A spine-tingling tale for Halloween.
Happy Halloween, everybody.
This story © 2002 by Steven Campbell
I write this alone somewhere within the outer bowels of Myers Ridge. I hope 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 Myers 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 Myers 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. Reports of strange lights and noises on Myers Ridge and at Ten Mile Swamp still come from people who live there. 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 is not as popular as it used to be and the state has been slowly selling the land for its timber. A Michigan recreational tycoon named Mort Jacobs recently purchased parts of the south side and put in ski slopes and a lodge there. But those of us familiar with the hill know the area is populated with sinkholes—the kind of thing you do not want to fall into while skiing down a five-mile slope.
Also plaguing the hill are 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 people who witness them.
Long before Ridgewood was founded by settlers, the Seneca people living along the fertile lands below Myers Ridge knew well of the lights and spoke of them within their oratory, which was later recorded to text by early settlers. The Seneca knew never to look upon the lights lest their flickering 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.
In 1852, some miners looking for gold allegedly stumbled upon the lights and went crazy. One survivor, an Irish fellow named O’Grady, claimed Goblins, Trolls, and Boggarts cursed the hill.
Famed geologist Norman Myers discovered gold in the deforested hill in 1901. In a dash to become rich, he and other miners hauled out millions of dollars in gold, ores and other precious metals until Myers disappeared three years later. During a manhunt through the mines, sightings of strange lights in the hill caused over seventy men to lose their minds and kill each other. Reports to law officials state that several people saw Myers’s ghost among the lights, and that he searched for his murdered body inside the mines.
Reports about the mysterious lights and Myers’s ghost continue today, although our police force no longer fields those calls. Those calls come to me. I received a telephone call last week 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 took the odd artifact to the state university’s science department for analysis. Their official finding, which I saw in a letter, was that the coin and coal were more than twelve million years old.
I analyzed the coin, which looked like an American penny. Its exposed flat surfaces were worn, but its round 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 book at the library.
She and I immediately 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 it. Our flashlights revealed a large vein filled with marble and limestone, and white flower-like formations called cave pearls grew on the walls. 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 was a far more chilling event to stumble upon a ghost, even a friendly one.
My fear soon passed to a feeling of accomplishment. Melissa, however, remained frightened. When I finally calmed 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 the 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 on 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. As we ran toward our cars, a wall of rain hit us. I turned to tell Melissa to stay with me, but the ground suddenly sloped away. I fell from one of the cliffs and plummeted on my back. 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 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, but 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 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. And beyond the trees is something I do not want to face.
The lights are out there. Five of them. I fear they are the lights that have driven other men insane. And I fear that they are coming for me.
During 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 turned off my flashlight ten minutes ago in hopes that the light would change direction. It has not altered its course.
Its pleasant sound is difficult to ignore. It sings to me, almost lulling me to sleep. I feel my eyelids growing heavy. I—Dear God, I must have dozed—the light is upon me.
I pray that it is friendly.