Friday, July 08, 2005

LaGrange

It's been awhile since I've done a Friday Flashback. When you've blogged for a couple of years, it's sometimes hard to remember what you have blogged and what you haven't, but I don't think I've blogged this story yet.

What you are about to read is real. Some names have been altered so as to avoid federal prosecution. Exact times and dates have become hazy over the years. But what is crystal clear are the events that transpired on a late night and early morning during the winter of 1994. This is a story of curiosity, adventure, and dangerous naivety. Proceed if you dare.

Over the years, LaGrange had gained somewhat of a fabled,legendary status among the youths in the area. Oft-repeated tales of ghosts, animal sacrifices, and devil worshippers sparked not only fear, but also morbid curiosity. The legend grew to mythical proportions.

It was January or February, a very cold night, whatever the month. A friend of mine, we'll call him Little Joe, and I were bored one Friday night. Around 10:00 PM, our curiosity and stupidity got the best of us and we decided to venture to LaGrange.

LaGrange was the first chartered college in the state of Alabama. From what I have read it originally served as a military academy. Once the Civil War began, most students left to serve in the war and it was turned into an all-girls school. That only lasted a short time as Union soldiers burned it down a couple of years later. Now there are basically only a couple of deserted buildings, a cemetery, and a park remaining. It is located on a "spur" of the Cumberland mountains.

Entering LaGrange, once you leave the main highway, you are traveling almost immediately uphill. There are just a handful of houses, then you pass a deserted building that (I assume) was part of the college. Almost immediately after that, the paved road ends, and you enter into a dense area of overgrown weeds and trees. Probably about a quarter mile after that, the dirt road forks. To the left and up the mountain a little way is the cemetery. I have never known what was straight ahead. For some reason, that night, we decided we would find out.

After getting out and walking around the cemetery for a little while, we got back in the car and started out. Not too bad, I guess. The deserted buildings and the cemetery had been scary, but no real big deal. Well, when we get back to the T in the road, rather than going right and going home, Little Joe decided to see what is to the left. I can't recall if it had rained or snowed, but whichever it was, the road was muddy. We paused for a moment and I tried to talk him out of it. I told him if we got stuck, there was no way I was going to get out and push the car. Well, he didn't listen. We turned left, got no more than 30 or 40 feet down the road and realized this road was in extremely bad condition. It was much muddier than the other roads and there were very deep tire tracks, more like trenches, all the way down it, which we were following. Little Joe agrees to turn around. But the road is so narrow that there is no way to turn around. So he has to back it out. The car wouldn't move. It had bottomed out, as the tires had sunk deep down into the muddy trenches. So there we were, stuck deep in these eerie woods. I kept my word at first, and made Little Joe push, but he couldn't budge it. Finally, I got out of the car and tried to help. Still wouldn't move.

So there we were, with all the horror stories I had ever heard about this place running through my head. We could lock the doors and stay there until daylight, or we could start walking. We really had no choice. We decided on the latter. Keep in mind, this was before cell phones were commonplace. I remembered a little store that we had passed on the side of the main highway. I wasn't sure how far it was, and it wouldn't be open at this hour, but maybe there was a payphone we could use. So we found all the change we could and started walking. That was the most scared I have ever been. I have never heard so many weird noises and so many things moving. We didn't have a flashlight or anything. It was just us on a dark, narrow dirt road, surrounded on both sides by trees and weeds that seemed to have eyes. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, but was probably only like ten minutes, we reached a house, and that felt a little safer.

At last, we reached the main highway, and thought we could see the light from the store down the road. It looked a lot closer than it was. I think one time a few weeks later we drove out there and checked to see how far we had walked. Seems like it ended up being like 3 or 4 miles total. Let me insert here that during this time I was going through my heavy country music phase, and was wearing western boots that were about a half-size too small for my feet. Anyway, I don't remember exactly when we got to the store. Seems like it was a little after midnight. Thankfully, there was a payphone. We decided to call a friend of ours. Let's call him Ben. It was a long distance call. Pooling all our change together, we had just enough money to make the call and have like twenty cents leftover. I called. Ben's mother answered. He was asleep. I asked her to wake him. I told him our situation, that we were stranded, and had used all of our money to call him. He said OK and that he could come to pick us up. But something in his tone of voice had me worried. 12:45. 1:00. 1:30. Nothing. No sign of Ben. That loser! He had left us there to die.

