Spooky North Carolina: The Lawson Family Massacre

Hey! So, uh, September happened. How about that? I started this “Spook Show” and then got sidelined with work trips for half the month. Well, I am back and for the rest of this Halloween season I promise not to disappear again. To be honest, I had planned on this happening so fear not, this ride has only just begun.

Today we start the “Spooky North Carolina” series with a doozy and to my shock, right next to where I currently reside! You will see as the month of October progresses we will travel to many states, not just North Carolina (even though that is the name of the series) so when I learned of this being right up the road, it HAD to be the first one of the Halloween season.

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In 1929, one of the country’s most profound tragedies happened in Stokes County, North Carolina about ten miles or so away from where yours truly lives. On Christmas morning the Lawson family were gathered together celebrating the day when the father, Charlie Lawson who was a wealthy tobacco farmer, shot and bludgeoned his wife and six kids excluding the oldest son. He had sent him on an errand into town earlier in the afternoon. The crime was brutal and without logic or reason to the locals. In the report, the wife was shot at pointblank range along with his oldest daughter while the young children were bludgeoned to death with a club. All their bodies were placed in the barn with their arms crossed and stones under their heads. When the gravity of what Charlie Lawson had done sank in he turned the rifle on himself. Those who found him say he had worn a circled path on the ground from pacing.

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When news broke about what had happened it became a national story that attracted thousands to the little county. The massacre shocked and horrified the country but also fascinated as many. How could such a well-respected farmer slaughter his entire family? It had to be premeditated otherwise why would he spare his oldest son? And the fact it was on Christmas day only added to the sadness of the atrocious crime.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.18.16 PMThere are a couple of theories to why Charles Lawson murdered his family. One theory was that Charlie suffered head trauma from a work accident leaving him with terrible chronic headaches. Much like other cases of temporal lobe lesions or brain damage, he suffered from rage which ultimately led to the murders of seven and his suicide.

The other theory, and far more sinister, was that Charlie had been molesting his oldest daughter and impregnated her. Not wanting to live with the shame he decided to end everything before the community found out.

So, why does this make the “Spooky NC” list? Well, just like any unanswered event like the Amityville Horror, the locals claim to hear children laughing and playing in the woods at night near the Lawson farm. Most of the locals aren’t very willing to talk about the history of these events and get really evasive when asked about any strange occurrences since. Maybe they didn’t like my shirt or perhaps I am just another dumb city dweller who is there to trespass and make mischief? You never know what idiots preceded your visit to make the local people interrupt your questions with, “Are ya’ll ever gonna buy something’?”. I guess you can’t blame them.

In the video we travel to a bridge which was made from the floor boards of Lawson house that was dismantled after too many trespassers made it impossible for the land owner to keep privacy. After that, and with a whole lot of trial and error, we found the mass grave of the Lawson family. It is said the reason so many ghost sightings happen there is because of the way they were all buried together. I guess it would be pretty unrestful to be under with the dude who put you there.

Regardless of whether or not paranormal happenings are present today, it is still a real shocker to find out one of the worst crimes occurred right down the street from your house. Even if it did happen nearly one hundred years before.

 

The Haunted Barn 1988

I grew up in Marietta, Georgia just north of the city of Atlanta. Back in the 1980’s and 90’s it was one of the biggest suburbs which was about as close to a Tim Burton version of middle class America as you could get. Every house was similar, the grass was cut on Saturday mornings while the kids watched cartoons until eleven o’clock or when high school academic game shows came on. That was a sign to get outside to ride bikes. The ball games were always on an outside radio and errands running families crowded Sears or whatever was on their lists. It was an awesome place and time to be a kid.

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One of the Saturday staples was the Chattahoochee Nature Center located right on the bank of the Chattahoochee river. It was a place of many great childhood memories for me ranging from a five-year old to a young soldier at home on leave. The Chattahoochee Center was the place I spun around so fast on a tire swing, I puked in the parking lot and Mom made me take off my pants in front of my preschool class and lay down in the backseat of the car on the way home. Which, of course, resulted in more puking. A place where my best friend Simon teased a goose causing it to chase him around the park, instantly transforming him from a manly seventeen year old boy into a screaming twelve-year-old girl. A place where my other buddy Johnny got so high he went to pee in the river, lost his footing causing him to uncontrollably slide down the embankment into hip deep into the water resulting into the infamous cry of desperation, “OH NO!”. (I still laugh at that today) And it was also the place where I took a long walk with my Dad the night before I headed back to base to be deployed to a combat zone. The discussion we had that night I would not like to have again.

