I’ve always found horror movies and scary books/comics enjoyable, but what really gets me going is when people tell me their real life stories of the unexplained. They’re never as finely crafted or expertly told, but they’re fucking real and that’s what makes them so fascinating. I can deal with the lack of backstory or closure, hazy details and half memories; because I know that this isn’t some Hollywood bullshit. This is what’s really out there, and this is the way it really intersects with our daily lives.
So just in time for Halloween here are two eerie tales from my own life. Don’t expect phone calls coming from the attic or hooks left dangling on side view mirrors, just a couple really bizarre happenings from a Midwestern America.
The summer after 8th grade was full of graduation parties. Backyard BBQ’s, VFW hall throw downs, they ran the gambit. At that age they’re more for the parents than for the kids. None of us were old enough to drink, and we’d all had cheese burgers off the grill before. No, the 8th grade graduation party was a time honored way of the recent graduate to pay his parents back for all the hell to come by giving them an excuse to throw a party.
One such party I attended was thrown at a country club in the surrounding suburbs. The kid was a friend of ours, not super close but part of the extended family of misfits we hung out with in grade school. Only a few of us classmates were invited and once we got there we discovered there was little to do but wander around the forest preserve adjacent to the club.
I remember walking down the trail with my two friends and noticing something shiny and metallic catching my eye through the bush. I stopped the other two and pointed it out to them. For a good 5 minutes we tried to make out exactly what it was from our current vantage point but to no avail, the brush was too thick. Finally, one of my more courageous friends decided to go in and investigate. The second such a feat was even suggested I remember by body being overwhelmed with dread.
No. It’s not safe. Are you crazy? You are NOT crawling into the woods to investigate some mysterious object.
I will never be able to possess the words to convey the way I felt that afternoon. It’s a feeling I’ve known a only couple times in my life. Usually seconds before you get into a car accident that you see coming, or just before some drunk dude kicks your ass in the parking lot of bar. Standing there, on that bike path in that forest preserve in broad daylight I was sure that whatever lay just behind those bushes, was something I did not want to see.
Whatever interior dialogue I possessed that was psyching me out my friend clearly did not have, and sure as shit he bounded into the woods to go investigate. About 30 seconds later he called to us from the other side to join him, insisting to us that it was all perfectly safe. Hesitant I decided to enter.
On the other side of the thicket was a small clearing, covered on all sides with the same dense foliage, and in the center of the clearing, what had caught our attention from the path, was a bright, shiny, classic car. I knew even less about cars then than I do now so I’m not going to pretend I knew the make model and year. I have no clue, and when I think back to try and remember to look pictures up online or something I can’t trust that memory. The car keeps shifting from the old car my buddy Scotty D used to cruise around in in high school to the Buick 8 on the cover of Steven King’s From a Buick 8.
Still, there in the middle of this clearing stood this car. Pristine condition, totally untouched. We stood there marveling at it for a moment before the feeling came over me again…the one telling me to run. The other guys didn’t seem too concerned one way or the other, at this point my constant paranoia was becoming a joke, and with little prodding we left the clearing more out of boredom then any sense of self preservation. We all climbed out of the woods, and found our way back to the party.
Then, about a day or two later it hit me…
The brush around the clearing was completely intact, so there’s no way the car could have been driven in there recently without doing damage to the foliage OR the car itself. Both were in pristine condition, almost as if the car had mysterious materialized in the clearing (or possibly not even been a car at all). Moreover none of us seemed to notice this at the time, and when I called my friends a few days later to discuss it, they seemed totally uninterested. There was no discussion of how or why the car was even there in the first place. We just seemed to happen upon this totally illogical scenario, shrug our shoulders and then just move on about our day.
For some reason, even years later it still bothers me. How did this mysterious car find its way there, how long had it been there, and to what purpose? None of it makes any sense.