Let me remind you that it was now officially freezing. There was a wooden bench in front of the store that I laid on while we thought of what to do. From here, we were probably about 30 minutes from home, by car. It was now closing in on 2:00 AM. We pondered hitching a ride with an 18-wheeler, as we had seen a couple of times. We decided to call a friend of Little Joe's. We'll call him Hoss. I charged the call to my parents phone number. Hoss was thought to be more reliable than Ben, so we were hopeful. 2:00. 2:15. 2:45. No sign of Hoss. Finally, around 3:00, a van pulled up to the store. It was a guy delivering newspapers. I decided to tell him our situation. I told him we were waiting on someone to come get us, but that it didn't look like they were coming. He said he had a few more stops to make in the immediate area, then he would be heading to a town which was about halfway home for us. He said he would stop back by in a little while, and if we were still waiting, he would give us a ride as far as there.

So we froze for about another hour. Thankfully, the newspaper guy showed up and we rode in the back of a gutted out van for about fifteen minutes. At least we were closer to home. And there was heat. It was probably about 4:15 by now. He let us out at a store that he said would open around 5:00. When the store owner showed up, he let us in to use the phone. It was now a local call, so we called Hoss again. He was just getting back home. He said he had been driving up and down the road, but couldn't find the store we were talking about. Turns out he wasn't going far enough. He had been turning around just before he got to where we were. So anyway, we explained where we were now. He showed up about fifteen minutes later and took us home.

The next day when Little Joe went back to get his car, the back window had been broken and several items had been stolen!

And that concludes this week's Friday Flashback. Have a great weekend!

"Please come to Boston for the springtime. I'm staying here with some friends, and they've got lots of room..."

12 comments:

  1. Blair Witch what?

    You're lucky you left the car...

    glad you made it out okay...

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  2. You can sell your paintings on the sidewalk, by a cafe where I hope to be working soon...

    I LOVE WPT! Watch it all the time!

    Why do guys do stupid stuff like that!?!? Jeez...

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  3. OC girl: It would have been priceless to have a video camera that night.

    Lass: I dunno what makes us do stuff like that. I guess we all have that old west/pioneer spirit in us. We just don't have anywhere to exercise it. Also, if you haven't noticed, we're not among the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree :-)

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  4. I went to play a tennis game my senior year in high school to somewhere in NW Alabama. On the way back, the other two people in the car decided to make a turn toward LaGrange. We didn't proceed up the steep hill but, rather, stopped at the house on the corner. A guy was outside and it was VERY obvious he had been drinking. Caleb, the driver, talked to him a little about the legends of the area and things like that. At that time, I didn't know hardly anything about it but I learned a lot from that guy. He told us his name and, although I don't remember what the name was, I do remember that he was part of a local mafia or something. Several of his family members were convicted of murder and/or some other felonies.

    Needless to say, I never have been back.

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  5. Interesting. Maybe I'm lucky to be alive.

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  6. Good story!! Made me cold reading it.

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  7. Thanks. And thanks for stopping by.

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  8. Found your blog through Jen's "In A World" and wanted to say ROLL TIDE :) I'll bookmark you and read again soon! You've got a nice blog! ;-D

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  9. Roll Tide!!! Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. Gosh darn it, you're lucky that the story had a happy ending! I was so going to be mad if you ended up hurt or something. :-)

    That was a freaky story - very well told too.

    Have you ever been to a pet cemetery?

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  11. No, I don't think I have. Why, do you have a story to tell or something?

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  12. Too funny - I haven't been up there in years, but it was enough to incite great fear in me in my younger days...and probably still now if I was up there at night and stuck.

    That really is straight out of a movie. A movie in which I wouldn't have cared and might have laughed if the people had been mauled, because they shouldn't have been getting their car stuck in the middle of a sacrificial mountain in the first place. But, only if it was a movie... :)

    You should go up during the day sometime...I swear I remember that on the walls of the ruins, there were markings and stains and such. But maybe it is a memory I invented. And that is how stories get started...

    I wonder if you were at the T's Whiteoak Store...on the left side of the highway if you were heading back in the direction of Cullman on Hwy 157.

    Ever been to Ghost Bridge and the Forks of Cypress in Florence? Also an excellent choice for a fright nite.

    TTFN

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