I finally made my way into the magazine alcove. It didn’t take me long to find a stack of the June issue of Car and Driver, directly in front of me at eye level.
The topmost copy of the magazine had a dogeared and creased cover. Someone had read and roughly handled the magazine without buying it. I lifted up that copy, and selected the more pristine one immediately behind it.
I could have simply made my purchase and left then, but this wasn’t my day for sticking to plans.
To the right of the stack of Car and Driver, there was a single copy of a magazine called, Spooky American Tales.
The artwork on the cover was elaborate and gaudy. A full-color illustration of the folklore character known as the Grim Reaper, standing astride a map of the United States. The Grim Reaper was in the act of swinging his scythe from Maine to Texas.
The tagline of the magazine (printed just below the title) was: “True Ghost Stories from the American Heartland”. Below the blade of the Grim Reaper’s scythe were the words, “Why the Summer of ’76 will be Scary as Hell!”
I was vaguely familiar with Spooky American Tales. As the tagline indicated, the publication billed itself as a repository of authentic paranormal reporting, with an exclusive emphasis on ghostly happenings within the United States.
I couldn’t remember exactly, but I may have owned a single copy of the magazine in the distant years of my adolescence, when I was eleven or twelve years old.
I was intrigued. It couldn’t hurt to take a look.
I picked up Spooky American Tales. I turned to the table of contents.
The first item I saw was an article about a haunted silver mine in Nevada. Then there was a story about a Confederate cemetery in rural Georgia, where Dixie’s fallen soldiers were not yet at rest.
Then, near the bottom of the table of contents, I saw another article:
“The Headless Horsemen rides again in 1976, to bring in the American Bicentennial!”
Once again, I was intrigued. That article began on page 84, near the back of the magazine. I flipped back to it.
The byline of the article was given to a man named Harry Bailey. I skimmed the first paragraphs of Harry Bailey’s piece:
“The Headless Horseman has been known to generations of Americans as the ghostly figure who pursued Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s classic short horror tale, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’.
“But every legend—no matter how seemingly outlandish—is based on at least an element of truth.
“That is what the old-timers say. And now it appears that the Headless Horseman is back, to terrorize America in 1976, the year of our Bicentennial…”
I would have read more of the article right there in the store. But I was interrupted by Leslie Griffin again.
“Hey!” she said. “This is a store. S-t-o-r-e. You know: where people like, buy things. This isn’t the Griffin Family Library!”