The Swamp Road Chronicles®



Doc Watkins and the Creature"

By Randal Hall

I  recently discovered a few new facts about the history of the old barn that once stood at the corner of Watkins Rd and The National Road.  In the Licking County Historical Society they have a diary that was kept by a Dr. John Watkins; the same Dr. Watkins that Watkins Rd. is named after.

His diary entry for October 3, 1888 recorded that a group of men had brought a load of hay to be put up in the barn's hayloft. The barn, built in 1863, had been empty for many years, unused since the death of the barn's owner at that time: Susan Blackstone. The barn was a remarkable structure, it was three stories high and possessed a large overhang on the eastern side. It was what was called a 'cantilevered overhang', which allowed a hay wagon with a full load to be pulled up under the overhang. Workers could then raise the hay directly upward through the large opening in the floor to the hay mow.

The barn had been rented from Mrs. Blackstone's descendants for the purpose of storing hay and sacks of feed. It had been almost 30 years since the tragic fire that had taken the life of Susan and her son Isaac; the barn had been unused since her passing.

No one had forgotten about all of the bad things that had happened there over the years; country folks don't forget things like that, ever.

Three men had entered the old barn through the side door after they had broken away the rusted old padlock. They had begun to climb the stairs and reached the second story of this old barn, when they heard a loud and heavy thud on the floor above their heads.  One of the men recalled to the others the fact that Susan's husband Jacob had fallen to his death from a ladder to the floor of the huge hay mow on that spooky old, old barn. They all knew, well enough, the stories that told of the barn being haunted and they stood there listening, frozen. What they had heard sounded just like something heavy had fallen from a great height and crashed onto the floor just above their heads. After a brief pause they continued their way up the staircase, fearful of what they might find in the room above.


What they found was a body. It was lying in the middle of the vast open hay mow floor. The body was draining blood from its head and appeared to be dead. It had apparently fallen to the hard oaken floor from the rafters some 30 feet far above the men's heads. As the men rolled the body over they had a fearful surprise. They body was dressed in very old and tattered rags and was shoeless, even though the weather had been cold of late. The body had a terrible odor, described by one of the men as "like a barrel of rotting skunks". The men could hardly breathe, the stink was so strong.


The body was completely hairless and its fingernails were excessively long, black and curved, like a buzzard's talons. The creature's mouth was gaping open and the men could see that its teeth were black also; black and pointed, very sharply pointed. Its ears were large and pointed at the tips. It was sort of human looking, but not quite.


It suddenly sat up and opened its eyes. The creature's eyes were as yellow as a cat's!  The men all jumped back, startled. Next, the thing emitted a loud roar of rage, fear and pain, then fell over on its face; dead, apparently.


Everyone rushed out of the barn and one rode quickly into the nearby town of Kirkersville to tell the sheriff what they had found. The Sheriff and his deputy hurried out to the Blackstone barn to see for themselves. I imagine that the Sheriff and his Deputy expected that if they found anything at all it would probably just be some drunken old hobo who had fallen out of the rafters while attempting to hide.


What the sheriff discovered was something unlike anything he had ever seen. As is required following the mysterious death of a person, or the death of a mysterious person, the Coroner was called in. That was Doctor Watkins. He wrote in his diary that the creature was, I quote: "Neither human nor animal, it resembled a denizen of the Pit of Hell that had somehow escaped to the surface of Earth." "John Doe" was the name used on the Death Certificate and "accidental" was listed as the cause of death.


The local cemeteries would not allow the strange being to be buried in their hollowed grounds, so Doc Watkins ordered that it be interred "…on a nearby hillside 1000 yards east of County Road 42 and 50 yards south of the National Road", which was part of his farm, not far from the Blackstone barn where it fell to its death. The grave was, and remains, unmarked.


Exactly what that grave holds will forever remain a mystery. Was it a human, deformed at birth, shunned by its fellow humans and forced to live alone and cold in an old unused barn, or was it something more sinister and grotesque?  Perhaps it was what is called a "ghoul", because it certainly had the appearance of such.


I recently visited the site where the spooky old barn had stood and I wondered if the creature had lived alone, or if, perhaps, it had a mate that lived and lives still and hides among the surrounding woods and hills. I hope not, don't you?


Randal Hall, December 18th, 2021

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