I think my fondest memory of the Chattahoochee Nature Center would be on the month of October, 1988. That was a pretty magical Halloween season for a number of reasons. One, I was finally dressed as something for Halloween my parents invested more that twenty dollars on. I was a knight with full body armor, shield and a sword and aside from the LA Gear sneakers, I was pretty convincing. Also, that year I was able to trick r treat alone without the parental supervision. Looking back, I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal because the neighborhood was barely a mile long.

Just about every weekday night during the month of October, the family did something Halloween-ish. Whether it was carve the jack-o-lantern or decorate the yard, as long as the homework was done, we celebrated. This is probably why I am thirty six with a Halloween Spook Show. Just a theory.

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One fateful night, Dad read in the paper the Chattahoochee Nature Center had a haunted attraction featuring the “Haunted Barn” which was run by the local Walton High School. In those days, I regarded high schoolers as grownups so right away I knew this attraction was going to be something of the serious note. My Dad, however, thought much the opposite. In fact, he thought that this was more of a fun and family attraction which possibly had nature conservatory lessons mixed in with a ‘Trick or Treat” motif. That was far from what we would be experiencing.

The Nature Center was a Saturday morning place where every morning Dad and I would drop off bottles and newspapers to the recycle center and feed ducks. That Thursday night the mood was much different. I can still remember pulling into the gravel parking lot with lit jack-0-lanterns spacing the lot. There was hardly anyone there and for good reason because it closed at 9:00 sharp and at 8:30 on a school night most kids had been through the attractions and on their way…to therapy. I had homework and Dad’s work ethic would never allow for fun before responsibility. Makes you wonder what happened to me?

We paid a “donation”, I think. There was no fee that my Dad can remember (we talk of this often every fall season). Just followed the path on the candle lit road which led to the barn. That barn, which was always a place of discovery and cuteness throughout my elementary days with field trips and summer camps, was transformed into “THE HOUSE OF SATAN”.

I shit you not, in Marietta Georgia, The Chattahoochee Nature Center named their barn, “THE HOUSE OF SATAN”.

I have yet to meet a peer or a long time friend who remembers this but I have family who can validate. And for whatever reason had no problem taking me into “The House of Satan”.

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I will say, looking back on this event, the high schoolers did it right. They recreated the famous Exorcist scene when the priests read rites which makes a rotting girl screech in horrific tones. The next room had a person rocking in the corner as a defiled and chopped up corpse lay on the floor. After that, a room where a wondering girl kept trying to pull me from my Dad to come with here into the heavens. Holy shit, I remember this with such detail I even remember her shoes. Her shoes!

Dad laughed. That is what I remember but for me, this was horrific. Every room led to more nightmares my brain was not ready to comprehend. That is until we met the stairs. The stairs went up to the loft of the barn and at the top stood a figure.

We didn’t know if we were supposed to proceed up and I remember looking at my Dad. He studied the figure long and hard then looked at me with a shrug. I grabbed his flannel shirt and we head up. But then the figure spun around and bolted down the stairs as if it too was being chased by something horrific.

We miracled ourselves straight through the back door and was chased by a hooded figure almost halfway to the car. I can still to this day remember screaming without care. When you scream without care it is something you never forget. As a child it is something to possibly look back on with a smile but never as an adult. It is animatistic in a way. My Dad stopped, laughing hysterically and so did the hooded kid who removed his said hood and thanked us but said that was where the attraction ended. He didn’t mean to scare us so badly and made an attempt to assuage my fear with a high-five.

I will never forget that night. Forever will Halloween be that barn with jack-o-lanterns lighting the way of a path and the orange illuminated barn filled with monsters and demons who scared me so badly the adrenalin put my feet to sleep. We dumb down so much in today’s society. I feel bad for the kids who will never get to experience something that made me a forever-fan of Halloween. That night forged a connection and even tough it scared me to down to the marrow and I loved it.

Thank God I didn’t have an easter experience. Those people are freaking weirdos.

 

 

Such Sites To Show You…

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Hey guys, I have a lot on the menu for this week and weekend here at VeggieMacabre. The first “Spooky NC” series stars tomorrow and so many other fun activities are ready to post. But first I need to give some love to these great sites if you are really in the spooky mood. Sorry if you think this is a filler. It isn’t meant to be but I really do want you to check these amazing people out!

