dimecres, de juny 29, 2005

Mysteries of Bartonsville (Part 1) (English)

So how mysterious could a tiny village in the backwater hills of Pennsylvania really be after all? It's hard to compare it to any other place of course, having now idea how mysterious other places may be of similar size, but the Colonel's little hamlet has had it shares of mysterious goings on, some witnessed by Yours Truly, and others having been recorded in the various and sporadic annals of the place; still others were handed down from generation to generation by words of mouth. In the following entry, I enumerate and elaborate on the ones I recall and have found amid the cobwebs in my mind.

1) The village, while nearly 130 years old, never had a church at its center until the 1990's. The village's two original churchers were actually raised outside, or at the very least, on the extreme periphery of the village; this is a highly atypical arrangement for the time, and led village folk to speculate that it was because there was a curse on the village of come kind, and that curse had to do with the infamous "Pillars in the Woods" (see below). Incidentally, the church that now lies near the center of the village is a mobile chapel parked alongside the Truck Stop.

2) During the tiny village's life, there were several suicides, indeed one was a great great uncle of mine. Then there is the unfortunate death of the black smith due to a large chunk of shrapnel produced when a steam engine blew along the tracks near his shop; rumor has it that his head was completely destroyed in the accident. The Colonel's daughter and the only Barton to remain in the village, Lydia Barton's own death was considered by many to mysterious, and some speculated that she had been murdered by a jealous or unrequited lover (this may seem silly and melodramatic, but such things were more common in the past than we might believe, and indeed even more common then than now. My own great great aunt Arwilda was accosted at gun point and threatened with her life on a train tressel above Stroudsburg by her erstwhile suitor from Roseto; with his revolver barrel in her side, his exact words were, "Marry me, or I'll kill ya!" Needless to say, she did not marry him, and fortunately he didn't have the nerves to pull the trigger...). These sorts of stories may in fact be quite pedestrian in nature; nonetheless, they have served to bolster the sense of mystery in the village.

3) The Bartons left the village and never returned, save Lydia who remained on, presumably the social butterfly at the center of all the village do's; this fact alone has led many to speculate on the qualities of the place. Some have suggested that the Colonel knew that there was bad power in the hills along the valley and decided to leave before trouble befell him. Others speculate that Lydia had turned over to the dark forces in the hills and hence staid behind to maintain her connection with these spirits; they also posit that her connection to this "demonic" presence is what finally killed her.

4) Every small town in America has its clutch of wanting youth who seek solace in the arms of Satan. Before I start to sound like a Bible Belter, let me say that as far as I'm concerned, as a Unitarian Universalist who whole-heartedly worships the question mark, the whole idea of Satanism gains no purchase in my market but for its being one more human expression of religiosity. Nevertheless, the hills were indeed alive with the sound of small animal sacrifice and the incanting of "demonic" verses when I was a teenager. My family owns a fair sized parcel of land, mostly wooded, and I had found, as a young man, the tell-tale signs of the Satanists' passing: chicken bones, black candels and carved torches. While I never caught anyone in the act, in those days I was a pious Fundamentalist (oh how the worm has turned...) and had the reputation of being full of hellfire, brimstone and damnation for anyone who was a sinner. No doubt, the Satanists took some kind of pleasure in performing their rites on my family's land. However, I'm certain that even I were not the reason for their presence, something else on that land was...

5) Next I must recount my experience with the Flute Player and the Forboding in the Woods. Back in the early 1980's, for one whole summer, as evening approached, we could hear this lovely and yet baleful flute music outside our house. It was indeed an eery presence. The instrument I most closely associate it with is the pan flute. In my mind, I can still hear the strains of those notes, and a chill still goes up my back. When the music would begin the play, it was almost as if the temperature would drop a few degrees, that in of itself a miraculous thing given that in the Poconos we had Alabama summers. All summer long that music played from dusk into the wee hours. We spent many hours at dusk searching for its source; it seemed to be coming very clearly from across the Pocono Creek, a mere 100 yards or so from our house. Yet we would go down to the marshlands between Bartonsville Ave (my parent's home is on Beehler Road, a road which branches off Bartonsville Ave and follows the course of the old 'Pike) and the creek. It always seemed as though the music was moving along the creek, as if someone were in a small boat or pirogue gliding along the waters of the creek and playing this baleful music. We never did identify the person or "being" responsible, and many others in the village living on the other side of the creek reported the same experience.

As for the forboding in the woods, that story is more easily recounted. It was late in the 1980's, and late in a early summer afternoon, just before the Alabama-like days set in. Notwithstanding, the air was thick and heavy because a storm was brewing somewhere to the north, and the sky was darkening. We had a small dog then, a coon hound and beagle mix named Brandy. It was Brandy's nature to go the bathroom around four in the afternoon. I put her leash on her, and walked her down the concrete steps and on the flagstone walk. Strangely, she refused to budge from the walk. I physically picked her up and placed her on the ground, and yet she audibly yelped when I did this, returning to stand on the flagstone. I thought she was just in some kind of peculiar mood, and I took her back inside.

Then my little brother Marc wanted to go for a walk in the woods; we often did this in the afternoon, so I grabbed his hand and began toward the woods behind our house. The storm was approaching now, but I could tell that we had some time yet, enough to get a decent walk in. I could also tell by the sky that it wasn't going to be anything more than a rain storm anyway; when you grow up in the country, you learn to identify things like that. As we approached the opening in the trees, I began to feel this deep and pervasive forboding, as though we shouldn't enter the woods at all. Marc and I crossed the threshold of the woods, and the feeling grew ever more profound...

(to be continued...)