Tag Archives: Ghosts

HooDoo VooDoo

untitled (24)Now that the firewood is split, stacked, and the last of the warm afternoon sun has been sucked from Indian Summer, it’s time for a story. A story that involves glimmering leaves, an insane sunset, fourteen moonrises and a road name from a Stephen King short story. So throw a log in the fire – or turn the thermostat up – and put your feet up. Hopefully by the time you’ve read this, you’ll understand the knot in my stomach or maybe even feel the chill that reverberated up and down my spine.

2013-10-04 Hoodoo 2012 011
The sky above Scurvy Creek.

Every October, my better half gets a hankering for us skip over HooDoo Pass and explore one of the many endless primitive roads that snake through the Clearwater Forest. She really has to twist my arm to cooperate. Can you sense the sarcasm? I too, enjoy seeing what’s around the next corner or over the next hill. This year’s pilgrimage had plenty of both. Not that I had a bad feeling about this trip, but my antenna raised a bit the morning we set off. Maybe it was because that week, the alternator went kaput on Tammy’s car and only the kindness of a nearby neighbor rescued her from a five mile hike home – in darkness, uphill, and in snow. Armed with a new alternator, topped off with fluids and a full gas tank we nosed the Subaru over the funny sounding pass and into the never-ending forest.

The previous year’s journey saw us travel a hundred miles off asphalt until we came across a town in the middle of nowhere. It was a two bar, one gas station kind of place, where the favorite color was camouflage. I immediately fell in love with the town, but my infatuation may have had more to do with 1970’s gas pumps than the personality of the town or its inhabitants. The girl at the gas station didn’t seem to know any of the town names I inquired about. And they didn’t even have a map.

“John, what about your GPS?” I can hear you ask.

“Really?”  If you know me, you know I don’t carry that kind of tech in my vehicles. Tammy and I like to dead reckon. Heck, we drove to the Oregon Coast without getting on any interstates. At one point during that trip in some remote ranching area of eastern Oregon we followed a truck and decided that whatever direction it turned we would go in the opposite direction. It’s just how we roll; the adventure is more important than the destination. But I digress.  It wasn’t until we got home – after this year’s trip – that I looked at a map and saw that we were merely thirty miles from our goal, and by paved roads to boot. But over a burger and without the luxury of hindsight we decided to call it and we retraced our steps through the Hundred Mile Forest. It was during this jaunt that we bantered away and came up with one of our most memorable sayings – Karmamyalgia. The term is a reference to a certain pain-in-the-ass that got what was coming to him/her – in the form of chronic pain. Used in a sentence, it would go something like this: Luther’s Irritable Bowl Syndrome metastasized into Karmamyalgia, what a shame. The term will make its debut in my upcoming novel Montana Rural, until then, it’s our secret.

2013-10-04 Hoodoo 2012 005Anyway, this year I decided that when we came to a certain fork in the road we would go in the opposite direction than the previous trip. When we passed a place called Scurvy Creek I had images of our car breaking down and us contracting scurvy and our asses falling off or something like that. Why would I have such visions? On a road trip similar to this – one much closer to home – we got stuck in a snow bank, had to sleep in our vehicle and hike out the next morning. Getting stranded is a common nagging fear, especially the more you take silly adventures, especially over roads where vampire rocks like to jump up and sink their fangs into oil pans. Because why my wife is the queen of preparation, I don’t fear bodily harm or even death – I’m certain we could weather just about any storm. No, what I fear of dealing with the inconvenience of hiking fifty or so miles and then returning to rescue the vehicle.

Now my gut told me that Highway 12, the closest known paved road and what I deemed the Yellow Brick Road back home, had to lie somewhere over one of these mountains. And as long as we had over a half a tank of gas I was willing to press forward finding the elusive way out of the endless forest. Further we drove, passing waving fishermen and gawking hunters. Then we hit paydirt. A sign. Highway 12 55 miles.  Yes! Instincts had served me right. Little did I know, this is where the adventure began.

Math told me it would be at least a five hour trip.  When the going was good, top speed would be fifteen miles an hour. The car climbed this hill, rounded that corner. With each new scene, both of

An elusive Jackalope.
An elusive Jackalope.

us craned our necks to see an elusive Jackalope or maybe a bear or moose. Mile after mile, only rocks and ruts greeted us. To the side of the road, hillsides gave way to canyon walls and deep ravines. In the distance snow speckled mountaintops.  “There the one’s on the other side of Highway 12. That one’s in the Selway,” I said brashly, so sure of myself.

