Ravenwood Revisited, Part 4 [world building]

Revealing the Dragon.

Around us in air, water, land and fire, there are realms that for the most part go unseen by many. These strange and fascinating worlds exist beyond the fabric of our periphery, dwelling within the wilds of every race and culture, and revealed by the greatest unknown, to them with minds utterly open.

The Story Not Written.

Kinsey Avery (her names translate to “victorious elf ruler”) is 14 and lives at Alice Lake with her maternal grandparents John and Evelyn Lybrook. She has dark brown eyes and hair, is 5’ 4”, and is a typical American teen who wears T-shirts, shorts and sandals or tennis shoes in summer, and sweat clothes in winter. She isn’t much of a blue jeans girl, or even one to wear a swimsuit during summertime like other lake girls, though she does wears them … occasionally.

Kinsey is one of a rare few who can see the spiritual warfare underlying the events in Ravenwood. Unbeknownst to her and others, she is gifted with magical powers bequeathed to her from an angelus (spirit angel) that possessed her while she was an embryo. Her mother, a scientist and researcher living in Germany, gave birth to her there. While growing up under the watchful eye of a nanny, a car struck and killed Kinsey’s nanny when Kinsey was 5. At that age, she thought the woman’s death was temporary. But as she grew older and came to understand the finality of death, she began to have nightmares about the accident and of death itself. At 8, she withdrew emotionally, isolating herself from people and daily activities. Her mother took leave from work and raised Kinsey for two years, taking her to a psychiatrist. During that time, she spoke only to her maternal grandmother, Evelyn, during phone conversations. The two bonded and Kinsey spent the summer living with John and Evelyn. The stay became longer when her parents went to Antarctica for scientific study during the summer months there (wintertime at Alice Lake and the rest of North America). At Alice Lake, Kinsey was befriended by Drengwyn (Dreng means “warrior” and wyn means “friend”), a six-inch blue-green water sprite, and by Deogorand (Deogol means “secret” and rand means “shield”), an ethereal and black and white piebald eagle-like creature with black wings whose origins are initially unknown. Together, along with a magic spell by Drengwyn, they helped ease Kinsey’s fear of death and made life magical and fun.

Kinsey’s parents returned to Germany for six months, and then opted for a yearlong stay in Antarctica. During this time, after she turned 12, Kinsey began to see Fyrenattors (Fyren means “wicked” and attor means “venom”)—ethereal and shadowy snake-like creatures all twisted, ugly, and full of bitterness. Fyrenattors invade people’s homes, attach themselves to their victims’ backs like leeches, feed and multiply on negative emotions, and turn from yellow to blue as they feed. They may kill their victims by using mind control to lead them to water and drown them, or, in the case of fully fed Fyrenattors that have turned dark blue, inject venom with their fangs.

Note: Ethereal beings, according to some belief systems and occult theories, are mystic entities that usually are not made of ordinary matter. And although they are essentially incorporeal, they do interact in physical shapes with the material universe and travel between the mystical and the everyday world. Given the lack of scientific evidence of their existence, science does not acknowledge as factual, though paranormal researchers and psychics claim them as real.

Because Kinsey can see them, Fyrenattors are wary of her. She chose to guard the nearby water park and its surrounding wilderness, a regional spawning ground for Fyrenattors. Though she spoke to her grandparents about these invisible creatures, John and Evelyn believe she has an overactive imagination. Kinsey accepted their disbelief and continued her role as protector, aided by Drengwyn. Deogorand, who appears at opportune moments to protect her from danger, also aids Kinsey.

Another creature that hunts Alice Lake is the Boreogra, a hairy, powerful magic fish- and beast-like creature that lives at the bottom of Alice Lake; known for coming to land at night during a new moon and devouring people, often anglers and campers. The Boreogra looks like a water buffalo with horns that grow from its head and from a crocodile-length snout full of sharp teeth. Gills/operculum in its neck helps it to breathe underwater, webbed hooves help it to swim, and dorsal and pectoral fins help it maneuver. Bore is derived from the drilling tool; “its horns are shaped like bores,” and ogre, which is a giant or monster in legends and fairy tales who eats humans. Note: I borrowed the word Bore from The Wheel of Time books, epic fantasy novels written by American author Robert Jordan (a pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr.). The Bore is a pathway that allows the Dark One to reach out into the physical world.

