Three On The Road has been in search of a legend. And more OFF the road that ON for this story. But not FAR off the road for fear we might actually bump into the legend; the Chatawa Monster.
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 there.
Today it’s just a community with only a post office remaining,” said local resident Sam McKinney.
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 Tangipahoa river swamps. Sam says he’s looked into that.
“But in doing my research I find that similar legends exist all along the railroad track, in areas north of here where they have a nearby swamp; in Canton, as far north as Cairo, Illinois,” added Sam.
That still doesn’t explain why the nuns, teaching at St. Mary of the Pines school used to say they had seen monkeys in the trees. St. Mary’s school was popular with New Orleans families back then, who sent their children there.
Sam says he suspects that’s where the legend of the Chatawa Monster may have originated because some of the homesick students might want to try to run away back home to New Orleans. Sam theorizes,
“And the senior students, in an effort to keep them on campus and keep them from running away, told them that there were monsters in the woods and that seems to be where that legend started,” Sam theorizes.
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 at Chatawa.
And if there were a Chatawa Monster, there’s plenty of woods and swamps for him to hide in. He’d be hard to find, about as hard as all of those circus animals from that train wreck.
Today, St. Mary’s of the Pines is no longer a school, but a retirement home for Nuns and also a religious retreat.
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