Camp Forest Cemetery, A.K.A. Citizens Cemetery, is nestled in a small clearing in Tullahoma, in Southern Middle Tennessee. It’s an interesting area to drive through, as this is the location of Arnold Air Force Base, and it’s not unusual (but strange nonetheless) to see “tank crossing” signs along the road. Concord was my first stop on the way to Nashville from Atlanta because folklore would have us believe that a witch was buried here in the early 1900s.
The cemetery itself is small, and if I didn’t have the luxury of using GPS mapping, I might have never found the location. There is no real designated place to park, and I had to leave my car just off the road while I went inside. Black iron fencing surrounds the cemetery, and there is a large, wrought iron gate at the front entrance with Citizens Cemetery across the top in goldish lettering. I was thankful for this, as the cemetery has several names, and can get confused with another cemetery roughly four miles away.
Off to the right of the entrance and just a bit back from the fence is the grave of Malinda Rhoton. Her marker is a pillar about waist high with a lion on the top and the initials RCF. On the front, it reads, “Faithful member of magic circle No. 81, died June 27, 1914.” This marker is the only indication that Malinda may have practiced the Craft. However, nothing could be further from the truth. RCF stands for Royal Circle of Friends, an African American fraternal organization dedicated to the moral, physical, social, and economic welfare of its members. When a member passed, the organization handled the burial, including all the expenses. The group’s lodges were called circles, and Malinda was a member of circle 81.
Despite the known origins of “magic circle 81” and the Royal Circle of Friends, here folklore reigns supreme. Malinda’s grave marker has repeatedly been vandalized. However, instead of being desecrated by the fearful believers of the Christian God, I believe Malinda’s grave has been vandalized mainly by practitioners of the occult. Scratched into the side of her grave marker are pentagrams, as well as the Valknut (a symbol of three interlocking triangles currently used in Norse magick). The number 666 has also been scratched into the stone, most likely by local teenagers out for a night of fun. I find all this to be deeply disturbing, as Malinda has essentially been falsely accused of witchcraft, like so many innocent women – and men – of the past, and this is a sad reminder.