This year’s stories are dedicated to the memory of our blog buddy and friend Anexplorer, who not only loved a good scary story but could tell one too. We miss you, Barry. Rest well.
In Japanese folklore there’s a story about a musician called Hoichi who, for some reason, ends up going to a cemetery to play for ghosts. For his protection, priests painted his whole body with a magical substance that made him invisible–but missed his ears. The ghosts, ungrateful, perhaps, for the music, ripped the visible ears from his invisible head, and he was known till the end of his days as Hoichi the Earless.
There’s a story from down around Claiborne, Alabama, that reminds me of poor Hoichi–but it’s altogether a rather sickening one, for it has its origins in war and hatred.
Nowadays we’d call Lafayette Seigler a serial killer.
Seigler’s victims were Union soldiers. In Civil War Alabama, as in other southern states, that war was devasting: homes burned, crops destroyed, livestock killed or driven off, as Union troops tried to break the Confederate armies’ supply base and demoralize the civilian population. Lafayette Seigler, a Claiborne native, hot-tempered and outraged by the depredations, declared a one-man guerrilla war against the Union.
Now Seigler had one big advantage in his unholy little war: he owned the fastest horse in Monroe County, Alabama. His favorite trick was to sucker some Yankee cavalryman into chasing him. Invariably the Yank’s horse would return to camp riderless and with blood on the saddle. Sometimes the luckless cavalryman’s body would be found, dead and with both ears severed. Seigler took them as a way of keeping count of his kills, much as a Old West gunman might cut notches into the butt of his pistols. Seigler cured the ears out and carried them everywhere.
Despite a sizable bounty on his head, Lafayette Seigler evaded capture, killed Yanks, and took ears till the end of the war. Nobody knows for certain how many he killed. What is known for certain is that a round dozen of them were buried in McConnico Cemetery, just outside Claiborne, for their spirits have been seen riding out from there at sporadic intervals for more than a century and a half.
All mounted on beautiful gray horses, the twelve ride out from the cemetery in the dark hours before dawn. They’re all dressed in blue uniforms with bright brass buttons; they wear white gloves; their hands rest on the pommels of their saddles; and the reins hang loose. If they meet traffic, they split into two columns of six men and mounts each and ride around it, then vanish. Those who see them always remark two things: the eerie silence in which they ride–no hoofbeats, no creaking and jingling of harness–, and the white bandages each wears, wrapped around his head and secured under the chin.
The phantom horsemen were first encountered in the autumn of 1865. A Claiborne couple, Charles and Barbara Locklin, were riding down to Baldwin County in the pre-dawn hours when they saw the horsemen ride out of McConnico Cemetery. Their team of horses went wild as the silent cavalry passed.
The Locklins were country people. They knew it was customary in those days to bind the head of a deceased person to hold the mouth shut, but, given that the men all appeared to be soldiers, the Locklins believed they had seen the ghosts of Lafayette Seigler’s victims–perhaps looking for their ears.
No one knows what became of Seigler’s grisly collection, and it appears the phantom horsemen of McConnico Cemetery have never found it either.
I wonder, though–are they looking for their ears, or are they looking for Lafayette Seigler?
Even if he is in his own grave long since, God help him if they ever find him. They’ve got scores to settle.
The best account of the Earless Yankees of McConnico Cemetery comes from Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 1982 book JEFFREY’S LATEST 13: MORE ALABAMA GHOSTS.