Virginia is rich in tall tales and unsolved mysteries
Urban legends, folklore, and tall tales abound in Virginia and perhaps you have heard of some of them like the Beal Treasure, The Bunny Man, the Vampire of Hollywood Cemetary or The Woman in Black in Roanoke. I was reminded of one story today from my childhood only this one did not spread but remained within a small group of family and neighbors. One of my cousins and I laughed this evening about what happened when we were in elementary school and living in Blue Ridge in Botetourt County.
There was a log cabin in the field between my house and the home where my cousin lived. The owner's name was Harrison Royster and we all called him Mr. Harrison. He was in his 70s and looked exactly like Adolph Ceaser who portrayed Old Mister in the Color Purple-hat and all. Our homes were on the hillside of what is now known as Colonial Road about a half block from the Intersection with Blue Ridge Springs Road which connects to Route 460 East.
Bacashaw is introduced
Mr. Harrison would tell us children that he had a pet upstairs in his home named Bacashaw and that we should be careful not to make him angry. He never said exactly what "he" was so we believed Mr. Harrison was teasing us and trying to scare us. Sometimes other adults in the neighborhood would tell us to beware of Bacashaw and it was like he was the local boogieman except that no one ever saw or heard him. The story was like an urban legend except only three or four families talked about him.
My brother Bobby told me today that our maternal great-aunt Gladys White who grew up in Blue Ridge used to tell him about Mr. Harrison's pet. She would try to deter him from going into the attic of her Roanoke home by saying that Bacashaw was up there. I recall her laughing every now and then and recalling Mr. Harrison's tale and saying "Old Bacashaw" with a chuckle. I wondered if perhaps the sprite or whatever it was had moved in with my aunt after the fire but when we went into Aunt Glady's attic there was nothing there but old items and a musty smell.
Inside Mr. Harrison's cabin was always dark because it was surrounded by trees and he had stairs in the center of the floor without any railings or banisters. My great-grandma once sent me there on an errand and I noticed he had mason jars on the right and left of each step. It was common for people in the neighborhood including my great-grandmother to can preserves but because I could not see what was inside those jars, I imagined that Mr. Harrison held some type of evil spirit in each one that would be released if they were broken.
A fire and a cry in the night
One evening in 1966 0r 1967 just before dusk Mr. Harrison's house caught on fire and burned to the ground with nothing left but the chimney. He escaped unharmed and someone said they think the fire started because he had been smoking. After the firetrucks left the scent of smoke and smoldering wet wood filled the air and later that night maybe around 9 or 10 pm as the smoke was waning there came a sound from the area where the house had been.
Mr. Harrison had been taken to Roanoke to stay with relatives so there was no reason for anyone to be anywhere near the burned-down cabin. A howl came forth that sounded like a wounded animal and it sent chills down my spine. My grandma and others in the area who heard the cry said it was Bacashaw wailing because he no longer had a home and his master was gone.
Time changes all things
I imagined that it was the combined cry of whatever was in the attic along with what had been inside those preserve jars. I actually envisioned dozens and dozens of spirits set free to roam the earth. When decades later I heard that Ed and Lorraine Warren claim to have evil spirits contained in jars I wondered if I might have been on to something but dismissed it as the overactive imagination of a child.
For the longest time that chimney remained standing alone and it looked really eerie through the trees without the cabin. A few years later it was torn down and a woman by the name of Mrs.Ola Moore put up a trailer in the spot and lived there until she died in 1979 without any problems or telling any tales. My old home and my cousins' house have long since been torn down and all that remains now are bushes and memories.
A tale that never grew very tall
There is nothing online about Bacashaw or anything in a similar spelling as it relates to Virginia mysteries so this might be the last anyone ever hears that name and this tale. There are a lot of online articles about things allegedly taking place in the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Blue Ridge of Appalachia which refers to the area but my story is about the actual town of Blue Ridge Virginia.
Bacashaw was probably nothing more than the imagination of an old man playing a prank on neighborhood children. Perhaps he had been telling his tale since my great aunt was a child since she knew about it and lived 10 miles away. The sound we heard the night of the fire was more than likely only a wounded dog. If more people knew of and had shared the legend of Bacashaw the story probably could have grown as large as other local tales that have lasted for centuries. The key people involved in my childhood situation are all deceased and no one living has mentioned it for decades until today.
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