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     Davis and Riley were friends for life, from a pact they made in grade school. The friends decided to marry their high school sweet hearts on the same day in the same place. Entering the church office to discuss the particulars, both were in a jubilant mood. "We need a marriage license," Riley said. Pastor Odell, misinterpreting their intentions, advised the pair, "only in Duval county, would they accept such a union."



     Claretta Sank spent most of her life in this bed. She had no real illness to speak of, except for the general mental instability practiced by her entire family.



     Erliss Way spent 8 years of his life in this building, but only made it to the 5th grade.



     "We seem to have been abandoned by time." With those words Alton Treaddwell, lost among the reeds, was never seen again.



  "This place is full of a past I wish to set free." -- Colton Larue



     "The sun shines down from the heavens."  Only Elliot, with his funny ways, ever had anything worthwhile to say.



     "Last night I felt a tap on my shoulder, but you weren't there.  Then I felt a little tug on my hand.  It was a beautiful evening."  Cade Willis , a seer, always seemed to have his daughter by his side.



     This was Reds place, the front facade at least, the rest fell in years ago.  The sheer force of Red's spirit keeps it standing.  Some time ago, someone asked Red how he got the name and he just laughed.  Then they asked what his real name was. "That is my real name! The other one was who someone else wanted me to be."  
     His pals Kingfish and Watermelon Slim looked on.  Dingo, who got his name from a boot, was there too.  Razorblade, 'cause he dressed so sharp, Toots, Son and of course Rat, stood off to the side not saying a word.  Nobody dared ask what their real names were.



     An early attempt by the Barksdale Chamber of Commerce to keep their town,"pure."



      "Water rushing through them trees sounds like whispers."  Slater says it's just the ghosts of convicts talking.  "Mississippi River is one big graveyard, those trees are like markers to me.  Bodies got carried down river, but there ain't no amount of water on earth gonna wash their souls away."



      "You don't need a crossroads to find the devil around here.  You stare down these endless roads long enough and soon you'll come face to face." -- Colton Larue.



     At the end of this road lived Halcyone Le Faye.  The house burned down shortly after he died but it's still considered hallowed ground by the folks who live around here.  
    Halcyone had the ability to pass judgement on any poor soul.  Not second hand, like a priest casting judgement upon a sinner or from a book written by the hand of man.  But divine judgement, not handed down from above.
     Most have never seen the spot where Halcyone lived, although it has become  a pilgrimage.  They say they only get as far as this tree and can't go any farther.  They say the power still lies in the ground and I guess it's a fear of seeing the future that keeps folks from going on.
     They also say the tree never changes, it's always been the same size.  But I'm not sure, it could have been that when they were small, the tree was small too and they have just grown with the tree.    



     Emmett de la Hou was a man child.  He started out as a normal kid, or about as normal as any kid could be.  Emmett and his little sister Lila, called baby doll because she always carried her doll with her, were inseparable.  Lila would follow Emmett around like a puppy.  Emmett didn't mind, he liked the company.
     One hot Tuesday, Emmett and Lila got into a little fight, over probably nothing and Emmett went outside to help his mother hang the days wash.
     Smoke began to bellow from the windows and in a flash, before the two could even think, the little house burst into flames.  Emmett tried to run inside for Lila, but his mother held him tight and they watched in silence as the house burned to the ground.
     From that day forward eleven year old Emmett never grew up.  Years later people would spot Emmett wandering, carrying the burnt head of his sisters doll and mumbling," it's too darn hot Lila, don't get so close."     



     Norben Peck thought he was protected by an angel, or something he wasn't quite sure of, "but I knew it was good."  He lived in this small house, only two rooms, but it provided a solid roof over his head.
     The first time he noticed this protective force, Norben, always at odds with the law, was cooking his usual dinner of greens and rice.  A knock of considerable force shuddered his tiny home.  The sheriff had come to pay a visit and ask his whereabouts the other night, which happened to coincide with a robbery of the local pharmacy.  Norben thought, "this is it, I'm goin' down."  As the sheriff walked in, Norben felt a big hand on his shoulder.  "It lifted me right out of my chair, took me through the roof and I got to watch the sheriff and his deputies scratch their heads and wonder where I had got to."  Norben was truly amazed.  When they left, he was back in his chair looking at the table and touching the stolen goods.
     The second time occurred during a terrible hurricane which blew through the sea islands.  The wind was so fierce, it tore at the roots of trees and swept them away.  "I could tell the house was movin', but it was peaceful inside, peaceful as Christmas Eve.  And I could feel the hand there on my house keepin' me safe and I knew it was good."