Kinsey’s troubles begin on the night of July first when 14-year-old Dave Everly (Kinsey’s neighbor at Alice Lake) awakens from a nightmare. He goes to his kitchen and drinks a glass of milk. There he sees that he forgot to take out the garbage after supper, so he carries out the bag while in his bathrobe and slippers. Outside, he sees his 9-year-old neighbor Trixie Clark sneaking from her home next door. It is late, so he follows her. He takes no flashlight, so he loses her in the darkness. She is running away from an abusive father who beat her earlier that night. She hears Dave calling her name and thinks it is her father. She hides under the bridge that crosses Myers Creek while Dave heads down a side street where one of her friends lives. Beneath the bridge, unseen creatures called Fyrenattors attack the girl.

Meanwhile, Drengwyn awakens Kinsey and informs her that Trixie has run away from home and is at Myers Creek where Fyrenattors are attacking her. Kinsey hurries to the site and fights with magic to rescue Trixie, but a Fyrenattor drowns the girl. Kinsey is almost overrun by Fyrenattors until Deogorand appears, fending them off and then driving them to Alice Lake. Kinsey pulls Trixie’s body from the creek and calls her grandfather for help.

Unbeknownst to Kinsey and most of the other populace at the lake, a demon named Keir Severin came to Ravenwood earlier that day in search of “a girl there with strong magic.” His magic is limited and mostly allows him the ability to influence people’s thoughts. Note: Keir Severin (both names mean “dark” and “severe”) is an ageless demon inhabiting a human male body. In human form, he wants to be his own man—to have fun and make his own rules as he goes along. He sees the mortal world as a joy-kill, filled with bosses and other authority figures who want riches and to take fun out of life. He believes he is special and above all laws—both man-made and universal, including the ones that govern the realm of his current existence. He is attractive and someone who genuinely loves mortal women. They captivate him. He can read their thoughts and pretend to understand them and be committed to their desires and needs. He loves everything about women, but never views them (or any mortal) as equal or better than himself. And women love him—his free spirit is an inspiration. He encourages women to be strong, tough and sensual. Many are forever changed by his friendship and often leave bad relationships because of the strength he gives them. He’s a best friend to them. He transforms them into strong beings with higher self-esteem. All women are beautiful to him, and he tells them so often. Beneath it all, he refuses to commit to any one woman. This is when most women realize he was only the catalyst to find their inner strength, and they don’t need him to feel complete.

Keir’s utmost motivation, however, is to destroy Kinsey and take her magic. He knows how powerful she is and he wants that power for himself. To get close, he befriended Morris Clark (Trixie’s father) earlier, a local roof repairer and alcoholic. Keir influenced him to let him stay in the guest room of his home. That evening, he overpowered the mind of Morris’s 15-year-old son, Jayden and placed the boy in a long and deep sleep for the night. Then he placed in Morris’s mind the idea of beating Trixie for talking back. Prior to that, he placed in Trixie’s mind the idea to run away if ever her father was mean to her again.

After the beating, Keir erased Morris’s memory and powered him into a sleeping spell. As Trixie ran off, he mustered all his energy and transported himself to Myers Creek where he stirred the Fyrenattors with the little magic he had left. He enticed the creatures to attack Trixie, hoping that it would lure the girl with the powerful magic (Kinsey) outdoors. It did and he watched in the shadows while she and Deogorand fought off the Fyrenattors.

The following morning, Kinsey’s grandmother Evelyn talks to her about Trixie Clark’s death. She knows that at 14, Kinsey still has an occasional nightmare about death. But Kinsey feels strongly about life and all the drownings caused by the Fyrenattors—more strongly than she cares for her own safety. Kinsey would not hesitate to come to the aid of another person no matter the risk to herself. And Evelyn knows that Kinsey’s friendship with Drengwyn is the most important relationship she has. That she spends as much time in nature as possible and the solitude of walking at night concerns Evelyn. She tells Kinsey to be careful. Kinsey explains that walking in the crisp night air brings her back into balance, and with Drengwyn at her side, she is never afraid of being out at night.

