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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hallowe'en Is For The Haunted!

And to this day, this is one Hallowe'en party that I'm glad that I missed!
A group of us writers from got together to write about something that happened in our childhood that was memorable to us. It was a challenge for all of us to write. As if we need a challenge to write! If it was a memory about Hallowe'en, all the better, because the day is close at hand. Well this is re-counting is of a Hallowe'en that I missed. This is my memory as close to the truth, as I can now remember.

I was, maybe ten-years-old when Claudette, my best friend and I discovered the old family burial plot. It was surrounded by the loveliest smelling purple lilacs I had ever seen. It was in a grove on an old deserted piece of land, down an old overgrown driveway, off an equally old overgrown road, that we had found one day, while peddling to French lake, to do some swimming. There was an old dilapidated two-story stone house that had long since seen it last tenants. I stopped my bicycle to smell the lilacs thinking that there was no one there to refuse me taking a bouquet home to mum.

We talked over the idea, Claudette and I and decided no one would mind and so we went through the wire fence and crossed the property. At the edge of the wall of lilacs, I stopped to pick the prettiest and fullest flowers but Claudette, always the more curious, had to go through the bushes to see if the flowers were better on the other side.

“Wynn, come here,” she called out lightly. Without question I brushed my way through the thick vines and branches of the bushes, to arrive on the other side beside Claudette. There in the center of the grove were three headstones..., well more like monuments. They were very old and covered with moss. Two were large.., as large as I was at the time and the third was that of a child, made of white marble. Most of what was written I cannot remember but the name ‘Cogswell’ had been engraved on all three. To this day I can still see those three stones inside that grove of lilac trees and bushes.

I couldn't take those lilacs home to mum. Instead, I bundled them up into three smaller bouquets and placed them in front of those three stones, being very careful not to trod on the graves. I can't remember if Claudette chided me for doing so, since we argued about so many, little things that my mum had taught me.

Years later, I had been moved around the world, so very many times by my military-career father and had lost contact with Claudette, even though I considered her my best friend. I was fifteen, when my father retired from the army and we made our last move to Calgary, Alberta. Still, I hadn’t heard so much as a word from Claudette.

Dad was reading the Calgary Herald this one day and came across a gruesome story on one of the center pages, I remember. It was about the police raiding the apartment of a girl from our old hometown, looking for drugs. They didn’t find any, in fact all they found was a diary, the journal of my friend, Claudette. In it, she wrote, “we went to the grave of old man “Cogswell” and dug up the remains. I used a spade to break the skull away from the rest of the body and I took the skull home. I wanted to have the skull for a Hallowe’en party that I had later that week. I placed the skull on my kitchen table and used it as a candle holder and burned incense in it. It was a big hit for the party, but most people didn’t believe it was a real skull. After about two months, there were a lot of weird things happening in the apartment. Dishes would fall out of the cupboards and break. Pipes under the sink burst and flooded the floor. The window behind the table cracked but there was nothing to crack it. The candles in the scull would blow out even though there was no breeze to blow them and the incense always smelled like skunk. Finally, we took the skull back to the grave and buried it with its body. The haunting stopped!”

The diary was confiscated, though the police weren’t sure why, since the article had been written two years before and Claudette was a minor, at the time. She had been asked about the validity of the journal and she had replied that everything that she wrote was the truth. I’m not exactly sure about that girl, she must have been high or burned her brains when she positively said that she had taken the skull, but in any case her honesty landed her in the state penal lock up for two years.

I had a letter from her while she was in the penitentiary. She always knew how to get a hold of me because my aunt always had my address. She told me what had happened and that she had found love while inside. She said there was nothing better than the love of another woman. That she was a lesbian and would never go back to heterosexuality.

To this day, I’m still stunned by Claudette. She was a nice-looking, outgoing, vivacious, petite woman and yet she had a sense of reality that goes beyond anything I had ever known. I often wondered if I would have turned out as she did, in lockup for two years, if dad had not been stationed in Germany for those four years. Would I have had the adventurous, destructive spirit that led her to desecrating the grave of old man Cogswell and removing his skull from his final resting place with his family? Would I have thought, at fifteen years old, that it was courage or would I have considered it stupidity and walked away from a flourishing friendship? Would a penitentiary for women have turned me into a lesbian? Or am I strong enough in my own beliefs that I would have stopped her from taking the skull in the first place.

The truth is that even if I had of been there and helped her take the skull, I still would have been a minor by the time that she was imprisoned, since I was almost two years younger than Claudette. But you know, when my dad was reading the story out of the newspaper, I remember thinking, ‘why would anyone be so stupid as to write something like that down, let alone admit to doing it, instead of saying that she let her imagination run wild.’


Samantha said...

Wow! What a childhood memory this is! Very well written, took me straight into the story with you and to those tombstones.

Unbelievable how the story turned out and how your friend Claudette had stolen the skull of Cogswell and you were also able to put in an update that you had a letter from her stating she'd turned lesbian, etc.

Very good read Wynn! Thanks for sharing your childhood memory with us!

Michael said...

A chilling tale, well told. And a Hallowe'en I'm glad I missed as well.

The diary was confiscated, though at the time the police weren’t sure why, since the article had been wrote two years ....
Should that be had been written?

Magdalen Islands said...

I made the change, Michael and Thank You!

keith hillman said...

What a facsinating and chilling tale. A great read

Knotgypsy said...

Wow. What an interesting and creepy story, perfect for Halloween!

I often wonder why people do the things they do and can only surmise that either they are not too bright OR that some part of themselves wants to be held accountable.

jadey said...


I love this I think it was a great memory from childhood that truly reflects a friendship and some of the good times you had but, it also is fitting with Halloween being so close. I am so shocked about your friend admitting that as well quite strange. However, last paragraph it should be two year younger than not younger that. I like this alot.

Magdalen Islands said...

Thanks Jadey, it takes many eyes to proofread. Corrected!

KB said...

I love this story, you write very well.

Marja said...

A very intriguing story Wynn. I think it is even for a child strange and scary to dug this up, so probably even later she didn't realise that it was wrong. When she was a minor at that time can they still imprison her? I find imprisonement not a very good choice in this case, she more likely needs help. Or their might have been drugs involved because 2 years is a bit much for this.
I think it wouldn't have changed you I think you are a strong person.
Where in Germany was your father stationed. SO that's why you know holland well. So du sprichst drei
zahlen (languages) my german is not that good anymore.


Beautiful story.