First frost

There was a distinct chill in the air this morning, as the temperature in the Cincinnati area dipped into the upper 30s. When I awoke, the heater had kicked on. (I set my furnace’s thermostat to 64 degrees before going to bed last night.)

When I walked outside, I noticed a light frost on my lawn. If you look closely at the above photo, you can see the thin coating of the white stuff.

The first frost means that the summer weather is really, truly over, and the real cold is not far ahead. The first frost means an end to grass mowing, insects, and walking outside in shirt sleeves.

Winter, as they were fond of saying in Game of Thrones, is coming. It happens every year, you know.

Sharks in New England

A 63-year-old New York woman was fatally attacked by a great white shark while swimming off the Maine coast. For whatever they’re worth, I offer my condolences. That would be a terrifying way to go. 

No one really expects to be attacked by a shark while swimming in the waters off Maine. Shark attacks are something we associate with the tropics, generally. Continue reading “Sharks in New England”

Southern Ohio’s Dead Man’s Curve

Not far from where I live, there is a stretch of Ohio State Route 125 that has been dubbed Dead Man’s Curve

The spot is just a few miles from my house, in fact. I’ve been by there many times.

According to the urban legend, if you drive this section of rural highway a little after 1 a.m., you might see the faceless hitchhiker. From a distance, this male figure may look relatively normal. Once you get close, though, you’ll see that he has no face.

Sometimes the hitchhiker isn’t content to stand there by the side of the road and watch you. There have been reports of the phantom actually attacking cars.

Creepy, right?

Yeah, I think so, too….

Dead Man’s Curve on Ohio State Route 125 has a long and macabre history. Route 125 is the main road that connects the suburbs and small towns east of Cincinnati with the city. But much of the road (including Dead Man’s Curve) was originally part of the Ohio Turnpike, which was built in 1831. (Andrew Jackson was president in 1831, just to put that date in perspective.)

That section of the Ohio Turnpike was the scene of many accidents (some of them fatal), even in the horse-and-buggy days. The downward sloping curve became particularly treacherous when rain turned the road to mud. Horses and carriages would sometimes loose their footing, sending them over the adjacent hillside.

In the twentieth century, the Ohio Turnpike was paved and reconfigured into State Route 125. In 1968 the road was expanded into four lanes. 

As part of the expansion, the spot known as Dead Man’s Curve was leveled and straightened. (As a result, the curve doesn’t look so daunting today…unless you know its history.) This was supposed to be the end of “Dead Man’s Curve”.

But it wasn’t.

In 1969, there was a horrible accident at the spot. The driver of a green Roadrunner—traveling at a speed of 100 mph—slammed into an Impala carrying five teenagers. There was only one survivor of the tragic accident.

Shortly after that, witnesses began to report sightings of the faceless hitchhiker during the wee hours. (The hitchhiker is said to be most active during the twenty-minutes between 1:20 and 1:40 a.m.) There have also been reports of a ghostly green Roadrunner that will chase drivers late at night. 

Oh, and Dead Man’s Curve remains deadly, despite the leveling and straightening done in 1968. In the five decades since the accident involving the Roadrunner and the Impala, around seventy people have been killed there.

Is there any truth to the legend of Dead Man’s Curve?

I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is that I’ve heard many eyewitness accounts from local residents who claim to have seen the hitchhiker. (Keep in mind, I live very close to Dead Man’s Curve, and it’s a local topic of discussion and speculation.) Almost none of these eyewitnesses have struck me as mentally imbalanced or deceitful.

I know what your last question is going to be: Have I ever driven Dead Man’s Curve between 1:20 and 1:40 a.m. myself?

Uh, no. But perhaps I’ll get around to it someday, and I’ll let you know in a subsequent blog post!

***

Hey!…While you’re here: I wrote a novel about a haunted road in Ohio. It’s called Eleven Miles of Night. You can start reading the book for FREE here on my website, or check out the reviews on Amazon.

You can also start reading my other two novels of the supernatural in Southern Ohio: Revolutionary Ghosts and 12 Hours of Halloween. 

Check out my FREE short stories, too….many of them have macabre elements.

And stop back soon! I add content to this website every day!

Revolutionary Ghosts, Chapter 1

 

I was tying my tie in Dr. Beckman’s exam room when I felt the chill. I was alone in the tiny, antiseptic space. The doctor had stepped out to allow me to get dressed.