Kinsey is an “earth mother” of sorts, taking up the causes of recycling and protecting the earth’s resources. While out collecting litter from areas near the lake, she meets up with her friends Jayden Clark (Trixie’s older brother and whom she has a crush on), Brody Penley, and Amy Everly. She tells Jayden how sorry she is for his loss; he asks if she and her grandmother are coming to the church service for Trixie that afternoon. She says yes and he leaves. Soon, they run into a teen bully named Mick Weed, and Kinsey uses magic to knock him to the ground to protect her friends.

Later that day after lunch, an alarmed Drengwyn leads Kinsey to a spot on Alice Lake where, upon diving, they find a pile of glowing rocks at the bottom. According to Drengwyn, an ancient civilization put the rocks there over two thousand years ago to imprison a terrible creature. Soon after, a plague killed the ancients, as well as all of Drengwyn’s people. She is the sole survivor and considers it her responsibility to watch over the quartz-containing geodes held strong by a magic spell cast by her own kind. She tells Kinsey that the creature imprisoned inside is a powerful magic beast called a Boreogra, known for coming to land at night and devouring multitudes of people. Now, something is draining the magic spell’s power and the Boreogra is threatening to break free. With Drengwyn’s help, Kinsey uses her own magic to strengthen the prison’s integrity.

Drengwyn describes the Boreogra as a type of aquatic water buffalo with horns that grow from its head and from a crocodile-length snout full of sharp teeth. An ancient magic protects it well—nothing can kill it except an even older magic. Before the ancients imprisoned the Boreogra to Alice Lake and its shores, it was both a land and water dweller and consumed both plants and meat. As a carnivore, its sharp teeth and horns made it a gruesome killer of human beings. As an intelligent creature, it was not satisfied with merely eating humans but loved hunting them relentlessly at night, preferring to attack in darkness during a new moon, and then slaying and devouring its prey before swimming off at sunrise, spending the day sleeping at the bottom of Alice Lake. It breathes underwater through gill-like structures on either side of its neck, and can dwell in any body of water in any climate. Other Boreogras dwell worldwide, though they are not imprisoned. This Boreogra survives off protein found in the lake’s mud and silt floor.

Other features of the Boreogra are yellowish sharp teeth and horns, a muscular and heavy-set body, though very agile, and hooves with webbing between each claw. Its snout is crocodile-like and its mouth large. Its eyes are small and beady and glow like bluish green lanterns. It is hairy, though its belly has fishlike scales, and giant warts protrude from the hair covering its back.

Meanwhile, a brooding Dave Everly can be distant for days at a time, so his parents are enforcing rules and regulations that he spend time outdoors, thereby giving up his isolated lifestyle. Sunni, his mother, orders him to go outside and “get some sunlight.” He rides his bike on a walkway built along the shore of the lake, and sees Kinsey dive from her boat. When she stays underwater for longer than five minutes, he is afraid that she has drowned. He calls 911, then dives into the lake and swims toward Kinsey’s boat. An unseen force (a Fyrenattor) pulls him underwater. Miraculously, he gets away (not knowing what happened) and swims ashore when rescue arrives. They see Kinsey is alive as she speeds her boat toward shore. Embarrassed, Dave dresses and rides off. Later, at Trixie’s church service, he tries speaking to Kinsey but a powerful feeling of alarm and dread overwhelms her. Keir Severin is there and Dave recognizes the man from his last nightmare. He follows Kinsey outside where he tells her about his last dream, in which he fought with a man who looked like Keir. The man bested him and told him to “stay away from the girl with the powerful magic.”

Kinsey recognizes that she’s the girl mentioned in Dave’s dream, but she says nothing until he asks her how she was able to stay underwater for ten minutes without coming up for air. She is torn to tell him until Drengwyn—who is there to tell Kinsey that the spell isn’t holding—falls from her perch where she was eavesdropping. Kinsey then tells Dave (who has never seen a water sprite before) the story about the imprisoned Boreogra and how she had used magic to try to strengthen the creature’s prison. Just as she finishes, she feels alarm and dread reaching out to her. As Keir approaches, she runs off.

