North from the hubbub of Chattanooga lies the community of Sale Creek. Just north of Sale Creek, Daugherty Ferry Road guides travelers into the Tennessee backwoods through to a place called Shipley Hollow. After Shipley Hollow Road forks from Daugherty Ferry, travelers enter the domain of something that the locals have nicknamed the “Pitty Pat.”
For roughly two centuries travelers through Shipley Hollow have had run-ins with an entity or creature. The horrors of the first encounter are still whispered about, though many of the details have been lost through this inter-generational telephone game. Some iterations of the legend place the first encounter in the 1770s, while the primary source for the written version provides the date as during the 1860s. The 18th century setting is not likely as the area was occupied almost exclusively by the Cherokee people and the legend states definitively that the characters were settlers.
The basic version of the legend tells us of a settler woman and several small children travelling in a wagon at night through Shipley Hollow. From out of the darkness, something startles the horse causing the wagon to overturn on top of the mother killing her. The children disappear into the night, possibly taken by the entity, never to be seen again. Residents and travelers soon began to hear a strange sound pursuing them after dark a strange pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat, led many to sprint towards their destination.
Over the next century, hapless travelers after dark, doctors on house-calls, and local residents were all frightened of the entity that sometimes climbed onto the backs of horses or buggies. In the 1950s, two residents driving down the road late one night had something crash into the side of their car. The impact caused the driver to step on the gas until the pair reached the safety of a nearby house. Expecting to find evidence of the terrible collision, the gentlemen found nothing. The side of the car was intact with nary a scratch or dent. The men returned to the road seeking the remains of what hit their car, but again, the search was fruitless.
These stories have filtered down to today, and the legend was documented in historian Curtis Coulter’s 1990 book, A Sentimental Journey Down Country Roads: Stories of Sale Creek, Tennessee. Coulter included the original legend and the 1950s collision described above. Georgiana Kotarski included information from Coulter’s book, but she also adds a story from November 2004. Early one morning a pair of deer hunters took up in two deer stands they had set up near Shipley Hollow. Using walkie-talkies to communicate, the pair arrived in the early morning darkness. One of the hunters noticed that the deer seemed to be moving about earlier than expected.
Communication between the hunters was interrupted by static over the walkie-talkies. Peering into the darkness of the woods, one of the hunters heard something moving in the forest. His eyes, having adjusted to the light, soon saw something blocking out the small slivers of light that filtered through the trees. The inky shadow surrounded him, and he felt it breathing on his neck. The feeling lifted after five fearful minutes. After this frightening incident, the hunter began asking around about ghost stories from the area and discovered Coulter’s book.
In 2010, curious teenagers were attracted to the area by tales of ghosts, but they found a gun-toting local who held them until the police arrived. Since the curious teens had not stepped out of their cars, nor had they entered the cemetery, the police arrested the man who held them for false imprisonment. While this incident is not terribly important, the articles do provide a picture of the things that people are still encountering in Shipley Hollow. One of the articles states that “those who visit the cemetery drive around a loop three times, then stop and listen.” One of the teens said, You are supposed to hear weird sounds and sometimes you can even see a light.” The loop is Shipley Cemetery Road, which branches off Shipley Hollow Road to the Shipley Cemetery and loops around to the main road.
Another article about the 2010 incident includes another brief story from the area. That story speaks of a woman being kidnapped, murdered, with her body tossed into a well near the cemetery.
If you head out to Shipley Hollow, you may want to run if you hear a pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat sound, though also be on the lookout for gun-toting locals.
- “Case bound to grand jury against teacher who held ‘ghostbusters’ with a rifle.” The Chattanoogan. 17 November 2010.
- Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
- Stone, Michael. “Popular haunt.” Chattanooga Times-Free Press. 11 September 2010.