I took a deep breath. The cool air had a vaguely chemical odor.

There was nothing in here to be afraid of. From where I stood, leaning against the exam table, I could see a sink and counter—spotless and sterile—lined with bottles of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Formica and metal surfaces, gleaming in the bright glare of the overhead florescent light panels.

The tiled floor gleamed, too. Beneath the sink, there was a little rolling stool. (There is one of those in every exam room on the planet, it seems.)

I took a deep breath, and continued tying my double Windsor knot.

There is nothing in here to be afraid of.

Then I saw the closet door, in the corner of the room behind the exam table.

The door was slightly ajar—just a crack.

Had it been closed ten minutes ago, when Dr. Beckman was in here, prodding me with his stethoscope, tongue depressor, and ear speculum?

I wasn’t sure. But after recent events—and after long-ago events—I don’t like doors that are slightly ajar, doors that partially reveal dark spaces.

I could feel my skin breaking out in gooseflesh beneath the starched fabric of my white Oxford dress shirt.

The room is chilly by design, I told myself. Someone—I forget who—once told me that temperatures in medical facilities are kept deliberately low, so as to stymie the growth of molds and bacteria.

But what else was growing in here? What was hiding in that closet, that I couldn’t see?

 

I felt foolish for having such thoughts, for even raising such questions. I am not a child. I am a fifty-nine-year-old man, a father and grandfather. I’m a divisional manager at Covington Foods, a large consumer goods company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I have investments. Stocks and mutual funds. All the requisite forms of insurance, for a man my age.

No one who knows me would say that I am easily spooked, whimsical, or given to flights of fancy. My wife, in fact, calls me “Steady Steve”.

And Steady Steve I am, most of the time.

But this past week, I have not been myself.

 

 

Fully dressed now, I was trying to decide what to do about that closet door. I was weighing two options.

On one hand, I could walk across the room and push the door shut. That would be the simplest option.

On the other hand, I could pull the door open. Then I would know for sure that there was nothing lurking in that space.

I was still considering these options when I heard a door click open behind me. Not the closet door, but the door of the exam room.

Dr. Beckman was back.

 

Dr. Beckman is a stoop-shouldered man with a sallow complexion. He is still in his thirties, but his light brown hair is fast receding. He wears thick glasses.

Dr. Beckman has been my family physician for about three years now. My wife, Peggy, and I started seeing him after dear old Dr. Alfieri finally retired at the age of seventy-two.

I greeted Dr. Beckman. I noticed that he was carrying a clipboard.

I was in his office today for the second half of a two-part exam. The first half had been carried out last week.

This was a routine physical, but nevertheless done at the behest of my employer. Covington Foods requires all of its managers to receive a stem-to-stern physical exam every two years.

“We can go over the results of your exam,” Dr. Beckman said, “if you’re ready. Per the usual procedure, my office will send a copy of the results to the Covington Foods human resources department. We’ll also mail a copy to the home address that we have on file for you.”

“Please,” I said. “Let’s go over the results.”

Dr. Beckman consulted his clipboard. “The results of the blood work that you had done last week are quite satisfactory. Liver and kidney function look good.

“Same for lipids. We’ll have to watch your LDL cholesterol, moving forward. But that’s the same for practically everyone. You performed well on your stress test. Not bad at all, for a man your age.”

Just then Dr. Beckman stopped himself. “Oh, I’m sorry, Steve. I didn’t mean—”

“That’s okay, Doc. I’m fifty-nine years old this year. We need not pretend that I’m a spring chicken. But it’s good to hear that I shouldn’t die in the foreseeable future, just the same.”

My last sentence, those words about death, seemed to hang in the air. Was I really certain that I wouldn’t die in the foreseeable future? And it wasn’t my LDL cholesterol that I was worried about.

I knew, from the events of forty years ago, that there were far worse ways to die.

“Of course not,” Dr. Beckman said, with a tight little smile. “I anticipate you’ll be coming in for many more biennial exams yet.”

The doctor paused, not saying anything for a moment. During my more than thirty years at Covington Foods, I have had literally thousands of encounters with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates. I can always tell when someone has something to say, but doesn’t quite know how to broach the topic.

