The stereotypical “woman in black” has been a ominous figure throughout much of history. The Appalachian regions were no exception. One unusual report came out of Kingsport, Tennessee. In November of 1927, reports emerged of a woman in black unlike any other recorded.
The standard woman in black was a ghostly figure. She was pale, if anyone saw her hands or face at all. She always wore thick, oppressive mourning outfits, with black veils and trailing dresses. Sometimes she appeared as an omen to the individual, and sometimes she foretold a great tragedy. She always seemed to float instead of walk. No one could ever talk to her, and it was impossible to catch up to her. If you were unlucky enough to be near her when she appeared, you might be merely injured, or might lose your life. Some men were merely incapacitated if they neared her, while legend said others were torn limb from limb.
Lena Mitchell was an African-American woman. Her home was located between Dale and Center Streets. Mitchell was also plagued with a woman in black, but her figure was unlike any previously reported.
Her woman in black was also African-American, and only appeared to torment her. The villainous figure paid her a visit on the evening of November 14. Every time she appeared in town, Mitchell went into a trance-like state. Her relatives called it a “fit.” They suspected her nemesis somehow had her under hypnosis. They claimed it had happened before.
Reporters visited Mitchell’s house to hear her words and found her bedridden. The physician summoned said they needed to leave her alone and she would eventually come around. Three relatives tended to her, but they were afraid to leave her alone. They feared she would kill herself. The only words Mitchell would say revolved around the mysterious figure, and her wish that she would leave. Chief of Police Bob Saylor began a city-wide search for the malevolent stranger.
Relatives noted that, when it happened before, they found a strange hoodoo object beneath Mitchell’s bed. Once they got rid of it, her symptoms subsided and she returned to normal.
The search continued for 24 hours. Even though Mitchell continued to suffer symptoms, the police had exhausted their resources. No such woman was found. Mitchell’s condition continued to grow worse. Chief of Police Bob Saylor said he didn’t believe in hoodoo, but didn’t want a stranger making trouble in town. Whatever happened to Mitchell, or the phantom that terrorized her, remains unknown.