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October 2005

Terror in the Trees

Ghost stories always seem scarier beside a flickering campfire. So, dim your headlamp and scoot up closer: our writer-at-large explores the ghoulish beginnings of these age-old tales and shares a few of his all-time favorite blood-curdlers. We dare you to read on.
terror in the trees 445x260(Illustration by Jackie McCaffrey)

It involved a haunted hotel out West, and a room where a little girl had died in a fire, and a chill that passed up Roberts’s arm when she touched the wall of the room—right where the cradle had gone up in flames!

It scared her enough that the hair on the back of her neck stood up. Me? I wish her tale brought healing. But hearing it, I think of my experience with…honestly, I still don’t know what was moaning in the Mendocino woods. Had consenting adults been engaged in weird but safe bondage games that night? Were the waitress and her hooded pals playing a trick on us?

And if it was all innocent, how to explain that other item I saw in the County Tattler that foggy spring afternoon in that dusty little library? How to explain the strange letter to the editor? It was from a woman in North Dakota, asking for help in locating her daughter. Her daughter who had been living in Mendocino for a few months, who had called her every morning, just to assure her that everything was okay, that her waitress job was going fine, that she was making friends, that no, really, her mom didn’t need to worry.

“But I’m worried,” the woman from North Dakota had written. “I haven’t heard from my little girl in three months. Has anyone seen my daughter? Her name is Kath.”

She haunts me still.

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