Soon the afternoon passed to early evening and we were climbing as the sun was sinking. We rounded this mountain and the next until we appeared to be hand in hand with the sun. Did I mention that we started to pass over snow on the road? Not much, but enough to let us know it was there.  Across ravines, more snow glowed pink in the dying light. We stopped the car. We got out. A chorus of wolf howls greeted us. Look at the sunset pictures and imagine the soundtrack. Unfortunately we didn’t see them, they were somewhere along the mountainside that we had just passed.

First hint of snow.
First hint of snow.

Refreshed and energized we set forward. Headlights on we eventually came to an unmarked intersection.  We had two choices, go to the left and head uphill, or go right and downhill. As far as I know, rivers and the roads that follow them don’t run on mountaintops, so off to the right we went. Soon the full moon peaked over the mountains. With the moonrise came the willies, and it’s not easy to admit being creeped out by one of my own creations.  I wrote a story about a ghost that feeds off the energy of the living, and he happened to stalk his prey under the light of the full moon. In a place where the nearest electric light was miles and miles away, maybe such demons really do lurk. Around each corner I prepared myself to see a dead three year boy waiting for us. The pitfalls of a creative mind, you know – we’re mostly our own boogeymen.

All that was well and good until we came to another intersection and were faced with a sign directly out of Stephen King’s  Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut. It’s a short story about

Magical Sunset
Magical Sunset

a lady who is so insistent on finding shortcuts that she starts finding roads that aren’t there. As she finds more and more they become stranger and stranger, more challenging and frightening, until she comes across Motorway B in the Maine woods. The payback was her adventures turned her mortal being into a goddess. We weren’t in Maine, but we did find a motorway – Lolo Motorway. Though it wasn’t paved. It was a glorified two-track road with ravenous vampire rocks. Again we were posed with another choice. And this time, I made the wrong choice. At least I thought I did. To the left was blankety-blank  saddle and to the right was so and so creek. Hmmm, creeks are lower than saddles so we again turned right. We started to climb. And climb. And climb. We climbed so far that we saw the moon rise two more times as we gained back all the elevation we dropped. At points the road got narrower and the limbs of trees snatched at our passing car. Snow began to line the road. I started looking at the gas gauge, sure that whatever was left in the tank wouldn’t be enough. An hour passed. Below us, deep canyons shimmered in moonlight. The road turned back into the forest and continued climbing.  My patience was growing thin. I just wanted to find Highway 12.

And then we came to an intersection and my wife, whose Indian name is One-who-doesn’t-read-signs cried out: “Highway 12, 10 miles.”

I slammed on the brakes. I looked to the left and smiled. I saw the sign. Then, I had a moment of panic. The road was blanketed with a foot of snow. Remember, we once got stuck in a snow bank on a remote mountain road.  I took a deep breath and turned the steering wheel. I pressed down the accelerator. We hit the snow and started to plow. The tires dug in and then they slipped, the front end of the car pointed towards the mountainside. Tammy barked orders from the passenger seat. I don’t remember what she said. I was too focused. We climbed further and plowed more snow. We sailed over the crest of the mountain and just like that the road was dry. I turned to her and said that we should be in a Subaru commercial.

Last light.
Last light.

Just when I thought we were out of the woods another fear arose. I turned to my wife and asked: “What if the gate is locked?” For those of you who don’t know, most mountain roads are gated and come October the Forest Service comes along and locks them for the winter. Primarily for wildland preservation, but another unspoken reason is to save people from themselves. With each passing milepost counted down to the moment of truth.  What would we do if the gate was locked? We didn’t have enough gas to turn around and go back where we came from, and I also knew I didn’t have the nerve.  Mile Marker 3, Mile Marker 2, Mile Marker 1… What would we find?

An open gate of course. It was hunting season after all.  After we hit pavement I realized Mrs. Todd was onto something. Each adventure seems to be a bit more unnerving, but in return we are paid back with incredible sights, wonderful memories, and a spirit that is fed and refreshed. At the start of a new journey one can’t predict what will be found, but one thing is for sure, I never imagined coming across a Motorway in an Idaho forest.