That evening, Kinsey sneaks out after dark to a prearranged meeting with Jayden Clark. Morris, who is outside with Keir Severin, catches them kissing and grounds his son, but not after striking him. Kinsey comes face to face with Keir and runs home afraid.

The next day, July 3, after Trixie Clark’s showing and quick funeral service at the local cemetery, Kinsey attends a church picnic at the lake with her grandmother and finds the Fyrenattors crawling from the lake, invisible to the others. Deogorand, also invisible to the others, appears and scares them off. The Fyrenattors have never entered on land before sunset, and Kinsey realizes that Keir Severin must be nearby, though she feels no alarm or dread as she did at the church. Because of this, Keir easily confronts her in the parking lot, threatens her, and demonstrates his increasing magic abilities by killing a church member by stopping her heart. He taunts Kinsey, telling her he can do anything he wants to her and her magic is powerless to stop him.

Later, a drunken Morris Clark confronts Kinsey’s grandmother, Evelyn, alone at the Lybrook house. He is upset that he has memory lapses and he is certain it has something to do with Kinsey. Evelyn protects herself with a shotgun when Morris advances, using it to wound him in the leg. He flees and she calls the police. They find Jayden Clark beaten and in a coma at the Clark house.

Morris uses his boat to row across the lake to hide out in his hunting cabin in the woods. When he reaches the other side, Keir Severin is waiting. Morris attacks him with an oar and is killed by magic. Keir rows to the middle of the lake and dumps Morris’s body overboard. Then he captures Drengwyn who is busy observing the fracturing of the Boreogra’s prison.

Meanwhile, Dave wants to know more about the Boreogra, a species not found on the Internet. He seeks out Kinsey, pursuing the mysterious pretty neighbor girl who has captured his interest (as well as his heart). Wanting to know everything about her, he becomes inquisitive to the point of driving Kinsey crazy. Then, taking on the role of an intellectual, he tries to manipulate her into doing what he would do if he were she. He uses questions such as “Well did you think about this…?” to throw doubt at her, implying she needs his help to save the Boreogra. He tells her that she must fine-tune her magic’s frequency to match the magic that keeps the monster inside its prison. If not, her magic could further weaken the power of the original magic.

At first, Kinsey welcomes Dave’s questions and caution as helpful, but he causes conflict for her by:

(1) Constantly throwing questions at her every decision, thereby slowing down her progress, and

(2) sapping so much of her energy by pulling her in different directions, e.g., she makes a decision and then he keeps making her run around in circles, changing her mind back and forth over it. When she realizes what Dave is doing, she becomes angry.

Certain that he is wrong—what does he know about the subject?—she tells him that she feels Keir Severin is responsible for the drain of magic at the prison. And she points out rather haughtily that Drengwyn will figure out a way to keep the Boreogra inside its prison.

Personality note: When stressed, Kinsey can be very opinionated and thickheaded—puts blinders on; everything but the goal at hand is forgotten. She can be irrational because of her need to win at all costs. She can be boastful. And she may take on the traits of her aggressors to feel equal to them.

“My magic is strong enough to keep the Boreogra imprisoned,” she tells Dave, then takes him to the site to prove it. However, when they get there, the prison is empty. On the way back, the Boreogra attacks from underwater and overturns their boat. Kinsey uses her magic to save Dave’s life.

As the threat of the dangers become clear to him, Dave feels like the whole world is at stake and Kinsey owes it to everyone to be sure about her actions and decisions. On shore, he tells her that the safety of the town’s residents depends solely on her. Annoyed by being told what to do, Kinsey tells him to leave her alone.

Personality note: Internally, Dave is developing a stronger drive toward the opposite sex, which makes him feel awkward when he is around Kinsey. He is afraid of his emotions about sex and the strong attraction he has to her, so when she dismisses him, he feels heartbroken and demoralized. He withdraws inside his bedroom, becomes antisocial and doesn’t care how his actions affect his family.

Meanwhile, Kinsey discovers Drengwyn missing. At home, she prepares to face the Boreogra after dark when he will come ashore looking for humans to kill. While at rest, she feels her magic power increasing inside her. During this time, Evelyn asks her why she won’t trust others to help her, and goes on to say “Growth comes from those who can teach.”

