Date: Wed, 05 Jan 2005 17:13:16 -0500
Having grown up in a small, Southern town where ghosts are embraced and local lore abundant, I have heard numerous tales of paranormal accounts. My early childhood was embellished by the tragic tales of death to soon and demons great. Though I always wanted to believe the fantastic things Iíd heard, the evidence was always lacking. I have spent countless hours at reputedly haunted homes and cemeteries and churches and captured hours of nothing; nothing of value via video, camera or sound recording; in my quest for the unknown. I have poured over dozens of pictures purportedly of ghosts, ectoplasms, mists and apparitions but with a background in photography, I have been more successful at debunking these photos than I have at seeing them as proof.
The depths of my frustration were deepened almost to the point of submission until late in the night on January 21, 2000. It was the night of a total lunar eclipse. I had stayed at a friendís house to witness the event first hand. He lived on the mountain and had a wonderfully large, second floor patio with a massive telescope. The object was to capture some detailed photos of the event and have them published in a local newspaper. I had rented some telescopic lenses from a store in nearby Chattanooga and camped out on the balcony waiting and watching and hoping.
The weather was crisp but clear and prior to the eclipse, the full moon seemed bigger and closer than I had ever remembered. Its brightness provided more than adequate visibility that night, making it possible to see for several dozen yards with more than reasonable clarity. My thermos of coffee sat between feet as I snapped several shots of the full moon. One shot I was particularly proud of was a panoramic shot with the moon glowing brightly, off-center above the tree line about 75 yards away. It looked like a magical evening and turned out to be more magical than I could have ever anticipated.
I sat there enjoying the night and watching patiently as the eclipse went through its various stages. When all was said and done, I had amassed three full rolls of film and a sense of oneness with the night. It was a very comforting and serene experience. I remember feeling quite certain that I would sleep restfully for several nights to come.
My friend lived on top of a mountain and I in the valley below. My trip home took me down several sparsely populated, narrow mountain roads. At the bottom of the mountain, I opted to take the left turn and shorter route to my home. It was very late and I was very tired and though the left turn meant driving alone through a very narrow and densely wooded stretch of road, it also meant 15 minutes more sleep.
The road is a very winding road and seems quite nefarious this time of year. Trees line the road with bare limbs stretching across weaving a very jagged canopy. Since there are few homes and no streetlights, the darkness under this macabre canopy is almost smothering. It had been years since I had traveled this stretch of pavement and I was worried about the numerous sharp turns it bolstered so I kept my speed at a crawl. I was quite taken aback when I saw headlights peering down on me as I crossed a rise. The road is barely wide enough to support two small vehicles and this one seemed oblivious to my approach.
It happened so fast that I was amazed I was able to keep my faculties about me and my car on the blacktop. The other driver had not fared as well as I and had swerved to avoid me, crashing headlong into an enormous oak tree. With limbs and debris pounding my car from the initial impact, and the shock of the near miss, my heart pounded against my breast. I had stopped my car and was peering out the window hoping to see someone stirring inside of the mangled vehicle when the passenger side door flew open and a bloody and bruised man plopped inside.
For ten full seconds, I could not move or speak. I was frozen by the sight of him and amazed that he was able to move or see. His head was gashed just above his right eye and it appeared that he had lost his right ear. I could see that he was in dire need of medical attention and was about to say so when he demanded that I drive him to his home. I was even more surprised when I saw the barrel of the pistol come out of his pocket and onto his lap.
Other than his demands to turn left or right, we spoke little. He refused to look directly at me and I could not look at him without directing my eyes down to the pistol in his lap. Finally, he ordered me to stop in front of a run-down house that looked more like a small fruit barn than an actual inhabitable abode. He calmly exited my car and staggered towards the shack. My fear leading me, I drove like a mad man to the first public place I could find.
I stopped at a small convenience store and called the police. I recounted my story to the 911 operator waiting ever so impatiently on the police. I recalled every possible detail about the man, his car and where I had taken him to the 911 operator.
When the responding officer finally arrived, I carefully went through the events of the evening. He listened quietly and asked few questions. When I was finished, he laughed and told me what a great actress I was and started towards his patrol car. I was infuriated and demanded that he handle my complaint and file a complete report. I was adamant that what I told him was the truth and demanded that he follow me back to the scene of the accident. He was skeptical at first but eventually agreed to at least drive me back to scene of the accident.
As we were approaching the tree, he started telling me that he had already heard this same account at least 6 times in his 3 years on the force. He even bet me that there would be nothing at the scene; no car, no debris, just an old scar from an earlier accident. Dumbfounded by his lack of concern and professionalism, I began a tirade about his duty as an officer, his arrogant attitude and so on. Mid sentence, I stopped cold and felt absolutely panic stricken.
The area was just as he had predicted. There was no car, no debris on the roadway, no skid marks, nothing. Nothing was out of the ordinary other than a very old scar from an accident many years prior. I felt absolutely awestruck.
As he returned me to my car, he told me the story of the accident that had taken place in that very spot some 10 years prior in which a convicted felon had escaped from a neighboring county lock-up, stolen a car and a gun, shot and killed 3 people and wounded 7 others before being chased by police and fatally crashing into that very tree. The escaped felon matched the description of my kidnapper, the car I saw the same car as the officers story. I had just been kidnapped by the ghost of a fleeing thief, rapist and murderer.