Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
October. Summer, all three weeks of it, is at an end. The nights are longer, darker and more mysterious. The frost is on the pumpkins and death is in the air. Melodramatic yes, but more interesting than the leaf peepers getting aroused by our foliage. It’s a time of things passing strange, things that go bump in the Vermont night, things that make us afraid, very afraid. Why? Maybe it’s that idea of spring as a beginning, winter as the end, with autumn therefore hastening us to our grave. Maybe it’s all that darkness. There’s just no time for spookiness during the summer, with all the outdoor activities keeping us busy. It’s not that dread exactly descends upon us this time of year. We seek it out, hoping to be scared, even paying to be scared.
Who ever thought corn could be scary? Maybe it’s not — unless you find yourself standing in the middle of a cornfield, surrounded by corn stalks as high as an elephant’s eye, and with a little imagination, much more menacing. Vermont has a couple of corn mazes, down in Rutland and up in North Danville.
Every year thousands of people of all ages choose to be scared silly by the Haunted Forest, Vermont’s largest outdoor theatrical event. Otherworldly guides lead guests through the dark forest, along paths illuminated by over a thousand carved Jack-O’-Lanterns. Throughout their passage, visitors encounter strange and fascinating characters in a variety of macabre tableaus, sometimes eerie, sometimes humorous. Elaborate costumes and special effects bring the forest alive (well, maybe alive isn’t exactly the right word). And every now and then, something unexpected leaps from the darkness to cause a few startled screams.
These events are carefully planned to give us goose bumps, to frighten us of course, but to entertain us. What about the “real” haunting of Vermont – those places where ghosts and other creatures of the night are thought to dwell – the unexplained, the unimaginable?
This is where it really gets fun October scary. In Stowe there’s a ski resort of course. And there’s a bridge. A covered bridge, like so many in the state. But this one is Emily’s Bridge, and some people claim it’s very haunted. Many people refuse to walk across the bridge after dark. For 150 years, locals have told of horses and cars being mysteriously clawed, of hearing a woman’s voice, of seeing ghostly figures and strange lights. One account describes a chilling story of several people trapped in their car on the bridge one night sitting in terror as Emily’s ghost circled their car and shook it violently. The most common legend associated with the bridge is that Emily, waiting one night for a lover who never came, hung herself from the bridge 150 years ago. And she’s been angry ever since.
Emily’s Bridge and a host of haunted places – houses, graveyards, woods, and even the UVM campus – are cataloged in what might be the encyclopedia of Vermont terror, Ghosts, Ghouls & Unsolved Mysteries by Joe Citro. Even if you don’t believe his cast of miscreants, monsters, murderers and the murdered, it’s great for curling up with on a stay-at-home night during the spooky season – with doors and windows locked, of course.
And for the nights you’d rather curl up with popcorn and a good scary movie, a short list of my favorite classic chillers: Frankenstein (1931) is the quintessential monster movie with a great Boris Karloff performance. Night of the Hunter (1955) features a menacing Robert Mitchum as a psychotic religious fanatic in pursuit of two children. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is a still scary science fiction classic about alien “pods” replacing small-town residents with duplicates. Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock, the Bates Motel, and a shower – often imitated but never equaled. Featuring actual sideshow performers, Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) is scary in ways you wouldn’t imagine. Please suggest your own favorites for inclusion on this short list.
And visit us in Vermont during the scary season. We have a room for you. It’s safe. At least that’s what I’m told.