Ravenwood, Chapter 7 [fiction]

Halloween Tales, Part 1:

On Halloween night, 1971, I visited Vree and her cousins behind the Everly house. I met Dave and Amy’s dad, Parker, who was Ravenwood’s high school art teacher. I love to draw and paint, so I was comfortable talking to him about the subject. Art was also Vree’s passion and Parker, who insisted I not call him Mr. Everly—“I hear that at school all the time”—told me that Vree painted beautiful landscapes.

I insisted to see one and she told me I would have to wait until another time.

It was there that I discovered her first name was actually Verawenda and that Vree was a nickname, a result of her initials VRE, which stood for Verawenda Renee Erikson.

She and her cousins—Dave, mostly—gave me a grand tour of the Everly homestead. The house was a vintage 4-bedroom farmhouse (circa early 1900’s). The largest bedroom upstairs was Parker’s art studio. Amy’s bedroom was a smaller room, and Dave’s bedroom was the smallest, which had bunk beds. Dave always took the top bunk.

Downstairs, the house had an eat-in country kitchen with Pergo flooring and a wall of floor to ceiling cabinets. French doors separated the family room from the living room. The living room’s bay window faced Ridge Road and had a reading seat built below. The room was also the family library. Among the several shelves of books were Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Old Curiosity Shop and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; Moby-Dick by Herman Melville; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis—all of them classics in literature. Also among those old books was Dracula by Bram Stoker, which was a favorite of Dave’s. Mine too.

Dave liked to watch horror shows on television. So did I. The daytime TV Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows—a series about witches, ghosts, vampires and werewolves that ran from 1966 to 1971—had been a favorite. (Later, TV movies The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973) starring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, would prove to be fun and chilling to watch. In fact, they, along with earlier TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and the films Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Bad Seed (1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Innocents (1961), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), influenced my writing during my spookier visits to Myers Ridge.)

We eventually made it back outside to the campfire where Parker had arranged a circle of folding lawn chairs. I sat next to Vree, who sat next to her uncle, the only adult at the house then. His wife, Sunni—Vree’s maternal aunt and the high school music and English teacher—was at the school for a Halloween musical that involved grades four to six.

Parker passed around a plate of hotdogs, which he had already roasted over the fire, then passed around packages of buns before he began telling us about seeing a ghost walking through the backyard while we were inside.

“It was Norman Myers’s ghost, probably looking for the person who killed him. But that person is likely a ghost too.”

I chuckled and he said to Amy who sat on the other side of him, “We have a skeptic. You two should get along famously.”

Amy scowled at him and said nothing.

He turned to me and said, “I first saw Norman’s ghost when I was a Boy Scout hiking the hillsides with my troop. We’ve all seen him, except Amy. But if you believe, then you may see him from the corner of your eye as he searches for his murderer.”

I didn’t know much about Norman Myers, so Dave gave me a quick history lesson.

Myers Ridge received its official name in 1801 when Jonah Myers purchased the property from the state. Jonah Myers and his family were sheep and goat farmers during a time when the wool industry was strong. Later, in 1891, Jonah’s grandson Norman found gold on his property. For a decade, he and his family hauled out ores and precious metals and occasionally squabbled over mining rights. Then, according to legend, Norman’s mines dried up ten years later, on the very anniversary of his discovery. Not long afterwards, Norman disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. Some suspected James McCoy, an angry business partner, murdered him. Soon afterward, people reported seeing Norman’s ghost haunting the hill. His family claimed his body lay inside one of his many abandoned mines and would haunt the land until either he found his killer, or someone found his bodily remains and gave him a proper burial.

I chewed on my hotdog and for a moment, I thought I saw a wispy shape pass across the dark backyard.

To be continued.

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