The Wraith of Mystery Mile
Grey, PA, USA
Science is a marvelous thing. It predicts the weather (albeit with fleeting accuracy), it gives us medicine, engineering—it even tracks ghosts. Modern paranormal science has it that there are three types of hauntings.
But the thing about science is that a phenomena has to be observable, and repeatable. And this is one observation I hope no one ever has to repeated.
Despite my ardor of Halloween and all manner of horror film, I never thought of myself as a believer in ghosts. They were creations of Hollywood and little children, created to make money (by the former) and garner attention (by the latter). That all changed with a visit to a local history museum, where I experienced what could only be described as a supernatural experience. The ghostly apparition of a mother, mourning the loss of her child, occupied one of the historical exhibits in the museum. Upon returning there later with the tour guide, I found the exhibit incomplete and closed, and the ghastly remains of a child in the long-sealed coffin—a relic from the nearby woods in Squirrel Hill.
Ever since then, I have lived by a simple axiom: reason cannot resolve paradox, but faith destroys it. In other words, trying to rationalize what happened, come to grips with the reality of it would be impossible, because what I saw could not have possibly been there. And yet, it was there. I could not reason my way through it. I had to simply admit and believe that it was there because I could do nothing else.
I am well passed the horror of that experience. But ever since then, I have taken up an interest in the paranormal, a deeper interest than the occasional spook flick or ghost story. As it happened, I also became friends with someone who shares that interest. We developed a sort of partnership wherein we looked for all we could about hometown ghost stories. The ones that claimed to be authentic, we would look into. Unfortunately, we found ourselves lacking in the courage department when it came time to actually go. That all changed when we learned about Mystery Mile.
I was no stranger to Mystery Mile. As a child, my dad and I would drive on it all the time. He said he used to live back there as a kid, and that the road was named because of all the farm animals that would run out onto the road—it was a mystery what animal would appear next. Chickens, dogs, cows—just about everything. I thought it was a silly name for such a road but I had no reason to doubt it. Until the day I got a phone call from my dad.
It started off with the usual round of catch-up questions that we always asked after not hearing from one another in a week or more. But there was a tone in his voice that suggested he had something more troubling to talk to me about. When he mentioned my "hobby" of "ghost hunting" (which was unusual) I had a feeling something was coming. He asked me if he ever told me why he moved off of Mystery Mile. I regurgitated the story he had told me when I was young, about how the farm was just too much work to maintain. He said that was partly true.
He went on to tell me of the bizarre occurrences that plagued his home. Aside from the standard array of things that go bump in the night other things happened on the farm. Things that would scare the animals, make them run out into the street where, on many occasions, they would be hit by passing cars. Bales of hay would be ripped apart and thrown all over the yard. The animal feed would be full of insects. Very disturbing things. The most peculiar thing about Mystery Mile was the road itself.
The highway, superficially similar to any other paved road in the country, had some peculiar problems. Approaching the heart of Mystery Mile, the road erupted into a mass of potholes and broken pavement. Despite PennDOT's best efforts, the road continued to have problems. Eventually, the project was abandoned. The rest of the road is fine, but right in the middle—it is in tatters.
I phoned Celina, my partner in crime, and we immediately met at the Beaver Library to do some investigative work. We found very little information, except for rumors of possible occult related activity in that vicinity, though nothing was ever proven. Celina and I decided that the best way to find out what goes on in the witching hours at Mystery Mile was to check it out ourselves. I was less fearful of the road, in truth. I had traveled on it by day in my dad's pickup on numerous occasions. I honestly didn't expect to see anything. Of course, I remember thinking something similar on the way to the museum.
On a clear summer evening, the two of us drove my Cavalier to Mystery Mile. The sun was barely sinking behind the horizon when we finally turned onto the aging highway. I hadn't been there in at least a decade, but I was surprised to find how easily it came back to me.
The mile cuts through a heavy forest on a hillside in a town called Ohioville. It's a hilly, twisting, turning road that, in my ten-year absence, was now nearly suffocated by trees. After driving almost half a mile, we reached what used to be my dad's house. The place was old and in tatters, but it seemed like a good enough spot to start.
The place was in shambles, not surprising given the number of years it had stood empty. The house was not unlike a hundred other farmhouses in a dozen other states across the country. The grass was overgrown of course, and hay was strewn about all over the place.
We parked near the house and got out, taking our flashlights and tape recorders with us. Before we even took a step, the deep, low "moo" of a cow caught our attention. We glanced at the barn and the surrounding fields. Nothing. I offered that it could have come from a nearby farm that was still in use. Celina said nothing.
We started off by having a look inside the house. The main entrance opened up into the living room, which was a mess. The ceiling had fallen, exposing much of the upstairs rooms in the process. The steps had also collapsed, rendering access to the upper floor impossible.
There wasn't much to speak of on the bottom floor. A few rats were the house's only occupants, and aside from the occasional rush of wind, there really wasn't anything exciting going on. Until the cold.
Celina was checking out the rubble of the stairs when she suddenly came down with an incredible case of the shivers. Her teeth were chattering, her skin turned cold as ice, and her breath was visible. She jumped away from the area, and immediately the cold went away.