     Rayford Byrd, a Baptist, got bored with the usual Sunday meetings and the Tuesday and Thursday gatherings as well.  So after he heard about these Pentecostals tucked away in the hollers of Kentucky using snakes and strychnine to call out the devil he thought, "my my, that sounds like a real good way to liven things up a bit."  Birdie, a nickname his grandma gave Rayford because he had a squeaky voice as a kid, didn't have much use for the snakes since they were already a featured player in his dreams, but the strychnine, "now how can that be so much different then the local whiskey?"  All the men thought what a fine idea, but all the women figured it would make these gatherings not all that much different from life at home.
     So a standoff occurred between the men and women, with the preacher in the middle trying to calm things, because he could see the benefits of both arguments.  During a particularly heated exchange, Birdie took a huge gulp of the strychnine and proceeded to spray the vile liquid at a candle burning innocently on the alter.  The place ignited with 42 panicked individuals.  It wasn't a big fire, but large enough to put a bad taste in the minds of the congregation.
    They soon abandoned the building, which they felt was now occupied by its new tenant, the devil himself.   



     Everyone knew a Boo-hag walked the woods of Lady's Island, looking for a husband.  All the eligible men stayed far clear of this particular patch of Live Oaks and all those already spoken for were never allowed outside after dark.  All but Estus Fallon, who has never fallen to feminine ways.  Estus would march right in, enjoying the solitude of the haunted woods.



     After a tornado blew away his home, Hollis Wert wasn't sure where to look for it.  A recounting of the event in the Loval Telegraph mentioned its general whereabouts, but Hollis had to contact his brother Harlen, for its exact location. 


     "Mind you stay away from that place, it's got the sickness.  If you get too close it will pull you in and ain't nobody on the face of this earth gonna pull you back."  That's what the adult population of Millet warned, not that we needed reminding.   We all knew if we got too close, bad things would happen.  Any family that took up residence in that place wound up losing their children to something, something that would drain the life right out of them.
     Truman from the city spent his summers down here.  Thought he was tough, thought it was all made up stories.  On his last day before going north, Truman figured it was high time somebody had the guts to toss a rock through one of them windows, just begging to be broken.  He shouted, "see I'm still here you ignorant country people," and walked away.
     Truman didn't come back the next summer.  We never did find out what happened to him.  His family here in Millett kept to themselves.



     Barton Juris, the local ladies man, had quite a reputation of conquests throughout Anderson and Abbeville counties. His shack in Stonewall Woods was "about as busy as a sheik in his harem," Barton would boast to all his pals at Jinx's tap.
     Funny thing was, Barton probably slept with half the wives of the guys he drank with, but they didn't know or care all that much.
     The older folks would speculate as to why Barton got away with it.  Some said it was because Stonewall Woods had an unusually large number of wounded veterans. Others thought it was just that life here was exceptionally hard and there wasn't much time left at the end of the day.
     Whatever the reason, Stonewall Woods was a peaceful place and most felt it was best to leave things alone.



     After the mysterious disappearance of Emory Wilty from the Beaufort County road crew, his gloves and vest turned up as a scarecrow in Mrs. Powhites garden.  Mrs. Powhite, who never had a good thing to say about anybody, admitted to murdering Emory.  She said, "he came to my door asking for water but I knew what he was up to.  He was the devils apprentice sent to retrieve my soul from this earth and his costume is very good at scaring away the birds."


After multiple attempts to escape earth's gravitational pull, Alton Treaddwell fell into bad health and his dreams of liberation were put on permanent hold.


