Have you read Brenda Coultas’ poetry collection The Marvelous Bones of Time? She has a series of ghost stories therein—ghosts, monsters, demons, angels—and all are, ostensibly, true. Some of the monsters are in Indiana, others are in California, and there’s a few in Louisiana. They multiply. In one encounter, a woman gets lost in the Winchester Mystery House and meets a spirit that pins her in a corner and spits in her hair until her friends rescue her. Another woman, walking along a suburban street at night, sees a blue devil under a tree. One of my favorite lines: “A teenager was driving home through the woods when he saw a very tall mechanical creature in the rearview mirror.”
Haven’t we all been that teenager? When my father was just starting out as a heating and air conditioning repairman, he made long treks through the river valleys of the tri-state area, driving to any job after answering any call. One evening at about this time of year, he was making his way on 229 between Oldenburg and Peppertown (a notorious backwoods), and he drove past a witch in the dusky light: A woman dressed all in black levitated two or so feet above the ground on the side of the road. “She was a witch,” says my father, when you ask him to explain why or how; “She gave me a look like—” and he doesn’t say; “She disappeared when I drove by.” My father is a sheriff’s deputy now, and how often he needs negotiate with the paranormal would be more touching if it were less persistent. Or perhaps the persistence is touching. Union County—his employer—has a large reservoir like a rent in its south-western quarter, where cancer suicides and desperate jailbirds and distracted teenagers and scared mothers go to drown, driving recklessly off dead-end roads or jumping off causeways on winter nights. The freezing depths take them and keep them. The water magnifies everything—the wind, the sky, the stars—it calls people into its bowl, and then it kills them, and then they come back. Or whatever is there calls out, echoes. (I don’t necessarily take this view—it makes it seem like there is “Evil.” And that’s so simple and dramatic, when what I meant to emphasize is the prosaic.)
I listened to your interview on “The Bat Segundo Show” where you talk about growing up in Philadelphia—”There could have been a sorcerer who came and messed around with the souls of the young people”—and while fantastic, an analogue presents itself: there could have been a lake that made unhappy people kill themselves. There could have been a guy that molested teens. There could have been tractor accidents that crippled infants. There could have been heavy metals in the soil in the parks. Etc. But then—there are screams coming out of the Hannah House, unoccupied for years; and the abandoned ball room of the Bell rental property, the phonograph can still be heard turning, and the revelers still dancing; and ghouls are in the mirrors of the house on Turkey Run; and an OD who died of heroin four years ago is still wandering College Corner, asking for a light.
P.S. —— did end up falling in love with me. But so did —— and —— and ——. And also ——, of course.
P.P.S. I am glad you wrote today.