Click the site pictures and be whisked away to creepy fun and adventure!

1) Bayou Babylon

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2) iMockey

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.05.44 PM3) O.T.I.S.

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4) The Sexy Armpit

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5) Dinosaur Dracula

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6) Retro Ghouls and Shocks

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Get ready at 6am for a crazy look back at a Haunted Barn. I was going to post this tonight but I had to interview Dad tonight just to make sure I didn’t imagine half of that horror. It is a fun little story and very VERY HalLoween.

 

 

Ode To The Fall Fresh Market

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Lordy, I love The Fresh Market! It’s a place where normal people like yours truly can feel a tad sophisticated buying six cucumber sodas and a bag of cinnamon bears. Its warm and cozy with classical music playing overhead, lulling people into paying twenty percent higher for everyday items. Some say it is a snobby market and others brush it off as a specialty food shop, but I say it is a necessary Saturday morning stop to energize the soul and dent my wallet, especially now that we are a foot into the Halloween season.

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This is the place where you plan the best autumn dinner of your life. Every vegetable imaginable is available and if yours is like mine, they come from local farms. That is a huge thing for me. I can’t put my finger on it, whether it is the track lighting or the fact most produce and items are in barrels but you kind of skip around aimlessly in this market. It is a scientific fact most amazing things come in a barrel. And for that, I am sure almost no one sticks to their lists. At least I don’t. I went in one time for three steaks and left with clams.

Hmm, maybe it is a gas leak that is the cause of such aimless shopping?

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The free coffee station is one of the best parts of The Fresh Market. Every season they have a select coffee to try with a full station to garnish your tiny cup. I was excited to see what Fall coffee they were pushing for this year but it never fails that some old bitty would be crowding the coffee sample table, adding cream and sugar with the speed and purpose of an aquarium-ed manatee. I hate her!

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Back to the wacky produce! Tell me, where can you get dwarf squash these days? Think real hard. I don’t know where but at The Fresh Market, this time of the year, you can. It is the main ingredient for my “Little Squash Big People Soup”. If you want the recipe just email me. It is just right for rainy and cold October days paired with the right beer. And yes, I do feel a little bad for that insensitive parody of the midget show. I meant little people show.

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SON OF A BITCH SHIT! I turn around for two seconds and the old guy jumps in and proceeds to go all Cialis on the decaf. Dude is quick in them Foot Joys!

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Here we come to what The Fresh Market does so well and that is the Halloween display. Every year is a bit different but damn if it isn’t always impressive! They always have a crazy candy display throughout the year but they really turn the knob to high in September. I love the fact an entire three-foot wicker basket is filled with one pound bags of gummy ghosts. If that were to fall off the roof and kill someone, their obituary would be clipped and permanently added to my fridge. It’s a place of honor.

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I know this picture is a tad bit blurry but I had been looked at with some suspicion while I roamed around taking pictures of small squashes and old people. This one was taken with great haste.

I love the decor. It is such a throwback to when I was a little kid. Ghosts and pumpkin-headed scarecrows are hung from the rafters with orange and black streamers dangling, carelessly blowing with the central air. It is simple yet perfectly nails why I love this holiday so much. There is no hint of modern pop or Disney shows. Just the same decorations we loved for years and years.

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Holy shit nuts and gum! I can’t catch a break this trip!

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I know this isn’t very Halloweenie but I can’t go to sleep without yelling from the hills about how amazing their organic nut selection is. Every kind of nut, berry, mix and seed is available for you to buy AND sample. I can’t tell you how many bags of trail mix I have, which are most likely stale, in my cupboard. There is no helping help myself and it is not beyond reason that I buy over one hundred dollars in almonds a month. Don’t get me started on cashews.

Also, I am not entirely sure about the sample part. If someone stops me I’ll just do my best impression of the homeless demon eating crickets in Hellraiser.

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We have success! Even though I like to browse the aisles for the best Thai peanut sauce and vegan friendly pasta while drinking  a free shot-cup of seasonal coffee, beggars can not be choosers. It is an added pleasure to an already fun fall grocery shopping experience.

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Of course it is pumpkin spice! How could it not be?

