Someone suggested I repost my Lagrange story for Halloween. But first, let us remember the origins of this festive holiday.
About seven hundred years ago, a young lad named Alexander and his peeps William and Gamel, also known as G-dawg, would go around spray painting graffiti on people's moat bridges. They had to disguise themselves because Alexander's dad, also named Alexander, was a vassal. And if he found out about the kids' mischief, well, needless to say, there would be big trouble.
It became a big problem around the fief, also known as the 'hood. Manor Watch was never able to catch the kids. So at some point, people began to offer the boys candy. In exchange, the boys agreed not to deface their moat bridges. And the tradition of Halloween was born.
So, here's to you Alexander, William, and Gamel. I have a big bowl of Reese's cups at home. And if my number of trick-or-treaters doesn't surpass last year's total of nine, I'll be eating most of it myself.
Here's my Lagrange story. Originally posted July 8, 2005...
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 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. Shortly after that, the paved road ends, and you enter into a dense area of overgrown weeds and trees.
Probably about a half 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 driving up to the cemetery and walking around for a little while, we got back in the car and started out. The deserted buildings and the cemetery had been scary, but no real big deal. Well, when we got back to the T in the road, rather than going right and going home, Little Joe decided to see what was 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 deep tire tracks, more like trenches, which we were following.
Little Joe agreed to turn around. But the road was so narrow that there was no way to. So he would have to back it out. He put it in reverse. And 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, with all the horror stories I had ever heard about this place running through my head.
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. We had two options. We could lock the doors and stay in the car until daylight, or we could start walking. We decided on the latter.
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 would be a payphone we could use. Keep in mind, this was before cell phones were commonplace. So we got all the change we could find out of the car 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 weeds and trees 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.
A few minutes more and 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.
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.
Ben came to the phone. 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 would 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 on TV or in the movies. But decided to call a friend of Little Joe's. Let's 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 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. Until he dropped us off. 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 us. Turns out he wasn't going far enough. He had been turning around just before he got to the store we had walked to. So anyway, we told him where we were now. And 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 was broken and several items had been stolen.
"Ten years ago on a cold dark night, someone was killed 'neath the town hall light..."
Labels: Ben, friends, halloween, holidays, LaGrange