VINSON: Fear of unknown makes for great Halloween tale

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“At that time, the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory,” reads Matthew 24:30 in the Bible.

Although this is my official entry for Halloween, I readily admit it lacks the ghost, goblin and witch effect normally associated with the holiday.

However, as you read along, you learn why some of the characters involved could’ve suffered a fright of greater magnitude than could’ve been caused by any of the creatures mentioned above.

The following story was told to me years ago by a lady who now is a nonagenarian at 95 years old. When she told this unusual tale, her mind was razor sharp, and I recall that I was spellbound.

It was in the early 1920s, and here in rural Middle Tennessee, few families owned vehicles. The means of travel for most were foot, horseback, or horse-drawn carriage.

Television still was many years away from being a normal household fixture. Even when television did become commonplace, very few families in the rural South could afford one.

In reality, many of these luxuries were almost exclusively available for the wealthiest Americans.

Further, even though newspapers were circulated and available, a majority of these rural families were miles removed from town and did not have the opportunity to read local publications on a regular basis. When they finally did get their hands on a newspaper, it often was days, even weeks, old.

So, the fact of the matter is that during the early part of the 20th century, most rural families didn’t have many social outlets.

The majority of people were too busy walking behind a plow, milking the cows, or cutting timber. They did, however, enjoy the occasional 5-mile walk to a neighbor’s barn on a Saturday night for a square dance and few slugs of moonshine.

Still, the more conservative types tended to find refuge in sitting on the porch at night, studying the scriptures, then walking the few miles to church on Sunday and listening to the preacher deliver his sermon.

Of course, you had a few who were on the wishy-washy side and attended both the square dance on Saturday night and church on Sunday.

Regardless, the second coming of the Lord gave all these people hope.

If they worked hard, were good to their neighbors, paid their tithes, obeyed the doctrines set forth in the Bible, then one bright-sunny day, God would come down from heaven on a cloud. The cloud would hover just above earth, and all those who were saved would step onto the cloud and ascend back to heaven, where everlasting life would be granted to all aboard.

Now the story told to me by the elderly lady:

A woman ran over to a neighbor lady’s house, and said, “Quick, come outside. I think the Lord’s coming.”

“What makes you say that?” the female neighbor nervously inquired.

“I saw a cloud in the sky, and it’s getting closer . . . gotta’ be the Lord coming.”

“Reckon I need to gather my stuff?” the neighbor asked.

“You don’t have time for that — you won’t need your earthly possessions, anyway,” the woman answered.

So, the two women dashed outside, where a large number of neighbors had already gathered.

Come to find out, what had taken place was a hot-air balloon attempting to traverse several states via air.  Apparently, it had ventured off course, and this was the first time this particular group of people had seen a hot-air balloon.

As I already said, this isn’t your normal scary Halloween story.

However, if those people who mistook the hot-air balloon for a heavenly cloud were convinced they were about to meet their maker, they probably experienced a fear far greater than can be conjured by any spooky Halloween tale.
Tagged under  Halloween, History, Mike Vinson

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