     Hester Tullis claimed to be a witch.  Her son Porter, was a lazy no good who threatened to have his mother conjure up restless Haints and cast spells of vicious evil over the little town of Catholic Hills.  He tormented the young Mrs. Heber -- "All your children will be stillborn" and threatened old Mr. Quinn with "tumors on the brain."  After years of abuse it was more than this superstitious little place could handle.  So the town, with renewed courage and help from the recently elected Sheriff, decided it was time to drive the Tullises from Catholic Hills.  
     First they went after Porter, they figured he was the easiest.  Things got out of hand and a noose ended up around his neck.  Fearing a plague of spells from Hester over the brutal death of her son, a torch was promptly put to her ramshackle house.
     A blanket of Kudzu quickly covered what was left, but Catholic Hills never recovered. 



     Omer Pratt used to fish this pond.  He said it was somehow connected to the Saluda River. "Catfish as big as gators get swept in and trapped, makin' it awful easy to catch them things," Omer said.  
     The last time he fished this place he thought he caught a big one. "Just about bent my pole in two, but my hook got snagged on a rope that bound up the body of a man. He was tied up real good, it was a terrible site, cause the fish had gotten to his eyes."  Omer just sighed.
     Turned out that man, in the local jail on a charge of rape, somehow escaped.  Made the papers and everything. Omer lost his taste for fishing after that.


     Arlen Wardell was a bit slow.  He made his way in life by taking little things from his neighbors.  A broom, hose, a pair of socks, just about anything, wound up for sale in his "Treasury Yard."  Sooner or later whatever went missing needed finding and everyone knew exactly where to look.  Arlen didn't bargain too hard and after a little bit of money changed hands, everybody got what they needed and life went back to normal.  Most of the town didn't mind, everybody knew Arlen was useless for just about anything and after all, he needed a roof over his head and something to eat. 
     It was partly their fault, the way he was.  Arlen's father was a man so full of hate and anger, there was a black cloud hanging low over the whole town.  For the first six years of Arlen's life, that black cloud swallowed him up and those who weren't afraid to get involved just didn't want to.
     Eventually that black cloud lifted, Arlen made his Treasury Yard and life went back to normal.



     Desire told deputies she had been drinking, didn't realize how far she had walked because of the dark and wasn't able to find her way home.  As she walked, she fell into a pond and had "a brief encounter with an alligator that tore off my pants."


      "That praise house out there, or whatever them Gullah call it, ain't no church, so it ain't no sanctuary." -- Sheriff Dewey.


     We have plenty of tragedy and strange things happen in this part of Monroe county.  Juel Rutt often laments about "that mournful light in the window" and the powerful effect it has on her.  Seems an old widow was bludgeoned to death with a pipe and nobody has set foot in there since.  Some people around here, mostly Juel, have seen a faint light pass from room to room like someone walking with a flickering candle.  Juel always says, "that place has got a loathsome hold on me.



     As word spread through Colleton County of the abrupt disappearance of the entire congregation, except for Edwin Lemiere, the chapel quickly fell into disrepair.  Speculation as to why Edwin was spared came soon after.  The most devout among us figure Edwin was not one of the chosen because of his checkered past.  



     Every town has its haunted house, this was ours. We always made the new kid run up to one of the windows, look inside and yell out loud "Miss Mary Miss Mary, can you come out to play?" Meanwhile one of us would run around to the other side to yell back, "No!  But I want you for lunch today," in our scariest voice. Redd Raney was that new kid. On his panicked dash back to our hideout, he stepped on a nail and died a few days later from tetanus. After that we made the new kids yell,"Redd Raney, Redd Raney, can you come out to play?"



     Alton Treaddwell never liked this place much.  Ever since he was a kid he would build these contraptions  "to escape the earth's gravitational pull," he'd announce and we would all laugh as if it was possible.  "Alton has predictably irrational behavior, for a child," his father would say.  We would scratch our heads and look at each other funny.  Alton never did fit in and come to think about it, his family didn't either.



     Halbert Queen thought himself a lady killer.  When he died, he gave strict instructions to have his body taken to this place and have Opal, the lady attendant, work him up.  During the service, Mrs. Queen thought Opal was paying too much attention to her Halbert.  A fight ensued.