I am telling you folks, go to The Fresh Market if you want to immerse yourself with autumn goodness. The smells, specials, free samples and specialty food items are enough to make you go home and get drunk on spiked cider while hanging skeletons from trees. It is that great of an experience for this time of the year. Sure you will spend five dollars on a box of Triscuits but that’s why you save that for lame-o Kroger. You buy cornish hens and seven-year old sharp cheddar from The Fresh Market, ya silly!

 

 

DJD, Me and Retro Ghouls!

Just when I get on a role, work rears its ugly head and I find myself on the border to Canada in jerk-town Montana. But that is okay, because this next week is full of crazy Halloween goodness. I am serious, this is all falling right into place. But before I get into next week I can still save this one by posting a video featuring the famous DJD and his new blog, Retro Ghouls and Shocks! 

If you are unfamiliar with Dave (DJD) he is a long time pal of mine since the early days of X-Entertainment. Also, every Saturday night he hosts an awesome radio show called Dark Entries. If it goes bumps in the night to a beat, that tune is on his show. He is the master of horror, goth, punk and all things dark. Check it out!

So, here we are talking about his new project and what to expect. I am very flattered he came to me with this awesome news.

How I Ruined A Halloween Play

There are certain moments in our life that define us. Whether it is an act from another person or an event which forces us to rise or fall to an occasion, there is no doubt these moments shape the way we are, how we view the world and how the world views us. A particular defining moment happened to me way back on an October evening in the year 1985. I was in the first grade and even though most of that year is a clouded-jumbled mess, I remember this evening vividly clear. The annual Mt. Bethel Halloween Play.

From kindergarten to fifth grade, every class participated in this play which took place at 7:30pm, some weekday evening in October. The whole cafeteria/auditorium was decorated to the nines with hay bales, overstuffed scarecrows, pumpkins and what seemed like hundreds of the iconic Beistle Halloween decorations. It was absolute heaven and for the couple of weeks leading up to this performance, we got to eat square pizza at lunch in a literal Halloween wonderland proving yet again, the 1980’s was the decade to be six.

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As the play drew closer, each classroom practiced their song or skit or whatever during music class. We had one music teacher who was responsible for the whole Halloween play and looking back, that would be like training twenty dogs to bark “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while at the same time worrying about one of them shitting. I have a lot of respect for the patience and organization of that woman.

The younger kids had a simple song to learn while the third grade and above incorporated instruments like bells, a piano and the dreaded recorder. Goddamn, I hated the recorder. No kid in the history of anywhere was decent at the recorder. And when you have thirty-five kids blindly blowing in those things, it’s like listening to Celine Dion seven octaves higher and backwards  with her hand in a blender.

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Lucky for me at that time, I was only in the first grade. Our class had just one song to perform for the night but this wasn’t just an ordinary Halloween tune about spooks or lame pumpkins. No sir, this had a hidden surprise at the end and to a first grader, little surprises where never taken lightly. In fact, it captivated the minds of me and my little group of buddies.

The song is “Stirring Our Brew” and to my surprise, it’s still a relevant children’s song. The melancholy tune has three parts which goes:

Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew

wooo wooo

Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew

Tip-Toe Tip-Toe….

This all builds to a climactic end when we slowly turn backwards then spring out screaming “BOO!”. That was the part we could not wait for. In fact, my cohorts and I wanted to secretly take it a step further with arm motions and an improvised “BOO”. It was the one chance we had to shine and mediocrity would just not do. In our little minds we absolutely thought this would put terror in the hearts of our peers and parents.

If you are curios how the song goes, click here. This kid does it justice.

The day finally arrived for the Halloween Play. We all wore the costumes to school that we would wear that night. I guess a dress rehearsal of some sort. It’s an unwritten rule that no teacher ever wants to put on a play and leave a kid to his or her creative accord without giving a nod of approval first. Once the lights go down, their butts are in the kids hands.

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I was a hobo. See, if I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to be or the folks wouldn’t buy me a $40 oversized latex mask, I went as a hobo. It was part laziness, part an opportunity for my Mom to put blush on my cheeks and nose. Later in life I learned she dressed me as an alcoholic, homeless man with blown out capillaries on his face but back then, I was closer to a clown than a guy who cleans windshields with newspapers. I think there were at least five hobos that year.

Another standout memory from those autumn plays was the fact we were at school during the nighttime. That was almost taboo to me. It was crazy to see my friends in a school setting past 2:15. The windows that were always so bright were now darkened by night and in some weird way I felt this was like seeing your teacher in her bathrobe. The school felt vulnerable and there was black and white difference with everything. As if there was an absolute difference between my desk during the day and at night. Is any of this making any sense? It’s okay to say no.

