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Tall tale of Chained Rock attracts tourists

Chained Rock

PINEVILLE-- You might call Pineville a sleepy town at the base of a mountain. But apparently a century ago, people had trouble sleeping here. A big rock was to blame for the insomnia.

"The legend went that at any time, this big boulder could fall off the mountain to crush the town and for a lot of the town's children that was terrifying," said Keith Bowling, the naturalist at Pine Mountain State Park.

So, the big gray rock prompted some little white lies. Children were told not to worry-- it was chained up there. That story spread and visitors started to ask the locals they couldn't see the chain?

And thus the tall tale turned into a public relations stunt.

In 1933, a committee enlisted members of the Kiwanis Club, the boy scouts and the Civilian Conservation Corps to construct an unnatural wonder. The group obtained a giant chain from a steam shovel and, with a team of mules, dragged it up the mountain. It took 50 men to heave the chain from a cliff to the rock and connect it with giant bolts. It's 101 feet long and weighs a ton.

People who walk to the rock today are amazed at how massive it is, but wonder if it was worth the effort.

Sarah Lamm, a recent visitor from Georgia, said "Well I guess it's better safe than sorry. It doesn't look like it's going to fall but I guess if you lived down there you might feel a little more secure if you knew it was chained"

Newspapers around the world printed the story of a town that went to massive measures to protect its citizens, although they were never really in danger.

Bowling says it's an optical illusion. "It's actually where big flat sheets of rock have curled up on each end and we're seeing a piece of sandstone just jutting out. It's all actually interconnected, so what looks like a boulder at the top is just a sheet of exposed rock."

But the view of the town is amazing and you can get as close to the edge as you dare.

Today you can clearly see the chain from the town below.. Fiction became fact. And tourists do come because of these links to the past.

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