The mysteries of Chatawa, MS - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

03/09/09 Chatawa, MS

The mysteries of Chatawa, MS

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By Walt Grayson - bio | email

Chatawa is about as far south as you can go in Mississippi on I-55 South before crossing into Louisiana. It used to have as many as 500 people living here. Sam McKinney is a lifelong resident and is sort of the historian now.

Today it's just a community. With only a post office remaining.

For a place this small, it has its share of legends. Like the circus train that's supposed to have wrecked here and the animals escaped into the Tanipahoa river swamps.

"But in doing my research I find that similar legends exist all along the rail road track in areas north of here where they have a nearby swamp. In Canton, as far north as Cairo, Illinois," said Sam McKinney.

That still doesn't explain why the nuns, teaching at St. Mary of the Pines school used to say they had seen monkey's in the trees.

"Those monkey's that were in the woods came from Kramer's Lodge. Because he had a wildlife preserve as a part of his acreage and he had all kind of exotic animals down there. The president of Illinois Central would come down here for their meetings. Huey Long came up here for a meeting one time," McKinney added.

St. Mary's school was popular with New Orleans families back then, who sent their children here. Sam says he suspects that's where the legend of the Chatawa Monster may have originated. Because some of the home sick students might want to try to run away back home to New Orleans.

 "And the senior students in an effort to keep them on campus and keep them from running away told them that there was monsters in the woods and that seems to be where that legend started," McKinney said.

But years later, a highway patrolman who had land in the area was plowing one night and swears the headlights on his tractor caught a fleeting upright hairy creature ducking into the woods at the edge of his field. He never went back to that field alone. That's something they still talk about around the artesian well.

And if there were a Chataw Monster, there's plenty of woods and swamps for him to hind in. He'd be hard to fin. About as hard as all of those circus animals from that train wreck.

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