Chilling Tales #10: “The Haunting of McDow Hole”

Jenny Papworth was known as a devoted wife and mother.  After she died, however, she became something else… a vengeful grotesque spirit that killed.


Jenny Papworth, her husband Charlie, and their two children lived in what we now know as Erath County, Texas near a deep basic called McDow Hole on Green’s Creek.   It was a quiet and solitary life, though a happy one.   Shortly after the birth of their youngest child, Charlie received the tragic news that his parents had died and, in 1863, he made the 200 mile trip to attend to his family’s affairs leaving Jenny and his children alone.

During the day, Jenny would pass the time by doing chores and attending to her children, but at night they would stay with neighbors.    One night, Jenny and her children did not appear.   The next morning, a search party was sent to the Papworth cabin, only to discover that the home had been ransacked.   Temple, the oldest of Jenny’s children, was found hiding under the bed, but Jenny and her baby were never found.  It was suggested that they had been killed by marauding Comanche Indians.

When Charles returned home, he was devastated.   Temple was too young to give a reliable eyewitness statement, but what he did say didn’t fit the Comanche story.   He said that “the man was white” and “the man spoke English.”   Suspicion fell on a man named Barlow who had enthusiastically suggested that the Comanche were responsible.   Realizing that all eyes were on him, Barlow began to spread rumors that Charles Papworth was involved in cattle rustling and eventually convinced enough people that this was true that they formed a mob, pulled Charles from his home, and attempted to hang him.  According to some accounts, it was little Temple Papworth that managed to save his father, climbing up into the tree and cutting him down with a knife.   After this incident, and certain that justice for their family would never be found, Charles and Temple fled to Oklahoma, never to return to McDow hole again.

A few years later, a man by the name of Mr. Keith and his son were grazing cattle by the old abandoned Papworth cabin when they decided it would be a good place to stay the night.   On their very first night there, they were awakened by strange noises and opened the door only to find the ghost of Jenny Papworth standing there holding her baby.   Jenny screamed at the men and Mr. Keith and his son fled the cabin and never returned.

Jenny and her baby were often seen around McDow Hole.   Jenny, in particular, was described as a terrifying spirit.   Decayed and horrifying.   She would chase intruders if they came to the cabin.  Some even described a great beast that would give chanse, snapping at their heels as they ran.

A bartender in nearby Alexander, Texas, dared two brothers, Ruben and James Burrows, to spend three nights in the Papworth Cabin.   As the story goes, the two men took the bet, went to the cabin, and were never seen again.   A search of the place never turned up the men or their bodies, but several bullet holes in the cabin were discovered as if the men were shooting at some unknown attacker.   Years later, James turned up in an Arkansas prison for robbery and confirmed that Jenny had come through the wall.

A man named Charlie Atchison, who didn’t believe in ghosts, decided to move in to the Papworth Cabin in 1880.  His lifeless body was found lying on the floor, his eyes wide open and frozen in terror.

Two boys decided that McDow Hole would be a refreshing place to take a swim but as they got ready to slip into the water, Jenny rose out of the water and floated across the water towards them, her hand outstretched.   The boys ran, one of them reportedly dying of fright.

Frequently, Jenny was spotted by train passengers walking the tracks that cut through the area and, on one time, the train made an emergency stop when the engineer suddenly spotted the ghost standing on the tracks themselves.

As the tale goes, years later as Barlow , the man responsible for the near-handing on Charles Papworth, lay on his deathbed, Jenny and her baby appeared to him and, in a state of severe panic, Barlow confessed to murdering Jenny and throwing the baby into the creek.     The man died that night.

To this day, it’s said that Jenny still haunts McDow Hole.  According to local urban legends, if you happen to drive on the bridge overlooking the creek at night, your car might stall.  You might see flashes of light from the banks of the creek.  Perhaps, you’ll hear a strange noise or a knocking on your car and, if you’re very unlucky, you’ll come face to face with the monstrous specter that used to be Jenny Papworth and, if the stories are to be believed, it could be the very last thing you see in this life.

McDow Hole is located on private property.   Do not attempt to trespass.  It is a crime.

About the author

Jason Donner

Jason Donner devoured the universe and you are all living inside him.