Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Wild Man of Yocona Bottom

Fig. 1, The author before shaving
Well, I may be the world's most inept ghost hunter, but last night we captured, purely by accident, some audio that I believe will raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Let me set the scene for you. It is Saturday, November the 9th, at around nine o'clock in the evening. Karen and I spent the day doing the usual chores -- housecleaning, fence-mending, the thousand little things that any homeowner has to do sooner or later.

While I was outside, I gathered up fallen limbs and laid the makings of a fire in the chiminea on the patio. It was a cool, cloudy night. There was no wind to speak of. About eight, we pulled a couple of chairs close to the iron chiminea and lit the blaze, because yes, we are really that boring, even on a Saturday night.

We live in rural Mississippi. About a mile south of our house, across several fields and a dense, boggy stand of old growth trees, the Yocona River runs more or less east and west. 

The Yocona isn't particularly large, but it is old and winding and treacherous. The banks are sheer drop-offs thirty feet high in places. Woods line the river on both sides; navigating it in daylight is a chore, and doing so at a dead run in the dark would be suicide. 

Oh, and since the woods are composed of approximately equal parts leaves, copperhead rattlesnakes, and water moccasins as big as Nissan Sentras, you couldn't force me back there after dark with a gun and threats of forced listening to a Kesha album.

So. That's the scene. Dark south-facing patio. Impenetrable woods. The moon a mere shifting glow behind a thick haze of hurried clouds.

Now, typically, we'd be regaled by two sets of amateur vocalists. The coyotes usually start, announcing their presence just behind the first line of trees. The dogs respond, and the back-and-forth goes on until one side or the other gets bored or spots a rabbit.

But last night wasn't typical.

We heard dogs. Several of them, baying and barking, close to the river. 

And then we heard -- something. Look, I grew up right here. I've heard it all -- dogs, cows, bulls, coyotes, bobcats, even one of the last panthers in the area, 20 years ago. But what we heard last night didn't sound like any of the local critters.

So I grabbed my good ghost-hunting recorder, a Zoom H1, put it on a fence-post, and got a little over twenty minutes of what I'll just call an unidentified vocalization.

In the clip below, I've isolated a single call, added some very gentle amplification, and looped it. It's short; click and listen, if you will.

I have no idea what could make that kind of call. It sounds almost like a word. And whatever it was led the dogs on a merry chase.

Here's a longer clip, with dogs for context. You might want to crank up the volume for these:

The big dog you hear is Lamar, our big black lab, who added his voice to the proceedings. 

Here's another excerpt, also short:

And this:

Here's a single call, with background noise removed and amplification applied:

Amped Call

Finally, here's the entire recording, with no effects applied.

Complete Recording

The big question, of course, is what was making those sounds?

I don't have a definitive answer for that. I can say certainty what it was not. It was not a coyote. Or a cow, or a bull, or a bobcat, or a boar, or a feral pig.

I can also say I've never heard it before.

Yocona, Mississippi is not exactly a hotbed of cryptid sightings or activity. Which isn't to say people haven't seen strange things in the woods. They have. A local lawyer swears he went to sleep while hunting and awoke to find a tall hairy biped looking down at him (he fled, leaving his expensive rifle behind). Just this weekend, a local's mare stumbled home injured, both her foals gone.

Does all this suggest something unusual lurking in the woods barely a half a mile away from where I sit?

Heck if I know. I'm a fantasy author, so of course I want the world to be filled with all manner of strange creatures.

But this is the first time I've gotten a long, clear, detailed recording of something I can't readily explain.

If anyone has any ideas concerning what made those sounds, please comment! And if anyone lives near me and has heard anything similar, please say so!


I realize I announced this earlier, but typing the words is so much fun I'll do it again.

The new Markhat book, THE FIVE FACES, has been accepted by Samhain! We're looking at a June release date.

I think you'll enjoy THE FIVE FACES.  I'll say this much, and no more -- in this 8th entry in the series, Markhat goes face to face with a killer who taunts his victims with drawings depicting the time, place, and manner of their murders. Once the drawing is received, no one survives, no matter the measures they take. So when Markhat's drawing arrives, he has mere hours to avoid the hand of Death itself...

The new Markhat book is also underway. The working title is THE DARKER CARNIVAL, although a line in the story itself has suggested a possible new title I'm kicking around. I only hesitate because there's a Rob Zombie song of the same name (LIVING DEAD GIRL).