     Everybody hated Erliss Way. He was a bully and a snitch and he talked with his mouth open as he ate. He was found hung from this tree upside down, "must have been bitten by a snake while climbing,fell,snagged his foot and died," the sheriff said. "An ugly way to go," he smiled.
     That year's county fair seemed a bit more jubilant.


     Marlin Simley loved trees, especially this one.  On occasion you could spot him way up in the branches, chatting away while the limbs and leaves would shake and flutter as if the tree was talking back.
"Crazy cripple," Mrs. Simley, Neola, would say.  Funny thing, Marlin was a cripple and nobody could ever figure how he got himself way up there.



     "Them Primrose's, they is hateful people," my aunt Frenetta would always say to us kids.  Seems all the other kids in the neighborhood heard the same or close to the same things too.  Merle, who we all called Mule, was the first of us to throw something at their house.  After that, when we all walked by, which was almost every day because that house was on our way to school, someone would throw a rock, or stick, or piece of fruit, or whatever we hated to eat from our lunch boxes at that little white house.  
     We all rejoiced, I think Mule more so than most, when they boarded up that place. They were hateful people.



Sonny Ray of Millersville, whose mother Rubel Ray, was an optimist, used to swear this tree could move.


     Ivery and Annie Earl had a son they called Bluberry. "Your baby has what we call a cyanotic condition," the doctor said, "that's why he's blue."
The Earls and the entire town of Olar Loved that boy more than all the other children combined it seemed. On account of all that love, prayer and of course modern medicine, Bluberry grew up big, strong and as healthy as they come. It was a good thing too, after Ivery's farm accident. "Lost my writin' arm," he said, along with part of his leg. "Bluberry brings in the bacon in this house," Annie would boast.
     The war came along and Bluberry, along with an abnormally large number of other local boys, got drafted and sent to fight for God and country. "You can't take my boy, he's all we got," Ivery protested. The draft board could not have cared less, they had a quota to fill, so off went Bluberry to fight in a place most people from Olar had never heard of.
     A distraught Ivery took to this chair. Morning until night he sat, holding a sign that said "Bring Our Boys Back" in big red letters. Bluberry never did come home. Annie died shortly after from a broken heart and Ivery stayed in that chair through the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The sign, the chair and Ivery slowly disintegrated. Some townspeople said he died in that chair, but there's never been proof of that.
     The chair and the house are just about gone now, but the town lets it all be.



     Emira Mulbery, she was the Jonny Appleseed of Horry County.  She would take to walking after service, wailing verse and tossing these little crosses about the ground.  "She has a life of sorrows" Mr. Mulbery would say, shaking his head and adding about 10 seconds later "poor woman."  I asked her once why she sowed these little crosses about, "only some good can sprout from this place now." 



     My father always threatened me that if I continued to be a bad kid he would drop me off at this place.  He said they would cut the heads off bad kids, "boil the skin off'em and hang'em on the wall for good luck."  He said that's what killed little Jimmy Chatem.  But I know little jimmy was little because he couldn't breathe right.  That's what did him in.



Dr. Flagg, relieved that his son Allard, his servant, his cat and his horse survived the hurricane, allowed himself to be photographed.


      Toots would collect busted or fallen grave stones and attach them to the sides of his house.  Toots always said "makes me feel closer to God."


     Edwin Lemiere had to take a piss during the service, it was a small church with an outside toilet. "I was gone for but a minute" Edwin said and then he told me when he came back everybody was gone "disappeared" but the open bible.  Edwin said "it was divine intervention what spared me."


"They call that the hangin' tree." -- Vixen Smokes, (a well known Liar).


     Miss Llewlebrand sat there on her porch, "lookin' quite peaceful," right in front of the street for five days.  Mrs. Brandywine stopped by to say hello and discovered Miss Llewlebrand had "gone on,"


      "That house weren't there two days ago.  Seems a tornado plucked it right up from across the county and set it down soft as a pillow, right here in this cotton field."  Harlen Wert was overheard talking to a reporter from the Loval Telegraph.