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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

A tale of Wolf Meadows

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

For many of us who grew up in 1970s Shelbyville, Wolf Meadows held a mysterious allure.

The rumors abounded. It was a legend, along with the Chapel Hill light and the old church halfway down New Hope Road.

At the dead end of Stewart Road was a former home for the mentally challenged in the days before group homes and serious treatment and care became common.

The "urban (in a then-small town?) legend" was that the occupants were kept chained to trees outside the large, old home and sometimes howled at the moon.

Of course a bunch of us hanging out at the Dairy Queen parking lot -- we occasionally even went in and bought something -- had to go look one night. After all, it was only three or so miles away.

Down the rutted gravel road we went, probably driven by adrenaline a little too fast, until we were met by ... a chain-link gate blocking our way.

But behind that fence was an old, red brick Southern-style mansion, looking for all the world like it could have come straight from The Munsters.

No lights. And no people around. It could have been unoccupied.

Was it? No vehicles were parked outside.

Or were there spooky people inside?

Out in the country quietness, you could hear the crickets and farm animals in the distance. Were those ... howls? Were there actually wolves at Wolf Meadows?

Was there ... something else ... at Wolf Meadows?

Being an aspiring reporter -- okay, truth be told, I was just curious -- I yelled at the house.

"Hey, you! Hey! Hey!"

Suddenly, a blue light -- more of a glow than a light, came on in an upper floor.

Was it -- the boogeyman?

Was a monster going to come out and devour us all?

The eerie, blueish glow ever so slowly became brighter and brighter. We stood, transfixed, for a few moments.

Then our brave 17-year-old hearts turned to mush as we suddenly bolted for the car and took off.

But we left with a souvenir.

A 'No trespassing" sign was on the gate. It left with us.

I got an earful on the way back to the DQ.

"They might have had a gun!" one of the guys said. "You could have gotten us killed!" another yelled. I got a few choice curse words aimed at me as well.

Only then did I realize the likely totally-normal person inside could have shot at trespassers.

The next morning, safely in the Central High parking lot, we showed off our Wolf Meadows sign to anyone immature enough to care. It spent the day in my car's trunk because, after all, carrying a 'No trespassing' sign down the halls might look a little odd.

As the day wore on I began to realize that I hadn't taken the sign -- I'd stolen the sign. And I felt guilty. So, that night, we took the 'No trespassing' sign back to Wolf Meadows. And it didn't occur to me until last week that someone might have been expecting a repeat visit -- and have been lurking in the shadows, armed.

We even wired the sign back to the fence. No one was around. We didn't yell at the house. And the blue light didn't shine.

Eventually, as all kids do, we grew up and left Wolf Meadows to another generation.

But, I think it was sometime in the 1990s, I got a look from an adult perspective.

The mansion went up in flames late one night. As I covered the fire for the T-G, I took a look around what was an extremely isolated, once upscale mansion in a secluded area near Duck River.

Everything seemed much smaller than I remembered except for the mansion itself, which seemed larger. That's probably because I was much closer to it.

The 'No trespassing' sign of my youth was gone. What I saw had obviously been an upscale estate sometime in the 1800s. And, for the mentally challenged who I've been told actually were kept there at one point, it was a peaceful and totally private place.

I've been told by older people who remember that the sheriff's department kept a close watch on the area. And its owner actually did perform a public service in those days when the less fortunate were too often dumped by the wayside.

Time's passed. The old New Hope church was burned by vandals. The Chapel Hill light supposedly still shines at times.

Wolf Meadows, at least in its old form, is gone.

But the legend lives on...

David Melson is a Times-Gazette copy editor/staff writer. Comments welcome: dmelson@t-g.com .

David Melson
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