This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”
We moved a temporary “bridge out” sign so we could drive our car across. Clearly, the bridge was not out, but we were—for a good time.
We had driven well across rural Lorain County in pursuit of a late October fright night like generations of Northern Ohio teens before us. It was a rite of passage to try and brave the dark valley and legend of Gore Orphanage.
Matt and Dusty wanted candy. We pulled off at a rickety old roadside store, and they went inside.
“Look, is that someone leaning out of the window above the store?” asked one of the girls in the backseat.
I rolled the window down.
“Do-o-o-on’t go-o,” the stranger lobbed down to us, face flickering in neon against the dark.
We looked at each other inside the car, silently mouthing, “What the …!”
When we looked back up, the stranger in the window was gone.
“What the heck was that?” asked one of the girls aloud.
Surely, it was just some guy having fun with us.
Matt and Dusty jumped back in the car. They didn’t believe a word out of our mouths about the stranger in the window.
Eventually, we arrived at a desolate country road that led down a steep, narrow hill. We noticed but ignored the “no trespassing” signs riddled with bullet holes. Near the bottom of the hill, a turn-off to the left veered so sharply it was difficult to see. This offshoot was even steeper and narrower and led to blackness. Our other option was to continue the main route and ascend the other side of the valley.
We chose blackness.
With windows rolled down on a crisp fall night, we listened as we puttered to “Crybaby Bridge.”
“Kill the engine!”
We listened. Then, we got out and leaned against the metal bridge.
“I heard it.”
“I don’t hear a thing!”
The legend was that long ago, there was an orphanage that burned to the ground, taking with it dozens of kids. If you listened closely, you could hear their faint cries echoing through the valley. Oh, and if you turned your car off on Heartbeat Bridge, it wouldn’t restart until you pushed it across to the other side. So, we intentionally left it out of gear to spook the girls. They even gave it a try before we pushed it to the other side. Wouldn’t you know it, it started right up. You could probably catch us winking and smirking at each other on the sly if you were looking in the rear-view mirror.
We continued down the all-but-forgotten road, winding around a bend one way and then back another before pulling over to park along the edge of the road.
“They say the foundation of the orphanage is that way,” Matt said, pointing a flashlight toward the trailhead, where woods met an open field.
Before going there, we ventured up the road ahead on foot. A lonely house was at the end of a long, wooded driveway.
“No way! Someone lives down here!” Dusty whisper-yelled.
Pushing uphill, around a bend, the road was barricaded. We went back to the car.
“Oh no, cops!” I said.
“Those aren’t cops,” Matt noticed as they neared.
They were a friendly group and led us straight to the foundation. But not before passing a lone pillar with graffiti warning, “You are now entering Hell.”
We sat on the remaining foundation blocks and befriended the new carload of strangers. They decided to leave before us, but we weren’t far behind.
As they drove away, I went for some kicks. I threw my flashlight as hard as possible, end over end, high over their windshield, freaking them out. They sped off. Pleased with my shenanigans, I ran, laughing, to pick up my flashlight. Within minutes, it died. Worse, unbeknownst to me, my car keys bounced out of my unzipped jacket pocket.
We knew we were up a creek without a paddle after our failed attempts to search for the lost keys. The other flashlight went dead. So, Matt and I left Dusty with the girls and went to the old house to ask for batteries or a flashlight. It was pretty late at night.
A freak rain shower drove down, forcing us to return to the car. Anxiety and tempers flared.
“Shut up!” Matt yelled.
“What the …”
We were all staring out the back window at a clunker of a pickup truck pulling off the road near our car.
Our car was a clunker, so it probably looked abandoned.
Peeking over the back seat, we all witnessed a man jump from the truck. He was carrying something long. He let three dogs out the passenger door, and they all ran into the field together and out of sight.
“What do we do?”
“What the hell was that?” the girls cried.
“Was that a gunshot?” I asked aloud.
“Here he comes!” Dusty warned.
The man emerged with two dogs, hopped in his truck, and slowly motored away.
When we finally peeled ourselves from the floor mats, the rain had stopped. It was past midnight. We were stranded …far from home…in an era before the public was armed with cell phones and GPS.
Amazingly, another vehicle eventually appeared. No, it was two cars carrying more teenagers. They were locals. One agreed to drive me back to his parent’s house so I could call my mom. She would have to come out with a spare key.
“Now, listen carefully, Mom. At that point, you’ll have to get out and move a sign that says bridge out, but don’t worry; you can cross. Ignore the no-trespassing signs. Go down the road that looks like a car should not go down. It gets steep and narrow…” continued my directions to my mom. As I heard myself explain, I knew I wouldn’t see the light of day for quite some time.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!