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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Haunted Pewee Valley, KY


Undulata, the Pewee Valley home of American poet William Davis Gallagher,
was Annie Fellows Johnston’s model for the Haunted House of Hartwell Hollow.
This photo is from before the house fell into disrepair.

in the “Little Colonel” series. Photo from the Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Ky.

Undulata was the setting for the Halloween party put on by Aunt Allison for the children of Lloydsborough Valley in “The Little Colonel’s Holidays” In Chapter XI, Annie Fellows Johnston provides the following description of the home that became known as “the haunted house of Hartwell Hollow” to millions of her young fans:

From The Little Colonel's Holidays (Chapter 11):

NOTHING worse than rats and spiders haunted the old house of Hartwell Hollow, but set far back from the road in a tangle of vines and cedars, it looked lonely and neglected enough to give rise to almost any report. The long unused road, winding among the rockeries from gate to house, was hidden by a rank growth of grass and mullein. From one of the trees beside it an aged grape-vine swung down its long snaky limbs, as if a bunch of giant serpents had been caught up in a writhing mass and left to dangle from tree-top to earth. Cobwebs veiled the windows, and dead leaves had drifted across the porches until they lay knee-keep in some of the corners.

As Miss Allison paused in front of the doorstep with the keys, a snake glided across her path and disappeared in one of the tangled rockeries. Both the coloured women who were with her jumped back, and one screamed.

"It won't hurt you, Sylvia," said Miss Allison, laughingly. "An old poet who owned this place when I was a child made pets of all the snakes, and even brought some up from the woods as he did the wild flowers. That is a perfectly harmless kind."

"Maybe so, honey," said old Sylvia, with a wag of her turbaned head, "but I 'spise 'em all, I sho'ly do. It's a bad sign to meet up wid one right on de do'step. If it wasn't fo' you, Miss Allison, I wouldn't put foot in such a house. An' I tell you p'intedly, what I says is gospel truth, if I ketch sound of a han't, so much as even a rustlin' on de flo', ole Sylvia gwine out'n a windah fo' you kin say scat!

We know from a 1907 letter that real-life Little Colonel Hattie Cochran wrote to a fan in Shelbyville and now in the Filson Historical Society’s collection that the Haunted House of Hartwell Hollow was a real place in Pewee Valley. Annie Fellows Johnston’s 1929 autobiography “Land of the Little Colonel” also noted that, "The cabin where Gay spent a summer and the Haunted House of Hartwell Hollow had also burned to the ground." when she lamented the changes that had taken place in the valley since the time of the Little Colonel books.

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