SMALL TOWN HORROR
Back in the fall of 2001, I decided to take a trip to Lake Tahoe to escape all of the pressures that existed after the September 11th attacks. As I was returning to my home in Portland, Oregon, my friends and I made a stop in the small town of Dunsmuir, California.
Dunsmuir is a small town near the Sacramento River whose claim to fame is the railroad yard where trains pass through there all the time. I was intrigued with the small town only because there was something about it that gave me a weird vibe.
It was as if an alien landing happened there or that it was like “Salem’s Lot” – a small town that was made popular by Stephen King where the people there all acted peculiar and the big secret was a Vampire lived there.
It was the first time I ever got a bad vibe from a place and I really wasn’t sure as to why.
I was so overwhelmed with a chilling feeling about the place that I asked the manager of a gas station there is something terrible had happened there that I was unaware of.
She shared with me a number of stories about the town including a chemical spill that – in 30 minutes – literally destroyed the ecosystem. A train derailed there and a tanker carrying a pesticide over turned and started draining a noxious substance into the water killing fish and wildlife for 40 miles.
The chemical was called metam-sodium. By-products of the breakdown of metam-sodium included deadly hydrogen sulfide.
Almost every living organism within 40 miles of the river was dead in 30 minutes.
Many people in the town were rushed to the hospital with breathing problems many had nausea and headaches.
Everybody had the same symptoms: a metallic taste in the mouth, an inability to concentrate.
But what gave me the creeps was the story of how a number of pregnant women had miscarriages after the incident and how a number of animals, frogs and fish never returned to the area because of the spill.
The railroad installed a monument as an eternal reminder of what happened there 20 years ago, and a symbol of how nature can recover given the time. Most people agree that another spill is inevitable because so many roadways and railroad tracks cross waterways.
It was the first time I ever had a bad feeling about being in a town. It was a frightening feeling that the place was haunted.
I often wondered if anyone else has had this ordeal.
When was the last time you passed through a town that seemed unfamiliar and for some reason just being there made you feel anxious, irritated or even chilled to the point of being uncomfortable?
I suppose that it can be stated that by some quantum joke science can bait us with dimensional theories that point to the possibility that there are areas of the planet where the veil is thinner or that there is some extra dimensional vortex where a second d genesis occurred parallel to our own.
There are locations throughout the planet which are suggested to be the most powerful due to their position on the globe or maybe because some unknown event that created a small town horror.
Roswell, New Mexico has that vibe as well probably because of the story of aliens that allegedly crashed there in 1947. The old-timers there have many stories and as you look into their eyes you realize that something traumatic happened—something that they do not understand.
There is also another town called Modena that I passed through in Utah that also has a remarkable story about it and I love to retell it.
The year was 1972: Four girls came from a rodeo in Pioche, Nevada back to their dorm in Cedar City, which is part of Southern Utah University. They came through Highway 56 at about 10 p.m. The region is known to be haunted by phantoms that do not resemble anything of this earth. There are weird tales of demonic looking beings that appear to be like animals. They have been mostly describes as “lion people” or wolves. Some say that they may be Native American shaman that disguise themselves and change the surroundings in order to harass anyone in the area.
While driving, the black asphalt with the white center line instantly turned into bright cement.
While trying to figure out what happened, the scenery suddenly changed. The original red canyon walls were opening up to an entirely new environment. “Instead of moonlit desert, they saw grain fields on the right and Ponderosa Pine, on the left.” which are said to not be common in that area of the state. The girls then drove to a parking lot at a tavern on the side of the road. One of the girls wanted to ask for help and another was curious if any of the men were “cute.” A few men came out of the building. But as soon as they came out, the girl screamed and told the girl driving to floor it and get out as fast as she can. Soon, the girls found themselves being chased by “tri-wheeled, egg-shaped vehicles.”
It turns out that the girl screamed because she claimed what she saw was in fact not even human. The story has evolved over the years; however, when I heard the story when I was much younger, I was told that the men looked like dogs or ‘wolf men’ wearing clothing.
If these girls somehow got lost in a dimensional rift then perhaps the idea of seeing “beastly beings” may be an indication of how evolution might have been in that parallel universe. That is, if you believe in such things.
Just before I went into the hospital for surgery, my friend Sarah handed me a copy of Fortean Times magazine. On the cover was actor Peter Cushing, best known for his appearances in the Hammer horror films as Dr. Frankenstein and, of course, he played Grand Moff Tarkin in “Star Wars”.
Cushing lived in a small town in England called Whitstable. I remember a friend of mine, Dave Paull, once sent me a postcard from Whitstable. The postcard had a flying saucer on it and the words ‘Weird Whitstable‘ in bold letters on the front. I wasn’t really sure why a UFO was on the postcard, but according to that issue of Fortean Times, Whitstable is one of those small villages in England that has had a very paranormal history. In fact, the history includes the mythology that the devil himself founded the area.
The story goes like this: “After a particularly joyful spree of mischief around Canterbury one winter’s night, the devil flew north, flaming, howling and laughing, heading for hell.”
“But he was not alone. He had in his fists Canterbury revelers, houses, and the steeple of Canterbury cathedral. Feeling very pleased with himself, and looking forward to the fun he would have with his collection, he passed over what is now The Thanet Way, and was knocked suddenly sideways by a blast of icy north wind.”
“The Devil in his surprise dropped everything, scattering the houses and people over the coast, forming Whitstable.”
Then the Devil left to go warm up back in hell.
Now we all know that this story is farfetched and was probably made up by drunken sailors. However, to this day, the steeple from Canterbury Cathedral can inexplicably be found near the water. It is pitted with pebbles and it is now called the “street” as it extends to the water.
The history of Whitstable is rich in strange stories of sea serpents, unexplained ice mountains that appear in the village out of nowhere and even the tale of a huge eyeball that washed up onto the beach in 1899.
This has always been the subject of interest as many people theorize that the whole devil story is simply the story of some large sea creature that was once seen and then disappeared, leaving behind a huge eyeball.
In 2009, a local newspaper reported that the seagulls in the area were acting strange like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” There were reports that seagulls were flying away with cats in their beaks. People were sipping tea and feeling helpless as the gulls would swoop down and try to steal the family pet.
In 2011, there were numerous reports of large panthers or huge dogs seen roaming the area. The animals were frightening local residents as they reported that the animals were huge.
Recently, there was a video posted on YouTube of CCTV footage showing what appears to be a “black figure” in a vitamin shop in Whitstable. The video shows what appears to be ghostly activity happening to a patron as objects are flying off the store shelves.
In these cynical times we live in, it’s a tough sell for most people to believe that certain areas of the world may have been havens for ghosts, witches, or anything supernatural.
However, there are those moments when you pass through a place, roll your windows up and blast the radio in hopes no one stops you and asks you for a ride.