Skinned Tom

This week’s episode is about one of my all time FAVORITE urban legend characters – Skinned Tom.

You can listen to the podcast here, Spotify, and where ever else you get your podcasts as well as YouTube:


Have you seen the ghost of Tom
Long white bones with the skin all gone
Ooh oh oh oh poor ole tom
Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on

Hey cousin, welcome to Haint n Holler podcast. I’m D, you’re guide down this dark and winding road in southern folklore. Tonight, we enter the heart of spooky season and I am excited to share with you one of my favorite characters of the dark south.

Before we begin, a small content warning. Tonight’s episode includes death, torture, and adultery. Listener discretion is advised.

Tonight, cousin, let me tell you the ghoulish tale of Skinned Tom.

Most towns have a lover’s lane. These old back roads with a private pull off and a great view. They’re perfect for quiet moments with your sweetheart, whether you’re bothering to glance out your window at the view or the stars or if you’re occupied with things a little closer to hand.

East Tennessee has one such lover’s lane but some visitors should be warned before going.

Townsend, TN is said to be the birthplace of this particular urban legend. Perhaps that is because it has a road that is actually called Lovers Lane. Though, many argue that the location of this tale could be any backroad used by lovers. Lovers Lane is a liminal space – a location away from the normal world where every day worries can be set aside. Liminal spaces are special for other reasons, as those who follow paranormal activity will be quick to inform you. They are spaces of high strangeness, where the impossible becomes probable and all too real.

Lovers Lane was the haunt of Ole Tom. He was a ladies man and because of this we can assume he was either attractive or charming or both. Unfortunately, Tom wasn’t all that particular about what ladies be brought to lover’s lane. I’m sure they were all pretty and more than eager to be shown a good time. The thing is, he took all the girls there. It was said that once he had his chance at a lady, however, he quickly grew bored of her and moved on.

This playboy had a hard time in rural east TN. All too soon, he had made his way through the eligible ladies in his area and had to spread a wider net.

Some say Tom went a town over to find his next date, to a place where he didn’t know the women or their background. Others said he stayed home and simply omitted limitations from his criteria. One way or another, Tom got a pretty young woman in his car named Eleanor. 

Eleanor was said to be gorgeous and exciting, exactly what Tom was looking for in a woman. The issue was, Eleanor was married.

Some say Tom didn’t know. Eleanor had omitted this little fact from their pillow talk and poor Tom, well, he never asked.

Others say Tom simply didn’t care. In fact, the act of sneaking around and the risk of getting caught was so exciting for him, he stayed with Eleanor longer than any other girl he’d dated to that point.

Unable to contain their excitement, Tom and Eleanor failed to keep their fling a secret for long. Folks around the town began to gossip. It didn’t take long for that gossip to reach Eleanor’s husband.

The news drove the man insane with jealousy. He vowed vengeance on the couple for breaking his heart and making him a fool in front of his neighbors.

The next night that Tom picked Eleanor up for their date, they drove to lovers lane. Eleanor confided in Tom that she hadn’t seen her husband all day and that he’d left a note that he would be gone for the evening.

They reveled in their time together and neither noticed that they were followed to their private off road destination.

While the two were locked together in a passionate embrace, the passenger side door of Tom’s car was ripped open. Before either could scream in shock at the sight of Eleanor’s husband, the man reached in and drew his hunting knife across his wife’s throat.

Tom, covered in the blood of his lover, begged the man for his life. He said he had no idea that Eleanor was married. Whether her husband believed old Tom, it made no mind. The man was crazed with his jealous as he pulled Tom from the car and dragged him into the woods.

When they stopped at a nearby hunting lodge, Tom begged and begged for his life. Please, don’t kill me.

Stopping on the hunting cabin’s porch, the husband said he had no intention of ending Tom like he had his wife. He simply wanted to make sure that Tom wasn’t able to pull this trick again. He wanted to make sure that Tom’s pretty face and smooth moves would never land another married woman in the car with him in the future.

He tied Tom up then, suspending him over the cabin’s porch like a deer. Over the next hour or so, Tom’s blood curdling screams could be heard throughout the woods if anyone had just stopped to listen.

When Eleanor’s husband was finished, he went to his car back on lover’s lane and drove directly to the police station to turn himself in.

In disbelief, the police went out to lover’s lane and found the body of Eleanore. They made their way to the hunting cabin and were horrified by the blood all over.

Tom was nowhere to be found. The only thing they found of the playboy was his skin, in a rotting pile on the porch. Tom himself was gone…as was the hunting knife that had relieved him of his flesh.

Today, some say that Tom stalks lovers lanes all through the southern appalachia. He terrorizes lovers, his boney fingers clutched around his hunting knife, his ghoulish face peering into car windows. Iff he finds someone cheating on their spouse, he teaches them the same lesson he learned all those years ago.

Hmm Now I assure you, cousin, I searched high and low for any sign of Ole Tom in history and newspapers. I found nothing. No hide nor hair, as they say, of a skinned man and a cheating wife. The story seems to have been born of warnings for teenagers not to go to lovers lanes and get into mischief and also a warning against promiscuous couplings beyond marriage. 

All the same, Skinned Tom has done well to worm his way into the dark recesses of southern folklore. He’s developed a sort of following nowadays that villains of horror movies obtain. His likeness is used in roleplay games, horror novels, and podcast serials. 

So, we end tonight’s podcast with a small warning this spooky season. If you decide to get cozy on lover’s lane and see the shadow of man without flesh on these dark, cool nights. Say hey to old tom for me and thank you cousin, for listening to haint n holler podcast.

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