Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trail of Dark Shadows

The hollow between Sam Lions and Cherokee Trails, in Martinsville, VA — the beginning
of the Trail of Dark Shadows

That's what I used to call it — the old trail through the woods near Lake Lanier in Martinsville, VA, between Sam Lions and Cherokee Trails. As a youngster in the 1960s, back when Dark Shadows was in its heyday, I found those woods creepy because I was convinced they were inhabited by witches, warlocks, werewolves, and vampires. The trail ran behind my friend Frank's house, and he was the one kid in the neighborhood whose family had cable, which meant we could watch Dark Shadows at his house. (I took every opportunity to invite myself over there so we could be scared in the afternoon.) On occasion, we'd go back into the woods near dark, and there was a particular portion of the trail where, in my mind's eye, I could just see Barnabas Collins, vampire, standing there watching me as the sun went down. It was deliciously chilling.

Ever since then, to me, the trail has been known as the Trail of Dark Shadows. That portion of it in the photo to the left — just beyond the carpet of ferns — is where I often used to envision Barnabas standing. Those flights of imagination were so vivid that my brain can scarcely separate them from memories of actual events.

Beyond the Dark Shadows connection, I've had a near life-long history with that trail, and it's still one of my favorite places to go walking. Today, being Mummy's Day, I trekked up to Martinsville to visit Mum, and during the late afternoon, I went out for a little hike on the trail, as it's been awhile. With the taste of the new Tim Burton Dark Shadows not terribly pleasant on my tongue, this was just the ticket for reflecting on the real Dark Shadows and what an influence it was on my impressionable young mind. And how it has lingered.

In later childhood years, once bike-riding (and riding other friends' motorcycles) became my predominant pastime, I spent yet more time back on the trail, riding and wrecking with gleeful abandon. In my college years, it was a great place to find privacy for activities about which parents and law enforcement officers would have had uncomplimentary things to say. Since becoming an almost honest-to-god writer, I've brainstormed many a horror tale — not to mention the Dark Shadows audio dramas I've scripted — back in those woods. And during those tough recent years, they became a favorite retreat from the stresses of a crumbling marital relationship.

After I'm gone, perhaps I will haunt the Trail of Dark Shadows. What a treat to scare the living shit out of the next generation of kids taking delight in those woods, eh?

Click on the pics to enlarge.
Still haunting the trail after all these years.
The old clay banks of the creek along the trail, from which Frank and I could actually
sculpt Godzilla and other monsters.

Looking up through the woods to Frank's old place.
Beyond the trail was the steep hillside on which we used to play army and shoot at the legions
of dinosaurs that stalked through the forest. Oh yeah, they were out there.

1 comment:

HemlockMan said...

It's nice when there's one place in this world that hasn't changed.