I was perusing tvtropes.org, reading about the various “Vanishing Hitchhiker” stories from around the world. I tried to think of any stories peculiar to the Memphis, TN area, where I grew up. I couldn’t, but I did remember an urban myth unique to Memphis: Voodoo Village. I first heard about this (to the best of my recollection) in 6th grade, back in the 1980’s. The story went that there was this dangerous place somewhere else in Memphis, where one could enjoy the experience of death by driving down a one-way street. The residents would move a school bus to block the way out, and kill you until you were dead. I looked up information about this myth, I found that the place really exists. The buncombe about school buses and murder are unverified, of course, and it’s probable that the owner of the property has passed.
That reminds me of another ghost story from downtown. Beale Street is possibly as well known a Memphis landmark as Graceland. It’s a sort of cleaned-up, upper Delta version of Bourbon Street. That’s on the west end, near the river. On the east end of Beale, back before the Civil War, was the most fashionable neighborhood in the region (Beale was actually part of a different town, called “South Memphis” at the time). Only one house from those days still stands: the Hunt-Phelan Home. This house had remained in the same family’s hands until the mid-1990s, when they turned it into a museum. It was awesome, because the furniture was the same that the family had used for over a century. Plus, the home had historical significance: Gen. Grant used the house as his headquarters when he occupied Memphis; Jeff Davis, a friend of the family, stayed there several times; the shack out back was the first school for African-American children after the war. The museum was eventually closed, and additional buildings were constructed on the property that are let as apartments; the house itself is a bed and breakfast, or something like that. In any case, the story was that, during one of the horrible Yellow Fever epidemics that struck Memphis in the latter 19th century, the family left a quantity of gold with Uncle Nate, one of the former slaves who decided to stay with the family after the War, and fled to healthier climes. When they eventually returned, they found the unfortunate Uncle Nate had expired in his bed, his mud-encrusted boots lying beside and a shovel, also covered with dried mud, leaning against the wall. The gold that Uncle Nate buried was never found. However, if one was willing to brave going out into the front lawn on a night with a full moon, at midnight, and stand in the midst of three trees known as the “Three Sisters” then Uncle Nate’s ghost would appear to you and tell you where he buried the gold. Unfortunately for anyone willing to test the story, I already found the gold. I mean, rather, that the “Three Sisters” were knocked down in a storm/cut down for firewood/disappeared in a vortex of energy, and so the gold will never be found.