Myers Ridge, 1971, Second Visit:
Myers Ridge was well-known for its caves, abandoned mines, precipitous hillside, and sightings of Norman Myers’s ghost. But long before that, the ridge received its official name in 1801 when Jonah Myers purchased the property from the state. Jonah Myers and his family were sheep and goat farmers during a time when the wool industry was strong and the farms there were stately buildings. Some of those building were still standing in 1971, though the state had sold much of the land to corporations and developers. There was talk among developers outside Ridgewood of wanting to put in a ski slope, but citizens familiar with the hill knew the area was populated with sinkholes—the kind of thing people didn’t want to be falling into while skiing.
In 1891, Jonah’s grandson Norman Myers found gold on his property. For a decade, he and his family hauled out ores and precious metals and occasionally squabbled over mining rights. Then, according to legend, Norman’s mines dried up ten years later, on the very anniversary of his discovery. Not long afterwards, Norman disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. Some suspected he was murdered by James McCoy, an angry business partner. Soon afterward, family claimed to see Norman’s ghost haunting the hill. They claimed his body lay inside one of his many abandoned mines, and would haunt the land until his body was found and given a proper burial.
On Halloween night, 1971, behind Parker’s house, Dave and his father told me people still sighted Norman’s ghost at Myers Ridge. Parker told how he first saw the ghost when he was a Boy Scout hiking the hillsides with his troop, and the times he saw it again on different days and nights from his back porch.
Also, a visiting neighbor, Verawenda Erickson, who went to school with Dave and Amy, claimed her father also saw Norman’s ghost when he was a boy. During a visit to one of the old abandoned mines, the ghost appeared to him and gave him an unpleasant start. He never went back.
Verawenda Erickson’s nickname Vree was a result of her initials VRE. She was an attractive girl whose parents, Charles and Deborah, lived down the road from Parker. Charles was a dentist and Deborah was a nurse. Vera is Latin and means “true.” Wenda is English and means “pleasing to the eye.” I liked the combination, hence Verawenda.
Vree claimed to have seen Norman’s ghost on several occasions. The most recent sighting had happened two years before that night, on a day when she and a friend went hiking along the cliffs, one of the more dangerous parts of the hill, and a sudden rainstorm hit. They found shelter in a nearby caving of the ridge, squeezing into a shelter no bigger than a broom closet. Lightning threw erratic patches of light across the stony interior, and in between darkness and light they saw Norman Myers’s ghost standing at the entrance for a moment. The ghost pointed at her feet before it vanished. When she looked down, she found a chunk of gold the size of a softball.
Vree took the gold home and her father turned it over to the federal government. Before he did, however, Vree discovered the initials NWM carved into the gold, something miners did to mark their property. She showed me a photograph of the gold and its initials. I could only believe the initials stood for Norman Wesley Myers, the man whose ghost haunted Myers Ridge.
Before I left that night, Vree told me about another neighbor who claimed to have seen Norman Myers’s ghost and knew why it was haunting the ridge.
Vree’s Spooky Story:
Brian Johnson was with his wife Maria and photographing nature on the west side of Myers Ridge. Both were scenic photographers who enjoyed taking pictures of the ridge’s rock formations. They worked like crazy trying to get as many good contrast shots as possible before sundown.
By nightfall, they had their tent up and a fire going. They ate some beans and franks and slept under the stars. Then around two-thirty in the morning Brian’s walkie-talkie squawked to life and awoke them. It was their emergency contact reporting Maria’s father was in intensive care after having a heart attack, and her mother was alone at the hospital. So Maria took the car and left. That’s the last time Brian saw her alive.
He couldn’t sleep after she left, so he read a book by lantern. It was around four o’clock when he looked past some trees and saw a shadowy figure of a man walking near an outcropping of rock. The figure stopped and looked at Brian, then vanished into a wall of rock. Brian knew he’d just seen a ghost and he wondered if it was old man Myers. He waited until dawn before he went to the outcropping and poked around. There, he found an entrance in the mound of rock, a small canyon twice as high as it was wide, but no bigger than a crouch way. He said a quick prayer, crawled inside and hoped he wouldn’t discover he was claustrophobic. He wasn’t.
He carried along a lantern, which made crawling slow and tiring. Along the way he discovered some dead mice and voles, and a knee squished down on one of the carcasses. Soon he crawled out into a tall and cold gallery of limestone. Sudden movement caused him to turn and stare into the face of Norman Myers’s phantom. He almost screamed, but the ghost vanished and the flame in his lantern flickered and almost went out. He steadied the lantern and collected his wits while he waited for his heart rate to return to normal. That’s when the darkness became green-gray space around him, and he saw Maria step from the space in front of him.
“That was a quick trip,” Brian said, to which Maria replied:
“Daddy died. Mother had a stroke when he did. She didn’t make it.”
“I’m so sorry,” Brian said. He stepped forward to embrace her when he felt a blast of icy air come between them.
“I died, too,” Maria said. “I was struck and killed by a drunk driver when I crossed the street outside the hospital.”
Either the chill or the news caused Brian to stumble backwards.
“Norman Myers killed us,” Maria said.
Brian lost his balance and fell to the ground, sitting with his lantern in his lap and staring at his wife, all the while shaking his head and telling himself this wasn’t real.
“He’s avenging his murder. Daddy was descended from one of the men who killed him. And Mother’s great-uncle was Jim McCoy. Myers’s spirit won’t rest until all of them are dead.”
Maria’s ghost held out its hand in a farewell gesture for a moment before vanishing.
“Brian said the place felt coldest then, like someone had opened a large door on the wintriest night. Then his walkie-talkie squawked and his contact guy confirmed what Maria’s ghost had told him,” Vree said before she left the campfire.
Left alone, Dave and I remained silent for several minutes. I mulled over the idea of writing nothing but happy-ending stories. Finally, I broke the silence to say goodbye before I left for home.
Vree’s sad and unsettling tale about Norman Myers’s ghost being a vengeful spirit made me wonder what sort of horrible death he had suffered. I could only imagine, though I hesitated doing so. And, before I fell asleep that night, I pondered whether pursuing Myers’s ghost for my stories was something I wanted to do.