The Headless Skeleton of Swamptown

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    The boggy portion of North Kingston, Rhode Island, known as Swamptown, is of queer repute in its neighborhood, for Hell Hollow, Pork Hill, Indian Corner, and Kettle Hole have their stories of Indian crimes and witch-meetings. Here the headless figure of a negro boy was seen by a belated traveller on a path that leads over the hills. It was a dark night and the figure was revealed in a blaze of blue light. It swayed to and fro for a time, then rose from the ground with a lurch and shot into space, leaving a trail of illumination behind it. Here, too, is Goose-Nest Spring, where the witches dance at night. It dries up every winter and flows through the summer, gushing forth on the same day of every year, except once, when a goose took possession of the empty bed and hatched her brood there. That time the water did not flow until she got away with her progeny.

    But the most grewsome story of the place is that of the Indian whose skull was found by a roadmender. This unsuspecting person took it home, and, as the women would not allow him to carry it into the house, he hung it on a pole outside. Just as the people were starting for bed, there came a rattling at the door, and, looking out of the windows, they saw a skeleton stalking around in quick and angry strides, like those of a person looking for something. But how could that be when the skeleton had neither eyes nor a place to carry them? It thrashed its bony arms impatiently and its ribs rattled like a xylophone. The spectators were transfixed with fear, all except the culprit, who said, through the window, in a matter-of-fact way, “I left your head on the pole at the back door.” The skeleton started in that direction, seized the skull, clapped it into the place where a head should have grown on its own shoulders, and, after shaking its fists in a threatening way at the house, disappeared in the darkness. It is said that he acts as a kind of guard in the neighborhood, to see that none of the other Indians buried there shall be disturbed, as he was. His principal lounging place is Indian Corner, where there is a rock from which blood flows when the moon shines—a memento, doubtless, of some tragedy that occurred there in times before the white men knew the place. There is iron in the soil, and visitors say that the red color is due to that, and that the spring would flow just as freely on dark nights as on bright ones, if any were there to see it, but the natives, who have given some thought to these matters, know better.

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