The Story of The Curse at Dead Land Woods Haunted House in Lebanon, Tennessee:
Fate turns on small things—a stone slides beneath a foot, a man chooses one road over another, a tree falls across a path and sends a man in a direction he might never have otherwise gone. Two years into the Civil War, Fate led Herschel Walker, a wounded soldier on his way home from the war, past a slave market just as the auctioneer led a woman onto the auction block. Even in her slave rags, she was beautiful—lithe and strong, with smoldering eyes and a defiant tilt to her chin. The soldier’s mouth went dry. Never mind that he was a poor landowner with little money and no need of slaves. He must have her!
The bidding ran high, higher than he could afford, but he was in a fever and knew no caution. In the end, she was his, and the other bidders turned away, grumbling. On the long journey home to Tennessee, she grudgingly shared her story with him. Her slave name was Sarai, and she had been sent to the mainland for resale by her owner, the master of the Jamaican sugar plantation.
When Herschel asked about the small cloth bag around her neck, she touched it lightly with her fingertips and said, “For spirits.” She was a priestess, she said. A woman of power among her people. But she was still learning and not yet strong.
He took her by the hair and said, “I have your power now.”
If Herschel had been a kinder man, things might have turned out differently. Instead, at night, he visited Sarai while his pregnant young wife cried herself to sleep in their double-poster bed, and when the slave girl bore a child, he sold it to the owner of a nearby cotton plantation. He was unmoved by her tears but realized he could use news of—or threats against—her daughter to keep her compliant, even as he saw her powers growing.
Seasons passed, and one day, word of the Union soldiers came. They were burning everything, rumor said. Homes, crops, barns, even livestock. As if in a fever, Herschel ran to the garden, where Sarai knelt plucking weeds from the rows. She looked up at him with hate-filled eyes and wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.
He grasped her by the shoulders and hauled her to her feet. “That witchwork you do,” he said. “You’ll do a spell for me now.”
“What kind spell?”
“Keep the soldiers off this land. This land belongs to me and mine. You’ll make it so forever.”
“Forever be a long time,” she said. “There be a cost for forever.”
His fingers dug into the flesh of her scrawny arms. “Name your price, witch.”
“Fresh blood. A life.”
He cast his eyes around the farm. “Take my mule. She’s a fine one. Plow all day.”
Her laugh was bitter. “What you think the spirits need with him mule?”
“Damn it all, take Eli, then.” He pointed toward the front porch, where his young wife rocked their infant son. “There’s more where he came from.”
The voudoun priestess smiled. “That will do. Bring that child me at midnight. And one thing more. My cost. My cost be freedom.”
He looked at her used-up body, webbed with scars, and nodded. “Your freedom, then. You have my word.”
It was a black and bloody ritual she performed that night, and when it was over, the air still hummed with power. She reached for a cloth to wipe her reddened hands, and when she looked up, his revolver was pointed at her head. She took a trembling breath and said, “You say you gone let me go.”
“No,” he said. “I said I’d set you free.”
He pulled the trigger.
In the moment of her death, Sarai wove that dark magic around her and cast a curse that would damn Herschel Walker and all his descendants. Bound to the land in life and death, all would die by violence, and all would find eternity closed to them. Sarai’s vengeful spirit holds them here, in this dead land, where they walk the earth as restless dead. Just as Herschel had asked, the land was theirs . . . forever.
But it did not end there. The magic, gathered by the voudoun priestess and cast with all the power she could summon from her hate-filled soul, lashed through the land and ripped through the very fabric of reality. It careened through time and space, punching holes between dimensions. Portals between those worlds and dead land.
And you know what they say about portals. Sometimes things slip through. Things from the Other Side. Spirits, yes, and worse. On nights like this, when the veil between worlds is thin, they hunt these lands—these Dead Lands. Take care, Traveler, that they do not hunt you.