That evening, before Kinsey heads out, Evelyn cautions her with “Do not enjoy your magic world too much to seek relationships.”

At the lake, Kinsey is able to muster enough magic to defeat the creature. But it leaves her weak and she must flee from the Fyrenattors.

During this time, Dave is still angry and hurt. He has an argument with his mother about getting out of the house and “getting some fresh air.” Feeling wounded, he is willing (perhaps a bit too eagerly) to argue with others without regard to their feelings. His attitude toward Kinsey now is scornful and mocking.

Meanwhile, Keir Severin hears from the Fyrenattors that Kinsey’s magic is weak, so he goes to confront her at home. Along the way, he senses Dave’s black mood.

Dave, who has stormed out of the house, attracts the attention of Keir Severin who enters his mind and tempts him to go to the other side and experiment with dark magic to gain power over Kinsey. He controls the boy’s mind and leads him to overpower and tie up Kinsey’s grandmother when she tries to intervene. Keir then confronts Kinsey when she returns home, and he teaches her of her past. Kinsey learns/remembers that Keir bewitched and impregnated her first mother in Germany and bore him a daughter, Diana Engel (which means heavenly angel. Diana is derived from an old Indo-European root meaning “heavenly, divine” and is related to the old Indo-European god Dyeus. Diana was a Roman goddess of the moon, hunting, forests, and childbirth, often identified with the Greek goddess Artemis, goddess of the moon and hunting, the twin of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was known as Diana to the Romans.).

Note: Diana Engel was born on August 27 (Julian calendar) or September 6 (Gregorian calendar), 1634, at the start of the Battle of Nördlingen (Schlacht bei Nördlingen) during the Thirty Years’ War. Diana was part demon and part human, and she regenerated/incarnated her demon self when her mortal self died and her demon essence inhabit a nearby unborn child. Her last regeneration/reincarnation inhabited an embryo possessed by an angelus (spirit angel)—a messenger sent to Earth every 400 years. (The angelus takes human form and leads humankind closer to righteousness.) The demon and angelus intertwined inside Kinsey, and now, part demon and angel, she possesses great power. Keir, who spawned Diana who became Kinsey, desires to have her power. He works with no help from other demons (he is a lone wolf), so he enlists the help from vulnerable humans.

Keir reveals that he wants Kinsey to reconcile with him—“To be father and daughter and govern the Earth”—but she refuses. During the ensuing battle, he accidentally wounds Dave. Kinsey holds Keir at bay with her magic for a time, but when he is about to kill Evelyn, Deogorand rushes forth and knocks aside Keir. Kinsey takes advantage of the distraction and kills Keir in a sudden surge of hatred and hostility—aggressive, erratic and reckless behavior. Blind with fury, her rage is swift and it knocks her off her feet. As she falls, Deogorand flies away and she loses her magic ability.

With Keir Severin dead, the spell Dave was under disappears, and he sees Kinsey at her lowest. He chooses to cast aside his anger, go to her, and console her, but she storms out and searches in vain for her missing Drengwyn, whom Keir had captured at the lake. She collapses at their favorite spot near the lake as fireworks explode over the lake. In the explosions, she sees that she fought fire with fire and defeated her enemy, but lost her magic because she chose to let rage and the demon part of her control her actions. She would have sacrificed herself to get to her enemy. Instead, she sacrificed her goodness—her angelus magic.

During her lowest point, Fyrenattors attack her. Powerless, she is chased away and returns home to find that her grandmother has dressed Dave’s wounds. She embraces him and apologizes, then goes to bed.

The next day is the Fourth of July, and Kinsey still feels lost. She spends the day with her grandmother, but goes nowhere beyond the house. Dave visits her that night and they watch more fireworks over the lake.

The following day, July 5, Jayden comes out of his coma. His mother, Cecilia (called home by Sunni Everly and other concerned neighbors) is at his bedside, and is there with other relatives. When Kinsey arrives at Ravenwood Hospital, a nurse informs her that Jayden has too many visitors. Unwilling to imposition Jayden’s family, she leaves and Evelyn drives her home. Her friends invite her to swim at the lake. She goes, but is reticent.

