One of Dickson County’s oldest and tallest tales
By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald
Published Oct. 28, 2011
If you’ve lived in Dickson County for a while, you’ve probably heard some mention of Werewolf Springs.
Local teacher Sam Brown heard the legend about the mysterious half-wolf, half-man roaming Werewolf Springs when he was a child growing up in Burns in the ’60s.
Lifelong Dickson County resident Craig Anderson also heard tales as a child of the county’s werewolf, and noted the myth is one of Dickson’s biggest legends.
Anderson and Brown collaborated for an episode of The Renaissance Center’s production of “Dark Encounters Investigated,” during which they retold the legend of Werewolf Springs. The episode aired throughout 2003 on Channel 19.
The past two Halloween seasons I’ve tagged along with local ghost hunters seeking the paranormal. One of the first stories of local paranormal activity I heard referred to strange happenings around Werewolf Springs.
I’m a relative newcomer to the county, and had never heard the story before. So this Halloween I sought out the legendary tale for myself, and here is the basic account I’ve been able to compile of Montgomery Bell State Park’s werewolf.
In the late 1860s, a circus train derailed along the railroad track that skirts the southwest boundary of the present Montgomery Bell State Park. Several circus animals escaped, including two creatures touted as “The Wolfmen of Borneo.” All the animals were recovered, except the wolfmen.
A couple years later, a local landowner and his hired hand were traveling by wagon down a country road, in the proximity of where Highway 47 runs southwest of the park. They were heading from the present day Burns area to a homestead near the Harpeth River.
The travelers were stalked by a wild creature in the vicinity of Werewolf Springs. They moved faster and faster trying to shake the creature, but it was no use. So they abandoned the wagon and ran into the forest in opposite directions.
The creature pursued the hired hand, who was never seen again. The landowner heard a blood-curdling scream and pleas for mercy from the hired hand, but his body was never found.
Following this incident, a posse gathered to find and kill the beast. They headed to a clearing near the springs, where it appeared a predator frequently hunted. They tethered a goat in the middle of the clearing and broke off in pairs, surrounding the goat and under cover.
A sasquatch-like creature entered the clearing and headed straight for the goat. The men fired at the creature, and then lit their lanterns to see if it was dead. The creature and the goat had vanished, along with two members of the posse.
A big-game hunter then attempted to slay the beast. The hunter spent three nights in a cabin near Werewolf Springs. All was quiet the first two nights, but the hunter had to fight for his life the final evening.
He heard howls in the distance, and took aim from a cabin window at what appeared to be the creature. He fired, but the shot only provoked the animal. The beast broke through the cabin door, but the hunter had positioned himself in the rafters and began firing at it.
The bullets didn’t faze the creature as it swiped and clawed at the hunter, whose ammunition, by now, was down to two shots in a pistol. He was saved, however, when the sun began to rise and the creature fled into the woods.
This is the rough account Brown heard as a Cub Scout, camping in the area known as Werewolf Springs. The area referred to as Werewolf Springs is actually Hall Springs, presently accessed through Montgomery Bell State Park’s 11-mile overnight hiking trail.
Mark Corlew, a longtime Burns resident and former MBSP naturalist and ranger, explained the Hall family homestead was located about 150 yards from Hall Springs (Werewolf Springs), between the springs and Hall Cemetery.
The Halls were one of several families who lived within the park boundaries before the land was ever designated for park space.
The overnight trail passes in front of Hall Cemetery and loops around to Hall Springs, where fresh water bubbles to the surface from an underground water table. The spring then flows into the present day Lake Woodhaven, due north of the spring source.
The beast was rumored to have lived in a cave in Creech Hollow. Additional accounts of the werewolf include the mysterious disappearance of a little girl who vanished while fetching water from Hall Springs. She was never found, but several animal and human bones were found in a cave in Creech Hollow.
The Creech Hollow caves now rest at the bottom of the park’s Creech Hollow Lake. Brown noted several mule and horse bones have been found in the area near Werewolf Springs. This bone site, however, served as a common dumping ground for the animals by pre-park residents.
Brown, who worked for the park for 23 years, actually found a cabin near Werewolf Springs, where the hunter supposedly fought off the beast. He hiked the area as a 12-year-old Boy Scout, following an old trail that began at the fire tower in the southernmost point of the park to a cemetery near the springs and on into a valley.
Later in life, Brown returned to the former trail and found the abandoned cabin. The cabin has since collapsed, but an outhouse still stands. He noted the ground around the cabin appeared to have been cultivated at one time, since it showed signs of repeated plowing.
Martha Hall Barfield, of Ashland City, documented her family’s local history in “The Heritage of Dickson County” compilation. Barfield explained the Hall family farmed their land, raising corn, beans, potatoes, cabbage, apples, peanuts, etc.
Barfield noted the Hall family came to Dickson County in 1810 and settled in an area outside Burns in what is now Montgomery Bell State Park.
The landowners and families who lived within the present day park began selling their land in the ’30s, for a future national park. The National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps began development in 1935 of the Montgomery Bell National Recreation Demonstration Area.
Traveler, hired hand
Iron Ore magnate Montgomery Bell mined the park’s land in the mid-1800s, and is also part of the werewolf legend. Bell was often rumored to have been the landowner attacked by the beast while traveling the country road toward his home on the Harpeth River.
Brown explained Bell couldn’t possibly have been the traveler, since the story originates with the circus train derailment. Bell died in 1855.
Dickson Model Railroad Club’s Rick Hughes noted the rail line through the park wasn’t completed until the Civil War, when slaves, freemen and U.S. Colored Troops extended the Nashville and North-Western (military) Railroad line from Kingston Springs to Dickson at Mile Post 42 and on to (New) Johnsonville.
Hughes said the rail line wouldn’t have been used outside of military shipments until after the war. He also referenced several train wrecks along the line when trains ran from Nashville to Memphis.
The old rail line runs its original path through the park, added Hughes. The tracks have been modernized, and alterations made at points along the route, but the basic path is still the same.
Legend lives on
Brown recalled a personal hair-raising experience with a creature near Lake Acorn by the park inn.
He was working security at the inn on a cold winter night, prior to retiring from park duty in 2004. He heard “the most blood-curdling scream” from a wild animal at 1 a.m. while checking doors behind the inn. He noted the sound appeared to come from the edge of the lake, 150 feet away.
Brown testified he never saw an unusual creature in the park during his time of service, but heard plenty of eerie sounds while walking through the park’s woods at night.
Fact or fiction, you decide. But the legend of Werewolf Springs will likely live on as a tall tale treasured by Dickson Countians for years to come.
If interested in hiking to Hall Springs (Werewolf Springs), visit the park’s main office for maps and overnight camping information. Hurry… the next full moon is Nov. 10.
Haunted Group Camp
What: MBSP’s 3rd annual Haunted Group Camp
When: Saturday, 6-8 p.m.; arrive at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Enter park through U.S. Highway 70 entrance
Cost: $5 per carload; limit 400 cars
Tickets: Purchase tickets in advance through the park office
Info: Call (615) 797-9052