Local Legends

... or, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Chaffi and Tuculo and the Doorway in the Oak

Many moons ago, Chaffi bravely pursued the retreating warriors along the old Indian trail (presently called the Old Spanish Trail) that ran through present Hancock County. He finally engaged them in battle and was slain at the very place where now grows a large oak tree.

Tuculo waited a long time, watching continuously for the return of her lover. Finally, she went in search of him and followed the trail left by the retreating warriors as it wound across the coast. When she came to the spot where Chaffi had died, she saw the great oak tree. It leaned across her path and in its trunk was formed a doorway, in the exact shape of the one in the high chief’s teepee back home at Hiwanni.

As she passed the opening, she heard the voice of Chaffi calling her and she followed his voice and stepped through the opening into the Happy Hunting Ground and the arms of her beloved Chaffi.

Indian lovers since that time have left gifts to the gods before the opening in the tree and believe that they too will someday step through the opening and be forever together in the Happy Hunting Ground.

That tree stands only a short distance from this very spot. It is the third tree east from the night-mail box in front of the Post Office at the Bay-Waveland city lines.

Hancock County Indians - 1850s

James A. Cuevas, grandson of Jean Cuevas of Cat Island War of 1812 fame, related reminiscences in 1922 to Zoe Posey while sitting as a sightless Confederate Veteran on the porch at "Beaver."

Indians? Sure there were Indians all over Hancock County.

Devil’s Swamp was their big settlement. The Chief had a name that sounded like Ticklay. When an Indian died they buried him and there was no mourning or moaning, no noise of any kind at the time, but four weeks later they all went to the grave and set up a wail, and they cried and wailed and wailed and cried. This lasted nearly all day. At night they went back to the grave and a line was formed—men in front, women next and then the children. All danced and sang around the grave. I can hear them now in their high pitched voices singing “Ho-Hey-ho-he-hey-ha”.

In 18(52?, 58?, 68?) a number of the Indians were sent to Arkansas from Bayou LaCroix. These were half-civilized and wore feathers and beads.

There were many Indians at Bayou Goula, too. They were good people, honest and truthful, and friends always if you treated them right, but look out if you offended one—they never forgave and sometimes would kill.

The Indians of the Coast made their own laws. If one killed another and ran away, the Indians could take some member of his family and shoot him for to them it was "a life for a life." But they never ran away, always giving themselves up to their chief.

When an Indian was to be shot, a grave was dug and he was draped in his blanket and put in the grave and then shot. With him was placed a jug of whisky, some tobacco, a pipe and flint, and other things that belonged to him. The grave was filled in with earth, each Indian throwing in dirt and singing. There was no disgrace about such a death—it was simply the law.

As I said, the Indians were good people, and there was never any trouble, but they liked whisky and sometimes when they got drunk they killed. When sober they were sorry and were ready to pay the penalty and die for it.

Whisky was very cheap then—18 cents a gallon at wholesale, and 25 cents at retail. It was fine whisky, too, made of corn and rye.

(TP 4-7-1922, Mag.Sec. Pg 4.)

The Ring Oak

In the rectory yard at Biloxi is a legendary oak with a distinct ring around it. The story has it that an Indian chief discovered that his only daughter loved the son of another chief who was his bittersweet enemy.

When the young couple asked for his permission to marry, he turned from them and pointing in a rage to the young oak above exclaimed: “The young fawn can never be the light of your wigwam until a ring grows in yonder branches!”

During that very night a terrific storm twisted the young limbs into a distinct circle. The old chief was terrified, believing it to be the work of great Thunder Being. He interpreted this as a sign from nature demanding his blessing on the youthful lovers. So their pretty romance was culminated. The ring grew as firm as the young branches and is easily distinguishable.

("Way Down South" Vol. 5 No. 6 - March-April 1928) (MJS IX00125)

Choosing a Mate

From documents of the seventeenth century, preserved by some of the citizens, many of the traditions have been handed down. I quote the following:

“when the explorers first came to this section they were not accompanied by women and they spent their first winter in rude huts erected under the cypress and live oaks. They longed for domestic life and so appealed to d’Iberville to bring them a cargo of wives. He dispatched a ship for France for wives for the sturdy pioneers. When the ship arrived, a novel ceremony was adopted. The explorers stood in line on the shore. The prospective and blushing brides were in the hold of the ship with the hatches down. The first girl who stepped out belonged, after a brief ceremony, to the first man in line. He was not allowed to trade her nor could he choose another. But from this romantic origin came many of the proud and aristocratic Creole families, the descendants of whom still live in Bay St. Louis.”

“One of the vessels of d’Iberville’s fleet, with a crew of 54 men, was wrecked about two miles out from Bay St. Louis. The men clung to the wreckage and were washed ashore. As an offering of thanksgiving, they built, from the wreckage, a wooden cross and erected it on an earthen dais. On this spot they later built a temple, the ruined foundation of which now rests beneath a modern structure.”


A Haunted House

On the road midway between Gulfport and Biloxi stands an old house, dark, gloomy, spooky, and forbidding. It is half hidden behind moss covered trees and is said to be haunted. The story goes that many years ago an antiquated carriage drove up to the gate and out of it stepped a woman, heavily veiled and accompanied by a little girl and an old black mammy. A covered wagon had preceded them with the household furnishings, which included a piano. After they were established in their home no one ever saw them again.

However, passersby could still hear some one distinctly playing the piano. As time went on, the neighbors became curious, but no one had the courage to enter. Finally someone became bold enough to enter the mysterious dwelling from which still issued mysterious music. A note was found which explained that the mother and child both had leprosy and had gone to the house to isolate themselves from the world.

The old mammy was faithful to the end and buried them in the backyard under the ghostly, moss-draped trees. Then she went away. But it is said that on dark nights one can still hear piano music which, of course, is attributed to ghosts of the heavily veiled woman and the child.

(CS00126 vf)

Horn Island Lighthouse

The former station was washed away, keeper, wife and daughter drowned. Fisherman hold that this light is an unlucky place and rarely pass within hailing distance of it. An explosion of a gas tank wrecked the house in June, 1909.

(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star - Friday, April 25, 1913 page and column numbers unknown. MJS 00370)

Pirate House - 649 North Beach Boulevard, Waveland

After she had turned off the living room light and started up the staircase, Mrs. James W. Faulkner screamed. Standing at the top of the stairs was a death-like image of a man whose stare was almost hypnotic. When Mrs. Faulkner moved towards him, he vanished into nothingness. Blood stained walls, unexplained moans, screams and ghostly apparitions had long been a part of the Pirate House mystique. The 1930s incident was one of many incidents stretching over more than a century at the large, elegant home on Waveland’s beachfront road.

The large house reportedly was built in 1802 by a New Orleans businessman who moonlighted as a pirate and financial agent for Jean Lafitte and his Barataria pirates. Some accounts say the house actually belonged to Lafitte.

A tunnel ran from the water’s edge to the house’s basement, which some believed doubled as a holding place for “black ivory” or illegally smuggled slaves. One of the earliest legends of the site tells of a deep well in the back yard that became the early graves of three men who had been thrown, alive into its depths. That very afternoon, the ghost of one of them who was wearing shirt sleeves returned to walk across the yard - and he has continued to do.

In the mid 1930’s when the Singreens bought the house, a family photograph was snapped of everyone standing on the front gallery steps. When it was developed, an image of a man in shirt sleeves could be seen at the window of an upstairs room.

Later owners, Mr. and Mrs. Borjn Lister, liked to think of the old house as not haunted, just inhabited by "visitants", Then came murderous Hurricane Camille, a 1969 storm that tore the legendary house apart like match sticks. The Listers collected the thousands of bricks strewn about the area, including the doors and grillwork they could fine, and constructed a much smaller cottage 50 feet to the rear of the original house.

And were the ghosts blown away, too? Officially, yes, but there are rumors....

(Sun Herald, Sun Nov 2, 1966)

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