Yes, this is a true story, in every detail given here!
FLASH! Two individuals have independently written to me with the location of the site where Moody's Ghost appears, and their directions agree completely. Go to the end of this file for an update and a description of the location!
It was a muggarific Wednesday night in the summer of 1971, and I was down in the dish room of Resurrection Hospital on Chicagos Northwest Side, cleaning up the final meal of the day. Between the roar of the garbage grinder, the clickety clack of the exhaust fan, and the clatter of the dishes I was pulling out of the infernal dish washing machine, us guys was talking about, well, anything that came to mind.
"Yeah, it was a ghost," Murphy was saying while he wadded up what was left of somebodys Chicken Sloppoli and shoved it down the grinders gullet.
"How do you know it was a ghost?" asked Steve Mott, as he slammed the last door shut on another in the endless line of stainless-steel food cabinets that ran down the hall and around the corner.
"Dammit, I know a ghost when I see one!" Murphy protested. "You wanna argue, go down there and take a look yourself."
"Yeah, right," Mott said. "Drive a hundred miles to see the little man that wasnt there."
"Hey Murph," I yelled from my noisy, steamy corner of things. "You wanna lead? Ill go."
Silence. Spiro rolled another cabinet into place. For three hours every day, a bunch of college frosh slam-dunked garbage and juggled plates, nervous about the draft, worried about getting a Real Job someday, wondering where the next dollar would come from and how far it would go. Tonight we were talking about Murphys ghost.
George Murphy had gotten directions to a place somewhere in Indiana from some guy at the summer term at Wright College, who said there was a ghost there, and was there every night, and anybody could see it. Murphy went. And since he went, thats about all he would talk about.
"Youre on," Murph said, with his wicked, toothy grin.
Everybody thought he was nuts. Or seeing things. Or both.
Me, too. But unlike the others, I was willing to go look at almost anything that was somehow above the level of the general Midwestern boredom in our white-bread corner of the Windy City. I didnt believe it, obviouslybut I had a reliable car and I was willing to split the gas with him.
So two days later, we went.
The two of us picked up Murphs girlfriend Patty and stopped off that Friday night at Harriss house, waited for him to finish Gunsmoke, then climbed into my Ash Gold 68 Chevelle 300 and headed for the Interstate. Harris didnt work at the dishroom, but he was another pocket to pick for gas, and, well, (though none of us admitted it) he was another warm body.
We didnt talk a whole lot about ghosts on the way down there. Patty was along, so we didnt do the usual conversational gross-out guy-things we did in male company. We didnt say much of anything as we blasted east and south into the gathering summer darkness.
Me? I kinda felt like I was heading for Mordor. What if Murph was right?
Did I still remember how to pray?
Murph had told us all the details so often that by now we could recite them like the Pledge of Allegiance. There had once been this guy named Moody, and he had killed a bunch of people and hid the bodies somewhere under the crawlspace of his house. Then he killed himself. Ever since then (1948? 1953? Murph was a little fuzzy on the precise facts) he had haunted this stretch of Indiana roadside where we were going.
South from Gary on I65, past a little town called Rensselaer, off onto one side road or another with Murphy calling the turns from directions badly scrawled on the back of a chemistry quiz. Each road we took seemed darker, narrower, and creepier than the one before. Keep in mind, this was Indiananot Transylvania. Still, by the time Murph said, "Pull over to the side by that great big tree," we were all ready to jump out of our skins.
I did as he said, grinding the Chevelle off the road onto the grassy shoulder beneath a giant oak tree that looked out of place amidst the cornfields. I switched out the headlights, and it was that weird moonless umpti-ultra dark that city guys like us only saw when we went on vacation and camped out in Wisconsin.
Our eyes got used to the dark little by little. The wan glow of Rensselaer was behind us, and we were still close enough to I65 to see the lights on the western horizon.
What next? I stopped feeling quite as scared and started feeling a little silly. We had driven 110 miles for...for...
"There!" Murph shouted from the back seat, leaning over the front seat and pointing with a skinny finger.
We followed the finger. And, yup, way out there down that black cornfield road was...something.
How to describe it? It was a little spot of orange-red light, about the color of a cigarette in a dark room if you draw on it hard. It bobbed back and forth with a motion unlike anything I had ever seen. Sometimes it got a little brighter, a little yellowerand then it would fade to dull red, now and then getting so faint we werent sure it was still there. Now and then it drifted off to one side of the road or the other, heading off over the corn tassels until it faded from view.
Then, a moment later, it was simply there once again.
