alabama attempted to capture evidence of the ghostly behavior that had been observed in the barn. Clem Samuels (19) and Jacob Cohen (26) were both working at Boyd's for the summer, Clem to help finance his education and Jacob to try to learn a bit about farming. Clem was well know to have a drinking problem (records show that he died of liver failure in 1937), whereas Jacob went on to be a successful farmer in rural Mississippi.

In 1925, the two young men first had to repeatedly round up the horses who seemed to keep escaping from the barn. One night one of the horses was supposedly murdered in a way that seemed "all too human" by Cohen. It seemed impossible that anyone living at the farm could have done such a thing, as there were only five people: Stanley Boyd (52), his wife Emily (47) their son Theodore (14) and the two farmhands. The nearest farm at that time was about ten miles away.

Clem and Jacob, who lived in the servant's quarters of the plantation-style farmhouse, then began hearing "rapping," a repeated tapping on the walls and windows of their quarters. They heard the barking of a dog (the Boyds owned no dogs), and sometimes what sounded like distant laughing from the general direction of the barn.

Clem had managed to get one of his father's large-format cameras to bring with him to college. In August of 1925, Jacob, Clem and Theodore decided to try to take pictures in the barn all night and see if any unusual things happened. Reportedly, nothing happened all night. Around dawn, however, the rapping returned to the barn, and (as reported years later by Clem) "bales of hay moved of their own accord, horses stomped and whinnied, and I happened to snap a photo of Teddy just as a pitchfork rose into the air. I had no idea it was about to do that, but I took the picture anyway."

Clem refused to show the photograph to anyone for almost ten years. In 1934, Clem tracked Jacob down in Mississippi and paid him a visit, making sure to take the photo with him. The photo reportedly raised the hairs on the back of (otherwise stoic) Jacob's neck. Both Clem and Jacob, as well as Theodore, defended the veracity of this photo until the time of their deaths. Neither man returned to Boyd's farm as long as they lived. Theodore claimed that the barn grew silent after the summer of 1925.


"Ghosts of the Deep South USA," Strange Facts of the Unknown World, Published in 1978 by Register Press

Photo courtesy of Strange Facts of the Unknown World

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