published Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Popular haunt


by Michael Stone
  • photo
    Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Sep 9, 2010 The Shipley Cemetery in Sale Creek has often been a place where teenagers congregate at night to party, leaving trash and vandalizing tombstones, according to people who live in the vicinity.

On the surface, Shipley Cemetery in Sale Creek is the embodiment of a haunted graveyard.

Some of its marked tombstones date to the mid-1800s. Many of them are flat, asymmetrical rocks with free-handed chiseled markings; several have no markings at all. Most of the one-acre site is cleared, but trees close in around the edges.

An attempt to scare up some ghosts led a group of teenagers to a confrontation with a rifle-toting man last Sunday, according to what the teens told police.

Tales abound about “Pitty Pat Hollow,” the general area that includes the cemetery and Shipley Hollow Road. These stories, some dating back as many as 150 years ago, are included in several local books, including Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley by Georgiana C. Kotarski.

Tom Pannell, who lives near Shipley Cemetery, said ghost stories are well-known in the community, including one about a woman who was kidnapped, murdered and thrown into a well near a cemetery. He said there is, in fact, a well near his property.

“I’ve wanted to pump it dry just to see,” he said.

But people who live around the graveyard say it also has become a spot for parties and drug deals. Some think Sequoyah High School teacher Stacy Swallows was just protecting hallowed ground when he held the nine teens at gunpoint and wouldn’t let them leave late Sunday night.

Swallows was arrrested on nine counts each of false imprisonment and aggravated assault. He bonded out of jail Wednesday but as not returned to work.

“I see a lot more strange vehicles coming in here than I used to,” said Pannell. “You don’t recognize them as being part of your community. In the past, we paid more attention to who’s up here. Now you’re kind of afraid to pull through — just get their tag number if you can when they leave.”

On Thursday, the treeline around the graveyard was studded with cans and bottles, some with soft drink markings, but more with beer and liquor labels. A wadded-up pair of Ralph Lauren briefs lay discarded.

Some neighbors have said they’ve found used condoms, bras and panties in the cemetery. One said he visited a relative’s grave and discovered two syringes.

Pannell said the ghost stories aren’t as important — or as threatening — as the supposed crime and partying that takes place at the cemetery.

“Knowing that [there have been reports of drug dealing], I would’ve came armed if I would have been [Swallows]. I would have probably done the same thing,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re involved in.”

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deltenney said...

Arresting Mr. Swallows with multiple charges is a reflection on the weakness of law enforcement, nothing more. With the history related in this story, there should have been more monitoring by law enforcement instead of going after a gentleman who was trying to do the right thing. The kids can find other entertainment rather than raiding a cemetery after hours -- surely. Where were the caring parents?

September 11, 2010 at 7:34 a.m.
VisaDiva said...

Mr. Swallows broke the law by threatening people with a loaded assault rifle. The teens near the graveyard were not charged with anything because they did nothing illegal. It is wrong to assume that any teen is suspect because of items found in the area. They might have been put there by adults and at the most their crime is littering.

"Doing the right thing" ? The law says otherwise.

September 11, 2010 at 8:58 a.m.
saint said...

It is true he should have probaly called the cops. But these are obviously a bunch of kids. Who never had anyone close to them die before. If he would have called the cops the kids definitely would be the ones in trouble now.

September 11, 2010 at 10:58 p.m.
rolando said...

Hm-m-m. The news report said nothing whatsoever about the rifle being loaded, VisaDiva. Do you have your own sources of news or do you just make it up as you go along?

And trespassing IS illegal.


SOMEBODY called the cops, saint. Nineteen years old is hardly a kid. They are old enough to vote and/or die in some desert by order of their Commander-In-Chief.

By the time the cops got there, the teens would have been long gone.

September 11, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.
whatever said...

"Doing the right thing" ? The law says otherwise.

Lots of people get charged for crimes, and then the charges are dropped, or a jury refuses to convict.

I know I would. Which means if by chance I get called for Jury Duty, I can't expect to serve on this case since I've made my decision without a trial, but I doubt it'll get that far anyway. And my remark about charging the teens if I was on a Grand Jury would probably knock me off anyway. Heck just reading the comments here would likely do it.

But that's what I'm saying.

Am I saying that this was the wisest thing? No. That it couldn't have reached the point where the man behaved criminally? No. But I am saying I refuse to support the lopsided charges made here.

September 12, 2010 at 1:01 a.m.
saint said...

Sorry didn't read the whole story but even if they aren't kids they still obviously have never lost any relatives or anyone close to them to death. I have relatives in that cemetary and for that matter other cemetaries too. I don't think it would be that much fun to be disrespectful to the dead. I guess i'm not 19 anymore and i'm not a kid. Sorry 19 is still young to me even if you can vote and smoke tabacco and be just a few years shy of drinking. At that age you've still got a lot of learning to do.

September 12, 2010 at 1:36 a.m.
saint said...

Sorry didn't read the whole story but even if they aren't kids they still obviously have never lost any relatives or anyone close to them to death. I have relatives in that cemetary and for that matter other cemetaries too. I don't think it would be that much fun to be disrespectful to the dead. I guess i'm not 19 anymore and i'm not a kid. Sorry 19 is still young to me even if you can vote and smoke tabacco and be just a few years shy of drinking. At that age you have still got a lot of learning to do.

September 12, 2010 at 1:38 a.m.
whatever said...

At that age you have still got a lot of learning to do.

I'd be willing for the judge to impose a teaching lesson upon them instead of a punitive one.

Say cleaning up a few of the messier cemeteries around town.

September 12, 2010 at 1:48 a.m.
Penny1 said...

As I was reading the above comments I was asking myself if there was such a thing as citizens arrest anymore. I also live in Sale Creek and know that there are alot of vandalism here. It is terrible that Mr. Swallows has to go through this. Firstly was it not dark? How could anyone see what was going on in the cemetary and I would have done the same thing. The law shows up and investigates this . Well did they ? Seems to me he is getting the short end of the stick and maybe these people were out to just have a lil fun but honestly what would you have done if you resided next door and had put up with this kinda stuff before? Itleast he has enough gumption about him to try and help. I say he should be cleared of everything he is charged with. Let him get on with his life and leave him alone and next time maybe others will not be so eager to go ghost hunting where a known trouble spot is that neighbors are trying to stop the damage done.

October 6, 2010 at 7:29 p.m.
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