Everyone's heard the old stories around their small towns about the
lunatic with a hook for a hand that terrorizes teenage lovers, the creepy
old woman in the house at the end of the block that's supposed to be a
witch, the gang initiations of driving around with their lights off and
killing the first person that flashes their lights, or the abandoned house
that's supposedly haunted by a millionaire that cut up his family. These
stories are one of the things that make small town living interesting. My
personal favorite is one about a troll that lives somewhere along the three
mile stretch that is Game Preserve Road in Germantown, Maryland.
Legend has it that in the heavily wooded area to either side of Game
Preserve a troll or group of trolls dwell, waiting to suck the life out of
another victim. My research has turned up that in the past five years,
eight hunters have died (supposedly of heart attacks) and two teenagers
have disappeared in those woods.
I guess, before I go on, I should tell you a little about myself and
why this story means so much to me. My name is Garrett Samson and, until I
was twelve years old, I lived in a house just a short drive from these
woods. I grew up hearing stories of the troll from kids in school; of
course, the stories were always unbelievably embellished. One of the tales
I remember most is the way the troll would kill his victim. It was said,
the thing would literally rip a person's head off and, for some reason,
suck out the eyeballs while the disembodied head continued to scream. If I
remember correctly, I was eight years old when I heard that one. I had
nightmares for weeks.
As I said, I lived in Germantown until I was twelve, shortly after my
birthday my mother and I moved to San Diego. I know, it was a hell of a
move and a bit of a culture shock for me, but after the ordeal we'd endured
the previous two years, we needed a big change. In 1985, my father left us
without saying a word, I was only ten. Neither my mother nor I knew what
to think of it; their marriage was going well and we all got along like
best friends. My mother and I had even been planning a huge surprise party
for his thirtieth birthday. The party never took place. He disappeared in
the middle of the night two days before the party. He just left. We spent
two years searching for him and pleading with television cameras. His face
was even on a milk carton for Christ's sake. After two years, my mother
reluctantly decided it was time to move on with our lives.
After we moved to the west coast, I graduated valedictorian of Balboa
High School and earned a scholarship to the University of California, San
Diego where I majored in English Literature and minored in Urban Studies.
I became obsessed with the urban legend and began researching several
legends in Southern California and Arizona.
With the information I was able to gather, I put together my first
book Urban Legends of the Southwest (fortunately, the book was not as
boring as the title). It was a collection of reports, interviews with
townspeople, and my own accounts of my experiences of legends in Santee,
Lakeside, Anza Borrego, and Chino, California. However, the legend that
gained me the most notoriety was the spectral sightings of Geronimo, a
Chiricahua Apache leader that died in 1909, in and around Clifton, Arizona.
Clifton was the birthplace of Geronimo; I guess that's why he decided to
return there after his death.
For those of you who don't know your American History, Geronimo was
born in the Clifton area in 1829. He later became a fierce leader and
protector of the Apache nation, where he arranged and participated in
several raids against Mexican and American settlers.
Anyway, back to the legend. As the story goes, Geronimo's ghost had
been seen on several occasions around the Clifton area riding a horse
around the farms and deserts. It seemed that whenever someone caught the
spirit's eye, he would charge, screaming the sounds of war. One young man
I had the pleasure of speaking to told me he'd seen the specter's horse
jump over his car when he was visiting his uncle's farm.
As I had with all the previous legends, I felt inclined to stay in
the on the farm. I paid the young man's uncle, Sam Jamison, who also
claimed to have seen the ghost, a hundred dollars to let me camp in his
"back yard". I pitched a tent on the edge of his property and waited.and
waited.and waited, sleeping mostly during the day and keeping watch at
night. After three weeks of waiting, I decided to scrap the project and
call it a loss. The night before I was going to leave, I saw the spirit.
I was sitting next to my fire, finishing my dinner of franks and
beans, when I heard the noise. A long high pitched wail came out of the
darkness north of my campsite. Everything was so dark; there was nothing
to be seen until it was too close to do anything. I stood there frozen
next to the fire when the apparition came into sight. It was a beautiful
white and brown mustang with a man on his back, a rifle raised high above
his head, riding toward me in full gallop. I couldn't move, every other
ghost legend I'd investigated had turned out to be a play of lights or
something equally stupid, but this was real. I was terrified. The closer
the thing got, the more my body shook. I was nearly on the verge of
epileptic seizure by the time the horse jumped my campfire. The man, in
mid jump, swung his rifle at me. My heart and lungs locked up as his hand
and the gun passed through my body. It felt like a full minute before
everything started working again, I gulped in a deep breath of air and
patted my hands against my chest and stomach, checking, I suppose, to make
sure everything was still in tact. I turned to the south, and in the light
of the fire, Geronimo stared at me from atop his horse. In hindsight, I
think he looked pissed off that his blow was ineffective. Again, he raised
his rifle above his head and wailed. Finally, after a few more seconds,
his horse reared up, turned, and rode off into the darkness.
To this day, after investigating well over a hundred ghost stories
and urban legends, that was the only one that I found to be true. My
experience with Geronimo has kept me hunting for another true legend. Ten
years and four books later I have yet to find what I have been searching
for. This brings me to where I am now.