This is another in my series describing being alone in places people don’t usually like to be alone. The last in the series was Alone in an Abandoned Prison. This time, it’s a cemetery. No, not a daytime visit. It was at nighttime, in a bad part of town, in a scary hidden cemetery, without a weapon, without a cell phone.
Yeah, that kind of scary…
I pull up to the sprawling cemetery before sunset. It’s halfway between light and dark and the last visitor leaves as I enter. I know the cemetery well, but never dreamed of going here at night alone or even in the day alone for that matter. It’s in an industrial part of town and very remote feeling.
If I scream, no one would come.
But, something about going to this cemetery alone instead of with my usual entourage is a rush. It’s a form of proving that I’m fearless when it came to ghost hunting. However, I also know I’m very mortal, so my senses are in overdrive.
Although the entry is green and shady, it’s bordered by tall oleander hedges that block off the main part of the cemetery which is pure desert, hard packed dirt and mesquite trees, blocking whatever is inside there completely from any view by outsiders.
Several times at the cemetery I’ve run into homeless men sleeping in the crematorium labyrinth and john’s picking up prostitutes. No doubt they took them in their car somewhere on the grounds to do the deed. Another not so reassuring sign, but is a test of my mettle, so I continue on.
I remind myself this won’t be a regular practice, it’s a one-time deal going alone in the dark here. It’s just me facing one more obstacle to fear and one more triumph in personal confidence. I've learned over the years that what screws people up on ghost hunts is that when it comes down to something shocking or something perhaps threatening, folks who have an inner voice that tells them they can't handle it; can't handle it. Those who feel like whatever comes down the pike, they'll deal with it are the ones who do well. So, I am working that muscle as I periodically do.
I pull down a narrow row and park my car, studying the cemetery for other vehicles or anything moving, I find I am well and truly alone. It should be a relief, but it isn’t. Never have I felt so alone.
When no one knows you’re there and no one else is there—do you still exist?
In that moment at dusk when the last bits of light are squeezed right out of the air and I’m left with only a charcoal setting with shapeless contents, I sit down atop of a cement slab and retie my sneaker while I get a feel for the air around me, the bushes, the last bits I can squint and see to help direct my safety.
Funny, how I’m not thinking about shadowpeople or spirit activity, but am instead obsessed with my fear of mortals. This happens often in ghost hunts. I am more afraid of who I might run into in an abandoned setting than any paranormal activities. In fact, I’m very comfortable with all things paranormal, no matter how unexpected. I’m like a kid in glee, but not when it comes to humans. I maybe an athletic 5’8” woman and have some handy self defense training and a quick mind, but I am as mortal as any other person in such a lonely place. So, I use both my psychic senses and my 5 senses to be alert to changes.
There is a part of me that prods at weak spots hoping to strengthen them and daring the world to bring me one more unknown to handle, as I have handled so many in my past. So, I push off and walk across the crusty hard baked desert, weaving between the headstones with no intentions of returning until it was good and dark.
The car gets further and further away from me and I became naturally unsettled. I can still sprint to it in time if someone drives into the cemetery, but a few steps more and I would be better off hiding until they left. Except, they’d see my car and know someone’s here and the hunt would begin. I recall the entire cemetery, a place I know like the back of my hand, to recall the ideal hiding place no one would look but then it’s acres away from where I am now.
Determined to do what I came here to do, I stop at a headstone and hold out a pendulum, asking the occupant a few simple questions. A gust of unexpected wind blows my hair above my head and sandblasts the backs of my legs with dusty grit. I turn and squint towards the direction of the car but the night has blanketed it into anonymity.
In fact, standing in the middle of all the strangely glowing headstones, I have lost my internal compass.
Without a light, I wander along the pathway laid down for cars. Dark shapes of trees hanging overhead help me to find where the path leads. When I get to the opening at the end of the roadway, I’m on a small hill. I know for sure which end of the cemetery I’m at and it’s probably 2 blocks’ distance to my car.