Later, after her friends go home and she is lying alone on the beach, invisible forces accost her by dragging her into the lake and pressing her underwater. She knows the Fyrenattors are trying to drown her. Somehow, they are able to attack during the day now, and she has no magic to fight them. As they drag her out to deeper water, she is convinced that she will die.

Suddenly, she sees a gleaming Deogorand—a white creature now with no markings whatsoever—break the water’s surface. It plows its way into her sternum, fills her with bright light until once again angelus magic fills her. She destroys the evil creatures and swims ashore. As she heads for home, running and calling for her grandmother, she hears Drengwyn calling for her. She finds the water sprite captive in a weighted drinking glass inside the Clark house.

At her grandparents’ home, Dave sits on the porch with her grandmother. Though Evelyn cannot see the sprite, Dave can. “You have a gift of sight,” Drengwyn tells him. (Note: Until then, Dave has seen only ghosts.) Evelyn explains that the attack from Keir Severin’s magic may have sparked Dave’s own magic, and that everyone has magic in them to some degree.

Later that night, Kinsey falls asleep, aware of her past and anticipating her future.




Ravenwood Revisited, Part 3 [world building]

Revealing the Dragon.

The beautiful and single Lisa Franklin revealed to him that she was merely a Sunday painter. Still, he gushed uncontrollably about art and favorite artists. Somehow, he managed to impress her enough to exchange deliberations about society’s perception of artists in the twenty-first century. Spinning merry fancy inside his overactive mind, he barely heard her when she offered to share a weekend outing to the countryside to paint a particular lakeside landscape she had seen during her move to Ravenwood. He nearly hugged her before thoughts of Nancy pulled his arms down and caused him to take a step back.

Alice Lake.

Like Myers Ridge, Alice Lake is center stage for many of my stories because of its eerie history dating back to when it was called Lac Petit-Miroir (which means “Little Mirror Lake”). It seems there was UFO activity at the lake during 1745 to 1747. Eyewitnesses claimed of seeing strange lights gather over the center of the lake at midnight, then whirl like “dust devils” and “water spouts” for several minutes before vanishing into the lake. The activity stopped after the 1747 incident described by Ezekiel Wood.

Lac Petit-Miroir was renamed in 1863 and its name is attributed to Alice Myers, wife of the lake community’s mayor George Myers. (Alice is paternal grandmother to Joseph Myers who once lived on Myers Ridge. Joseph is a ghost who appears in my stories.) The community held the stature of being its own municipality, complete with a town hall and post office until fire destroyed most of the town in 1955. It merged with Ravenwood in 1957.

Alice Lake is a spring fed glacier-made lake one-half mile wide and a little more than one mile long, 9 acres, and with an average depth of 30 feet along a kettle bottom with holes as deep as 50+ feet. It is at the southern end of Ravenwood and is a popular spot for vacationers (many from Pittsburgh). Surrounded by about 750 private homes and cottages, the lake is picturesque with its quaint cottages and beautiful homes. Visitors can rent rooms anytime at Richard and Melissa Bay’s Bed & Breakfast—a charming and spacious Folk Victorian home. They can tour the Alice Myers Museum—a colorful Gothic Revival House—every Tuesday through Saturday and acquaint themselves with the lake’s namesake. They can browse Ellen Waverly’s art gallery and buy excellent local artwork. And they can shop nearly every day at the several specialty gift shops, which sell a mix of country and Victorian knickknacks. Antiques are also a specialty, and Johnson’s Antiques and Auction is less than a mile away at downtown Ravenwood.

The Pennsylvania Fish Commission maintains the lake and its three public boat launches. The lake is used recreationally for swimming, fishing and boating. There are boats and canoes to rent at McGuire’s Boating, Fishing and Hunting, which is open year-round. For the angler, Alice Lake is stocked with pan fish, bluegill, perch, sunfish, walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, and small and large mouth bass. For the hunter, the area is bordered by many public game lands.

In the winter, Alice Lake is widely used for ice fishing. Although many of the roads winding around the lake are dirt or gravel, the State maintains them well. Other winter activities include snowmobiling sponsored by the lake park’s Recreation Hall. The entertainment hall has a 24-lane bowling alley and a heated indoor swimming pool.

