There are a lot of tall tales and legends that have been told about Maston Hutchinson’s sunken grave up in the Norton Cemetery in Maynardville, Tennessee. Every once in a while you’ll hear an up-to-date version of a long forgotten yarn from a hiker or camper that walked the Ghost House Trail in Big Ridge State Park to visit the remains of his pre-1930’s homestead that’s up there, but I’m not one to believe such yarns and anecdotes that are all too common…except for one.
It was a story about a couple in their late twenties that had rented a cabin along the shores of the Norris Lake impoundment for Labor Day weekend back in ’07. They were an adventurous sort that liked to escape to the outdoors on the weekends to get away from the big city. They did all the outdoor activities that the mid twenty-something city folk like to do to prove that they’re still young. As I recall, they were celebrating an an anniversary, but I can’t quite remember the exact details of their visit to the park. What I can tell you is that he described his encounter with ole Maston Hutchinson with such a fervor in his voice and a tremble to his hand that I couldn’t let this tale go untold.
They started the morning off at the old gristmill where all of the day hikers park their cars. I’m not certain what trails that they had intended to take, but I remember him saying that he was researching an article that he was writing and wanted to get some inspiration by visiting a few of the cemeteries along with the Hutchinson house. That would have put them on the Ghost House Trail that goes right past Norton Cemetery. He said that along the way he found the oddest looking stone. It was a bright white stone that had a perfect corner to it, almost as if it had been cut that way. He described the stone in great detail recounting that it had a part of a symbol on the face of it, but that it was broken so he couldn’t tell what it was. He said it caught his eye because of all of the pebbles and rocks that they walked past there was no explanation as to why this stark white stone should be sitting in the middle of the trail. He pocketed the stone for a keepsake and they continued on their hike. He said that they visited the Snoderly Cemetery which is on the mile and a half loop along the Lake Trail and the Langley Cemetery on the Big Valley Trail so they must have been walking all over those mountains.
Now one part of their day that seemed to get him pretty worked up was when he was standing near Mastons’s sunken grave. He said he was posing for a photo and right as his wife was getting ready to snap the picture, he felt something around his ankle. When he looked down expecting to see a snake or a toad, the flash went off and his wife took the picture. He said he didn’t think much of it at the time but we’ll get back to that a little later on.
He said that not too much really happened to make him think twice about it for the rest of the day. He said they had a nice dinner and played some cards in the evening before going to bed. As I recall, it was a hot weekend that Labor Day and it kicked up a tremendous thunderstorm that night. He told me that he had a terrible dream and that he saw himself laying in bed there in the cabin. He said that a ghastly, ghoulish figure of a man approached him and stood over him with his right hand stretched out open, almost touching him and with his left hand pointing towards the table. He was practically scared witless as he described this creature that had pale grey and molten skin, dark sockets for eyes, bare feet and dressed in a black tattered and soiled suit. He said when the man moved that boney, pale hand closer to touch his chest, he woke with a start to a loud bang. Thinking that it was just thunder, he sat in his bed for a minute amazed at the reality of his dream. Why he even said that he smelt the stench and rot of the man after he had woken up. Out of curiosity, he got up out of bed and walked to the table where the apparition was pointing and noticed the small white stone that he found earlier that day. As he stood examining the stone, he felt the cool tingle of water under his feet. When he looked down, he said he saw the clear outline of wet footprints leading up to and away from the side of the bed he was sleeping on.
By now his wife had woken up to behold the terrified look on her husbands fear stricken, pale face. Not sure of what to think of the experience he managed to collect his thoughts and told his wife of the dream and showed her the footprints. They checked the lock and the hook-latch on the door and they were both fastened and secure so there was no way in tarnation that anyone could have come into the door…well, that is, unless they came through the door. The two stayed up the rest of the night with every light in that cabin on. He told me that the first thing they did at sun-up was to hike back out to Maston’s grave with that rock and would you believe that it was the chipped off upper left hand corner of that grave marker? The symbol that was broken off was the top of the letter “M” in the name Matson. He replaced that corner of the stone and the two of them turned heels and made a b-line for their car. I don’t even know that they stopped at the front office to check out of their cabin.
Now I wouldn’t have believed the story myself being as there are any number of different wives tales and ghost stories told about Maston Hutchinson. I mean, after all, they were up there celebrating an anniversary or something and they could have been drinking some wine or liquor in lieu of the occasion. It could have even been his imagination playing tricks on him or an undercooked piece of meat that upset his sleep. I didn’t even believe it when the wife showed me the picture on that digital camera of him standing over Matson’s gravestone looking down at the ground. But when she zoomed that camera in real close up on his ankle, you could make out the whispy, smoke-like figure of a boney hand reaching right up out of that sunken grave. I can tell you one thing for sure…my wife and I never did go back to Big Ridge State Park to celebrate our anniversary…and we weren’t drinking that night either.