If you’ve spent any time in the Smoky Mountains, you’ve likely heard a tall tale or two. These colorful stories may not stick strictly to the facts, but they are always entertaining! Some of the best legends in East Tennessee have been passed down for generations, usually just by word of mouth. Here is the first of a series of three of our favorite tall tales from the Smokies:
Supernatural Revenge in Cades Cove
In their book “The Granny Curse and Other Ghosts and Legends from East Tennessee,” authors Randy Russell and Janet Barnett share the story of a marital spat with supernatural consequences.
Back in the pioneer days, Cades Cove was home to Basil and Mavis Estep, a married couple who lived in a two-room cabin on Whistling Branch. Mavis was born during a thunderstorm, and due to a local superstition, she believed that she was destined to be struck by lightning. Throughout her life, Mavis was always wary of staying out in the rain and she never slept in a metal bed, fearing that it would act as a lightning rod.
Ultimately, it wasn’t a thunderstorm that took Mavis’s life but an illness. When her health declined, Mavis made Basil promise her two things. First, she made him swear that he would never sell her quilts, which she lovingly sewed for the family. Second, she gave Basil permission to remarry after her passing, but she implored him to never, ever put any of her quilts on a metal bed. Basil pledged to follow Mavis’s wishes.
Less than a year after Mavis died, Basil married Trulie Jane Lawson, a young woman who also lived in Cades Cove. It wasn’t long before Trulie Jane talked Basil into buying a metal bed for their cabin. On one frigid evening, Basil and Trulie decided to use one of Mavis’s quilts to keep warm. In the middle of the night, a brilliant flash of light burst into the cabin and knocked Trulie Jane right out of bed.
When the smoke cleared, she found Basil lying on the floor, charred to a crisp, where the metal bed had once stood. Strangely, there were no thunderstorms in Cades Cove that night, just the stray bolt of lightning that took Basil Estep’s life.