Spooky season is a Fishing Tackle Retailer tradition. Each October, our staff breaks down personal experiences and legendary lake mysteries that carry on the tradition of superstitious sailors dating back to the dawn of man’s experiences on the water. This year, I’m taking the reigns to bring you our annual Tackle Shop of Horrors with tales of a haunted bar, a terrifying fishing partner, and a mysterious swamp creature lurking in the bayou.
The Tackle Box and the Haunted Bar
There’s a bar inside of a historic brick building in downtown Memphis. It’s the kind of place whose bricks are held together with dust and whose floors lean a little too far to one direction to climb the stairs without a handrail; it’s the kind of place that’s received little upkeep since its construction in the late 1800s. City records show that property was a church, then a salon, then a nightclub and finally a brothel—one that was functional until the early 1990s.
Over the years, the bar has become famous as a haunted dive where the spirits of former preachers and prostitutes commingle with patrons like Ray Charles and The Rolling Stones. Even today, travelers might spot the long, grey hair and weathered face of Robert Plant lingering around its countertops. The Led Zeppelin frontman, it’s said, will linger in his old haunt before venturing down into the Mississippi Delta once again in search of the blues.
In 2018, after filming a YouTube series inside of the bar, I received a message from an alleged medium on Facebook. She wasn’t selling her services, she said. In fact, she was a school teacher who just happened to see my video and needed to deliver a message. “The spirits there know you,” she said. “They know about the cameras. They know exactly what you are doing. And they think you’re funny.”
Apparently, even the dead don’t take me seriously.
“They want to deliver a message,” she added.
Skeptical but curious, I asked what the message was. In between a disturbing legend involving the establishment’s former workers and an orphanage that I am still tasked with solving, the medium claimed that a friendly spirit came calling. “It’s an old man,” she said. “He has your name. And he says you still have his tackle box.”
It took me a while to put the pieces together. The box the spirit describes was green, metal and small. It was apparently very important to him, and he wanted to be sure that I kept it safe.
I don’t own any antique tackle boxes. However, my dad does. The next day, I rang up dad and asked him about an antique tackle box. “Do you have any at the house?” Yes. “Do you have one that looks like this?” Yes, dad replied. “It belonged to your grandfather.”
For three generations, men of the Sills house have all carried the same name.
Fishing With “The Devil’s Favorite Demon”
You know him as Mayor Glenn Jacobs now, the Knox County, Tennessee official who presided over the 2019 Bassmaster Classic won by Ott DeFoe. But before Jacobs was a towering figure in Tennessee politics, he was a towering monster in the world of professional wrestling. Jacobs—a giant of a man standing over seven feet tall—exploded into the then-WWF at the peak of wrestling’s mainstream popularity in the 1990s. This was a decade when more than 8 million people watched professional wrestling every Monday night, and Jacobs played one of its most frightening characters: the demonic giant, Kane.
Kane debuted at a 1997 “Hell in a Cell” match to a blaze of pyrotechnics and flame that would begin a hall of fame-worthy run for Jacobs, who was still a part-time performer in WWE as recently as 2018.
After the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, Jacobs joined Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skylar Hamilton and myself for an afternoon of fishing on the Tennessee River. Hamilton’s bass boat leaned with Jacobs as he climbed onto the front deck, seeming to be more mild mannered former football player from Southeast Missouri than demonic WWE superstar. But the docile Jacobs flashed vestiges of Kane when Hamilton and I cracked a joke about his casting ability with a spinning reel. That’s when the seven-footer grabbed an idle bait caster from Hamilton’s deck, released a spool of (what else) Seaguar Smackdown Braid, and placed a perfect cast in the spot where DeFoe had landed the winning bag a day before. Then, Jacobs stared straight into our sounds and cracked a line I’ll never forget.
“Be careful. You know what I do to people I don’t like.”
Mayor Kane cast perfectly for the rest of the day, and even got to drive the boat. Neither Hamilton nor myself wanted to be on the receiving end of a “choke slam to hell” into the Tennessee River.
The Honey Island Swamp Monster
Speaking of seven-footers, a mysterious bipedal creature is rumored to inhabit an island in the swamps of Louisiana. First spotted in 1963 by retired air traffic controller Harlan Ford, the animal that became known as the Honey Island Swamp Monster supposedly leaves webbed footprints around the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, a sparsely-populated spat of land along the Pearl River, just northeast of Lake Pontchartrain.
Ecologists dispute the likelihood of an enormous, ape-like creature inhabiting the swamp; but Super 8 film footage taken by Ford and subsequent evidence gathered by cryptologists like local monster hunter MK Davis points to something strange going down in the bayou. Sources of the phenomenon have been linked to 20th-century train wrecks, escaped circus animals and the mythical Rougarou.
Wouldn’t you know it, there’s even a wrestling tie-in with our favorite fishing mayor. One-time Kane opponent Chris Jericho visited the swamp and interviewed Davis in a 2018 episode of his podcast, Talk is Jericho.
“I was looking around, asking different people who had experienced the Honey Island swamp monster about their encounters,” Jericho told me, shortly after the episode aired. “I talked to a lot of people who believed they experienced it and believed in it. We also some some very strange things in the swamp that weren’t show business at all. There’s a lot of creepy stuff going on there, some very serious paranormal activity in the swamps and bayous.”