Tall Betsy’s return at Halloween brought big crowd to Centenary

Special to the Banner
Posted 11/4/16

Cleveland trick-or-treaters on Halloween night got a glimpse of Tennessee’s spookiest legend in her original haunting place at 150 Centenary Avenue for the first time since 1998.

Tall Betsy …

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Tall Betsy’s return at Halloween brought big crowd to Centenary

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Cleveland trick-or-treaters on Halloween night got a glimpse of Tennessee’s spookiest legend in her original haunting place at 150 Centenary Avenue for the first time since 1998.

Tall Betsy — the famous ghoul thought to have vanished forever to a mausoleum at Fort Hill Cemetery — drew a record crowd for her appearance at 150 Centenary Avenue in downtown Cleveland 18 years, said Allan Jones, the creator of the Tall Betsy legend.

“It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen on Centenary,” said Jones. “The combination of Tall Betsy’s reappearance on Centenary Avenue for the first time in 18 years, along with great weather, made it one of the best Halloweens the city has ever seen.”

Jones noted that 2016 was the latest fall he had ever seen and pointed to a tree on Centenary that he used to shake during his legendary Tall Betsy appearances.

“I used to shake the limbs on the tree and leaves would fall down all over the kids,” Jones recalled. ‘This year if I had done that, none of the leaves would have fallen off because of the warm weather. Everything is still green!”

The home on Centenary is where Tall Betsy originally appeared in Cleveland from 1980 to 1998 and is now owned by Cleveland residents Jane and Joe Mason.

In the 1980s, there were consistent appearances by Tall Betsy on Centenary Avenue drawing crowds of thousands.

Many neighbors began decorating their homes as a tribute to the frightful figure, and a poem was created called “The Legend of Tall Betsy.”

The state of Tennessee named Tall Betsy “The Official Halloween Goblin of Bradley County” on May 24, 1989, and Zac Adams, an award-winning filmmaker from Nashville, created a documentary about her.

Tall Betsy vanished in 1998 after drawing a Halloween crowd of 25,000.

In 2013, J. Bailey Jones (Allan’s then-23-year-old son) took over the Tall Betsy identity with an updated look and reappeared at the downtown Halloween Block Party.

The new Tall Betsy appeared again at the Block Party in 2014 and 2015, but 2016 was the first time since 1998 that the ghoul emerged from the historic Centenary Avenue courtyard.

The initial impression was overwhelming:

“From my perspective of being 7 and a half feet above the crowd, there were people as far as I could see in every direction,” said J. Bailey Jones.

Following the appearance at Centenary, Allan Jones congratulated Bailey and recalled how hot he got wearing the costume, noting that his underclothes would always be soaked with sweat during an appearance.

“My Tall Betsy mask was hot, but the new costume has a full chest piece so it is incredibly hotter,” Jones said. “It is also hotter because my gloves only went past the wrist and his go much higher.”

One element of the famous goblin that did not survive the appearance was Tall Betsy’s famous bonnet. The younger Jones lost the bonnet halfway through and decided she looked “better” without it.

The elder Jones added, “The next 36 years of Halloween appearances will be without the bonnet!”

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