|McDow's Hole as it looks today
(Courtesy of Sherri Knight)
In Sins of the Pioneers: Crimes & Scandals in a Small Texas Town, I told the legend of Jenny Papworth, a young wife and mother who met her fate at the hands of ruthless cattle-rustlers along McDow’s Hole, in Erath County, sometime in the 1870s. Several versions of this story were repeated over the years, always ending with eerie nighttime sightings of Jenny Papworth’s ghostly return to her neighborhood. Witnesses insisted that the willowy apparition bellows a blood-curdling scream.
|Sheriff R. T. Long
(Courtesy of Stephenville Museum)
One entirely different version of the haunting at McDow’s Hole made its way into the pages of a national magazine sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s when Texas writer Lewis Nordyke wrote an article for Cavalier called “Even the Ghosts Are Greater in Texas.” According to Nordyke, Sheriff R. T. Long, believing that the screams were made by a panther, kept a late-night vigil at McDow’s Hole until he, too, saw a strange apparition, a cloud forming over the water that morphed into the shape of a woman clutching a baby. Long, as the story goes, reported hearing the cloudy figure emit a piercing scream. “There is no man on earth who can begin to describe the feeling that comes over you when you are near McDow after sundown,” Long reportedly said. "You are scared to the marrow of your bones whether you see or hear anything or not."