My friends and I, especially my comrade-in-arms Joe, enjoy visiting the odd and forgotten corners of our region. We pursue the sites of urban legends, haunted houses, ghost towns, strange rock formations and quirky restaurants with a passion that some devote to the collection of Beanie Babies or Star Wars memorabilia.
This weekend we went north in the pursuit of a haunting. According to the book Weird New York, there was a mausoleum on "Route 8 between Unadilla and Utica" that was home to one of the un-dead. Supposedly, if one knocks upon the door of this mausoleum, the being within the crypt knocks back. However, the instructions to find the mausoleum were very obscure: 1) it was past a cornfield, 2) it was after a curve in the road, and 3) the cemetery was unmarked.
For those not used to driving in rural York State, I will inform you that this description is met about six times between Unadilla and our final destination. So here we were, late Easter night (we figured the Witching Hour on the day of resurrection would be the perfect time), filled with steamed clams and Greek salads from the Spot restaurant in Binghamton, driving slowly along an empty highway, staring into the spookiest graveyards in the world, all the time listening to "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.
Needless to say, it was a cold and fruitless night and we returned empty-handed.
Joe and I (minus two lesser companions) decided to return the next day when it would be easier (and more dignified) to look, if a bit less creepy. After getting out and wandering through even more cemeteries, we finally came to the right one, which was north of the picturesque village of New Berlin (which has a similarly picturesque old cemetery we toured).We immediately recognized "Eunice's" tomb from the pictures in the book and as we stepped out of the car, I was awash with emotions. The practical side said that I had driven for hours (in all four legs of the journey) for nothing but a high school legend. I felt that, hiding in the bushes, some group of 9th graders were watching and making a fool of me. At the same time, during moments like these you're inevitably filled with the thrill of terror, the knowledge of death, the possibility of magic and the triumph of a goal achieved. Also, at the back of my mind scratched the first realization that this was not simply "a mausoleum with a ghoul inside it," but a tomb where someone, back in 1926, buried Eunice G. Welch, someone they loved. A person lay within those stone walls, a person that was dead and probably would have been forgotten completely but for an inscription in stone and the fearful legends of children.
So, out there on Route 8, somewhere north of New Berlin where cell-phones don't work and the world was quiet, all that stood between mortality and oblivion and me was a thin door of rusted steel and the rapping of my fist. And then we knocked.
And nothing happened. Of course nothing happened, what should we have expected? That the secrets of life and death, the hint of an afterlife would come rushing out of that door? Or, even better, that some deep sound would resonate from the tomb like in a fantasy story and that we would run screaming like children to my car? What the hell were we doing in the middle of nowhere knocking on tombs?
The ride back was quiet and sobering.
-Posted by Jesse