Happy Halloween everyone!!! The creepy-at-night Wickham statues in Palmyra, Tennessee, are well known throughout the state today. This was not the case in 1972 when I was a sophomore at Austin Peay State University (APSU) in nearby Clarksville, Tennessee. Up to that time, I had lived all of my life in Tennessee and had never heard of the Wickham statues. Some of my fellow students told me the old Wickham property and its statues were a favorite haunt of local high school and college kids who would venture there on Halloween night, sit on the ground among the statues, and wait for the witching hour.
The Wickham statues were the creation of a Palmyra citizen by the name of Enoch Tanner Wickham (1883-1970). Mr. Wickham was a lovable and talented folk artist who specialized in using concrete media to create large—often monumental—statues commemorating famous people and events in the history of Tennessee and the United States. He produced more than 30 of these statues during his lifetime and assembled them on his property, all in just such a way as to inadvertently make the overall statuary area look like a rather bizarre cemetery.
A couple of student friends at APSU took me over to see the Wickham statues on their original site in the early 1970s. This was a benign daytime trip—and even that was pretty spooky. On that particular trip, it occurred to me that the Wickham statuary plot would probably be one of the creepiest places on Earth at about 10:00 p.m. on Halloween night. I would like to have met and talked to old E.T. Wickham on that trip, but he had died a couple of years or so before my visit. The place already looked rather forlorn at the time, and sadly, some of the folk art statues were already showing signs of vandalism by unkind visitors.
Strange coincidences occur in life. In 1983, my wife and I moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We settled into a modified, updated “A House” on the east side of town and slowly got to know our new neighbors. One day a short, stocky, elderly man who lived just up the street from us introduced himself and struck up a conversation. During our conversation, I mentioned living in Clarksville at one time, and he said, “Have you ever heard of the Wickham statues in nearby Palmyra?” After affirming that I had, he said, “Well that’s wonderful. Old man Wickham was my dad!” He then proceeded to tell me about his dad and the creation of the folk art statues. These statues are now preserved and protected in the Wickham Stone Park. You can read about E.T. Wickham, the Wickham Stone Park, and its statues at the following links: