2019/10/31

The Blue Light

Blue Light

Of all the true tales of high strangeness I've shared with you, none scare me more than this one.

Joe--true name withheld for reasons that will become obvious--grew up in the 60s in one of the more upscale Chicago suburbs. After college he returned to his hometown and settled into a teaching career at the local high school.

Every year at Halloween he would suspend normal lessons and instead tell his class this story, which I relate in as close to his own words as I can recall.
OK, the blue light story.
At the start of my senior year, news was making the rounds about three grade school kids who'd gone missing. A local kid had his cousin over for the weekend, and the cousin brought a friend. The first kid's folks lived in one of those big houses out in what at the time was unincorporated Cook County.
Saturday afternoon the homeowners went out for the day and left the three boys horsing around in the backyard. That was the last they'd seen of them.
At first the parents thought that the kids had hitched a ride downtown to see a movie or something. People still did that back then. When Saturday came and went, the fear started to grow that they'd wandered off into the woods and gotten lost. You know all the miles and miles of forest preserves out there? Well, there was even more of it back then.
The police got involved, and bulletins went out on the radio and in the local papers. A guy from a neighboring town came forward and said he'd seen the three boys walking down the turnpike early on Sunday morning. It's assumed the kids got it in their heads to run away from home, and they'll come traipsing in any time now.
But another day passes, and they don't come back.There was a famous case from a decade before where two young sisters went missing after seeing a movie in Brighton Park and turned up dead a few weeks after that. They never caught the guy, and the wound was still pretty raw those years later.
  At that point panic set in, because now the leading theory is kidnapping. Everybody expected a ransom note to come down in a couple of days, because this kid's folks are pretty well-heeled. But days go by, and there's no ransom demand, no sign of the boys, nothing.
Now folks start whispering--where the parents can't hear--that the boys were picked up by some pervert, and this pervert's got them locked up in some basement or garage somewhere so he can take his time with them. It became a popular pastime for the junior and senior boys to head out onto the maze of back roads sprawling through those woods on pervert hunts. They'd pile into the car with flashlights, baseball bats, and cases of Old Style and make a night of it. But no one found anything.
Then one day about a week after the kids went missing, a patrolman cruising the turnpike happens upon all three boys wandering down the side of the road in broad daylight. He pulled up alongside them and called their names, but they didn't respond; just kept ambling along like they were in a trance.
He finally coaxed the kids into his squad car and called it in. He told the dispatcher that the boys looked disheveled but otherwise okay. They were non-responsive to questions about where they'd been and who they'd been with. The only thing any of them would say was, "Blue light." If prodded enough, they'd repeat it like a mantra before trailing off again.
This cop takes the kids in. The doc who checks them out confirms they're in pretty good shape physically, just a bit dehydrated with a few scrapes and bruises. But all they can get out of the boys is that same litany of, "Blue light ... blue light."
So everybody concludes that this pervert had the kids locked up in a basement lit with some kind of blue bulb. The cops kept searching, and the high school boys kept up their nightly pervert hunts--now on the lookout for this weird blue light. This goes on for weeks, but nothing turns up. Eventually they stop looking and people stop talking, but it's never really forgotten, just like the Brighton Park case.
A reporter friend from the Tribune tried to do a follow up on the three victims back in the 80s. The story had made all the papers at the time, but to his consternation he couldn't find a single clipping in any of their records. One small town paper losing part of their archive is feasible, but not every Chicagoland paper at once. This reporter started wondering who might have an interest in hushing the story up.
He did pick up a few breadcrumbs on the boys' trail. All three had been committed to a psychiatric hospital. He found evidence that one had died there in the 70s. After that, the trail went cold.
Anyway, by October talk of the kidnapping had died down. The boys in my class still went out on nighttime rides into the forest preserves; more to clown around than to hunt perverts.
With Halloween falling on a Friday, my two best partners in crime and I decided we'd show up our friends, the cops, and everybody by finally catching the pervert. We each told our folks we were going camping at Starved Rock for the weekend. Our wheel man pulled up to my place that evening with our other accomplice in tow. I said goodbye to my folks, ducked into the back seat with a diversionary sleeping bag and a cooler full of Old Style, and we hit the road.
The first few hours of that night are still a fond memory. We drove down the turnpike, cracking jokes and talking girls with the radio on full blast. The fun continued as we hit the forest preserve, and the sun sank below the trees.
We must have driven around out there for hours--veering randomly off the turnpike to tear down narrow dirt roads that wound through the woods. They all eventually led back to the turnpike, at which point we'd repeat the process again. This was all unincorporated Cook County back then, so you could pull stunts like that without waking the neighbors. There was nobody for miles.
We'd emerged onto the turnpike for the umpteenth time and made it down the road a ways when our wheel man checked the mirror and said:
"What's that weird light back there?"
"That what?"
"It's been tailing us since we passed the old cemetery pond."
Against my better judgment, I turned and looked back. And here's this solitary light--must've been a hundred yards back. At first we think it's a car with a headlight out or a guy on a motorcycle, but the weird thing is, the light is blue.
And it's gaining on us.
I must have called out, "Oh, shit!" or something, and that was all the wheel man needed to floor it. I saw that old Chevy's speedometer hit a hundred miles per hour. But that lone blue light kept gaining. It grew to the size of a beach ball, and as it was about to hit our rear bumper, I saw that there was nothing behind it. The damn thing was just a big ball of cold blue light. I think I screamed first. At any rate, we were all screaming as the road turned left but my buddy kept going straight. We plowed into a harvested cornfield with a bone-rattling thud. Cornstalk stumps smacked against the undercarriage like baseball cards in a bike's spokes. The wheel man slammed on the brakes, and we fishtailed to a halt.
And the light was right there with us. It orbited the car, slow and menacing. I just knew it was looking us over--like a glutton selecting cuts of beef. 
My buddy who'd been riding shotgun threw open his door and bolted. Me and the wheel man took off after him. We hightailed it out of that cornfield and into the woods. I couldn't tell you how far we ran before we finally stopped and stood doubled over, heaving for air. It felt like miles.
We were shivering from cold and foggy from shock as we picked our way back to the corn field. My buddy's car was still there, doors wide open. Otherwise the field and the roadway were empty. We climbed back in the car, drove to Starved Rock, and came back on Sunday. None of us said anything to our folks or blabbed at school on Monday.
The first time I publicly opened up about this story was to another class full of kids on Halloween. Maybe it was a form of therapy. Anyhow, the amateur historian of the bunch came up to me after class and asked about the pond where we first saw the blue light. I confirmed that it was an old quarry pond behind a flyspeck cemetery. This kid told me the place went back to pioneer days when they were digging the Illinois-Michigan Canal. He said crazy stuff has gone on there over the years--satanic rituals, cops driving by to find the gates blown off their hinges and coffins erupted from the ground; and weird floating lights.
I'd heard ghost stories growing up about a cursed cemetery somewhere out in the woods. I just didn't associate them with that place until my student filled in the dots. There are reports going back a hundred years of people following a farmer who carries a lantern to an old house back in the woods. Many say the lantern is blue. They say the farmer and the house disappear before you can set foot on the porch.
The ones who come back sane, or at all, say that.
This story disturbs me more than the others I've told because unlike the others, I have direct personal experience with the setting.

I have been to the little cemetery from the teacher's tale. I have seen the deep, scum-ridden quarry pond and walked among the neglected graves.

It is a sad, decrepit place. The only signs of remembrance were the ragged toys and flowers left at a worn grave marker labeled only "Infant Daughter".

I experienced nothing out of the ordinary there, except that no rain fell within the cemetery grounds during my visit, though steady showers soaked the woods all around.

An oily feeling of wrongness clung to me as I left and for weeks thereafter. I would not go back even if offered considerable inducement to do so.

I wonder about those who did not--or cannot--leave.

30 comments:

  1. I wonder how long the flowers and toys had been there in remembrance of what might have been.

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    1. New ones are placed pretty often, actually--kind of like how an anonymous mourner leaves flowers and cognac at Poe's grave each year on the date of his death.

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    2. That's a nice thing to do for a grieving family, even if they've been reunited in heaven.

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    3. Indeed. It combines corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

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  2. Happy Halloween to you too. Or as it's known in the Niemeier Studio: Thursday.

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    1. I laughed. Then I checked the calendar and realized it is indeed Thursday. Days off are for losers, but you can't win if you have a psychotic break :)

      Happy All Hallows' Eve!

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    2. I was commenting more on your wont for the spooky than your work ethic, but so long as you take it as either a compliment or at worst gentle ribbing, I don't mind either interpretation.

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  3. Athletic and WhitesplosiveOctober 31, 2019 at 11:32 AM

    Interesting story.

    I've developed a more intense interest in this subject the last few years, and especially since I've recently had the chance to catch up with an old friend and hear more about some of his experiences.

    Regarding that feeling of 'wrongness', I've never experienced a place like that personally, but I've heard from that same friend of something similar in an old farmhouse near my hometown. It's not far from town, but it's in the center of a field with no roads leading there, so it's remained relatively undisturbed and I myself have never been there. My friend related to me a story of he, another friend and his girlfriend going ghost hunting there. Through some combination of vandalism and neglect all the windows had been broken out and doors torn off the old ruin, leaving it very open, without any area narrow enough for a draft to "sneak through" undetected so to speak. He said that after inspecting the place to ensure it was empty, and hitherto having no paranormal experience, they began trying to antagonize the spirit of the former owner, whom it was rumored had killed his wife and child in the house. In response to this, they began to hear noises on the floor above akin to footsteps and a door closing. There was no detectable wind, and bare in mind there were no doors left standing in the house. He shared with me a recording to this affect he'd taken with his phone, which was of somewhat poor quality, but otherwise consistent with this. After they finished in the house and got back to their vehicel his friend's girlfriend became catatonic and wouldn't respond to them for fifteen minutes, afterwhich she asked where she was and had no memory of why they were there. He's definitely an odd character, but I doubt he would outright lie (I doubt however whether the rumors of murder are true, I've only heard them from him).

    He was the eldest (a few years my senior) of four boys who all went to my school. When we were young they fluctuated between phases of living with their single mother or else her along with the man who was two of the boys' father. Though all a bit odd, it was the eldest amd third son who were the most troubled, and most of the paranormal seemed to center around them (and sometimes including their mother as my friend tells it). He recently recounted to me all the strange happenings he could remember. As a child about eleven or twelve, he was awakened by what he thought was the second brother heading toward the washroom in the hall. Groggily looking out his open bedroom door to the dimly lit hallway, what he saw instead was a man, dressed in black 19th-century style clothing, staring into that same second brother's bedroom. After a long half minute of watching this still ghostly figure, it began to turn and face him, slowly meeting his gaze with only empty black eyes. This was more than his 11 year old nerve could take before he threw the covers over his face, turned toward the wall and began frantically praying until he again fell asleep (as he recounted this to me he had me take note of the pronounced goosebumps and hair standing on end on his arm; if the other stories were lies this certainly wasn't). This second brother is by far the most 'together' of the brothers, and I recall years ago him telling me, along with the third, of them awakening to see a hanged man with green skin dangling above the foot of their beds. At the time I was instinctively dismissive, but now I'm more curious about exactly what happened. There were other happenings, from dishes floating for a moment before smashing in the center of the floor, to the third boy's long curly stoner hair randomly catching fire while he played videogames one morning, which I too remember hearing about when it occured. I wonder, do demons target more troubled people, deepening their suffering in that they won't be believed?

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    1. Thanks for sharing. I don't know if demons target already troubled people, but I do know they tend to infest places where grave sins like murder, sexual abuse, and sodomy occurred.

      Which is yet another reason to never go ghost hunting. Seriously. Learn from my experience. Don't do it!

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    2. Brian

      TL;DR don't open doors that aren't meant to be and leave the ghostbusting to exorcists.
      xavier

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    3. Alby saw the bear,
      The bear saw Algy.
      The bear was bulgy.
      The bulge was Algy.

      -- Ogden Nash

      It's safer not to ghost hunt with Algy.

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  4. I'm reminded of the light on the train tracks near West Point, Virginia. I remember seeing it on ghost show years back (complete with odd activity in the surrounding area) and I still think about the eerie light that shows up from time to time.

    It is weird to think about the amount of things that swarm to man's creations once we abandon them.

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    1. Perhaps the ancient Roman concept of the genius of a place contains some germ of truth after all.

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  5. Excellent story once again, Brian.

    And this 'blue light' phenomena is very new to me. I had never heard such things before.

    I went through a phase in my youth where we visited supposedly haunted locations. And I never saw or experienced anything myself. I'm glad, knowing what I know now, being older and wiser, that I outgrew that phase.

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  6. After reading this my biggest fear was that this would be the day I saw a min-min, and as a result, that I might soil myself. They're a floating light of the Australian outback. AFAIK no reports of hostility, and a variety of different types of encounter. One I read of was a tiny light that traveled along a horse's spine then went "pop" and disappeared. A friend of my father saw a larger floating light and shot at it, many years ago. But seeing this benign mystery light right after reading the "choice cuts of beef" blue light tales might have been more than my fragile psyche could bear!

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    1. Just try getting service like this for free anywhere else.

      Can you tell us more about the min-min?

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    2. Usually seen further into the interior, and apart from that, very little. The stories are usually very bare bones: people see it then it disappears, stuff like that. In the case I heard of, third-hand but from someone I know, it followed him along the road at a distance; he fired on it, it seemed to part for the bullet then coalesce again. I am not sure whether it then departed or whether he tried to outrun it and eventually lost it. I've never heard stories of people being caught or catching one, which suits the nature of the Australian landscape. It wishes you no ill, it just doesn't care if you die.

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    3. Apparently similar phenomena have been reported in the Rub al Khali desert, Saudi Arabia. The Arabs have taken to calling it “abu fanoos.”

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    4. Fascinating--in regard to both Australian and Arabian varieties.

      American phantom lights seem to have a mean streak. There are stories of them slamming into people--said to feel like being grazed by a fastball--accompanying violent hauntings, and as in the story above, strange disappearances.

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  7. For more background, growing up quite isolated (although in a good way, with a good if loose community) my parents in particular saw many things that "did not exist". They saw ball lightning. They saw a tornado (not thought to occur in the region.) They saw the deep clay soil open into cracks that went down forever - I saw these myself - nobody knew the cause or the extent, only that it happened in the area and had happened a generation before. I saw an inverted wave cloud formation on a storm front that I only found out twenty years later had a name - I forget it - and insisted it didn't exist. All these things were seen, and attested by the local people, and all didn't exist, according to at least some experts...
    even the natural world is barely known to us.

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    1. Australia really is Oz.

      Speaking of seeing things that are out of place for a region/said not to exist, a Thylacine crossed the road in front of my car one late Illinois night. It took its time trotting through the beams of my headlights, so I got a good look at it--stripes and all.

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    2. Well, if it was going to be still alive somewhere it would be a game preserve or a super-secret off-the-books US facility that everyone forgot about...

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  8. *and that people insisted it didn't exist

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  9. There's a town in Colorado where the cemetery has floating lights. Let me be more specific about Silver Cliff. It has two cemeteries, a Catholic one which no one reports the lights at, and a Protestant cemetery where the lights are seen.

    Ghost hunters also report a suspected fairy mound not far from the Protestant cemetery.

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    1. Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft has concluded that many ghost sightings are of souls who barely made it into Purgatory.

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    2. Clearly us proddies need to pay more attention to sanctifying our cemetries. Although, locally, there are a reasonably large number of abandoned grave sites and cemeteries, some Catholic, some Protestant, some "everyone gets buried somewhere inside this fence", and no haunting of any kind.

      My theory is the spiders killed all the ghosts.

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    3. I beheld what you didst there!

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