Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 8: Huggin' Molly by Tina Whittle

Image courtesy of adamr /
Every community has its local legend, and my small hometown in Middle Georgia is no exception. Cochran has always been a sleepy little farming community, dotted with cotton fields and catfish ponds. When I was growing up, the railroad cut through the swamp behind my house. On summer nights I’d hear its keening wail and imagine it was some mysterious animal.

I wasn’t the only one to mythologize the midnight train. My friends and I made up stories about it— where was it going? where had it been? who rode those rails through the humid night, anonymous behind the glass and steel?—and imagined a life beyond the red clay ditches. Perhaps this was the reason for the legend that sprung up about the railroad tracks. Perhaps our parents and grandparents sensed the lure of the outbound train, headed for exotic new horizons. Perhaps it was they who first started the stories of Huggin’ Molly. Or perhaps her story really is true, and having passed from mouth to mouth down the railroad line, has become legend.

Cochran isn't the only Southern town who knows of her—there's a town in Alabama that has a Huggin' Molly cafe, and though they claim the legend is unique to that area, it's not. Their Molly is more benevolent than Georgia's version. A hug from their Molly is disturbing, but not deadly, as people who claim to have experienced her embrace will tell you. Cold and unpleasant, they say. Chilled them right to the bone, they say.

Our Molly, however...nobody ever made it out of our Molly's arms to tell the tale.

All I know is this: on moonless nights, when the train would come through, if you stood close to the tracks you could hear her crying for her lost lover. Her sobbing would mix with the train whistle. And then you’d better hide. You’d better move as far away from those tracks as you could get. Because even though Huggin’ Molly looked like any other woman, she always wore mourning clothes topped with a long black veil—and a sailor hat. And she had arms so long that she would snatch you right up off the side of the road, snatch you into her relentless embrace, snatch you onto the midnight train. And your scream would mingle with the banshee whistle and you’d be taken away down the tracks, never to be seen again.

I never saw Huggin’ Molly. But I cannot hear a train whistle without feeling a shiver race down my spine. Without taking a step backwards. Without imagining those long, long arms. 

(This post first published at Little Miss Train Wreck, a blog of fashion, book reviews, and author interviews)

TAG, Ann Hogsett! You're up next!

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Tina Whittle is a mystery writer living and working in the Georgia Lowcountry. Her current novel, Blood, Ash, and Bone — the third in the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series — is available now.

Visit to learn more.


Annie said...

Alrighty. First Laura makes me scared of my house. Now you, Tina Whittle, make me scared of trains. Quake. Quake. Double quake.

Tina said...

And so tomorrow you're going to make everyone scared of everything. I hope you enjoy your sweet dark revenge.

Kenman said...

Great story...we shared those train tracks I remember the quite nights and how you could hear it from Hawkinsville to Cochran it seemed.

Tina said...

Yes indeed -- that train whistle carried through the night. The tracks are gone now, but I swear, I sometimes still hear it.

Leah said...

Creeeeeeepy, Tina! Remind me never to go near the train tracks again!!!

Maryanne Stahl said...

aw. I kinda feel sorry for Molly. she needs a hug!