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A Halloween Story

Written by Deb Thomas. 

There’s an untold story in our town; a really scary story. A story involving Muckets. A story for Halloween. It isn’t the fake one where the teenagers are making out in a car on Lover’s Lane and they hear a thump and find out there’s a madman on the loose in the woods with a hatchet.

No, wait. I think that one was true.

It’s not the story where you’re walking along at night and the hairs stand up on your skin because you think someone is watching you….watching you so closely you swear you can now feel their breath on your shoulders, but you can’t turn around because your feet are frozen to the ground. And no one knows where you are. And you are walking all by yourself, on a very dark road. And it’s Halloween.

No, wait; it is that story…

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. — Mark Twain

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Shortly after moving to Higganum twenty-one summers ago, I often went walking out late at night on my road. It was quiet and dark and my companion cats were good company. I heard coyotes in the far distant woods that summer, and I got the idea I could photograph them; sitting for hours in the backyard in my home-made lawn chair with blanket-tent-tied-to-a-tree blind. Saw skunk, deer, raccoons (which burglarized our kitchen two times in one night but that’s another story), but never took any photos of anything. Too busy trying to keep my cats from climbing onto and collapsing my dainty blanket fort.

So, on this one Tuesday night in late October, when the quarter moon was high and bright, I decided to travel into Higganum Center and leave the cats behind to observe and absorb the night sounds in our town. I took my camera, and cell phone. It was before children, before I grew slightly afraid of the dark, before I had any big responsibilities–even before Dunkin’ Donuts came to town. I parked my car off to the side, on the Rossi Lumberyard property, across from the Town Garage so it was off the road and I could explore, and went walking on up to Higganum Green.
It was a gloriously beautiful autumn Halloween evening with few cars coming through town; nothing unusual by way of traffic on Saybrook Road. Trick or Treaters all home safe and sound. Even the teenage revelers all seemed to be home. All the shops were closed; Route 81 was black as far as I could see standing on the old bridge and staring far into the distance. I believe I could have run naked through the town and no one would have ever known.

After circumnavigating the Green, I headed back to my car, but it was such a great night that I kept walking further up to the falls on Depot Road; the water was loud going over the cataracts there. I’d been down into the falls area on the slippery rocks and had hiked around the abandoned water town in daylight, but there was no going down there at night, even with a full moon. The puny flashlight on my keychain lanyard around my neck was no match for Higganum’s darkest ravine. No; no hiking down the pathway tonight, I just wanted to get closer to the falls.
I paused at the intersection of Parsonage and Dublin Hill Roads; now I could smell wood smoke too. The sound of the waterfall was hypnotic during daytime and equally as mesmerizing at night, but now I heard voices, and they drew me forward to investigate. Cautiously.

Telling you that this is where the creepiness started in isn’t exactly true, because I knew when I heard voices down in the ravine and I felt a little uneasy. It was also Halloween and who knows what kind of party may have been happening in the woods. But I kept going towards the sound of voices because it was intriguing and I wanted to see what was going on.

As I began walking, I had the feeling of being watched from the other side of the road. Up ahead, I could just make out what looked like a smashed pumpkin on the pavement, and a couple of extra pumpkins someone placed on the retaining stone wall. There was a higher ledge there, and as I tried to see into the black velvet of the night veil, a distinct voice called to me, “Hey!” which caused me to yell back, “WHO’S THERE?” Turning the weak beam of my keychain flashlight toward the sound, I couldn’t see farther than ten feet ahead. And of course, I didn’t know exactly where the voice was located—I thought it was up on the other side of the hill on the high ledge.

My skin tingled on the back of my neck and I should have turned around and ran back to my car. But I froze. It just didn’t add up – this was Higganum, after all, not New York’s East Village. And while I was making up my mind what to do, behind me a nasally, odd, but distinctly male voice no further than 5 feet behind me asked, “Do you think you should really be out this late?”

Not exactly sure if I should turn around, the voice said, “Don’t turn around. Keep going straight.”

This is where I have to remind those of you who are reading this that I was in my late 30s and in excellent health. I was not totally fearful of the night or people, and didn’t scare easily. I’d been hiking and had spooky encounters before and always used my brain to get out of any bad situation. Plus, while not actually Bruce Lee, I took a few self-defense classes taught by the New York Police Department when I worked there a long time ago. All of this to say, I’d had some adventures in life and handled them well. I’d encountered weird folks and bears and falling down embankments while hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail. Had a run-in with not so peaceful hippies in the Emerald Forest while hiking through California’s Lost Coast (while there I stumbled on a pot-farm’s irrigation pathway and was escorted out through a logging road by a man carrying a rifle riding a souped-up golf cart). Robbed at knife-point in Miami by a woman who started out selling me guava pastries. Got lost on the Long Trail in Vermont. You know—your average, every day, English Teacher-Insurance Underwriter–peace seeking Walter Mitty stuff. An old boyfriend even nick-named me Debbie Danger once (I’d also been called Debbie Double Trouble by my mom). Yet, I always figured a way out of each not-so-good-situation. I was not so worried at this juncture, except to say, my husband was working overnight and no one knew where I was. My cell phone (a large clunky brick thing back in 1995) wasn’t even turned on. And, it was Halloween.