What do you guys think? THE DARKER CARNIVAL or LIVING DEAD GIRL? Keep in mind all the Markhat books have 3 word titles, so it needs to be one or the other. Being a writer, I'm superstitious about altering the three word rule, because of course the first time I use two words or four words or anything but three words the sky will bleed and the walls will fall and I'll certainly be rejected, and we can't have that.

Here's a brief excerpt from THE DARKER CARNIVAL. It doesn't contain any spoilers, so throw caution to the winds and read without peeking through your fingers.

The sun was more than an hour from rising. Curfew was still in effect across Rannit, which meant anyone a peckish halfdead caught outside was fair game for breakfast, and I was standing in the street with both my shoes untied.

But I had a vampire revolver in my right pocket and a ten thousand year old banshee holding my left hand and I’d walked with the slilth not so long ago.

Boots scraped cobbles nearby. My hand found the butt of my revolver.

Buttercup giggled and pointed down the street before vanishing.

A man walked out of the night and into the dim, wobbling glow of a street-lamp.

I relaxed my grip on the revolver, but didn't pull my hand away. I could tell at once my fellow Curfew-breaker was no halfdead. He shuffled, for one thing, walking slowly while dragging a noisy burden on a wheeled contrivance behind him.

Like any breed of the rich, halfdead seldom roam the streets their own carts. Too, this man's hat was a shapeless, baggy lump, not one of Breed Street's starched, rigid offerings.

The man saw me, halted, and waved.

"Good morning to you, friend," he said. He pitched his voice carefully, so that it just reached my ears, but wouldn't carry much further. "Might I inquire as to whether you live hereabouts?"

I wasn't sure he could see a head-shake, so I took a half dozen steps ahead and spoke.

"Nope," I replied. "I'm just a man out for a stroll."

He nodded, smiling. "Well, count your lucky stars, man out for a stroll. They call me Shango. Shango the storm-sniffer. I've walked all night, following a stink. And it leads right to yonder door."

He pointed out a door. My door. Of course it would be my door.

I sighed.

"I'm guessing you sell lightning rods."

He shot up and stood straight. "Indeed I do," he said. "But not just lightning rods. No, friend. I sell the kind of lightning rods even the rich cannot often buy."

"Good for you," I said. I started walking, hoping he didn't notice my damned traitor shoes weren't tied. "Now if you don't mind I always take my breakfast with the Regent."

He laughed, but he kept the sound low. "Won't you at least have a look, Mr. Markhat? Won't you at least have a look?"

I produced my pistol and let him see it.

"I didn't tell you my name."

"But I told you mine," he said. If the thick black bulk of my vampire-built revolver gave him pause, his dirty face didn't show it. "Shango. I smell storms. I can't hold back the winds, friend, but I can turn the lightning." He nodded back at his cart, a leaning, man-high bulk covered by a sooty tarp that waited in the shadows, hunched as if ready to pounce. "No man should lack protection from the fickle wrath of Heaven."

"I've got all the protection I need."

"No," he said. His eyes, which I still hadn't seen beneath the bushy ridge of his brow, glittered just for an instant as the moon briefly peeked out from the clouds. "I tell you plain, Mr. Markhat, that you do not."

"Get out of my way."

"I'm not what's in your way, friend," he said. Then he stepped aside, sniffing at the air. "I'll be working these parts for a while, I will. Ask for Shango, should you change your mind. Ask for Shango."

I put my gun back in my jacket pocket.

About the time the squeak of his cart's wheels bit into the silence, Buttercup took my hand again.

“Let’s go get some breakfast,” I said, and with Buttercup skipping beside me I walked all the way to Cambrit, without a lightning rod of any kind to guard me from the fickle wrath of Heaven.

Never read a Markhat book? Well, here's a link, if you care to get started:

Speaking of books, I should get back to work.

If I get any more strange recordings, I'll share them here too!


  1. I listened to all the recordings except for the final huge one. At first I thought maybe it had something to do with an alarm - the rhythm and call was so darn steady and monotonous. And since you have only nature between you the next town, maybe the sound traveled? Could it have been the call of a boat on the river? You got me - I love the idea you heard something otherworldy, but if it was, it didn't sound like it was all to happy to be here.

  2. Weird call. It almost, but not quite, sounds familiar. I grew up in wooded hills, along a river, although quite a bit north of you, and I could swear I've heard that before. Eerie. Waiting anxiously for the new Mug and Meralda and the new Markhat! I like "The Darker Carnival" as a title better than "Living Dead Girl".

  3. Thanks for the Markhat excerpt! Regarding titles, I'd suggest going with whatever fits the storyline of the book better--is it more about a carnival (ala Ray Bradbury) or the girl? Although carnivals/circuses also seem en vogue, so that might have better marketability.