“I sense a ‘but’ coming here, Doc,” I said. “Out with it, whatever ‘it’ is.”

The doctor seemed relieved. “Yes, well, I suppose there is something. I couldn’t help noticing that you’ve displayed signs of acute anxiety this week. I didn’t notice that last week, when you came in for the blood work and the stress test.”

‘Anxiety’, Dr. Beckman called it. That was putting the matter lightly. My problems had begun on Tuesday of last week, the day after my visit to Dr. Beckman’s office, for the first part of my full-body exam.

But there was no way I could discuss the past week and a half with Dr. Beckman.

“I don’t think so,” I said, playing dumb. “A little stress at the office maybe. Nothing more.”

I could tell that Dr. Beckman didn’t believe me. You don’t get through medical school without being perceptive.

But in another second my facade would crumble, anyway.

 

That was when I heard the hoofbeats, thundering down the hallway. I could picture a dark black horse. The animal would be partially rotted from the centuries it had spent in the grave, its muscles and bones exposed here and there. The eyes of the horse would be dead and glassy.

The rider of the horse would be wearing an eighteenth-century military frock coat, also rotted and in tatters, heavy trousers and boots.

The rider would be wearing no hat. Because the rider had no head.

The rider would be wielding a large battlefield sword.

The rider and horse would burst through the door of the exam room. First the Horseman would behead Dr. Beckman. (Dr. Beckman would barely have time to see the blow coming; and he certainly wouldn’t have time to save himself.)

Dr. Beckman’s head would topple from his body and roll to the floor. Then his body would drop, so much dead weight, his neck spurting blood.

And then the Horseman would take my head, too.

I had evaded him for more than forty years. But I would evade him no longer.

A few more seconds passed, and I realized the nature of my delusion. The hoofbeats in the hallway moved past the closed door of the exam room. Then I realized that they were not hoofbeats at all.

What I had heard was the ruckus of a nurse or orderly pushing a caster-wheeled cart atop the tiled floor of the hallway outside the exam room. A perfectly normal sound in any medical building.

I recovered myself. Dr. Beckman was staring at me with narrowed eyes.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just felt a bit lightheaded for a moment. It’s nothing.”

Dr. Beckman made not even the slightest pretense of accepting my excuse.

“Steve,” he said. “We’ve got to talk.”

 

Dr. Beckman did not convince me quite that easily. As I’ve said, I’m a divisional manager at Covington Foods. I don’t easily budge when I am not of a mind to do so.

“Have you ever heard of cortisol, Steve?” Dr. Beckman asked me.

I was somewhat puzzled by this seemingly off-the-wall question.

“Maybe,” I said. “I might have heard of it. One of those hormones, isn’t it?”

“Very good,” Dr. Beckman said, nodding. “Exactly. Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone. As you might be able to guess, your body secretes cortisol when you are under stress. Part of the body’s fight or flight mechanism. A small amount of cortisol is relatively harmless.”

“I have a feeling, Dr. Beckman, that you’re going to tell me that larger quantities of cortisol are not so harmless.”

“Right again, Steve. Over time, large quantities of cortisol can have a myriad of negative effects on your health. And I’m not merely talking about things like a touchy stomach or sleeplessness, though symptoms begin that way. Over time, large amounts of cortisol can lead to autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and even cancer. That’s what chronic stress does to your body.”

I took a moment to take in what Dr. Beckman had just said. It was a sad irony to think that even if the Horseman hadn’t beheaded me forty years ago, the memory of him—these flashbacks—might bring about my death by a thousand proverbial cuts.

In more than forty years, I had told no one about the events that transpired in the summer of 1976. I was the only one left alive who fully remembered them.

Perhaps I had kept my secrets too long. Perhaps I could benefit by opening up, just a little.

Could I tell Dr. Beckman about that horrible summer? No, I didn’t think I could. But perhaps I could tell him about the problems that I had been having more recently.

“Okay, doctor. I suppose I get your point. I have been under a more than usual amount of stress lately. Some very unusual things have been occurring.”

“Unusual?” Dr. Beckman raised his eyebrows.

“Very unusual,” I confirmed.

Dr. Beckman leaned back against the spotless counter where the sink was. He set his clipboard on the counter, near the bottles of rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.

“By all means, Steve. Do go on. We have some time left in your appointment hour.”