The next story happened several years later after we all had graduated high school. Most of the people I knew in high school all went away to college, leaving a rag tag group of derelicts behind terrorize the neighborhood (for the record I was in film school, but one located downtown allowing me to still live at home). There were only so many of us left, so those first couple months unlikely friendships were formed at every turn. It was towards the ass end of October when I started hanging out with this friend of a friend that owned a monster truck. Not like Bigfoot or anything, but just a really big souped up truck meant for off-roading. A couple nights a week we’d grab a case of beer and head off into the woods. Once again high strangeness eventually followed.
Now (much like with the last story) for being the third largest population center in the United States, Chicago has a lot of dense wooded areas surrounding it, particularly on the south side where we all lived. All you had to do was drive a couple more miles south and west to hit a deer in the middle of the night. I knew kids in high school that coyote problems, shit like that. This was still the Midwest we’re talking about here. We were out one night exploring one of the wooded areas in late October when we found a nice little spot not too far from home. There was some intense yet fun off road driving required to get back to this clearing that ran alongside the I-294 expressway overpass. Once settled we’d setup shop, listen to classic rock and kill beers before heading back at a somewhat reasonable hour to be up in time for work or school the next morning.
For the most part we’d never leave the truck except to piss. It was chilly out and there was little point in standing around the woods unless we absolutely had to. Plus there was that feeling again…that tenseness in the air that you get when isolated from the rest of the world. We weren’t out in the middle of nowhere, but we didn’t have to be. We were far enough that our screams for help would never be answered. Half a mile into a forest preserve or the dark side of the moon, when you get right down to it, it doesn’t really matter.
So I’m out of the truck taking a piss one night, and on my way back I see two guys talking to my friends in the truck. They were dressed pretty normal for fall in the Midwest, jeans and a jacket or something maybe. No dog though, which was my first indication that something was weird about our two parties crossing paths out here in the middle of nowhere. One of the dudes was talking to my buddy in the driver seat about the size of the truck’s engine or whatever, and as I approached the scene I started to feel that chill. My buddies seemed oblivious to the whole situation but I sensed something was off. As I enter the scene I can feel the tension level rise across the board. I say hello to them, fear in my voice because they’re standing in-between me and the safety of being inside the truck. The second guy, the one not talking to my friend speaks up.
“How many of you are there out here?”
His intrusion kills the conversation and my buddy in the driver seat informs him it’s just the three of us.
“How many of YOU are there out here” I reply with. Everyone starts laughing immediately, eager to break the tension. The two men take that as their cue and they excuse themselves and walk back into the woods. I hop back in the truck and my buddy riding shotgun hits me up for another beer.
“Who the fuck were they?”
“Just some dudes”
“Just some dudes? Where did they come from?”
“Ok so those two guys just came out of the woods and walked up to the truck. What were they doing out here?”
“I don’t know, probably the same thing we’re doing out here. They said this isn’t a safe place to go off-roading, real easy to get stuck…”
“Yeah except they didn’t have a case of beer, or a truck. You guys didn’t find anything weird about that?”
“No Pat, quit being such a fucking pussy”
The next week they drove out there on Halloween. I was invited but wouldn’t go with. As luck would have it they ended up getting so drunk the truck got stuck and they had to walk home. When they went back to get it the next day the truck was ripped to pieces. Windows smashed, engine wires torn out, the fucking steering wheel was even gone. They should’ve listened to those guys. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that when strange men walk up to you in the woods in the middle of the night and tell you things, you fucking listen.
Prevailing theory on this one; Satanists. Maybe pot growers too, but Satanist make the better story.
So that’s it. Like I said earlier, they might not be much to look at but they got it where it counts. Next time you’re with someone, ask them if they have any tales of high strangeness to share. You’d be surprised how many people have these small fractured little incomplete spooky stories. I’ve had people tell me ghost stories about the houses they grew up in, stories about blue green monsters they swore lived in their backyard as a kid, dead relatives visiting them, shit like that. If we truly believe that we live in a world where all this stuff is possible, then we need to know how to realize it when we see it. The underground isn’t called the underground because it’s out in the open.