From somewhere upstairs we heard a noise like a footstep. Then another, and another. It sounded like people running. A very soft, female scream echoed through the halls. I call it a scream, but it was more like a whisper. Then all at once, the running stopped. I looked around wildly, trying to pinpoint the source. A half-open window, debris falling from the roof—anything.
I looked up to the second floor. One of the doors slowly creaked open. I'm not sure what I saw come out. It was vaguely the size of a person, and when I saw it, I could almost sense its fear. It moved quickly towards the steps and vanished in mere seconds. "Did you see that?" I asked. Celina shook her head; she hadn't seen anything.
From somewhere outside came a terrible racket, a horrendous chorus of noises, mostly animal sounds. Cows, horses, chickens, all of them sounding agitated, afraid. Celina and I rushed outside and as soon as our feet hit the porch: silence. Only the sound of my heart beating in my throat. I remember telling Celina, "I think this might be a bit more real than we thought." The understatement of the year.
Abandoning the house, we decided to head down the road a little further and see if we could find the part of the road that was torn up. We hopped in the car and drove for less than a quarter mile before we hit the bumps. I pulled off to the side of the road and left the headlights on. Sure enough, the road looked like the lunar surface. The potholes were unbelievable. They ran so deep at some points, that you could see the soil at the bottom.
We ventured from the road and started looking around the forest, which I swear was thicker now than it was when we first pulled up only minutes before. As we looked around, there was a noticeable decrease in temperature. The wind picked up a little bit and if it were possible, the forest seemed to get darker.
I looked behind me and froze. In the middle of the road, not too far beyond my car, was a silver-blue mist just hanging in the air. The further away it moved from my car, the more distinct it became—or I should say “they” became—more distinct. The mist seemed to split apart into sections, which in short order took on the appearance of people. They didn't look much younger than I did, but from what I could see of their clothing, it was decades, if not centuries, old. The apparitions formed a circle on the ground directly in the center of the road. It appeared as though one of them spoke, but I could not hear his words. They were too faint, almost in the back of my mind, like when you fall asleep but you can still hear people talking.
The wind picked up once again and a myriad of horrendous noises flooded the forest. Screams, cries of agony, pleas for mercy—and underlying them all, a deep, dark, growl, not unlike that of a dog defending his master. This was much, much deeper, and much more terrifying however. I suddenly felt the urge to run, but my legs would not carry me. I couldn't move, I couldn't even take my eyes off of the ghostly images in front of me. I have never felt such inexplicable, utter dread. There was something in this forest, something far more than the apparent residual haunting we were looking at.
Then I heard them. Footsteps, from somewhere deep within the forest, steadily growing louder. The trees rustled, the leaves fell, and something was coming after me. For a moment, I was too scared to move, to think. When I snapped out of it, I felt like if I didn't get out of there right now, I wouldn't ever get out.
I broke free and ran towards my car as fast as I could, the footsteps only getting closer, louder. When I reached the car, I couldn't get in fast enough. Celina was there seconds later, and I could tell from her terrified expression she had experienced something too. We jumped in the car and locked the doors, pausing to catch our breath. The apparitions were gone and the forest was silent. Celina and I exchanged terrified glances that both basically said the same thing—let’s get the hell out of here.
Before I could turn the keys, it started again. It seemed like every tree in the forest was shaking at us. We heard the screams again, this time even more real and more terrifying than before. I started the car, which I have expected to stall thanks to all the horror movies I've seen, and we drove away as quickly as we could. For the remaining half mile, the noises seemed to follow us. Misty apparitions seemed to appear all around us. And through it all, the growling sound.
We emerged from Mystery Mile in one piece, though we will never be the same again. So far removed was this experience from my first supernatural encounter, that I have considered giving up venturing too deeply into field of paranormal science. If science must be repeatable to be proven a fact, then what happened to us at Mystery Mile will forever remain a mere hypothesis.
A month or so after this happened, we went back to the Beaver Library and did a little more searching. We found an old news paper on microfilm that we hadn't noticed before. Within this microfilm was an article about a local cult, maybe half a dozen young men, murdered in the forests of Ohioville a decade before Mystery Mile was paved. They were found in a perfect circle, around an alter with a Ouija board. Popular speculation at the time (which was dismissed by authorities) said that the young men had freed something through the Ouija, and that something was a dark spirit, a demon, a devil—something evil, something that showed them the price of treading to deeply into the murky waters of the occult. Even though the case was never formally solved, Celina and I were left with the nauseating realization that the speculation of the day was quite possibly true. Yes, we had witnessed an interactive haunting within the house. Yes, we had seen a residual haunting as the small cult began their ritual right there in the middle of the road (over the potholes, I might add). But there was something else in that forest with us. Perhaps it was merely part of the residual haunting, a recreation of the force that killed these young men. I am unpersuaded by that, however. What we encountered was the darkest of spirits. Science would say that the odds of encountering a dark spirit are slim, but the odds of encountering all three kinds in one night is nonexistent.
I say science doesn't have all the answers.
I'm not so sure anyone does.