I took a deep breath before beginning. “Okay, Doc. It all began with a quarter.”

“A quarter?”

“Yes. A quarter.”

 

Chapter 2

Table of Contents

Preview ‘The Eavesdropper’ on Edward Trimnell Books

A corporate thriller that will keep you guessing…

Three of your coworkers are planning a murder. Will you stop them, or become their next victim?

A corporate workplace thriller based (very loosely) on some intrigues that I have seen and experienced in the corporate world.

You can start reading The Eavesdropper here on Edward Trimnell Books.

Or view it now on Amazon!

Happy Memorial Day 2020

It will be a quiet day here on the blog. I hope you enjoy Memorial Day with family and friends.

Thanks to all of those who have stood on the ramparts to protect our freedoms, and–of course–those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

As Harry Truman said long ago, they have earned our undying gratitude. 

Finally, may God bless the brave men and women who presently serve in the US Armed Forces.

And perdition to those who would do them harm.

Audiobooks while you mow

Or podcasts, for that matter. Or music.

I’ve been writing recently in this space about audiobooks. The other day I described how I enjoyed re-experiencing Watership Down via audio

Here’s the problem, though: ordinary earbuds don’t provide sufficient hearing protection while you’re mowing the lawn. Nor are you likely to hear much of what you’re listening to, unless you only want to listen to KISS and AC/DC. Continue reading “Audiobooks while you mow”

The imperiled indie bookstore business model

From The New Republic, an article on the fall, sort-of-rise, and subsequent fall of the independent bookseller in America:

Is This the End of the Indie Bookstore?

Needless to say, independent bookstores have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and the government-mandated shutdown of the national economy. Few state bureaucrats have deemed bookstores as “essential”. Most have therefore been shut down for about two months at the time of this writing.

As the New Republic article explains, independent bookstores were battered by the rise of B&N and Borders superstores in the 1990s. This was before the rise of Amazon and ebooks..not to mention COVID-19.

After several decades of decline, indie bookstores bounced back somewhat between 2009 and 2019.

“They fostered a sense of community between business and consumer; their wares were curated specifically for their clientele; and they were places where people could physically convene. These were not just stores selling widgets, they were local hubs.”

So what do I think about the future of the independent bookstore? Continue reading “The imperiled indie bookstore business model”

The new HarperCollins subscription service, and how romance fiction is “different”

Mills & Boon launching subscription service We Love Romance

This is a subscription service that will provide unlimited reading for about $9.99 per month. (The service will launch in the United Kingdom and Ireland.)

Interesting—and probably smart—that HarperCollins decided to focus on romance fiction. Continue reading “The new HarperCollins subscription service, and how romance fiction is “different””

Asian giant hornets in the USA

Just as we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of the coronavirus pandemic, another scourge has arrived from the Far East: the Asian giant hornet. 

This invader shouldn’t be as disruptive as the viral one. But this is bad news, however you slice it. I saw a few of these when I was in Japan. They’re nothing you’d want to find in your back yard in Ohio. 

In Ohio, DeWine dithers: time for civil disobedience?

Sic semper tyrannis…

Governor Mike DeWine continues to blithely put entire sectors of the Ohio economy out of business:

Ohio restaurant owners deflated they can’t reopen under DeWine’s plan

Some business owners, however, aren’t waiting for the governor’s approval. They’re taking matters into their own hands.

They’re planning to practice something that we haven’t seen much of since the 1960s: civil disobedience: Continue reading “In Ohio, DeWine dithers: time for civil disobedience?”

Boris Johnson’s love child

Please avert your eyes, everyone. Your host is about to wax 20th-century and most unapologetically unhip here for a moment.

Boris Johnson has just become a father, for at least the fifth time. His oldest acknowledged child was born in 1993. (In total, Johnson had four children with his second wife, Marina Wheeler.) Continue reading “Boris Johnson’s love child”

Every news outlet has an agenda (yes, even the conservative ones)

This little tongue-in-cheek infographic from the Babylon Bee actually contains a lot of wisdom:

Historically, news outlets were unabashed about their biases. During America’s colonial period, there were patriot papers and Tory papers. In the early days of the American Republic, we had Federalist and anti-Federalist newspapers. A similar pattern continued through the 1800s. Continue reading “Every news outlet has an agenda (yes, even the conservative ones)”