A Melungeon family from 1920's Tennessee. Could this have been a genesis for the Lincolns?
In 1966, T. Peter Park was a graduate student at the University of Virginia and his friend, Raymond G. Frey, told him a perplexing story. A true FOAF (friend of a friend) tale, Frey had just visited his home in Kermit, West Virginia. There, an elderly physician who had once met one of the witnesses of the original events told the tale of “The Lincoln Legend”.
Having nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln or any of the President’s relatives, it was story of mutants, horrors, magic incantations, rape, and lynching. Truly a fantastic horror story, but purported to be accurate and factual. Peter was immediately fixated, and never turned loose of the story repeating it often to friends, and publishing it in the Anomalist. About 2005, Chris Perridas assisted Peter in deconstructing the story with the opinion that it was a type of folk tale representing a fin de siecle lynch mob scenario – common in West Virginia consciousness at the time. A number of ghost stories from that West Virginia era seemed similar to what happened to the Lincoln clan.
The story can be found in the Anomalist (click here) but it goes something like this (with a few explanatory notes).
The Lincolns were “standoffish, odd-looking people” who moved near to a small midwestern town (one suspects this was Kermit, W. Va. – Kermit was an isolated community near the border of Kentucky). They arrived in the 1890′s from perhaps Massachsetts. The family – father, mother, daughter and two sons – were squat and “froggish”-looking with “ugly” faces, pallid whitish skin, bulging “hyper-thyroid” eyes, and high broad foreheads.
This immediately suggested to Peter and also to Perridas that there was a Lovecraftian origin to parts of this story such as in “Shadow Over Innsmouth”, or that the story had been enhanced by someone who read Lovecraft between the 1920′s and the early 1960′s. Peter also thought that it might refer to Melungeons, a racial-type found in the Cumberland Gap area of the United Steates.
They exhibited odd, unfriendly personalities and prowled at night. Townsfolk were frightened of them.
In 1896 or 1900 – there was never a reason given for this divergence of dates – one of the Lincoln sons was lynched for raping and murdering the daughter of a prominent local family.
While usually lynching of rape victims was confined to the deep South, and to blacks, white men were lynched in Virginia and sometimes in West Virginia. It became very infrequent after 1910 in West Virginia. So this element rings true to the time period.
At the Lincoln youth’s funeral, his father cursed the town, and “threw a worm or slug at the girl’s father”, crying “Here is your doom!”
This was one of the oddest elements. No voodoo element or other shamanistic religions could be traced to “throwing a worm” despite a great deal of research. Use of tobacco or a tobacco plug was a more natural shamanistic Native American item, and possibly some substitution occurred in the oral transmission.
A little while later the dead girl’s father and brother died under mysterious circumstances, their bodies crushed to a pulp and covered with slime.
Perridas tried to trace this element to a “Weird Tales” or other pulp story with no luck. A giant snail is alluded to by the slime, but where this came from is unknown. It is highly unlikely that this is a true event.
Townsfolk kept having nighttime sightings of the dead Lincoln boy. Some townsfolk who had seen the Lincoln boy’s apparition later went insane. A posse sent to open the Lincoln boy’s grave found footprints leaving the grave. Opening his coffin, they found that the corpse was gone.
Perridas recognized this as a revenge ghost story motif, and suggested to Peter that the story was obtained by combining a lynching ghost story with 1930′s pulp material. Peter felt that this had merit.
Finally, the remainder of the Lincoln family moved out of town. The town suffered droughts, floods and tornadoes due to their mistreatment of the Lincolns.
This is one of the oddest folklore narratives to come out of West Virginia, and sadly, has not obtained the attention that it should have received by either Lovecraft or Fortean scholars.
1994 Illustration showing "froggish folk"
[Mr. T. Peter Park (b. 1941, PhD 1970) was an historian, a librarian, and contributed to many Fortean sites, and periodicals. He was a long time fan of H P Lovecraft, weird tales, and science fiction. He had a long running email list of Fortean items sent to friends and interested parties. Sadly, Peter disappeared from online sites several months ago. It is not known by this writer whether Peter ever finished his horror manuscript, "The Lincoln Symbosis: An Eldritch Tale" (circa 1999)].