Haunted Town Update…

DSCF2914In breaking paranormal news, there has been another ghost sighting in our fair little bar! Our Friday Night Bartender has reported seeing a ghost as she was closing up shop. A second witness, Nate B., who’s mechanical ingenuity will be featured in the next edition of The Barroom Chronicles, was swamping at the time and although he did not see the ghost, he insists something freaky happened. The story goes like this:

The bartender was counting her till and Nate B. was sweeping the floor when country music played loudly for approx. 10 – 15 seconds.  The bartender ghostcemeteryturned her head in time to see an apparition walk from the side door and past the pool table before fading into obscurity. She stated that the ghost was sporting a cowboy hat and his dress was consistent with contemporary western wear. She also stated that the spotting was timed with the music. They both stated that the experience wasn’t frightening, though they said it there was a palpable eerie feeling.

Her description does not match her predecessor’s, who had spotted an apparition, at roughly the same time of night, sitting in a chair in the casino.  That ghost was also dressed in modern ‘cowboy’ wear but sported a long beard.  The details of that sighting are detailed in a previous post on this blog entitled Haunted Town. Could our ghosts be one of the cowboys visible in the smoke in the above photo? Hopefully someday we’ll find out.

Good News, Bad News…

My toes always curl when my wife says this to me.  It so reeks of the other foot falling. And like a beaten dog, I instinctively curl up and show my fangs. In my warped sense of perception, the said foot is always bigger, so the bad news will always outweigh the good news.  I know it’s hard to believe a person with such a happy smile and a generally positive outlook sees the glass as half-empty.

What do you prefer hearing first? Me? I rather hear the bad news first – weird I know,  I’m ever optimistic, and unlike the beaten dog, I hope that the good news will make me forget the bad news.  That being said I have good news and I have bad news, actually, I have a bunch of it.

Me, blogging like a beaten dog.

The Bad News:  I haven’t been blogging lately, and when I try, I find myself distracted. Yeah I know, I’m a million miles behind on The Barroom Chronicles, I have some material for Haunted Town and there’s some free agent stories floating about.

The Good News:  I’m in a creative boon and I’m ripping it up on Montana Rural. While the muse is hanging around, I’m going to enjoy her company.  Yep, unlike with Nightwatching in which the muse was male, it’s female for the sequel to Cemetery Street.

The Bad News:  My titles will no longer be available in e-formats at BN.Com and Smashwords. My apologies to my Nook owning readers.

The Good News: They’re available at Amazon. Yes, I made the deal with the devil and decided to go with Kindle Select. The results have been staggering and in the short term, I’m sold on the process.  The eight hundred pound gorilla is doing some heavy lifting.


The Bad News: Winter is coming and I don’t have all my firewood in yet.

The Good News: I get to play in the woods with my chainsaw.

The Good News:  If you’re looking to cop one of my titles, like each one’s Facebook page and you’ll get notice when they’ll be available for free on Amazon.

Cemetery Street

Shangri-La Trailer Park


The Bad News:  There isn’t any.

That shadow lingering over you, that isn’t the other foot about to fall, but it maybe a tree that I’m about to cut down.

It Could Only Happen Here! The Barroom Chronicles… Episode 12

Our 1st Railroad Day… Parade as King and Queen of White Trash… The Redneck Chariot looks good with our shade slaves.

This time of year my mind starts to focus  on our little town’s celebration – Railroad Day.  This year more so than others mainly because of preparations for The Gunfight – Redux, especially if the rumors pan out about me appearing on a local TV morning show as Limp Along Larry, the soon to be notorious bad guy.

Despite that excitement, another story has been on my mind lately, and it involves my first Railroad Day as the proprietor of our humble little bar. The picture to the left has nothing to do with this story, it’s the only good picture I have of that day.  Anyway,  when you hear this story you may agree that now-a-days this sort of thing can only happen in rural Montana.

The story begins long after the last reveler went home and many were sleeping off a drunk.  For me, it is told best through the eyes of the bar’s security camera. In retrospect, I regret not saving a copy, because it would have become  a keep-shake.

Around Nine A.M. the morning after Railroad day, a person tries the front door and his expression is startled when it swings open. You see, the  proprietor, me, in a fit of exhaustion forgot to lock up.  The person was Kermit, a long-time regular,  a self proclaimed mountain man and a person born after his time. He often said he would have fit in better in the nineteenth century. As far as anybody knew, what Kermit enjoyed most was cooking at hunting camp.

