By Beth Trissel
The Allegheny Mountains are muted in haze. Only the faint silhouette of blue ridges shows through the shroud. Most of the brilliant foliage that I reveled in has fallen from the trees covering the hills up behind our house. The woodland lends a sort of secretiveness to the valley and the mountains. I can well imagine how the tales of ‘haints’ and wandering spirits grew out of these misty hollows and remote ridges. It’s easy to feel secure snugly tucked by the fireside with a steaming bowl of soup...but outside when the night breeze rustles the few leaves left clinging to bare branches, and creatures stir in the shadows, then I wonder if some of the stories may even be true.
There’s a tradition in the southeastern corner of Rockingham County, Virginia, about the lizard lady near Grottoes who lives up the mountain road. I first heard about her from a caller on a local radio show, and the story is written up by the late historian/author John Heatwole in his book of Supernatural Tales. To quote Mr. Heatwole, the caller said “on nights when there’s a full moon, an old lady who lives on the road leading up to Brown’s Gap turns into a lizard, a big lizard; about human size...when you ride up on that road at night you get the freakiest feeling that you’ve ever had in this world.”
Mr. Heatwole went on to say that there aren’t any stories of the lizard lady doing anything more than basking in the moonlight, but added, “The image of that giant lizard with that old woman’s eyes can set goosebumps to rising.” And neither he nor anyone else has trekked up there during a full moon to see her for themselves. Nor shall I.
By Beth Trissel