During the summer, there are fishing contests and kayaking, sailing and canoe rowing races on the lake, go-cart racing and miniature golf at the Recreation Hall, and a fireworks show on the lake every Fourth of July.

Tourists and locals can sip wine coolers and dip lobster in drawn butter on the patio at the Mill Pond Restaurant at the south side of the lake while kids swim and slide down the fabulous water slide into the lake. Or they can have great pizza—homemade and hand stretched—and subs and calzones any day of the year at Connie’s Pizzeria.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are inexpensive pleasures at The Roundhouse (aka The Roundabout). Once the lake’s roller rink, it was converted into a restaurant and dining hall after fire nearly destroyed the building in 1966. The place hosts dances and live music every Saturday night from June until the end of September.

The south side of Alice Lake comprises an Amish community, so it is common to see Amish buggies traveling the lake roads no matter the time of year.

But as I mentioned, Alice Lake has an eerie history—its charming quaintness hides an undercurrent of dark affairs, which investigation revealed to me when I researched the place for a story about a magical girl named Kinsey Avery and a demon named Keir Severin.


Ravenwood Revisited, Part 2 [world building]

Revealing the Dragon.

They had met in August at Ravenwood High School while he was preparing the art room for another year of teaching. She was the new English teacher and had been touring the maze-like building with an entourage from the welcoming committee when she walked into his room and sent him back to when he had been a fumbling adolescent with a heart-skipping crush on her.

Ravenwood is based on my Pennsylvania hometown and a nearby lake. I butted the two places together to form one municipality. Ravenwood is located somewhere in western Pennsylvania, more than a hundred miles north of Pittsburgh and at least twenty miles west of the Allegheny River.

In 1702, long before the municipality was officially named Ravenwood, French fur hunters and trappers constructed the village Amity as a trading post and traded with Native Americans and settlers migrating west along the Allegheny valley. Amity remained a trading post until 1747.

Myers County was then formed from parts of Allegheny County on March 12, 1800. In 1829, one Frank Wood renamed Amity to Raven Wood after his mother’s lineage: Raven, and his father’s lineage: Wood.

Raven Wood grew into a sizable railroad town when oil was discovered in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859. On May 27, 1861, tracks owned by the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad intersected with those of the Sunbury and Erie Railroad and was called the “Atlantic and Erie Junction.” Land at the junction was owned by Frank Wood, who sold a portion to the Atlantic and Great Western in October 1861. The railroad constructed a ticket office at the junction and, through a misspelling, it became Ravenwood.

The combination of railroad growth and the discovery of oil in northwestern Pennsylvania contributed greatly to Ravenwood’s development. The town went from a population of six hundred in 1861 to nine thousand in less than six months. Many surrounding forests were stripped of almost all of their valuable hardwood. Mills and farms sprang up on almost every conceivable spot.

This boomtown was chartered as a borough in 1863 and designated as a city in 1865.

Myers Ridge.

His wife Nancy returned to the house that night, drifting from room to room looking for a locket she had left behind. He did not tell her about Lisa and offered no conversation to her during her visit. She asked him if he missed her. He told her yes, but he realized his love for Lisa had broken the bond of husband and wife that had stayed with him since Nancy’s death almost ten years ago. He pretended to grade school work as she searched the house. When she found the locket, she left him and the house as silently as she came.

Myers Ridge is an end moraine, which is a ridge of unconsolidated debris deposited at the snout or end of a glacier during an ice age. Pushed into existence by great sheets of ice more than ten thousand years ago, Myers Ridge is being destroyed by erosion. It is now a craggy remnant of the mountain it was those thousands of years ago. Its limestone bowels of tunnels and caves are eroding and caving in, making topside areas dangerous places to live and travel on. Its once populated farm community has almost disappeared. Developers from New Cambridge (a city north of Ravenwood) tried to put in a ski slope in 1975 and 1983, but citizens familiar with the hill know the area is populated with sinkholes—the kind of thing people don’t want to be falling into while skiing. Both attempts were abandoned and the ridge remains a hill of mostly woods and derelict farmland.

