What is possibly my greatest missed opportunity of all time...the case of the not-taken camera in the demoniac graveyard.

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Summary: There are some opportunities that you pass up for perfectly good, rational reasons, and later wonder 'But what if?'. I have a story about one of those, but the good news is, my immortal soul might have been saved by this missed chance.

BLOT: (30 Jan 2012 - 11:43:32 AM)

What is possibly my greatest missed opportunity of all time...the case of the not-taken camera in the demoniac graveyard.

In May of 2005, Sarah and I took a trip down to visit my parents near-ish Evergreen. This trip was significant for a number of reasons: a) Sarah's had a tire go bad on the Buick AND had her windshield wipers give up, giving the trip a sort of doomed feel to begin with, b) this is the trip where we tried to find my killed-in-action high school friend Troy's old house and found it be demolished, and c) this would have been the last time I saw my father alive. My father was a hell of a sport on this trip, too, at the age of 70, helping us half-repair tires and driving us down to a local store to pick up cheap, but workable, replacement wipers. The trip involved a lot of getting out and going. We went down and visited a couple of historical sites, including Fort Mims [that outing was when our tire went flat and I don't remember if we actually finished it] and then, a day or two later1 we went around and saw a couple of local graveyards.

To put this in perspective, my mom is into genealogy. Specifically, she does footwork in a practical aspect of the hobby where she goes around to old graveyards and memorial plaques and such and takes pictures and notes dates. While most are relatively simple affairs, patches of old graves out behind what is now some farmer's field, or better maintained plots still attached to a church or at least still attached to the remains of a church, there are a few that have picked up a bit of a local legend.

One such one was Old Beulah, which was once a lot less safe looking than it is now and had lots of moss and old insects crawling around. It is a lot of fun and I used to visit the crypt remains and even once helped to patch up a few of the old, ornate, and busted gravestones. I also, on the not-so-good side of things, took a iron fence post from the place and kept it as a "good luck charm" until my brother Danny threw it away into the woods due to nightmares. Which was totally bogus and unfair and I kind of miss my old iron fence post. Kept the unseelie at bay.

One of the nights involved visiting Old Beulah. This is the night I found out my brother David could pick locks in a way much like the way movies depict it [a couple of tools, a couple of jabs, and bam!], but it was mostly just a set up for the second place we visited; because when you talk about the rumors and legends and local myths around one plot of dead bodies and long bones, you talk about them all. Lots of such places across Lower Alabama have hints of being weird3, but there was one, some small old graveyard back in the woods closed off by someone or something [likely a logging company], that had a history as being bad haunted. Not just Old Beulah scary2 with maybe benevolent watchers and a sense of being an "old place", but straight up demoniacally possessed. What was wrong with it? What evil had happened? I don't think anyone ever made direct claims outside of dire presences and spots of horrid luck, with suggesting that other people had had much worse experiences at some time in the past, but my mom had her own anecdote...

She had been out there taking pictures when she noticed a large black dog across the way from her, watching her. It never barked, just stared and stared. When she had left the lot and was driving off, she said the dog sort of came across to the cemetery gate and lay down in front of it, as though it was protecting it but had allowed her through.4

Of course, this means that I wanted to see it, and might as well see it at night. Hell hounds? Let's do this, but let's do it in the middle of the woods, in the dark, because that way you have a story to tell the grandkids, right? First thing I found out that this thing was in a part of the boonies that made my parents' house seem nearly municipal. Lots of backroad and dirtroad turns and old rickety railroad crossings. Eventually, though, we got appropriately backwoods enough and then took a turn off into this little side track and got to the fenced in cemetery. We got out and walked around and it wasn't really all that spooky. Until the noise started.

In practical terms the noise was probably a wild cat tussling with a coyote or fox or wild dog. It was screeching, roaring, growling, hissing all at once. It was a bit unnerving that it kept getting louder and louder the longer we stayed, and seemed to get closer and closer until the sound really did seem to be inside the place with us. Turning my head around, I was quite literally unable to triangulate the sound to any given position. Maybe whatever was fighting was up in the trees overhead, or so loud it was echoing around the woods.

It was also a bit terrifying that it stopped the exact second we stepped back outside of the gate, though in real life, where demonic animals do not warn you away from the gates of Hell, whatever it was that was fighting was likely spooked by man-smelling big-creatures walking nearby. The noise is my most specific brush with not-immediately-explainable supernatural-esque events, and I cherish it for that reason, but it is not it that I am writing about. It was the things left behind.

On top of one gravestone was a shirt left dangling, and in a tree about the center of the place was a camera—the kind that takes cheap film, probably circa late 90s in style and I doubt it was more than $10-$20 at time of purchase—hanging from a branch. I looked at the camera, thought about getting it down and taking it with me to see what was on the film, but left it behind. It had been raining a day or two prior, and besides some poor genealogist might have needed that camera when, if, they came back for it.

However, think of the possibilities. A camera left hanging in a tree next to an abandoned scrap of clothes, in a cemetery rumored to be demoniacally inclined, while some noise tears through the night? What was on that film? Strange faces? Hurried photos taken of the night with hints of shapes just out of focus? Large black dogs barring exit as their master approaches in the distance? Strange holes opening up, inviting doomed souls inside? Some kid's birthday party with clowns? Any sort of horror could have been on that film! Assuming it survived the damp. Assuming any pictures had been taking before it swallowed the hapless photographer whole. Assuming that such things can be photographed.

And while I doubt knowing what was on that camera will ever be as cool as the amazing series of "What ifs?" that go through my mind, the "What if?" is still fun to pull. Who knows? Maybe some vile thing would have used those photos to anchor itself on our mortal plain? Or maybe I would have had to end up battling ancient, dusty, forgotten things using hasty symbols pulled from the edge of genetic memory? Or maybe some kid's birthday party would have been left without a memory of the clowns? Ah, well, c'est la vie.

1: Now when we visit, we tend to just stay for a couple of nights. At one time, we would stay for a week or so.

2: Note, the website I linked to with the pictures does include a bit of the Old Beulah ambience: "Old Beulah would be a great spot for a picnic area or park, if it weren't for the feeling that something is watching you! I am not at all squeamish, but on several occasions, while photographing tombstones or writing down notes in the middle of a beautiful Alabama forest, I became aware of a presence..."

3: There is one, I think it goes by "King Cemetery", very close to my parents' house, that has a story attached to it where you hear a roar coming out of the woods if you stay long enough [I used to stay a bit and cannot honestly recall ever hearing a roar that wasn't obviously a train, etc].

4: It has been a while since I have heard the story, so she might have started it with the dog in front of the gate and then walking away when she came up...

Illuminations into My Past


Written by Doug Bolden

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