Stopping all panicking desire to find the safety of my car, I stand and study the darkness, listening keenly as the breeze rustles the trees nearby and the constant rush of cars on the freeway a quarter mile away. My eyes begin to adjust to the different levels of darkness and I notice a light go on perhaps two blocks away. I begin to walk towards it curiously. I have the darkness to cloak me, so suddenly I feel quite brave.
I hear the sound of an engine and I realize that someone has started up a car near the edge of the cemetery where people often go and dump trash. I stand for a moment, completely caught. Do I hide? Do I run and trip over headstones in the dark to find my car? As the truck turns the corner and the lights begin to hit the main roadway through the cemetery, I rush behind the cistern and hide.
So long as the truck doesn’t turn down the small roadway where my car is, they won’t know I’m here. Will they?
It rolls past me slowly and I watch the headlights as it goes towards the rear exit of the cemetery. There is no time to wonder if they will come back, I rush off down a narrow pathway, hands in front of my face to keep the invisible tree limbs from slapping me. I didn’t bring my purse so I wouldn’t get robbed. I didn’t bring a flashlight so no one would see me there.
Suddenly, I have the overwhelming sensation of someone having a dream of being naked in a public place.
The truck has turned down one of the narrow roadways and I can’t even tell if it’s the one my car is parked at, but as I’m huffing and rushing wildly in the opaque night, I see the headlights and it’s not illuminating my red car. Well, not fully. Mine is apparently one roadway over and the lights do hit it from the side as it rolls slowly. The fact that the truck was sitting so long, started up, and is now strolling through the cemetery is not a good sign.
My heart is pounding and I’m cursing myself, “I will never do this again! I swear I won’t!”
I turn a corner and am now less than a block away from my car as the truck has stopped on the nearby roadway. A door opens and someone gets out.
I stop and assess my options. I have my car key in my pocket and the alarm button but no one is going to hear that if I set it off, except the bozo who climbed out of the passenger seat not 30 feet from my car.
Well, I decide, I can’t do anything from this far away. My car equals safety. I must get to my car. I have nowhere else to run and if I hide, they will find me or sit with my car and wait for me.
So, I duck behind a large gnarled tree and peek around, trying to make out what the man is doing. Then, I hear it. The sound of a tin can hitting the ground.
They’re drinking. Just freaking great!
I edge my way up a bit closer by going between a row of tall headstones. Everything is dark, but the headstones glow in the nighttime. I stop and listen again. I can hear voices rising in some kind of bickering. Someone lets out a loud laugh. The engine is still running. I can see someone in the driver’s seat, but the other guy seems to be sitting on the hood, the passenger door is open, the cab inside lit. I look around for others. It seems to be only two of them.
Not that it’s any reassurance, but at this moment, I’m focused just on them and someone could easily come up on me.
Realizing how I’ve focused on just them, I stop and turn around, squinting into the darkness around me. Something scuffles between the headstones. I know cats love cemeteries and, although I’ve never seen any in this graveyard, I want to assume that’s what it is. I don’t need to think about the next obvious thing; javelinas.
Then the man inside the truck blares his horn and I jump up in fright.
My head shifts back and forth between the laughing men tossing yet another beer can and the thing shuffling between the headstones behind me. The shuffler gets my attention. I have yet to come face to face with a javelina but they usually travel in packs and it’s not a pleasant confrontation.
The cemetery goes completely silent. I close my eyes, afraid of what I will find. The men in the truck have turned out the lights and turned off the engine. Now, I have absolutely no way of knowing where they are or what they’re doing. I have no flashlight. I have nothing but my car keys.
The clouds part momentarily and a sliver of moonlight casts the area in a pale light. I look behind me to see something leaning out from behind a headstone a good 10 feet away from me. I literally jump back. Did one of the men sneak up on me? It darts back behind the weathered headstone and I can’t help myself. I need to know. Every hair on my body stands on end and every psychic sense I possess tells me that this is not a human.
