Another Friday the 13th is fast approaching, bringing Stephen King thoughts. I admit to occasionally imagining plots that tend toward the horror genre with cemeteries, aliens, demon possession. I think I could write a horror story if I could somehow not scare the heck out of myself. Alternatively, I could try magical realism a la Alice Hoffman, but tipping toward the dark side. Think Practical Magic with deeper cynicism. Nevermind that I’m in the midst of a literary thriller, a sequel to October Run; I always have a couple of projects percolating.
Cemeteries are a grand place to start. Recently, I toured historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, final home to the famous and less-so. My daughter included it on a must-do list for my visit with her. She wanted to tour the Civil War section. I fell in love with the statuary and the stories they seemed to broadcast with outcast arms. Green-Wood was at one time the country’s second most visited tourist location. With rolling landscape and curving paths, it invites you to stay and wander. Guards at the entrances can provide a map, an oddity for a cemetery. Tours are available, odder still.
I imagined that if I returned after dark, to sit quietly, I would hear the murmurs. Horror stories–from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King–are no more than reality taken to another plane. And no less than our imaginations set free. Walking through Green-Wood, or any cemetery, brings me closer to the possibilities of stories I’d not previously contemplated.
As we were leaving Green-Wood, a young woman, about the age of my daughters, hailed us. She was standing by her car. She told us she had been visiting the grave of her mother who had died the week before. She said that when she prepared to leave, her car wouldn’t start. I maneuvered my Honda nose-to-nose with her stalled car; my husband attached the jumper cables. Her car roared to life.
In those split seconds, I had imagined a story of loss. A story that would turn dark as the sun set. A story of grieving and hope. A story of the dead walking with the living. The mother had died too young….why? The answer would come to me if I stayed into the night, locked in with the quieted souls and their stories. Friday the 13th is an excuse to think about ghosts; a stroll through a cemetery is a way to meet them.