For this next installment in my Old Bones back stories, in which I discuss the origins behind the stories contained in my upcoming collection and delve into the creative process, we’re looking at a ghostly tale called The Crossroads. This one was written fairly recently, but it sprang from a decades-old incident.
For anyone familiar with the Miramichi area, you know ghost stories abound there. Every little hamlet and village, every town, and every inch of the vast, unbroken wilderness in between holds a spooky tale or two. You don’t have to look very far to find someone who either experienced something they couldn’t explain, or knows someone who has. Now me, I’ve spent more than my share of time rooting around the area over the years – long enough to have picked up more than a few of these stories. Some, like the Dungarvon Whooper (which we’ll get to in a future post), are well-known and oft-told. Others aren’t nearly as famous outside of where they took place. And then there are those, like this one, which virtually nobody knows about. How do I know about it, then? Because I was there.
The Crossroads starts off with the main character, Fred, telling his awestruck neighbor a ghost story from his past. He and his buddy were just youngsters when they witnessed an ethereal stagecoach-like carriage drawn by a team of horses with eyes that glowed red in the pitch blackness. It approached at a fast clip from behind the car the boys were in, charging down the old dirt road before vanishing into the dense forest without a trace. Terrified and fascinated, they investigate further and get a closer look at “the other side” than they ever imagined.
I was about the same age as the characters in the story when I was present for something very much like this happened. Similar setting, similar circumstances, and that same ghostly carriage complete with the team of horses. I didn’t personally see any of this take place, but I was at the wheel when one of my passengers did. He perched on his knees on the back seat and stared into the murky darkness behind us in silence, and when he turned around in his seat the look on his face left no doubt he’d seen something that spooked him.
At this point, the story goes in a completely different direction from the original encounter. In reality there was no further encounter with the horses, the carriage, or it’s otherworldly driver. We drove off into the night without further incident, though we debated the freaky encounter well into the night. Though I didn’t realize it yet, the seeds had been planted for The Crossroads. More than two decades would pass before I finally put pen to paper (literally – that’s how I write most of my stories, the old-fashioned way) and brought this old tale back to life. I like the direction this version went in, even if most of it isn’t strictly true to the original. The other principle player, the one who witnessed the carriage all those years ago, liked it too, even if he didn’t care for how it turned out for his character. I don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t tell you any more than that other than to say it ends in a way I could have seen playing out, had it come to that.
So, that’s the story of where The Crossroads came from. I realize there’s a fine line between sharing the behind-the-scenes stuff and spoiling the reader’s experience. Hopefully I’ve managed to straddle that line, and when the book is released hopefully you’ll read the stories and enjoy these “liner notes”, if you will, after the fact. More of these to come. In the meantime, thanks as always for reading!
Be safe, talk soon,