In my work as a Paranormal Researcher and Interviewer, I find I have come across a menagerie of talented folks. Some of these people I had already heard of, and others were brand new to me.
Mark Muncy is a name I had known for several years. I first heard him on Shannon Legro’s, Into the Fray podcast.
After listening to the amazing stories that are featured in his book, I went and compiled a podcast playlist with all his interviews. His storytelling ability is amazing! He tells the story with such vigor, that his energy becomes infectious.
His series of books have gone on to become travel guides of the strange, macabre, and forbidden history of Florida. If was not for Mark collecting these stories, many of them would be lost to time. Where did this fascination begin? What drove Mark to engulf himself in the world of folklore and the macabre?
The Journey To Mark Muncy’s Eerie Appalachia
“When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?” Mark replies, “It goes back to high school, I was always a storyteller growing up, and I was into Dungeons and Dragons, in the ’80s, during the Satanic Panic, it became an underground thing.
So, when we could not play it in school anymore, we started playing by swapping stories on paper, and my friends were like, “wow, Muncy writes really good, you should print this.” I sent it to the school newspaper, and it got printed and I got a positive response.
I won a $20 gift certificate and I got excited about being paid to write. So, all throughout high school I wrote for little role-playing game magazines and sent letters to these little companies because I knew it would be easier to get my stories published with them, than the big ones, and sure enough, they sent me a check. That is how it all got started.”
I ask, “What got you into the genre of urban legends and state folklore?” Mark replies, “It is a strange journey. I grew up in the hills of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Our family had a farm that we would visit every weekend. It had all these ghost stories in legend in the area, and I fell in love with them.
I also enjoyed the late-night “Creature Features” that would come on TV. When it came to folklore, I found that some of these stories went into some depth. Well, then I became a dad, got a day job, and I still loved all things spooky and loved Halloween.
So, we started a haunted house in my backyard for fun. I decided immediately that I am not going to do the traditional werewolf or vampires, but instead, I did it on the local lore of Florida that I was falling in love with because I thought it was so cool. Instead of having a werewolf jump out at you, it would the Skunk Ape.
We started posting the stories of the haunted house on our website. We posted on there for people to send us their stories. People sent us their little stories. We would incorporate these stories into the haunted house, and spookify them a bit.
Mark’s First Book
After 19 years of running the haunted house, the city finally shut us down. By that time, we were averaging ten thousand visitors every weekend going through my backyard. But we had all the stories online and this phenomenon called Creepy Pasta and No Sleep started, and we noticed that they were posting our stories on these other websites, and we were not getting any credit for it.
One of the stories was pulled directly from our site and they changed the title of it, and it got like a million hits! So, I decided that we are doing a book. That is when we came out with “31 Tales of Hellview Cemetery”.
It was the stories from our website, photos from the haunt, and the spooky versions. There was tremendous demand for the book, self-published, meant to be sold at the haunted house. Then we did a follow-up called “Tales of Terror of Tampa Bay,” where we did the spooky version of the story, followed by the actual story.
That is what caught The History Press’s attention. They reached out and asked if I could dig more into the history of these stories. Why not? I am a history buff. A month into the project, we realized that we found some deep dive gold here behind these legends, and some of them were scarier than the actual legend.
That was our hook. In a six-month period, I ended up rewriting the entire book and traveling thousands of miles to all the various places, taking pictures and the entire story would change from what we had looked up about it on Google and reading newspaper articles. When you get there to where the event happened, you get that whole different feeling. This became our process for authoring our books.”
I ask, “What is your criteria for including a piece of folklore in your book, and how long does it take you to complete a book from start to finish?” Marks responds, “A lot of people ask me, “what story did not make it into the book?”
My process is, that I must get the story, it must come to me somehow, by either someone telling me or emailing me, and I get so many people emailing since the books have become so popular. I try to document the history of the area I am researching, that is digging into history archives, libraries, and all that fun stuff. Thank God for the Florida Memory Project, it is the best thing that Florida has, and it made the Florida books so much easier than the Appalachian book.
For me to start researching a story, there must be 2 sources or 2 witnesses. I will not put anything in where is just one guy that saw it. That could be anything. So, two witnesses that saw it and preferably witnessed it independently from each other.
Once we do that, dig up as much historical information on it as possible, and interview any of the witnesses that are still alive, or at least a close family member that they may have told. A lot of the West Virginia stories happened in the 1930s or 1940s, the witness is not alive anymore, so I’m having to find a grandchild of the person it happened to and see if they were there or if it was told to them. If so, then that would be a source.
