The Mudhole is a scary story for kids about a young boy’s encounter with the devil. It is based on an old African-American folktale called “The Devil’s Mudhole”.
Did you know that the Devil has only one eye and it glows bright red? That’s what he uses to get you to do his bidding. If he manages to fix that red eye on you, he’ll hypnotize you and you’ll be powerless to resist. I know because when I was a boy, the devil tried to tempt me into sin.
Behind the barn on my father’s farm, there was a mudhole. It was about four feet across and very deep. The funny thing about it was that, no matter how hot it got in the summer, the mudhole never dried up and no matter how cold it got in the winter, it never froze over. All year long, it stayed the same, filled to the brim with thick, gooey mud, like quicksand.
My father called it the Devil’s Mudhole. He said that the mudhole was so deep, it had no bottom. There was a tunnel that led all the way down to hell and the devil lived down there. He told me that, when nobody was around, the devil would come crawling out of the hole and go about trying to tempt unsuspecting people into sin and trying to spread his evil.
My father often told stories, so I never took him seriously. However, I was always scared of that mudhole. I used to walk around it every time I went out to play in the fields and it always gave me the chills.
One day, as I was walking past the mudhole, I noticed something strange. The mud was boiling and bubbling and frothing over, just like a pot on a red-hot stove. I had never seen it do anything like that before, so I stopped to take a look. All of a sudden, steam began to shoot out of the hole and it kept boiling and bubbling faster and faster.
Then, as I watched in horror, two big clawed hands emerged from the muck and something black and monstrous dragged itself out. It looked like a naked man, covered from head to toe in mud. His head was bald and he had horns like a goat and instead of feet, he had big hooves like a cow. He had a forked tail that swished back and forth and in his hand, he was clutching a pitchfork.
When I looked at his face, I saw he had a long, hooked nose and
a pointy beard and in the middle of his forehead, there was one big glowing red eye. I knew who it was straight away.
I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen to the spot by fear and I just stood there, staring in horror and shaking in my boots. He fixed his red eye on me and held my gaze. I couldn’t look away. I felt like I was getting weak and I was afraid I was going to faint.
“Hello boy,” he said in a deep booming voice. “I need you to do something for me. I want you to get your parish priest to take a drink of liquor. Did you know your parish priest used to be a terrible alcoholic? He gave up drinking ten years ago and ever since, he has led a good Christian life. If he takes one drink, I know he’ll be a goner and will backslide into his old ways. So I need you to tempt him for me.”
I wanted to turn and run or scream out loud, but my head felt strange. It was as if I wasn’t in control of my own body. I felt my mouth moving and I heard myself say, “I will carry out your orders, master.”
The next day was Sunday and there was a picnic at the church. All of the people in town were there. I stole a pint of whiskey from my father’s cupboard and took it along to the picnic. As the people were laying out the blankets and taking food out of the baskets, I went up to the parish priest and told him I had a problem and I needed to talk to him. I asked him to come over to the graveyard with me.
When we were alone, standing among the tombstones, I pulled out the bottle of whiskey, uncorked it and held it out to the priest. I was feeling really bad and my conscience was gnawing at me. I didn’t want to do it, but I could still see the devil’s glowing red eye, floating around inside my head.
When he saw the whiskey, the priest’s eyes flashed wide. He stuck out his tongue and licked his lips. He kept his eyes glued on the bottle.
“I haven’t had a drink in ten years,” he said. “That’s a long time to be thirsty, isn’t it?”
I told him it sure was.
The priest grabbed the bottle out of my hand and started to raise it to his mouth. Just then, I suddenly felt in control of myself again. I drew back and with one hard slap, I knocked the bottle out of the priest’s hand. It smashed against a tombstone and the whiskey went everywhere. The priest looked at me. I didn’t say anything and he didn’t say anything, but I knew he was glad I had broken the bottle. I got scared and ran away.
That evening, I found myself at the mudhole again. It was boiling and bubbling and steaming, just like before. The devil came crawling out with mud dripping off him. His big red eye was glowing worse than ever and he was hopping mad.
“Hello boy,” he growled. “You didn’t carry out my orders, so now you are going to be punished. Pick up that axe over there…”
The devil fixed his big red eye on me and I couldn’t control my body anymore. He made me pick up the axe and lay my hand out on the chopping block. Then he made me raise up the axe. There was nothing I could do to resist. I brought the axe crashing down and chopped off my little finger. Blood squirted everywhere and I let out a scream of pain.
“That should teach you a lesson, boy,” the devil said. “Next time it’ll be something bigger and more important.”
I ran home and wrapped a bandage around my mutilated hand. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to turn to. I couldn’t tell my mother and father because I knew they’d think I was crazy with the heat or something. Finally I made up my mind to go talk it over with Old Martha. Everybody in town knew her. She was an old witch woman who lived on the hill and she knew the secrets of conjuring out evil spirits.
That night, I went to Old Martha’s house on the other side of the ridge. She listened carefully to what I had to say and kept nodding her head.
“You know there’s one way to deal with devil and his big red eye,” she said. “There’s a charm in tobacco if you knows how to use it.”
Then she told me what to do to break the spell the devil put on me. She gave me a big lump of tobacco and told me to chew it. The tobacco tasted horrible, but I kept chewing and chewing. All that night, I chewed that tobacco until it was just a big brown bawl of mush in my mouth.
The next day, when I went out to the mudhole again, I was still chewing. The mud started boiling and bubbling and steaming and the devil came crawling out. Before he could turn his big red eye on me, I let him have it. I threw back my head and hocked a big loogie at him. The chewing tobacco hit him square in the eye.
The devil let out a terrible howl, like a wildcat caught in a trap. He droped his pitchfork and clapped both hands over his eye, twisting back and forth in pain. Then, quick as a flash, he jumped back into the
mudhole. There was a loud sucking sound as he sank down into the mud and some big bubbles popped up as he disappeared.
I picked up the pitchfork with my one good hand and carried it home. I’ve used it around the farm ever since. After that, I was never bothered by the devil again. The mudhole dried up and unless you knew where it had been, you wouldn’t even be able to find the place.