The Ghostly Accidents
When October winds tear at leafless branches, it is time to gather around the fire and tell a few old tales that tighten the scalp and raise bumps on your arms. The best tales are true or least seem true. And sometimes the best tales are new.
Just North of what is now Bigfoot Burl, I grew up in an old homestead. The rambling old barn stared down through the century. Built in the early years of settling the area, it was held together with wooden pegs not nails. Maybe it was this lack of iron (oldtimers believed iron kept evil spirits away) that drew in the ghosts. The ancient orchard below the house yielded a bounty of arrowheads and other Indian artifacts so maybe it was that which drew the spirits. Whatever the reason, stories of ghostly happenings crept into conversation almost every day. A grey lady might be seen at any time wandering the house but she mostly sat in the rocking chair and peaceful creaked from front to back, strange sounds occured randomly, often items would crash off shelves without anyone apparently in the room, and the barn…well, no one went into that spider filled darkness willingly.
I think what most likely drew in the spirits were the terrible traffic accidents. Or, more likely, the ghosts caused the crashes. The road is straightened now but then there was a sharp elbow of a turn in the road that flung cars over the embankment and towards our home. The last year, we had thirteen terrible crashes in less than a full twelve months. I remember that October working with my Mother and brother at the kitchen table. Savagely slashing holes in paper grocery bags, my brother and I were happily creating masks and Mom was washing dishes when a Semi roared off the road towards us, its lights like flames pouring through the brush and into our eyes. Screaming, we all fled into the livingroom. My dad quickly raced out of the house in his slippers. There he found the smoke pouring from the hot engine, the driver slumped unconsious against a locked door, and gas leaking from the overturned tank. Unable to open the door, Dad was able to drag the trucker to safety but the kitchen table never quite felt safe again. Not long after that, he found another driver flung out the Jaguar that had overturned not far from the barn. That driver slumped at the same table slowly drip, dripping blood into a speading dark red puddle on the floor before he went off to the doctor.
Just north of the dangerous curve was Twin Tree Bridge (the freeway overtops this now), our neighbors there had a spirit, too. I remember standing in their yard and listening. Once I heard it, and I heard it loud. The sound of a galloping horse. Hoofbeats rang out against stone not far away-quiet at first, then almost thunderous as it passed, finally fading away in the distance,
When Caltrans tore down the barn and poured black asphalt over that area, the accidents stopped. I know this was because the elbow curve has been tamed but I wonder if the spirits are restless under their black sealed tomb. Can they ever get out?
I drive pretty fast as a rule but not over that stretch of the road and I keep a lookout for a ghostly rider.