EDITOR'S NOTE: A former Sullivan and Charleston resident, Jerry Ginther writes a column the first Tuesday of each month in the JG-TC with his remembrances of years gone by in Charleston, Sullivan and the area.

On this night there are those who venture out, leaving the safety of their homes, in search of scary thrills like going to very old, and sometimes large, cemeteries. They dare to see who in their group is brave enough to take the walk alone through the dark graveyard. Others rig old houses with dim lights and mechanical spooks that drop down from the ceiling or pop out of closed compartments. The “haunted house” is sometimes equipped with eerie-recorded sound effects to make the experience more sinister and intimidating. The mischievous sounding laughter, the flutter of bat wings, moans and screams in the house fill the bravest among them with foreboding sensations.

One of the adventures that thrill-seeking teenagers used to engage in was going to a cemetery as a group late on Halloween night. There, they would take turns walking through the cemetery one at a time. This wasn’t too risky on moonlit nights, but could be hazardous on dark nights. A flashlight was not allowed for the hike. Only those who would look for the hiker who got lost, or didn’t make it all the way through, could use a light.

Speaking of hazardous, if the adventurous one became frightened he wouldn’t dare try to run, because an unseen, granite tombstone makes for a pretty sudden and painful stop. There was nothing in the graveyard that one could see that would cause any harm, but sometimes what one suspects is lurking in the darkness of night might cause one to hurt himself. Of course the first to make the trip is considered to be the bravest. Let’s see how his adventure is unfolding.

One of the fright-causing stimulants would be that of something heard but not seen. It could be merely the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze or perhaps a small animal scurrying about. Of course if you cannot see it, it’s automatically dangerous. And, of course it isn’t a rabbit. Let’s not forget where we are and what night this is. Of course it isn’t a harmless little animal. No, it’s more likely a zombie or a blood-sucking vampire. Maybe everybody in this graveyard isn’t dead tonight. What time is it? Is it midnight yet? Isn’t that when every evil creature known to man is out and active?

Well, it’s about this time that the cemetery hiker could be in serious danger. He could be in danger of harming himself. He’s about two seconds off of hysteria and wondering if he screams can his friends get to him before this creature that is stirring the leaves … attacks.

Then the breeze ceases and all is quiet. Maybe if he just remains motionless this beast will leave him alone. Quietly he waits in the darkness beside a large tombstone. He tries to think clearly. He wonders how long he’s been there and how much farther he has to go. He contemplates returning the way he came, and then realizes that’s not an option. It’s forge ahead or face laughter and humiliation back at the starting point.

On hands and knees, he crawls around the next tombstone peering into the darkness. He sees nothing. Crawling makes too much noise. He needs to be able to hear everything that may be approaching from any direction. Standing, he remains quiet for a few seconds before inching forward in the direction of the far side of the cemetery. Then he hears it … the rustle of leaves, but the wind is not blowing now. He drops down on the opposite side of the nearest tombstone, buries his face in his jacket and lies still and flat. He waits. The rustling of leaves stops once again. Then, he hears a voice in the darkness, “Here he is, over here.” He looks up into blinding flashlights and mocking laughter, but he’s not embarrassed, only relieved.

He laughs with them as they leave the cemetery. It was fun and he did get the thrill he came for. However, in their casual retreat they fail to hear the creature stalking them in the darkness. Could there be more thrills in store?

Jerry Ginther grew up in Sullivan, with a few brief departures over the years. He served two years in the U.S. Army, 1966-68, and was employed by the Illinois Central Railroad as a telegraph operator and train dispatcher for nearly 25 years. He and his wife reside in Texas. You may contact him at JG@jerryginther.com

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