The Ghost That Killed

When speaking to people of the paranormal, often the question “Has a ghost ever killed anyone” comes up.  Often people cite a few rare occasions where ghosts have come close, or dismiss the entire phenomenon as an unfounded urban legend.  The truth of the matter is that danger and haunted locations have been intrinsically linked for quite some time.  Of course the concept of a dangerous ghost is common in fiction, but rarely receives outside attention.

The story of the ghost who killed is one that breaks the convention of the friendly or mischievous spirit who is incapable of harming those who anger it.  It’s a story that has embroiled itself in the folklore of Kentucky.  It’s of a man named Carl Pruitt, who strangled his wife and then committed suicide after he was driven insane by guilt, or perhaps rage due to an affair she had been having.  His method of murder was a length of chain.  The police said it was a clear case of murder then suicide, and closed the case.

But the story doesn’t end there.  As Pruitt was buried, on his tombstone appeared several links of chain in the form of a cross that grew more and more defined as time went on.  As Pruitt’s grave gained its unusual markings seemingly from out of nowhere, so did it gain a reputation as a cursed place.

One day a group of teenagers hoped to dispel the rumors by hurling rocks at Pruitt’s grave and destroying it, or at least damaging it.  It’s said only one boy, by the name of James Collins actually damaged the tombstone and as he biked home with the others, suddenly his bike picked up speed unexpectedly and he was in a fatal bike accident.  The cause of death?  His bike chain allegedly had become entangled around his neck killing him instantly.

The boy’s mother was so angry she took an axe to the tombstone.  The next day she was found hung by the clothesline, which, according to the legend was made of chain.  A couple of police officers investigated the tombstone and took a few pictures.  Afterward they were allegedly chased by a bright light that caused them to crash.  One of the officers was fatally wounded, so the story goes.  Finally, one man who claimed there was nothing to the legend set out with a sledgehammer and smashed it to pieces.  At least that’s what people heard as they heard the smashing of marble.  As they went to investigate when they heard a scream, they found him hanging from the chain link fence, apparently strangled.  Police later said he must have been frightened by something and run right into the chain, becoming entangled in it in a most unlikely fashion.

While this story has yet to be verified, it is an integral piece of Kentucky folklore.  And where is this tombstone today?  According to the legend the unnamed cemetery became overgrown after a number of bodies were removed and it lost all its business.  Eventually the land was dug up and became a strip mine in 1958.  No one knows where the tombstone is today or the body of Carl Pruitt.  Is this merely folklore?  Or is it, like many legends from Kentucky based on reality?  While the story is considered cannon by many in the ghost lore of the area, no one knows if this alleged real life horror story was ever more than a chain of lies.