If you allow yourself to sit back and think about ghost stories, many people would paint a picture of listening to one around a campfire keeping them warm with a group of their closest friends. There’s nothing but pitch-black darkness all around, with only the sounds of the crackling logs and the nature around breaking the silence.
Ghost stories often tell the tale of urban legends, ones that hark back to times of yesteryear. Poker was a game played back in the times of the cowboys, miners, and farmers in the time of the stagecoaches, saloons and six-shooters, arguably making it just as much of a part of U.S. culture as the Wild West or the old riverboats of the era. So let's up the ante a little and tell some stories of old…..
Changing Your Soul With The Devil...
Farmer John Morris was walking home late one evening when a well-dressed man approached him. The conversation happened to come upon where John had been that evening, Morris told the man he’d been playing poker at a friend’s, and he was happy as he’d won a lot of money. The stranger immediately perked up, challenging Morris to a game to which he declined.
After walking a little further, they reached a bridge; the stranger revealed some gold playing cards and began to deal with them. Morris couldn’t refuse, but it proved the stranger was a much better player. But he’d repeatedly deal the cards then asked Morris if he’d consider betting his soul? Suddenly, a card dropped from Morris’ grasp, the ace of spades dropped into the river below. They looked over the bridge to see it floating down the river, and Morris caught a glimpse of his opponent’s reflection.
He had two horns, glowing red eyes, and a forked tongue sticking out from his mouth. Morris turned quickly, but the stranger vanished, as a ball of flame flashed away into the night sky.
Dead Man’s Hand
Back in 1876, the legendary Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker, it was a deadly game played by professional gamblers and crooks. The old lawman sat at the table in Deadwood; the dealer dealt his first four cards. Just as he turned them over, there was the crack of a gun. Hickok slumped onto the table, his head hung forward, left resting beside his left hand, which held his cards. He had an 8 of spades and ace of spades, an 8 of clubs and the ace of clubs…. The 8th letter of the alphabet is H, followed by an A, H, and an A.
The cards were laughing at him. Anyone with a basic grasp of poker hand rankings knows that a hand comprises of five cards, but that’s not the case with the Dead Man’s Hand – you die before you get the fifth card. So remember, if you’re ever playing poker and the dealer turns over an 8, then an ace, then another 8, beware, because if your next card is to be an ace..... you’ll never play again.
Over in the UK, in Liverpool, Alexander McKenzie was a civil engineer on the Leeds to Liverpool canal in the 1811’s and achieved as much success in his work as he did in gambling. It’s said he was fortunate at the poker table in particular. He was known to almost read people’s minds, but it was rumored McKenzie had struck a deal with the devil. To have the world’s greatest lucky streak, he would have to hand over his soul the moment he was buried in exchange for this. McKenzie hatched a plan to save himself.
Although he saved himself from Lucifer’s grasp when he was entombed in 1851, sitting upright at a card table clutching a royal flush, it also kept him from heaven too. The large man renowned for wearing a cloak and top hat can still often be heard wailing and wandering around Rodney Street in Liverpool’s city center, leaving him as a lost soul with nowhere to go for the rest of eternity.
Alright folks, thanks for reading!! Be sure to leave a comment if you enjoyed this post, or if you want to find some real haunted places, and maybe create some ghost stories of your own, check out my guide to some of these spooky, haunted locations near you by clicking here.
Brian Weaver is the founder and creator of GhostQuest.net, one of the internet’s most comprehensive databases for haunted locations, urban legends, and folklore tales throughout the United States. He grew up in rural New England, where he attended college for Computer Science.