Back to the play. We all gathered in the hall outside the auditorium/cafeteria as the school principal, Dr. Butts (I know), thanked the parents for coming and praised the staff for putting together such a great play. My parents were in the packed crowd and I was excited to give them the scare of a lifetime. My buddies and I had agreed to take this climactic “BOO” to the next level. Some bragged how high they were going to jump, others mimicked their clawed fingers and snarled faces. I, myself, had a spin on the “BOO” adding extra parts. This was jump-in-place excitement.

The retarded kindergarteners were finally finished and Mrs. Hudson rose us from the Indian-style seating position and we were shuffled onto the three leveled stage. I remember vividly the enormous crowd with flashing cameras. It was a sight to be taken aback by but before I knew it we on the stage, me dead-center. The piano started up and with over exaggerating mouth movements, Mrs. Hudson began the chorus.

Stirring and stirring and stirring our brewwwww

WOOOOO-OOOO WOOOO-OOOO…

The excitement was almost more than this kid could bear. Did they know what was coming? How scared will the audience be? Do you think someone will have an accident and have to throw out their underwear like Ms. Taffle made someone do the first day? The possibilities were endless and the cross of anticipation was getting to be too much to bear.

The distraction of my excitement would be my undoing, however. You see, while my mind was busy imagining shrieks of horror from the audience, I lost where we were in the song. I was a whole stanza ahead.

While the second part was halfway through and the kids were still stirring their brew, I slowly began to turn backwards, completely missing the fact the entire first grade was still looking ahead. I curled my fingers and raised my lip over my teeth, making the most intimidating six-year-old face a person could ever lay eyes on and waited to the last “Tip Toe Tip Toe..

What I thought to be that said last “Tip Toe” was the cue to spring around in the most violent fashion imaginable and yell at the top of my voice “BOOO!”. But I didn’t just yell “boo”, as you remember I improvised the startling “boo” sounding more like “BOOOYOOODLELOOPIELOOPIE WOOOBOOP!”.

The piano kept playing but the class stopped and every six-year-old pair of eyes were on me. Also, every audience member’s.

Mrs. Hudson made a face like this:

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And in that single moment I was frozen in time, making monster fingers at an audience who were both confused and humored. I collapsed into my peers, completely mortified. They didn’t even finish the song!  We were walked off the stage to a lukewarm applause and laughing adults.

I remember that being the first time I experienced what it is like to truly blow it. Almost everything after that is a blur except when we were allowed to find our parents. I was greeted by my Dad who was over the top with how praise totting how great I was. It was the final straw and I busted out in tears. A six-year-old with running hobo makeup. Leave it to Dad to solve and cause all problems in a young kids life.

Life moved on, of course. The next week Jeremy Pricket pissed his pants when the fire department came to visit doing disorientation practice by spinning us around and having us crawl to the fire escape. That will always take the heat off of any faux pas. Beyond those two district memories, I don’t remember much of the first grade. I know I passed.

So, while this may have read a little depressing, it really wasn’t. Even today, Dad will still tease that timing is everything. We live through these funny moments that do shape us, even if they seem silly or trivial to others. It’s been thirty years since that funny night and I still remember it so vividly and worst yet, that annoying song, “Stirring Our Brew”.

BOO!

FLTO: Brach’s Weird Flavored Candy Corn

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Brach’s, you magnificent bastard, I READ YOUR BOOOOK! Sorry, that was from the movie Patton. But in all fairness, Brach’s Candy Corn is the Rommel to the autumn mixes. When you think mellowcreme® pumpkins, you think Brach’s. Shit, they’ve only been doing this for over a century. I think they deserve the crown.

Today (last night) I reviewed their breakaway from the mold. In every business there is a ceiling to a product’s life until it is copied and duplicated hundreds of times. That’s when companies alike diversify. Brach’s did just that this year with three new flavors that may woo a few of you candy corn haters over. And if your thinking the Starburst debacle from last year, you can rest easy. These are nothing like that.

S’mores, Caramel Macchiato and Apple Pie are the three newest members of the Candy Corn flavors to hit the shelves this season. I found these at the local Wallgreens for a little under $1.30. Now, I am not a huge candy corn lover outside of what it represents nostalgically, (the literal definition of “eye candy”) but these surprised me!

Check out my review and see what my jury of taste buds thought.

 

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