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The "Whisper" of Skuna River Bottom

I grew up in Skuna River Bottom, and always loved the stories and folklore about it, so I include it in many of the stories I write.

Skuna River Bottom Forest - 1914

Skuna River Bottom Forest - 1914

An Introduction

"Timber!" The axeman yelled as a huge black walnut tree fell with a resounding crash in the virgin timber forest of Skuna River Bottom, in Mississippi. The loggers were filling a big order for black walnut timber, which would be shipped to Spain. The year was 1914 and the United States relations with that nation were still a little rocky, due to the war between them in 1898, in which the U.S. won a huge victory. Even with some bitter feelings about the United States, furniture builders in Madrid needed the quality of the black walnut lumber for their fine tables, dressers, and cabinets.

The timber, when cut, would be sent to The Town of New Houlka on a logging railroad spur line, which was built for the sole purpose of transporting the timber. Once the logs reached New Houlka, they would be milled and sent to Gulfport, Mississippi on the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad. There they would be taken by ship to the newly-opened, Panama Canal, where it would cross over to open sea and proceed to Spain. The Panama Canals cut out 6,000 miles of transit.

New Houlka Depot - early 1900s

New Houlka Depot - early 1900s

As work goes on day-to-day in the deep forest, some of the men complained of seeing a "Whisper," a legendary creature of the river bottoms of Skuna, which had been created by an Indian medicine man many centuries earlier. The Whisper's purpose was to keep other Indians from stealing their game and other resources.

The Whisper had proven to be more hideous and uncontrollable than intended and caused all the Indians to move away from the bottoms. "Was it now really there in the forest, and why did it show itself?" This became the question of many loggers.

The "Whisper"

The "Whisper"

Stolen Ring Found

Nothing had happened to any of the men working out of the lumber camp, other than minor injuries, but things were about to change.

An African American, who worked in the camp, was accused of stealing a gold ring from a logger's tent. They singled him out just because he was a black man. In an attempt to make him tell them where the ring was, they feigned a hanging for him and actually threw a noose over a limb, at which time, the accused grabbed his chest and fell to the ground. He had died due to what the loggers believed was a heart attack. They secretly buried him.

A few days later, as a load of timber was being carried to New Houlka by rail, the engineer saw something shiny on a small tree limb, and when he retrieved it he found it to be the stolen ring, but it was too far away from the camp for the accused man to have taken it. Some of the loggers attributed it to be the "Whisper," who was trying to get the men to turn on each other.

The ring is found

The ring is found

Logger Killed

After the recovery of the ring, a lumberjack named, Rick, was cutting a big black walnut tree, and when it started to fall, he tried to yell "timber," but no sound was made, so he tried again, but still nothing came out. A logger who was cutting the limbs off a downed tree was in the path of the falling tree and didn't realize it was falling. The large trunk hit the man, and he was killed instantly.

As they were burying the logger, one of the others said, "Why didn't Rick yell, "timber?"

"I did try to yell it!" Rick said, "but something prevented any sound from coming out of my mouth. Could it be the "Whisper?"

The other loggers scoffed at Rick, thinking he was just trying to cover his mistake.

Storm in Skuna River Bottom

Storm in Skuna River Bottom

A Stormy Night

The night of the burial was a night straight from hell. The wind blew hard, the lightning flashed, and the thunder shook the ground and the logger's nerves. As they tried to sleep in their leaking tents, one by one the tents were ripped away by the wind, leaving the scared men to the elements.

As the storm continued, the men heard it; the most blood-curdling scream any of them had ever heard. "Is it a panther?" one man asked, over the noise of the wind. Another answered in a shaken voice, "It must be the Whisper!"

With that said, an ugly creature was lit up by a flash of lightning, and it screamed again, just before it ripped out the throats of two men. Although terrified, one logger grabbed his rifle and fired at the creature, who again screamed and disappeared.

The Loggers Quit

When morning broke, all the men, including the foreman, packed their things and rode the mules to New Houlka, and informed the superintendent of the lumber company what had happened. He became outraged and ordered the men back to work, but they refused and drew their pay and went home to their families.

At first, the superintendent didn't know what he would do for loggers, but then the answer came to him. He would send for out of state loggers who had never heard the stories about the "Whisper," and have them get off the train in Pontotoc, Mississippi, and then take them by wagon, straight to the bottoms. This way, they would not hear the wild stories about the creature that was waiting for them in Skuna River Bottom.

Join me next time when the "Whisper" is taken out of the river bottoms, along with logs, earmarked to be sent to Spain. The creature is protecting the river bottoms' resources as they are shipped by water to Spain. Also, if you'd like to see the real Skuna River at flood stage, watch the video below.

© 2019 Gerry Glenn Jones

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