Documentary Reveals Secrets Behind Halloween Legend

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Award-winning filmmaker Zac Adams is ready to unveil his documentary on the famous goblin Tall Betsy.
Award-winning filmmaker Zac Adams is ready to unveil his documentary on the famous goblin Tall Betsy.

A documentary about the famous Tall Betsy goblin will premiere exclusively on WRCB, Channel 3, on Sunday at 1 p.m. 

Award-winning filmmaker Zac Adams made the announcement this week. Earlier this year, Mr. Adams revealed that the documentary had won a prestigious Telly Award. The national Telly awards honor the best local, regional and cable television programs. 

Mr. Adams, owner of Nashville-based Skydive Films, visited Cleveland in 2011 to interview entrepreneur and philanthropist Allan Jones, the creator of the Tall Betsy character.

Mr. Adams also interviewed Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and others who had firsthand knowledge of Tall Betsy. 

Mr. Jones, the pioneer of the payday loan industry who founded Cleveland-based Check Into Cash, created the modern Tall Betsy character more than 30 years ago. 

Mr. Jones’ mother, Gincy, as well as his grandmother, Marie Slaughter, told him stories of a Tall Betsy goblin during his Cleveland childhood. Mr. Jones’ version of the goblin resides in Fort Hill Cemetery and stands more than seven feet tall.

“Allan gave our team access to a wealth of never-seen-before photos and videos,” Mr. Adams said. “There are things in this film that will surprise people, including the real reason why Tall Betsy suddenly vanished with no explanation. The answer will surprise you.” 

Tall Betsy began appearing at Mr. Jones’ home — then located on Centenary Avenue — in 1980. Once word of the “gruesome girlie” spread, many of Mr. Jones’ neighbors began decorating their homes as a tribute to the goblin and a poem was created called “The Legend of Tall Betsy.” 

The goblin became so popular that in 1986, MainStreet Cleveland — the city’s downtown revitalization group — organized the Halloween Block Party that included games, costume contests and treats.

The state of Tennessee named Tall Betsy “The Official Halloween Goblin of Bradley County” on May 24, 1989.  

Mr. Jones said the Tall Betsy legend eventually spread outside of Cleveland and became such an event that in 1993 his family took an official count of how many people came to their house. 

“From 5-8 p.m., we handed out exactly 11,201 pieces of bubblegum,” Mr. Jones revealed. “We believe that was a record for a single home on Halloween night.” 

Tall Betsy retired in 1998 after drawing a Halloween Block Party crowd of 25,000. The Block Party was dedicated in honor of Tall Betsy’s 25th anniversary in 2005.  

Prior to his Tall Betsy documentary, Mr. Adams created “The Bell Witch Legend” film, a documentary that investigated the world-famous 19th century haunting of a Tennessee family. The Bell Witch documentary will air on Sunday directly following Tall Betsy. 

The Tall Betsy documentary is narrated by Lynn Hoffman, host of A&E’s “Private Sessions.” 

“It is time for the public to finally know the truth about who Tall Besty was and why she came to such a sudden end,” Mr. Adams said. “Tune in on Sunday – you won’t forget it.” 

In this rare photo, Tall Betsy wows young trick-or-treaters with tales of Halloweens past.
In this rare photo, Tall Betsy wows young trick-or-treaters with tales of Halloweens past.

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