© 2002 by Steven L Campbell.
(Approximately 1,600 words.)
I write this alone somewhere within the outer bowels of Myers Ridge. I hope that I will survive to get this to the proper hands for publication. And as implausible and of unsound mind as it will seem, what I am about to write is true.
Myers Ridge is haunted.
I made that claim thirty years in my last book about Myers Ridge: “Ghosts of Ridgewood County.” I was twenty-seven when I wrote about the supernatural events around my hometown of Ridgewood, Pennsylvania, citing references to stories from the town’s newspaper and the Ridgewood County Historical association, and investigating the contributions of dozens of friends. Little has changed since that book’s publication. Things still go bump in the night. Strange lights and noises are reported from Myers Ridge and Ten Mile Swamp, and every five years or so someone mysteriously disappears from one of those areas.
Myers Ridge is a large hill outside of town known for its caves, abandoned mines, and cozy hillside where teenagers park with their dates. It isn’t as popular as it used to be and the state has been slowly selling the land for its timber. A Michigan businessman named Mort Jacobs recently purchased parts of the south side and put in some ski slopes and a lodge there. But those of us familiar with the hill know that the area is populated with sinkholes—the kind of thing you don’t want to be falling into while skiing down a five-mile slope.
Also plaguing the hill are the mysterious lights seen at night. Local legends call them will-o-wisps, jack-o-lanterns, and phantom orbs. Earth scientists claim they are luminous protean clouds rising from deep within the hill. However, eyewitnesses allege that these glowing clouds sometimes emit arrays of flickering hypnotic strobes of lights, causing confusion among both people and animals who witness them.
Long before Ridgewood was founded by settlers, the Seneca people then living along the fertile lands below Myers Ridge knew well of the event and spoke of it within their oratory, which was later recorded to text by early settlers. The Seneca knew never to look upon the lights lest the lights dislocate the mind from the spirit and cause the victim to live the rest of his or her days tormented and mad.
The first recorded casualty made by a white settler was in 1702 when, upon viewing the strange lights, he killed his wife and children and stuffed them in the belly of a slaughtered cow.
Nothing more is mentioned about the lights until 1852 when some miners looking for gold allegedly stumbled upon the lights and went crazy. One survivor, an Irish fellow named O’Grady, claimed the hill was cursed by Goblins, Trolls, and Boggarts.
In 1901, Myers Ridge was officially named after geologist, Norman Myers who helped survey and map the area during the building of a railroad through Ridgewood. Myers discovered gold in the deforested hill in 1901, and immediately miners hauled out ores and precious metals. In a dash to become rich, miners squabbled and fought over land rights until a sighting of strange lights on the hill caused over seventy men to lose their minds.
That year, Myers disappeared. Soon, reports to law officials stated that his ghost was haunting the lower parts of the hill, and that his spirit was searching for his murdered body inside one of the many abandoned mines.
Reports, however infrequent, about the mysterious lights that cause victims to go insane also continued. These sightings are on public record and cause me anxiety when I go to Myers Ridge. How does one debunk the allegations made by our town’s founding fathers?
Reports about the lights and Myers’s ghost continue today, although our police force no longer fields those calls. Those calls come to me. Once in a while, some hiker or camper claims to see Myers’s ghost. Even my father says he saw the ghost while hiking the hills with his Boy Scouts’ troop. I have never been as fortunate, and with so much land becoming private property over the years, I believed my chances of ever seeing Myers dwindled with the addition of every new fence line. Then I received a telephone call that finally gave me a chance to see the famous poltergeist myself.
The call came from Melissa Laine, the town’s art gallery director who wanted me to see a piece of coal that her father had left her. Curious, I went to her gallery and saw what appeared to be a copper coin protruding from the black rock. Melissa told me that she had sent a piece of the coal to the state’s university to be analyzed and that it had come back with a letter stating that it had been formed more than twelve million years ago.
I analyzed the coin, which looked like an American penny. Its exposed face and back were worn, but its edge had that familiar ridge caused by stamping. While I puzzled over the coin and wondered how it got there, Melissa told me that her father had given the coal to her the day before his death. He had told her that when he was a boy and during a visit to one of the old abandoned mines, Myers’s ghost appeared to him and gave it to him. Melissa never truly believed her father’s story until this past April when she happened upon my earlier book at the library.
We readied for a trip to Myers Ridge, and despite inclement weather, she directed me to the old coalmine. To the side of the mine we found a cave. The entrance was small but big enough to allow us to crawl inside. Our flashlights revealed a large vein filled with marble and limestone, and on the walls, white flower-like formations called cave pearls. Dripstones hung from the ceiling and white puttylike flowstone called moon milk covered the floor.
That was when I saw Myers’s ghost.
To write it now sends chills down my back, but it is a chilling event to stumble upon a ghost, even a friendly one.
My fear passed to a feeling of accomplishment. Melissa, however, remained frightened. When I finally shushed her, the ghost said to her, “Did your father like the gift I gave him?”
I knew he referred to the piece of coal. So did Melissa after a false start.
“Yes,” she finally said, forcing some calmness into her voice. “My father cherished it. When he died, he gave it to me.”
The spirit seemed pleased that Melissa now owned her father’s gift. I felt him leave us before I saw him disappear. At the spot where he had stood, a chunk of gold the size of a soccer ball sat upon the floor.
Upon inspection, I found the initials NWM carved in it, something miners did to mark their property. I must only believe that the initials stand for Norman Wesley Myers.
There was no possible way for us to carry out the gold, so we headed out into a downpour. We ran toward our cars when a wall of rain hit us. I turned to tell Melissa to stay with me when the ground suddenly sloped away. I fell and rolled along, almost free-falling at times before I was ejected from the hilltop.
I fell. I plummeted on my back and for a moment, I thought I was floating. Raindrops hung in the gray air all around me. Then my landing came abruptly and bristly, yet softer than I expected. Boughs of pine and spruce bent and broke as I tumbled from tree limb to tree limb. Branches snapped off in my hands as gravity pulled me down to a dry mattress of pine needles. Unable to breathe for moment, I gasped for air until my lungs and stomach hurt. When my breathing became normal, I closed my eyes and rested. I may have napped, for when I opened my eyes, the storm had lessened and evening had fallen.
I called for Melissa over the drizzle. No answer. Cold rain dripped on me through the towering canopy of pine and spruce branches stretched over me. I called again for Melissa and waited.
Still, I wait.
Six hours after my fall and further into the night I have tried to stand; my legs refuse to work. Pain knifes through my lower back and left hip. My left leg is numb and looks twisted. I am certain that it is broken.
I used pine branches to pull myself into a seated position so I can write. My backpack has given me food and drink as well.
The lights are out there beyond the trees. There are five of them. Are these the lights that have driven men insane?
I fear it to be so.
Over the past hour, one of the pulsating lights has moved within twenty yards from me. I have tried not to stare at it, but an attractive humming sound emits from its bluish white center.
I am going to turn off my flashlight for a while to see if the lights move away.
After ten minutes, the lights remain. The light closing in on me has not changed course. Its pleasant sound is difficult to ignore.
It sings to—
Dear God, I must have dozed—the light is upon me. It has overtaken the glow of my flashlight while I write this.
I pray that it is friendly.