Myers Ridge is center stage for many of my stories because of its eerie history dating back to when it was called Haute Colline (French for “high hill”). It seems there may have been UFO activity during 1745 to 1747. Eyewitnesses claimed of seeing strange lights traveling the hill during the darkest nights. Many reports said those lights left the hill and gathered at midnight over the center of Lac Petit-Miroir (Alice Lake), then whirled like “dust devils” for several minutes before they vanished into the lake.

This phenomenon continued for two years until another unexplained event—this one vicious and horrifying—befell Amity (now named Ravenwood) on the night of July 7, 1747 when the lights swarmed over the town, hovered in the sky for an hour, then exploded into flame that vanished into thick ash that settled upon the town like tarry soot.

The lights were never seen again after that night. However, fever, madness and death seized most of the three-hundred-and-fifty townspeople for the next five days. Many of the afflicted suffered slow, agonizing deaths. Of the few who lived outside of town and were not afflicted, one was 19-year-old Ezekiel Wood. He recorded a grisly account about a fur trader who murdered his wife and two children while they slept, and then stuffed their corpses inside the belly of a slaughtered cow. Ezekiel also wrote of madmen setting fire to the town. Nearly all the homes destroyed had both dead and living inside. Ezekiel, who was attending the sick, managed to escape the inferno by submerging himself in the local river. He was the only known survivor of the blaze, and he became great-grandfather to Ravenwood founder, Frank Wood.

Fifty-four years later, the 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 and the farms there were stately oak and marble buildings. (Some of those buildings still stand, though the state has sold much of the land to corporations and developers.)

In 1891, Jonah’s great-grandson Norman Myers found gold and other precious metals on his property. He and his family hauled out ores, became wealthy, and occasionally squabbled over mining rights until, according to legend, Norman’s mines dried up in 1901, on the very anniversary of his discovery. Soon afterwards, Norman disappeared. Some suspected James McCoy, an angry business partner murdered him inside one of his three abandoned mines. Since no body was ever found, McCoy was never charged. He left town a year later and family claimed to see Norman’s ghost haunting the hill that very night. To this day, some people claim that his ghost guards a secret treasure, while others say he haunts the hill until his body is found and given a proper burial. His mines have since collapsed and the property bequeathed to the county by the few and scattered surviving heirs in lieu of payment of delinquent taxes and bank loans owed by Norman. In 1971, the Ravenwood Historical Society purchased the only standing entrance to one of the mines and turned it into a monument. They also purchased Jonah Myers’s home.

The tale of Norman Myers is not the only ghost story to come out of Myers Ridge. Norman’s only son Joseph Myers was a famous playwright who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood. He and his wife Emma “mysteriously disappeared” from their estate on Myers Ridge. There have been sightings of Joseph’s ghost at the site of his old mansion.


Ravenwood Revisited, Part 1 [world building]

It has been a month since my last post, so I am breaking my silence to let you know I’m returning to Ravenwood to catch glimpses of things missed during my last visit, which I reported here in 2011 and 2012. There may be some retelling of past events, either little or lots, with each visit. But over all, I hope to make discoveries and give you new insights about the fictional place that first obsessed me when I was a teenager with a dream of becoming an author.


Ravenwood is a story. It is as simple as that. And I suppose you could call it my story—which it is—but not because I chose it, but because it chose me. Stories do that to writers. They disturb our dreams and keep us awake at nights, calling out to us: “Write me.”

Ravenwood is a story about people … real people in fantastical events. Therefore, it is not my intention to persuade anyone into believing anything in this explication. For the most part, I am merely a scribe—a reporter of things, and being as honest as any chronicler can be, no matter how well (or poorly) the events are draped and stitched together. But therein dwells the problem of recording tales as fantastic as Ravenwood. I am also a weaver and tailor of poetry, dressing events with words that are impressive with grandiose gesturing, or humble in their tatters and patches, or imitations of belletristic celebrities that fall somewhere in between.

Beyond the drapery, however, Ravenwood is a real place, situated around the Allegheny River Valley in northwest Pennsylvania and southwest New York, and composed of the people and places I see when I look outside. But Ravenwood could be the people and places outside your own windows and doors where I know if you go searching and dig long enough, you will find a skeleton or two wearing the very cloth of this tale.