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Fireside Chats: On the Road—Mountain Tom Clark

In Alabama the quarantine continues. Not that anyone is adhering to it anymore. Even before the protests over the murder of the unarmed black man by the white thuggish cop got started, people around here were ignoring all the guidelines about social distancing and wearing masks. The only thing that quarantine really means now is that museums and movie theaters remain closed. Thus the only things still quarantined are entertainment options. To cope with this, I’ve taken to making roadtrips. This past weekend found me driving through the Florence/Muscle Shoals area of Alabama; already famous for its musical connections, the Shoals region also has some curiosities of interest to aficionados of the weird and macabre such as myself, things that can be seen and appreciated because they are outside. One such attraction is the gravesite of Mountain Tom Clark. It’s as outside as you can get. It’s in the middle of a busy highway.

Tom Clark was a serial murderer who plagued the northwest Alabama/southern Tennessee area in the years after the Civil War. Clark, a deserter from both the Union and Confederate armies(!), known to have committed at least 19 murders, including the murder of a child, had boasted that “no one would run over Tom Clark!” The citizens of the area hated him so much that, after a lynch mob hanged him, they buried him in the middle of a road so that *everyone* would in fact run over him. This last bit put me immediately in mind of the old tradition of burying notorious people like outlaws and suicides at crossroads—sometimes in the middle of the roads themselves—so that, if the person resurrected as a vampire, the vampire wouldn’t be able to find its way home. Considering that Tennessee Street in Florence is smackdab in the middle of the city, this wouldn’t have done much good had Clark reanimated.

TheCheezman • June 9, 2020

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