Without blinking, the camera watches Kermit turn towards his friends, yell something and wave for them to come on in. Moments later, a  single file of his cadres stumbles through the door.  Our ring leader walks behind the bar, opens the cooler and serves up the beers.

Over the hours, empties are lined up across the bar top until two hours later, the door opens again and it is the  stunned form of the daytime bartender. Kermit jumps up, greets her and motions to the empties on the bar and proceeds to pay her for the consumed libations.  Only in our town!

It is a heart-warming story, but what makes it more special is that Kermit passed away six months later. He had a bad-ticker that gave way in his sleep. He was forty-nine.

The token brunette in a party of tall blondes

The following spring, on what would have been his fiftieth birthday, we commemorated the event by compelling everybody who came into the bar that day to enjoy a Miller High Life in his honor, of course the empties were lined up across the bar.

You may be saying to yourself the name sounds familiar. It is dear reader and not because of the famous frog. If you have read the post Haunted Town, you will recall we named the bar’s ghost Kermit, mainly because it’s a trickster, much like the person I knew for an all to brief time. In that time he gave us the gift of many fond memories and a headache or two with repeated Swen and Ollie jokes.  For more of Kermit I also refer you to The Shithouse Poet Returns, he planted the following beauty on the Men’s room wall:

“It is as long as me arm

and thick as me wrist

with a head as big as me fist

and it just longs to be kissed”

Kermit, wherever you are my friend, don’t forget to stir the beans!

Haunted Town

This week’s post could easily be part of The Barroom Chronicles,

The footsteps paused atop the stairs. Whoever, whatever it was could see me, but I couldn’t see it.

but I’ve decided to use it as the first post in a new series I’ll be featuring.  Like the title suggests, it’s about ghosts,  more accurately, it’s about the disproportionate number of ghosts in our humble Montana town.

The subject is prickly for me, even though I have had my fair share of trippy experiences, both in Montana and in my hometown in Pennsylvania, I’ve always been super skeptical of their existence. As much as I would like to believe in them, I’ve always hesitated in admitting believe, but too many occurrences have me coming around to admitting my believe in the creepy critters.

What’s weird for me is that I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve witnessed many things that go bump in the night, and in the afternoon too!

Today at work, the subject of ghosts came up again. Not because of a recent sighting in the bar (more on that later in this post) but because two more ghost hunters showed up in town. They didn’t stop in the bar, but I wish they had, I have a few good ghost stories to share.

The owners of  Ghost Rails Inn, the neighboring bed and breakfast also stopped by today and mentioned that this weekend some guests reported another sighting in their room.   One of the owners mentioned that Alberton could be the most haunted town in America.  Sounds like a lofty claim, but on further review, it may have merit.  Considering our town has barely 500 souls, pun intended – that would be the living, breathing type –  it at least could be considered for the most ghosts per capita.

Here are the reported sightings in our fair burg:

Ghost Rails Inn is aptly named, as of this writing, the owners have distinguished three different ghosts, they have seen two. A guest has reported a third, and another guest has reported something even more bizarre – their stories will be shared in later posts.

The Grocery Store – I don’t know anything about this ghost, but I’ve heard the store is haunted. I will talk with the owner and will report his story.

The Railroad Car House –  This is a duplex that is made of old boxcars.  I’m foggy on the details.  Paranormal societies have investigated this house and the Ghost Rails Inn.

The Trailer Court at the edge of town. It’s reported to be haunted by a lady who committed suicide. I don’t know the details.

And last but not least, the home of The Barroom Chronicles and the host to at least one ghost – good ole Sportys…

My first encounter happened in May of 2006, I had just bought the bar and was closing up shop. This encounter was more feeling, that creepy, undeniable sensation that someone is watching. Lets just say the feeling wasn’t subtle, it was in stereo.  It felt as if the old timers were floating near the ceiling checking out the new guy.

Three weeks later, something happened to my dog. It was after hours and I had her with me, I fancied making her a bar dog. As fate would have it, my pager went off (at the time I was a firefighter)  and I responded to an emergency call. When I returned she was a quivering ball of jelly and she had an accident on the floor.  She was four at the time, so she wasn’t a puppy and was housebroken. Although she hasn’t had an accident since, she can’t stand being in the bar.  As soon as she enters she whines and whines. I’ve given up taking her.  I can hear the skeptics: “Big deal, she was freaked because she felt abandoned in a strange place.”  Absolutely possible – maybe even probable.  If it wasn’t for what I’m about to share, I would believe that theory.

