I am not a superstitious man but these matters shook me, and my unsettled feeling was intensified by a pair of widely separated newspaper cutting relating to deaths in Allendale—one from the Gallatin News dated April 12, 1915 and the other from The Nashville Banner dated October 27, 1945—each of which detailed an appallingly grisly circumstance whose duplication was remarkable. It seems that in both instances the dying person, in 1915 a gentle old lady named Stafford and in 1945 a school-teacher of middle age named Eleanor Murfree, became transformed in a terrible manner; glaring glassily and attempting to bite the throats of the attending physicians. Even more puzzling though was the final case that put an end to the renting of the house—an anemic teenager who succumbed to some kind of madness that caused him to attempt to slit the throats, necks, and wrists of his sleeping family members.
This was in the 60s, when my uncle had just graduated from college and not yet left for Vietnam. He said that the teenager was the talk of the town with people blaming his behavior on that rock and roll music. But the really inexplicable thing was the way in which all the victims—somewhat desperate people whose lives had already been difficult, for the ill-smelling and widely shunned house could be rented to no others—would babble maledictions in French, a language they could not possibly have studied to any extent. Again I was reminded of Eliza and the children’s song. And, in fact, it was the common fact of French being spoken that so moved my uncle to begin collecting all of the data I was now sorting through.
I could see that my uncle had fretted over the troubles with the house and that he was relieved to have someone to share his interest. Finally he could discuss the matter with someone who would not laugh or shy away from the subject. He had not begun to imagine the possibilities of vampires or other outside curses, but he felt that the place was rare and strange and, perhaps, if he could come to understand what made it so, he could understand why such stories emerged about it.
I’m tickled that I could, briefly, blame the horrors of Allendale on rock & roll music. That was fun.