Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Jersey Devil lives ... honest! By Leah St. James

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. I’m afraid of things that go bump in the night.

There. I said it. I’m no Ghost Buster.

I think this first manifested (hahahaha…sorry, couldn’t help it) when I was a Girl Scout and went on overnight camping trips. Like most groups of kids who go camping, we told scary stories. And in New Jersey, there is no more famous scary story than that of the infamous Jersey Devil. Here's one of my, uh, favorite stories of a couple who encountered the grotesque creature of the night.

Two lovers are driving down a lonely road in the Jersey Pine Barrens. It’s after midnight, and clouds obscure the moon—it’s the dark of the dead. Suddenly the car engine sputters, then dies. The man pulls onto the shoulder, gets out and begins to walk for help. The woman stays behind and waits, shivering in the cold and gloom. After a few minutes she hears a scratching on the hood of the car. Panicked, she hunkers down and hopes for her boyfriend’s return, but he never reappears. The police find the car in the morning, with the boyfriend hanging from a tree branch directly over the car, upside down, his fingers just reaching the hood of the car. The Jersey Devil has struck again.

Try hearing that when you’re less than an hour from Jersey Devil country and all you have is a canvas tent for protection. 

Hey, I don’t care what the scientists and skeptics say. I believed then. I believe now.

Still, I enjoy scary stories, reading and writing. I enjoy that feeling of the hair lifting on the back of my neck, my skin crawling with awareness of some hidden danger…as long as I know it’s fiction.


Here’s an excerpt from my own scary story—novella Adrienne’s Ghost. (Adrienne's Ghost will be free on Amazon on October 25, 26 and 27.)

Do you believe in ghosts? FBI Agent Jackson Yates never had . . . until now.

Paranormal psychologist Rachael Sullivan has spent her adult years searching for the knowledge of life after death.

Joined by forces beyond their control, beyond their understanding, together they seek a killer. Together they encounter . . .Adrienne’s Ghost.

Rachael set the journals on the table and sorted through the pile until she found the one that began during Adrienne's high school years, figuring it would be a good place to start. Before she could sit, the diary dropped from her hand and fell to the floor. Tsking at her clumsiness, she retrieved the book, resettled herself into the sofa's cushions, and turned back to page one. Again the book landed on the floor, but this time it somersaulted through the air, as though it had been propelled by a force.

The surface of her skin beginning to prickle, Rachael stood and scanned the room, to search for the source of an energy strong enough, other-worldly enough to have caused what she'd witnessed. But the room was empty. Or maybe it only seemed empty because she couldn't see whatever life forces might be hiding just beyond the realm of her comprehension.

Still, she felt like an idiot when she retrieved the diary from the floor, then deliberately closed it and set it on the coffee table, as if she no longer had any interest in the secrets it held. She wondered if the night of passion had scrambled her brains when she sat back to watch, her fingers crossed.

It wasn't long before her hunch paid off. The journal on top of the pile began to tremble, then buck. Fascinated, Rachael trained her eyes on the book, and as its movements became more frenzied, her heart raced to match its pace. Within a few seconds, the book had somehow shimmied itself forward so it teetered on the edge of the pile, like it needed no more than a tiny nudge to take the plunge.

Debating if she was supposed to provide that nudge, Rachael reached forward, and in that instant a shadowy image materialized inches away from the tips of her fingers. She jolted and snatched her arm back as the shadow transformed into a shape. It was a hand, only a hand, like someone was reaching through a split in some cosmic curtain that separated two dimensions. A shriek whipped up Rachael's throat, and she slapped both hands to her mouth to stuff it back down.

Scrambling backward, she found herself pressed against the couch, ready to run, when the ghostly fingers prodded the diary.

It tumbled over the table's edge, landing with a thunk, and Rachael dropped to her knees, inhaling one choppy breath after another until her lungs could take no more. She was paralyzed, mesmerized, watching the hand where it hovered over the open book, less than a foot away. The fingernails, ragged and torn, were dirty and stained with smears of what looked like blood. They waggled suddenly, and the pages of the book began to flutter, making the sound of a hundred birds in flight. The air Rachael had been holding expelled in a burst, and her lungs refilled on another giant breath. But before she could scream, the humming from the FBI's basement, that heartbeat-like pulse, saturated the air.

She didn't realize she'd scrambled to her feet and retreated until the backs of her legs hit the edge of the sofa. As her muscles gave way to fear, she sagged onto the cushions and watched as Adrienne formed in front of her eyes.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Wow! What an excerpt. Tomorrow is my day posting here, and I have to follow that! You set a high bar, Leah. Glad I read this in the morning, except now I'm about to take my customary walk in the woods!

Alicia Dean said...

Love that legend. I've heard the same thing in different areas and about different 'creatures.' I love chills and thrills :) Adrienne's Ghost is a FABULOUS story!!!

Jannine Gallant said...

I love ghost books! Can't wait to read this one.

Leah St. James said...

Awww, thanks Margaret. I left out the part about traipsing through the woods in the middle of the night to get to the latrine! :-) Can't wait to read your story!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Alicia. I had FABULOUS editor! :-)

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Jannine - I love ghost stories, too! One of my favorites, though, was an Abbott and Costello movie, "The Time of Their Lives."

Chrys Fey said...

I got goosebumps from your story about the Jersey Devil! lol

The cover for Adrienne's Ghost is chilling all on its own! Ghosts, a night of passion, a mysterious diary . . .? Oh yes, this sounds like an awesome book!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks so much, Chrys! Yeah, the Jersey Devil always creeped me out, and always will!

Barbara Edwards said...

Great excerpt and story . I'll definitely be getting this book.

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Barbara! I appreciate your kind words.