Halloween around the corner, this is a good time to mention the
devil, ghosts and things that make sounds in the night.
Take, for example, the Devil’s Pocket, an intriguing piece
of land lying in a remote part of Newton County near the Sabine
River. A combination of tangled undergrowth, marshlands, hummocks
and glades, the land left settlers with droughts, floods, plagues
of malaria and fever, failing crops and the disappearance of their
And to add to the misery, a meteor is said to have smashed into
the middle of the forest, landing with a terrible explosion that
shook buildings for miles away.
It left a gaping hole some fifty feet across and thirty feet deep.
Steam rose from the hole for weeks, leading a man to remark that
“the devil came to see us.”
While the meteor story has not been confirmed, the area has a depression
in the earth that is often filled with stagnant water and moccasins.
Even today, hunters give it a wide berth.
Part of the reputation given to the Devil’s Pocket also came from
unsavory characters who took refuge in the area.
devil also had a hand in a stretch of the Neches
River, where the river once raced between high cliffs for a
distance of about six miles.
Even during normal river levels, the stretch took on the characteristics
of rapids, and boats found it difficult to navigate in either direction,
leading crews to call the area “the Devil’s Race Track.”
Early steamboats only went through the passage when the river was
at flood stage, and the waters were as calm as quieter parts of
During the days when loggers floated great rafts of logs down the
river to the Neches River and
sawmills, the log wranglers often shot through the Devil’s Race
Track at dizzying speeds, and more than a few men lost their lives.
old Hadden’s Ferry on the Sabine
River, there was another river stretch known as “Widow’s
Bend,” where early sternwheelers and log rafts went aground
because of swift waters that put the boats and rafts into a deathly
After several disasters at the bend, the site was supposedly marked
by the ghostly cries of widows, leading to its name.
of my favorite stories is “the Laughing Ghost of Todd Springs,”
an area on a small stream near Shelbyville
in Shelby County.
The story goes that Indians murdered a family living near the springs
and the ghost of the mother continued to scream each night as she
mourned for her family. Each scream, it seems, was ended with a
Freight haulers who camped at Todd Springs while making their way
across East Texas grew
so fearful of the screams and laughter in the night that they soon
avoided the area.
Things Historical October
20, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers