Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Ghost of Sketoe's Hole - Dale County, Alabama

One of the most fascinating ghost stories in Alabama surrounds an incident that took place on the banks of the Choctawhatchee River at Newton during the Civil War.

Rev. Bill Sketoe, a Methodist minister and farmer, was arrested by the men of Captain Joseph R. Breare's company and accused of either desertion or assisting a band of deserters in their devastating raids on homes and farms in Dale County.  Although Breare's men are usually described as "home guards," they actually were members of a regular Confederate unit that patrolled South Alabama to enforce the conscription or draft.

Whatever his actual charges, Sketoe was hanged from a tree across the river from Newton by Breare and a detachment of his men. Eyewitnesses later described how, because Sketoe was a tall man, his feet touched ground after the wagon or buggy on which he was standing was driven out from under him. One of the soldiers, who had been wounded in an earlier battle, used his crutch to dig out a hole under the man's feet so that he would hang and die.

The hole dug that day survived for more than 100 years and, as the story goes, was mysteriously swept clean each night by some mysterious force. Many local residents came to believe that the ghost of old Bill Sketoe still hung from that tree opposite Newton and it was his feet that kept the hole clean.  The legend became one of Alabama's favorite ghost stories and was featured in Kathryn Tucker Windham's popular book, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

Is it true?  What are the real facts behind the legend? Find out by visiting

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