Tell me what you see.

May 2007    The palm tree…  A picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look and tell me what you see.  This photo was taken the first night the palm tree was in operation. The person taking the picture was smoking a cigarette. The image was not Photoshopped.  Tell me what you see.   Notice the 20 in the upper right hand corner. I believe that is related to the aforementioned bizarre sighting by a Ghost Rail Inn guest. (I’ll spiel my theory on that in a later post.)

A random Thursday night after closing:  This was my first audio (dare I say haunting) experience.   I had just got the last patron out when I heard a keno machine print a ticket and then footsteps crossed the casino into the Men’s room. The bathroom door slammed shut.

No big deal, I thought.  Somehow,  someone played through last call.  I waited ten minutes and went back to check on the player. I figured he passed out in the bathroom.  Of course nobody was there.  He couldn’t have slipped out any doors, they were all locked.

I’ve since had that experience again.  Earlier this year, another  bartender reported hearing the same thing – twice.

A Saturday morning before opening:  I was taking the garbage out and stopped to open the side door. As I propped the door open, out of the corner of my eye I saw legs walk past me, through the door and into the bar.  I immediately turned around and said: “Excuse me, can I help you?”  There was nobody there.  To this day, I get a chill and goosebumps every time I relate the story.

I’ve never felt scared of our ghost, quite to the contrary, I believe he’s a trickster, there’s always things misplaced and switched around.  I have named him: Kermit, in honor of a patron who passed six months after I purchased the bar.  The real Kermit was a trickster, so the M.O. fits.  I’m not saying it is, but hey, it’s all good.

But the Coup De Grace happened a little over two weeks ago.  A new bartender was working a Friday night shift.  She had closed the bar, gotten everybody out when she heard a keno machine print. She looked back into the casino in time to see the apparition of a bearded man sitting before said keno machine staring at her.  She claims it lasted a few seconds before it faded away.

A couple of days later, she came into the bar and asked: “Why didn’t you tell me about the ghost?”

I just smiled and enjoyed the goosebumps.

Ghosts, Goblins and Giveaways

Welcome… Watch your step…  my apologies it’s so dark in here.  What’s that? You think it’s creepy? Is the floor creaking or is that your heart beating? Oh, you felt something scamper across your feet, don’t fret, it’s only the rats – they’re hungry and in this blog they eat cats. This place is their favorite haunt. Rats like treats too, even if it is you!  :evil laugh:

You better duck, the cob webs are atrocious.  The last person got a mouth…  Oh my, what’s that creeping up your back? Why so jumpy? Did I mention the spiders?  Don’t scream! Be quiet! You will wake the dead!

Oh my, look at what you’ve done! You did it! You woke the dead! Look at her, sitting there, crying because you’ve interrupted her eternal sleep.  Very good,  now that you have control of yourself, you may notice  other screams. Please ignore them, they’re the last  visitors to this blog, they got lost in another post and never  got out.  Now they’re stuck, in this written hell, waiting for the cemetery to call their name.

Instead of these cemeteries, wouldn’t you rather stroll down Cemetery Street? There are no zombies, werewolves, ghosts or goblins; but there is a Count, and his friends Shannie and James, who thrive on the tears their story brings.  Tell me the truth, don’t lie, I know you’re dying for a good cry.

Speaking of dying, are you dying for a treat? Would you like something sweet? You will find that on Cemetery Street…   Click on its cover and enter HA38J.

Or maybe your mind prefers something dark? You may want to fall into Shangri-La Trailer Park. Don’t be fooled, heaven isn’t easily found in this psychological yarn.   To fall into The Park, click its cover and enter YU69H.

Pick you poison, before the poison picks you. There are no smoke and mirrors here, but you better hurry, both coupons expire at the witching hour Halloween Night!

If you would be so kind, visit Cemetery Street and Shangri-La Trailer Park Facebook pages and drop  a line.

Thank you for participating in the First Annual Trick or Treat Blog Adventure. Click here to continue the tour. Hopefully you’ve found a new favorite Author and I’ve found a favorite new reader. Happy Holidays!