I step forward and look behind the headstone, holding my breath. Nothing! No one and nothing. I look around while the moonlight is more exposed by a large gap in the clouds. I wander behind the headstones looking down the rows.
There is no sign of anything.
If I weren’t so concerned about the drunks in the pickup truck, I’d pull out my pendulum or attempt a communication. Whatever it was, it seems as scared as I am. The truck glows pale in the moonlight and I can see a dark shape on the hood sitting down and what looks like someone’s head on the other side outside of the truck now.
Without their lights on, they won’t see me once the clouds cover the moon again.
I sit down and wait. Then, I begin the self lecture about going to cemeteries alone at night with no protection. I know what I was trying to prove to myself that, because I thought it and it scared me, I now need to do it. I tend to bully myself a lot. I had an older brother I shadowed everywhere and tried to compete with and neighborhood boys I liked to kill in basketball and other sports. I learned early on to ask myself “but why can’t I do it?” whenever I thought I couldn’t do something because it was too risky or too hard. It made me mad to have confines and parameters. Perhaps it was the southern upbringing that told me what the ladies could and could not do and had my mom wanting me to retire my sneakers after I got my first period.
Whatever the insane reason that made me do this endeavor, when I get out of here, I will never do this again!
I take a few gulps of air, study the sky, watching the silvery cloud blot out half the sliver moon and then the entire thing. I study the faint glow of the truck in the distance and head forward with long, gentle steps towards my car. Unconsciously, I’m crouching down, even though my hair is dark at night and my clothes are thankfully dark. I grasp the keys in my pocket, making my escape a reality. Trying to push away thoughts of my car not starting or some other catastrophe, I plan my triumph.
I know they lock the front gate after dark. I have to take the back way out the cemetery and thankfully my car is facing the exit road and their truck is not.
A row of gravel before me makes me stop in my tracks. One of the men snorts with laughter and I hear a background noise and realize they’re running the radio and the interior lights in the cab and thankfully, a good 30 feet from my car and not able to illuminate it. I hold my controller in my hand ready to hit the panic button and scare them if they bother me. Then, I realize I might hit it by accident and alert them. I switch and put my finger over the unlock button.
I tiptoe over the gravel, my foot sinking in with the crumbling dry earth beneath. I stop, holding my breath. The music is still playing and murmuring voices still talking. I’m a good 10 feet away from my car now and I can see it. It never looked so beautiful. I hold my breath again as I hit the unlock button, race for the door and swoop myself inside, hit the lock button and slip the key in to start immediately. I don’t fasten my belt, I roll the car forward towards the exit road and then turn on the lights.
In my rear view mirror I see the headlights on the truck turn on.
My heart is pounding. Are they going to follow me now? My mind is racing to the best public place to stop for help and a phone. I recall the nearest police station, a lot of long dark miles of roadway from here. So, I sit at the light and wait and watch my rearview mirror. The truck pulls up behind me, the bright lights blaring into my back window and blinding me. I tilt my rearview mirror away and pray for the light to turn green. It does! I dart off to the left, not thinking. Yeah, that takes me towards home, but it also takes me through the toughest most unlit neighborhood. If I were to break down for some reason, I’d be left to walk to a phone by myself.
I know I am anti-cell-phone but this one time I wish I had caved in to popular culture.
I swing left for the short green light and watch as the truck turns right.
Sighing with relief, I head home, still frazzled, still berating myself and then realizing that I missed my ghostly opportunity because of the yahoo shit kickers. Then, I recall the glimpse of the dark thing darting behind the headstones and I smile with satisfaction. Apparently, for me humans are much more horrifying than any dark shapes in a graveyard.
Note: I have never done this again and do not plan to do it, but I also don’t regret doing it. I learned a lot about myself and how my mind works in an emergency situation. I feel confident that with my wits and puzzle solving skills I can have a better chance of surviving such encounters, but by having such encounters more often, I would statistically up my chances of a bad outcome.
Oh, and once again I beat the boys!