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Harrell Hill

September 2004

Harrell Hill Obion County, West Tennessee
Reproduced with the author's permission from Roads Less Traveled (Forrester & Thrlkeld, 1998)

The story begins in the years following the American Civil War (1861-1865). According to local lore, here is one of the tales surrounding this house.

The six McDonald brothers, all large men and veterans of the late Civil War, trooped into the kitchen and seated themselves on top of the simple wooden table. In front of the table stood slender Lucian Harrell, son of the owner of the house which stood on Harrell Hill.

They looked at him rather dubiously as he closed his eyes in concentration and began to slowly raise his hands. One had begun to laugh mockingly when they felt the table rise into the air. They suddenly clutched the sides to keep from falling as the table moved up well off the floor. Lucian lowered his hands and the table settled to the kitchen floor with a thump. The McDonald brothers were suddenly rather quiet as they gazed at Lucian, standing before them with a slight smile on his thin face.

Lucian, you see, was a witch. Or, more properly, a warlock.

George A. Harrell and his wife settled there some years prior to the Civil War. George Harrell had a son, Lucian, generally known as John. In the 1880's or possibly earlier, John acquired a reputation as a witch, often giving public demonstrations of his powers. A neighbor once remarked: " How I would like to be at Harrell Hill tonight; I just know something strange is happening there." On one occasion John climbed out one of the dormer windows, calmly stepped outside, and walked around the house on thin air, re-entering the window.

John was once mysteriously absent from Sunday evening church services. When he returned home the next day, he reported the death of someone in the District 7 area of the county. Later, his father was visiting there and found a fresh grave with a marker whose date established that John had reported the death before it had taken place.

He continued to respond to public demonstrations of his uncanny abilities but the efforts seemed to take a toll on his health. He told his mother, "They are getting stronger and I am getting weaker." He died at midnight at the age of 22. The old clock in the attic tolled his passing. It had been placed there some years prior and its weights removed.

Apparently, John's spirit remained behind. The clock struck again at the death of his mother some years later. It continued to strike whenever a relative died.

The house acquired a reputation as haunted and was deserted for some years. In 1948, Mrs. Elizabeth Mitchell of Obion acquired it and had it restored. During the restoration, the stairs to the attic were removed. Unexplained knocking sounds were often heard. John seemed to still maintain a presence and took unkindly to cutting off access to the attic.

Elizabeth's grandson, Bob Anderson of Obion, was interviewed a few years ago. He was visiting there with her during the September of his 10th grade year. They went outside to feed the stock and also to prepare the house for the winter, latching the window shutters.

Upon re-entering the locked house, they went into her bedroom to find three black, sooty footprints on her Martha Washington bedspread! He also recalls the mysterious knockings.

Once, a large kettle was found in the middle of the kitchen floor. No one had seen it before or knew where it came from.

Mrs. Mitchell, a woman of stout heart and determination, was determined not to be driven out of her new home. When the knockings became too noisy she would tell John to quiet down. Eventually, John apparently accepted the situation and perhaps developed some affection for the new owner of his home, as the end of the story indicates.

In 1975, Elizabeth entered a hospital in Memphis, where her son lived. As he was walking past a large clock on the mantel in his home, the clock suddenly fell off into his arms! John had apparently moved in, he seemed to have a special feeling for clocks.

Mrs. Mitchell died not long afterwards and all manifestations ceased. Today, the old house is home to a renter. When they moved in, they took the precaution to ask John to be good. All remains quiet, so far.

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