Sure, I know what you are thinking. This is Higganum, for Pete’s sake. HICK-A-NUMB, as I was told one time, where the sidewalks don’t roll up at eight PM because there aren’t any sidewalks. We’re so back-road that even the back-roads have back-roads. Our town is so out of the way that the rest of it is on the other side of the river. Enough. Weird things happen everywhere, but not here.

Yet, this night there was something really fishy going on right here in Higganum. There was a rotten egg and dank but acrid water smell which rose up from the pavement.

I asked, “What are you doing down in the cove? – You guys having a party or something?” and the voice replied, “Fishing. We are fishing for Muckets; now keep walking straight ahead and don’t look back.”

This is where warning bells and lights and sirens should have started flashing in my brain. Who was this, and exactly what was a Mucket, I wanted to know. But, I kept walking and in a few feet, I approached the place where the trail goes down the side of the ravine into the waterfall. There was music and loud talking, but the speech was unlike any I’d heard before. I stopped there at the ravine’s edge and felt compelled to look down. It was as if I could do nothing else; as if I was being made to look. Down where the flat rocks lie and the water, there were dozens of people in what looked like fish-masks. They were sort of reclining and perching on the boulders in the middle, while some appeared to be slithering down onto the rocks from the Frismar Mill side of the stream. They were all greenish colored, with long, slimy looking bodies. There was a strange flickering luminescence to their bodies as they flopped and shimmied across the rocks. They had fierce gaping mouths and swept back ear-gills. They were beautiful and they were loathsome and horrible and they were singing and gurgling and laughing; I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Then it occurred to me; those were not masks.

 

I must have been dreaming. Everyone knows, in between the times when you go to bed, and the time you fall asleep – some of us are hypersensitive to noises and maybe even house sounds. We imagine, as we’re drifting off to sleep, that the sound of the rose bush against the aluminum siding is someone trying to climb in the window, or that the un-identified creek from deep inside the house somewhere is actually a person standing on the other side of the bedroom door waiting there to strangle you with the bungee cord he picked up in the garage on the way inside the house. Or you are certain the sound of the car going by outside is slowing down and has now parked and two very unsavory characters from Rochester are in town to do a hit on you. Not that you’ve ever been in Rochester and cannot fathom how they’d ever find the driveway entrance, anyway. But, you just know they are here and coming up the driveway and they are bad and they’re going to do you in. You know the old saying, “Late last night and the night before, Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at my door. Wanna go out, don’t know if I can, because I’m so afraid–of the Tommyknocker man.”

Then you fall asleep with the covers over your head and wake up in the morning with a cluster headache from being oxygen starved while the Rochester gang danced on the fringes of your cerebrum all night long.  I have an overactive imagination – I’ve been told.

But I was not dreaming.

There they were. All green and mucky looking, now, with a high pitched whirring sound that seemed to be coming from the gill area, just behind or below their ears. It seemed they were singing. Up on the other bank, they looked to be having a fish fry – a campfire on the opposite side produced billows of smoke and there was a kind of stench, then I could see what they were doing; the creatures were roasting speared fish on sticks.

As I watched from above, the voice behind me yelled out a kind of warbled-cry and within seconds all the eyes below were on me. I was in thrall; they were alien, they were half fish, half human, with hideous rows of sharp needle teeth. Their back halves truncated in a fish tail; the front portion of their bodies were more human like. But the skulls were aquadynamic, with foul green skin stretched taut over their boney skulls, and reptilian plated, stepped scales continuing down their backs into a central flattened dorsal fin. They were hideous and hypnotic; I could not look away.

They were calling out to me and they were coming for me.

The flight or fight adrenaline kicked in and in a split second I scrambled back to the top of the road, and ran. I never saw what or who had been behind me; I just ran and ran and ran, stopping only at the edge of the bridge again to catch my breath just before I could get to my car. Suddenly the whirring sound was at my feet and in a giant leap, one of the Muckets clambered up from the bridge. In the only remaining defensive move I had, I raised my Nikon and prayed for good batteries and shot the thing barely three feet from where I stood.

green-mucket-for-haddam-now

Terrified and blinded from the flash, and with an ear piercing scream it slithered down the embankment into the rushing water and I watched it disappear over the rocks towards the falls.

The next day, barely believing what happened, I retraced my steps from the safety of my car as I drove alongside the burbling brook water. No trace of the Muckets to be seen. I have not shared this story with anyone; you are the first. But that night on side of the gully near the center of our town, where the confluence of the three streams meet, on a beautiful late October evening, there were hijinks down below me that I could not quite comprehend. Still can’t. Life sized Mucket-fish having some kind of soiree at high midnight? And—it couldn’t be a long time Higganum resident who stumbles upon this—it had to be me?

To those of you who believe Art Wiknik made up a wonderful folk-lore tale, with a head nod and wink of an eye, remember this; folk-tales and legends have to start somewhere, and I know what I saw.  And photographed.

happy-halloween

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2 Responses to A Halloween Story

  1. StanleyJohn

    October 31, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Nicely written Deb! I am sure it was both terrifying and wondrous.The world is full of wonders! 🙂

  2. jane sibley

    November 1, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Delightful! Creepy, and well written!