Pull your chairs closer to the fireplace. Come in from the shadows beyond the campfire. I’m going to tell you a spooky story.
I will begin by stating that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. The time of year is ideal…the pumpkins sit on the vine, the corn is tied into six-foot shocks. The nights are chilly. The cider is hot. The apples may still be on the branches, but some of them may have already fallen to the ground, starting to turn brown, starting to rot into the earth while giving off a sweet odor that attracts the Autumn bees. The mornings may find a frost on the grass. The moon is brighter now that the summer humidity is gone. The smell of burning leaves (where they are allowed to be burned) fill the air with a scent that is unique to only a few weeks out of the year. The smoke often drifts across the mowed fields and pastures, mixing with the fog of late summer. The trees in the graveyards seem to drop their foliage first, leaving bare trees that look like skeletons. Pumpkins are cut into funny faces and candles placed inside their hallow heads glow with an eerie orange light from the eyes, nose and mouth. Some people, like me, prefer to carve the pumpkins into scary faces. After all, isn’t that what this time of year is all about? The intense green of mid summer has given way to a dull and dusty faded green of late summer. Now, the trees burst into spectacular scarlets, yellows, oranges, reds and amber. Life, for a time, is over. Hints of death are in the air. Stories are told about ghosts, strange lights, floating objects, disembodied voices, floating skulls and walking skeletons…or worse.
That’s why I’m here. I intend to devote a series of posts that are macabre, spooky, scary, strange and full of the seasonal feelings of the Autumn. Sometimes the posts will be simple pictures with no comments. Perhaps a short story. Maybe a poem. But it will, hopefully, evoke a feeling (or need) of pulling the blanket up close to your chin and keeping an extra light on during the night-time. Yes, the night time…when nightmares come, dreams arrive, shadows lengthen and candles burn low.
[I invite comments! If I post an illustration, please, please feel free to write something about it in the comment box. Make it a story. Make it a thought, a poem, a song, a memory, a rumor or simply a comment. Please keep the thread alive and stay decent.]
Here’s my first offering:
“The Tale of Ned’s Poor Wife”
On the edge of a small body of water close to Blue Mountain Lake, NY, there lived a writer. His legal name was E.C.Z. Judson but he wrote under the pen name of Ned Buntline. Perhaps you have read some of his tales of the Wild West. These were published as “dime novels” in the middle of the 19th century. He became quite famous and sold millions of copies of his “pulp fiction” novels. Often, these were peddled as authentic histories, but it has been said that Ned never traveled west of the Mississippi River.
Ned was something of a recluse. Some would say he was nearly a hermit. He liked to be alone to write his books. He also was a very eccentric character. I read an account of him dressing up like an Indian and standing on the shore of the lake where he lived hooting and yelling at the steamboats that chugged past his cabin carrying tourists to nearby hotels.
Probably, he was the kind of guy you would want to avoid.
Ned disliked a great many things but one thing he did not dislike was a young and pretty woman. So he (as a middle-aged man) married a young and pretty woman. They lived happily(?) on the shores of a lake near Blue Mountain Lake in a cabin that Ned had named Eagle’s Nest.
The girl, Eva, became pregnant. She gave birth in a bedroom of Eagle’s Nest. Nothing unusual for 1860.
Then she died. Her infant child died also. Again, nothing unusual for 1860.
Ned buried her in his yard next to Eagle’s Nest.
Years later, Ned moved away. He died in 1886 in Stamford, NY. Her grave remained in the weedy yard of the old cabin.
A decade or so after her death, as a Halloween prank, the local fire department decided to have a parade. They needed a “grand marshal” of sorts. So they did the only thing that would enter the minds of a gang of 1860 firemen who had plenty to drink. They dug Eva out of her grave and paraded her around the village on Halloween!
This went on for a number of years until the local police and a few rich patrons of the hotels decided that it just may have crossed the line of decency to hold such a parade. They removed her remains (and that of her infant child) and reinterred her in the present-day cemetery at Blue Mountain Lake. They installed a chain fence around the gravesite.
The desecration of her grave stopped. The parades were over.
Today, the chain fence is gone, but her tombstone remains. There is a plaque explaining why she was moved.
Recently, I stood in a light rain and stared at poor Eva’s grave. I thought of what a strange journey she had to make, and the people who had to help her (after death) to find the rest she so dearly deserved.
[I heard this story while sitting the second-floor deck of a restaurant on Upper Saranac Lake. The storyteller was an older man with a great white beard. When he was finished, he walked down the bank to the lake and took off in his float-plane. The legendary restaurant where I heard this story was purchased by someone who had it torn down. It was a great loss of a beautiful building.]