The Forrest Spirits
by Alice Mulconry
(Battle Creek, Mi USA)
I’ve always lived a “haunted” life, living in apartments and houses with spirited pasts. I never sought to commune with the dead or had an interest in the world of shadows, but for some reason they sought me out. My Mother’s family came from the Ireland of the 18th century and brought all their superstitions and beliefs of the sod with them to the new world. They had the gift of “knowing “ ,but kept their ways to themselves. I can trace my Father’s people back to a single Mohawk man who walked from Canada into New England back in the early 1840s, finally settling in Western Massachusetts. I knew everything there was to know about my Irish ancestors , the stories of their lives were passed down by word of mouth through the centuries, while my native family was shrouded in mystery. We would sometimes escape our shabby apartment over an old saloon in Brooklyn, N.Y. to visit my Mohawk Grandfather. During the 1950s it was a long car trip for a small child. We’d leave on a Friday evening after supper and get to Grandpere’s place near midnight. Through winding back woods roads that led to the tiny old farm house that he rented. I remember how threatening the trees looked, ancient guardians who had watched history unfold around them. My Granddad’s rented house was bathed in a perpetual gloom , never a welcome site. The old house was painted a sickly yellow with green trim, the paint peeling from the wood like make up on a wrinkled face. The faded red barn without a door , it’s open maw facing a forgotten field. My Mother’s family was superstitious in a light hearted manner with a grain of salt ,while my Father’s family believed that the devil was in every detail and only” the everywhere spirit”could save them. The tiny farm house with it’s sloping floors and low ceilings felt like a mouth to me. One foot on the threshold and you would be swallowed up. The tufted furniture like rotted teeth ,sparse and sad. In every room hung crucifixes adorned with rosaries to keep the darkness at bay. I was afraid of the moon faced clock that had traveled from France some 200 years before, it’s sour chime rang every hour, guillotine sharp. The woods that surrounded the property whispered legends of the Loup Garrou ,the werewolf who showed itself with red glowing eyes against the tree line. Puckwudgies the terrible little porcupine like wraiths whose hatred for mankind kept them tied to the land for eternity and Maushop the giant of Wampanog legends, shadows older than
life itself. When darkness fell the old timers pulled down the shades and refused to leave their homes until dawn because the night belonged to the “others”. In some rural Massachusetts areas, the night is darker than dark with barely a twinkle of starlight. The wooded lanes grow ominous and the present slips away. In this environment old tales are hard to dispel. Once at the farm we rarely were caught out at night, my Father saying that the roads were too dangerous with deer running in herds, but late one winter evening we found ourselves coming from town after a family wedding. We five(my Mom, Dad, Grandpere , Aunt and myself) huddled in our black sedan making our way down the dark country roads, when we came upon an old wooden and stone fence. Our car lights seemed dimmer because it had started to snow. My Mother felt uneasy and said that she wanted to get back to the farm house as fast as possible. It was then that the car came to a complete stop, the battery had died. In darkness we sat as my Dad got out to look under the car’s hood. My Grandpere saw what looked like a light coming out of the woods, maybe a nearby farmer coming to our aid. All of a sudden my Grandpere motioned for my Dad to get back into the car. The light had turned red and was now split into two ominous beams approaching quickly. “Il est un Loup Garrou!” the old man screamed and my Father turned the key in the ignition hoping for a spark. By now our steaming breath obscured the windows leaving us blind to what threatened outside. With a grinding whir , the car started and as we slipped forward ,our headlights illuminated a ghastly sight of a man who was no more than a grinning corpse sitting on the rotted fence. In the haze of a light snowfall he was rocking back and forth, grinning and laughing hysterically , a tattered red cape swirling around his shoulders. We tore away and drove as if the devil himself were trying to hitch a ride. My Grandpere was badly shaken and said he would be dead soon, the native Wampanog people like the Tei-Pai- Wanka before them knew the signs , To see the red eyes of the Loup Garrou meant that you would soon die. My Jesuit educated Mohawk Grandfather died a month later. In the hospital he asked that the 23rd psalm be said for his soul because the ancient ones feared the power of the son of man...the everywhere spirit.