If I can find a newspaper article that backs it up, even better. That means that someone has already done the work back then and now I have a secondary source. Finally, when all that is done is when we dig in and actually go there.
We want to see what is still there, see what we can experience as the modern version of it because our books function as travel guides to these spooky places. So, if you want to go, this is what you are going to see. If the area is blocked off or private property and we cannot get there, then nine times out of 10, it doesn’t go in the book.
I do find that places we can go to like hotels, actually enjoy the attention, because it brings in money. From start to finish it usually takes about 6 months to a year. Eerie Appalachia took longer due to this whole COVID thing.
A lot of these places we could not drive to and some of the witnesses are in retirement homes, and we didn’t want to put them at risk. The Florida books were, easy because we live in Central Florida. But for Appalachia, we had to set up shop at the family farm and branch out to all the various places.”
I ask,, “With your family farm being in West Virginia, do you have any folklore in your family that’s been passed down?” Mark says, “My family has had that land for generations, and it has a monster tale on the property called the Bench Leg. The Bench Leg of Goeble Ridge is in the book.
This thing sounds like it’s out of a South Park episode. It has the deformed head of a man, the body of a cow or big cat, and a wooden leg. It sits in trees and whoops you in the head with its wooden leg, to knock you off your horse. It is a super dumb story, and I thought no way I would put that in the book. I was told that story a lot when I was a kid.
Then I started looking into it because I had something unusual happen. I used to sneak down the hill as a kid to get away from the grown-ups and get a clear view of the night sky. I am laying there looking at the sky, and I hear a weird noise. Immediately, I think it is one of the horses in the field because the neighbor has two horses.
Then I see the horse run by, and I think, yes, I called it. Then I see the second horse run by. Then I hear something else galloping. What could it be, they only have two horses? I think is it a deer or something else stirred up. Suddenly, I see this strangely shaped thing, with a glow around its head.
I think immediately to see if it has a wooden leg. I am looking and looking, then it darted off into the trees like a big cat. This drove me wild for years, and I knew I had to research it. While researching it for the book, I find out about a murder.
It happened right on the corner of our property, way back in the 1790s, right after Kentucky was settled. According to this ancient newspaper article, a peddler was walking along the road, when bandits attacked him, and he was killed.
To cover up the crime, the bandits killed a cow on top of the site where they buried the man. With all that, they were caught anyway. Suddenly, I now have the origin of the legend. The cow’s body mixed with the man’s body. Of course, he came back for vengeance.
Then I find an article just a holler over, where bandits attack a man, he fights them off with a stick but ends up getting killed by their pet dog. That is why he is a dog with a wooden leg because they buried the dog on top of him.
So, all these legends were just merged variations of one true thing that happened. Is that monster real? Is it what I saw? I don’t know, it was something unusual, but I didn’t see the wooden leg. But I had my sighting and the newspaper article and those were my two sources, so it goes in the book.”
Mark’s Favorite Books
I ask, “If you had to pick a favorite out of all your books, what would it be?” Mark responds, “Freaky Florida” because it was more obscure than the other books”
“Who do you enjoy reading, which is in the same genre as yourself?” Mark says, “I love the late, great Charlie Carlson who wrote “Weird Florida.” He used to mentor me back in the day. I would check with him on stories when I was doing the Hellview Cemetery.
I also really enjoy reading classic science fiction and fantasy. I love reading old horror stories. Another mentor of mine is Owl Goingback. He was a Bram Stoker award-winning author. He writes great horror. He ran Greenwood Cemetery for 20 years. He has all sorts of ghost stories.”
If you plan on visiting Florida or Appalachia anytime soon, I recommend picking up Mark’s books and reading about the history the tour guides will not tell you about. As I mentioned earlier, many of these places are not going to be around for much longer.
Some of the locations from his first book have been demolished and repurposed. So, if this is your first-time hearing about Mark Muncy, please go and check out his books, “Freaky Florida,” “Creepy Florida”, “Eerie Florida”, and “Eerie Appalachia”.
“Eerie Appalachia” is Mark’s latest book, set to release this July. They are brilliantly entertaining stories that can be read in any order.
The illustrations are drawn by his exceptionally talented wife, Kari Schultz. The books are printed by The History Press, and you can find Mark Muncy at EerieFlorida.com. Enjoy!