You may have noticed I’ve been very irregular lately. I have no excuse for this lack of movement, save for procrastination and good habits being much harder to reclaim than bad ones. It’s …
You may have noticed I’ve been very irregular lately. I have no excuse for this lack of movement, save for procrastination and good habits being much harder to reclaim than bad ones. It’s kind of telling that this is my Halloween column, and you may recall I hinted of this lateness problem in my April Fools’ column late last May.
Nonetheless, Halloween reminded me of an eerie period of my humble upbringing in rural Pennsylvania dairy farm country. No, there were no demon-possessed cows or anything, but some spooky things went down which to date have never been explained
We lived on a dirt road with Lemon Hollsopple’s farm (he had a brother named Orange, which is kinda scary on its own) several hundred yards up the road. Walking the length of our blackberry patch through the west end of Lemon’s huge field lies the “Old Blough Graveyard,” maybe a quarter-mile from our house. Many planted there were Bloughs, but a few Hershberger, Yoder and Stutzman names engraved the crude tombstones.
This little cemetery surrounded by a rickety fence and a couple rotting pine trees was spooky in itself. The fact that our old house — “The old Blough Schoolhouse” that dad bought long before I arrived — had plenty of creaks and furnace groans at night added to the acoustical chill.
Don’t be thrown by the name “Blough” scattered throughout this account, as back there, Blough is as common as Smith or Thomas. In fact, there’s a little town called Blough a couple miles from nearby Hollsopple, just a stone’s throw from Gobbler’s Hollow.
Anyhoo, events turned from superstitiously daunting to maliciously haunting about the time little sister Joy went from animal-savior, painfully shy introvert to Homecoming Queen her senior year. I think the sudden attention may have kind of blown her innocent mind.
So sister Wanda, two years older than me, had a sexy, yet ghoulish, makeup-caked, oddball friend named Alice who would stop to visit. If Wanda wasn’t home, I’d often end up making out with Alice in my room and/or Joy and Alice would play with a Ouija board in Joy and Wanda’s room next to mine.
Eerie occurrences commenced, culminating one night when Wanda awoke in the middle of the night and yelled at Joy to quit playing the guitar when she was trying to sleep. Further inspection revealed Joy wasn’t in the room and the guitar was leaning against the wall. Scampering, and who could blame her, to the kitchen, she saw Joy drinking coffee alone.
The reason for Joy’s late-night solitude? “I heard the guitar playing by itself and was scared,” she explained. Well, pop threw that Ouija board into the coal furnace the next day. This all happened soon after I saw The Exorcist at the theater, and the terrifying nightmares began visiting in the ensuing weeks. I blame the movie for me frequently dreaming I was peeing on the living room carpet in front of company.
And that’s how it was, some 45 years ago. More than a decade later, the old Blough Schoolhouse burned to the ground — soon after brother Paul and I had gone back home to move our elderly parents into a nearby town apartment, near Wanda and her husband. I’ll never forget the call from my buddy one morning asking, “So you haven’t heard?” Two thousand miles away, I obviously hadn’t, so he explained, “Don’t worry; everyone’s safe, but your parent’s house burned down last night.”
Did those Ouija board ashes get its final revenge? Well, that would be purely conjecture, but you do the math. Regardless, insurance paid for a new house, built with an efficiency apartment so Wanda and Skip could move in as full-time caretakers. Truly a blessing-in-disguise, and the pouting evil spirits were never heard from again ...
That being said, as they say, I hereby promise to submit future columns in a more timely manner. Be sure not to miss my upcoming Thanksgiving column, possibly well before New Year’s Eve.
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