IN CROCKETT COUNTY, ALABAMA THERE'S A SECTION OF CURSED LAND CALLED HELL'S BACK FORTY. County land records cite "The Devil" as the owner, and though no one seems to know the origin of this peculiar citation, folks assume it was simply a joke, appended to a surveying mistake for which no official wanted to claim credit.


Hell's back forty is an inhospitable swamp, thick with briars, poison ivy, quicksand, snakes, and huge, fat, biting horse flies. A stench, as of rotting carcasses, putrifies the air. There are no fish or game animals to draw anglers or hunters, no ground firm enough to farm or develop, nothing to attract any normal human heart or eye.


And, legend has it, it is the home of a boogeyman called Rufus.


Some say Rufus is the spirit of an escaped slave who leaves Hell's back forty to haunt the shadows of night near homes, a demon who waits for children to wander away from their parents' care, then to snatch them up in his sack and tote them off, never to be seen again.


Most people say it's just a story someone made up to scare children into obedience. "Don't you go out there by yourself, little Jimmy, or Rufus'll get you!"


But some people swear they've seen him, walking along a county road at night, sack slung over his shoulder, and in it, a child, writhing, crying. They say that sound--of a doomed child crying from within Rufus's sack--is one that haunts you forever.


I have never seen or heard any such thing, but I know people who have. As time goes by I will tell their stories.

I WAS STANDING IN MY GARAGE AT SIX THIS MORNING WHEN I HEARD A FAMILIAR SCREAM. I ran out to the driveway to watch a fawn run in terror across my front lawn and driveway, screaming as it passed ten feet from me. Death was following it twenty yards behind in the form of a dark-hued coyote. Silent and swift, chasing the fawn across the meadow behind the old farmhouse next door toward the pines. I didn't see the end. This is the third time I've heard a fawn scream. Twice from dogs, once from a coyote. It's a sound you don't forget.


Not fifteen minutes after this scene, two young deer appeared in my back yard. Grazing, watchful. Like drivers who pass a cop giving someone a ticket on the side of the road. He's busy with that guy, we're safe for a while.

Of all the stories my colleague and partner in crime, Oscar Bronx, has to tell (and they are legend), the one he just learned about his own life has got to be the most shocking. Oscar set out on a quest a week ago to forgive Falco, the psychopathic actress he called "Mom" when he was growing up, and from whose abusive cult he fled 40 years ago.


His quest was not looking promising. Though indigent, alone, and on her death bed in a public nursing home in New York, Falco was the same narcissistic psychopath she ever was--and the heartfelt forgiveness he wanted to experience didn't happen. His dream of fixing, once and for all, his "mommy issues" so he could find his own happiness with the woman he loves, seemed unreachable.


And then his friend and private investigator, Mickey, called him down to Norfolk, Virginia to learn something that would turn his entire life, and his quest, upside-down and inside-out. Lucky for us, Oscar agreed to log his experiences on his podcast, which includes telling personal stories of his childhood that he has kept secret for most of his life.


Click on over to his podcast, A New York Yankee in the Heart of Dixie, and take in all five installments of Episode 5 here, beginning with Episode 5-1 and ending with Episode 5-5. Each segment is about a half-hour long, so settle in for an amazing storytelling experience.


When you're done, check out his other episodes, and keep coming back as he adds more.

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