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Local Legends

>> Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I grew up in a small town in the southwestern part of Iowa. As with any town there were many urban legends and myths.

In a cemetery south of town was a stone marker. And when I say stone, I mean it was a stone, not a monument. The stone highly resembled a part of the male anatomy. It was said that the wife had it placed at her husband’s grave because he was a d*ck.

At the cemetery east of town was the “crying stone”. It was said that you could hear the lover mourning the death of her beloved. Some said you could even see her kneeling at his grave.

But the scariest place around was “Hooker’s Farm”. Legend was that a man went crazy one night and killed his wife and daughter- by hanging them in the barn from hay hooks. Now, if you’ve been near a farm you have probably seen these hooks. Nasty looking things- kind of like the hooks you hang big slabs of meat on at the butcher’s.

The legend said that, if you went at night and messed with the house shots would be fired outside, from the direction of the barn. And if you left one thing out of place it would be put right by morning.

And I know plenty of people who would swear to that as fact.

My experience with “Hooker’s Farm” happened one night when I was out with friends doing the only thing there was to do in that town- cruise around and drink cheap beer.

Suddenly the car stopped. No sputtering, it just stopped. Turning the key wouldn’t even get a “click”.

The harvest moon was full in the sky and we could see a lane ahead lined with trees. One of the guys thought he recognized where we were- he thought we were close to his aunt’s house. So he and another friend set out while the rest of us waited in the car. And we waited. And waited.

By this time we were beginning to worry. They had been gone an awful long time and the lane wasn’t that far away. Panic began to set in as every rustling bush became a psycho killer and every screeching owl became a terrified scream.

The happy buzz of the beer wore off and tension began to build as the minutes ticked by. The one remaining guy, who was left to “guard” us girls, was doing his best to retain his “macho” image. The girlfriend of one of the missing had begun to whine. I was sitting quietly, just watching… Waiting for someone to come along. We weren’t that far from town, surely a car would come by soon.

And then, suddenly, the air was filled with the sound of gunshots and screams of teenagers. The girlfriend began to cry with hysterics. Our “guard” began to shout at her to shut up “before they start shooting at us”. He began pumping on the gas pedal and turning the key. Still nothing.

Suddenly there were figures coming through the fields and out of the dark. “Start the f*cking car! He’s shooting at us!”

And, suddenly, the car started. Just like that. The guys jumped in screaming, “Turn around, I think he’s chasing us!”

And as we sped back toward town the guys told us that the lane had led to a house they knew; not the aunt’s house but “Hooker’s Farm”. Seeing a light in the house they thought that someone might be out to test the legend and they could get some help. As they approached the gunshots began. Tripping and pushing each other they ran- not really caring if the other was beside him.

I learned a lot about my friends that night and came to realize that, under stress, people act much differently than you expect. As the fear mounted we all thought only of ourselves.

I did come to learn, many years later, that “Hooker’s Farm” wasn’t actually haunted, although a man was hung in the doorway of the house. The land passed down through his family. The family watched over the house and as the legend grew and kids started going out there for thrills the current owner would wait in the bushes with his shot gun. As kids entered the house he would shoot the gun into the air to scare them. His wife, hearing the shots, would walk through the adjoining field and together they would put the house to rights.

That legend would make a great movie. I saw the trailer for The Mist by Stephen King the other day, which is what reminded me of this. In the trailers you get the idea that people become different when placed in a scary and dangerous situation.

Not so much as horror movie, The Mist seems more a psychological thriller, albeit one that will probably elicit a scream or two.


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