We watched it, slack-jawed, for ten or fifteen minutes, sitting in the Chevelle like statues, Patty wrapped around Murph about as tight as a girl can get. My initial terror had drained away in the face of something that was actually there, something not nearly as creepy as I had feared, but something new, intriguing, and well worth a better look than through 110 miles of bugs on the windshield.
So I broke the spell and popped the big drivers door. Out of the car it was dark, but a warm, almost sleepy kind of dark, with crickets in quantity. There was a tiny breeze through the tall corn, which rustled gently, and sharp summer stars. Moodys Ghost was still there, dancing above the roadway, daring me to come up with a rational explanation.
"Murph," I said, not taking my eyes from the bouncing spook, "I want a better look. Whatll happen if we chase it?"
"I dunno." He hadnt considered it before. Patty made a face.
"Well, then lets go! You drive!" And having said that, I jumped up on the hood of the Chevelle, on the passengers side. I grabbed hold of the radio antenna and stared straight ahead. Harris couldnt see through my hind end, so he leaned out the passenger window and squinted at the ghost he didnt quite still believe he saw.
And Murph twisted the key in the ignition.
With Patty cowering in his lap he couldnt see well, so Murphy leaned his head and shoulders out the drivers window and hit the gas. With nothing but the parking lights to push back the darkness, the Chevelle lurched back onto the cracked farm-county pavement and started weaving down the empty road toward Who Knew What, with two wide-eyed goofs leaning out the windows and another crouched on the hood clutching white-knuckled at the radio antenna.
We drove for well over a mile, and Moodys Ghost fled before our charge, always apparently the same distance beyond our front bumper. That Murphy didnt put us into the ditch was miracle enoughthat I managed to hang on with nothing to grip but the antenna was an unappreciated grace. And that damned ghost just kept going!
The road stopped at a T intersection with another nameless, barely paved county track. Straight ahead was a fallow field, no corn, nothing but weeds and bushes, and a few hundred yards in, a small stand of trees.
We pulled off the road and tumbled out of the Chevelle. A weird squeaking came from a rusted farm windmill tower near the intersection, the old windmills vanes still turning heedlessly without a well to pump. The Ghost bobbled out there amidst the weeds, maybe six feet high, now red, now orange, now gone, now back.
"Damn," Harris said, feeling his pockets for a smoke and finding none. "Aint that wild?"
Murphy was in the middle of the intersecting road, not looking at the ghost. He was staring right, then left, off into the darkness where the road went. We looked tooand beheld another weirdness.
There was a soft, cold white glow rising from the road in both directions, almost like the glow of distant headlights coming over a hill. But hey, this was Indianathere wasnt a hill this side of Indianapolis. On an ugly hunch, I turned and looked back the way we had come. Ulpthe glow was there too.
"What the hell is that!" I hissed to Murphy, now aware of a tightness inside that I hadnt felt before. Hey, its just a little spot of lightand Ive got 3300 pounds of fine American automotive engineering, if perhaps a little underpowered. If it charges, we floor the Chevelle and were out of there. But now...the weirdness was on all four sides, and us stuck twenty miles from Corn Town at the corner of Nothing and Nowhere with a squeaking windmill and no escape route.
"I dont know!" Murph hissed back. "This is a new one!"
And so it was. The glow over the roads strengthened and faded in no pattern. It took no shape and didnt seem to have a source; kind of like moonlight with no moon. It had none of the liveliness of our bouncing host, but also none of the, well, friendliness...somehow, we got the distinctest feeling that driving through the glow would be a...bad...idea.
"He must want us to stay," Murphy volunteered helpfully. Patty swatted him.
Staring at the white glow made the hair on my neck stand on end. One by one we turned back to Moodys Ghost.
The apparition was wandering around the fallow field, occasionally disappearing behind one side of the small stand of trees, to reappear moments later from around the other side. We leaned on a wire fence and watched. I looked up to the bright stars in Sagittarius, focused my eyes on them, then glanced back down quickly and stared hard at the Ghost. My eyes "came in" to focus, indicating that the ghost was not something weird at infinity, but definitely where it seemed to be, a few hundred feet away. I turned and tried to focus on the roads white glow, but there was nothing to focus on except its vague feeling of malevolence.
Harris had finally found his smokes. He took a long draw, and the Camels tip was a second apparition in the now-clammy night. "Whaddaya say we hop the fence and go chase it?"
Murphy said nothing. I was quite sure that had he opened his mouth, Patty would have jumped down his throat and slammed his teeth shut after her. Me, I considered for a momenthey, 110 miles, yknow? Are we not men? Is this Indiana or what? We could make a cross out of a couple of sticks...
Then Moodys Ghost vanished. Poof! Just like that. It faded from orange to red to black and was gone in mid-bob. We stood silent by the fence, waiting for it to come back. We waited a minute, two minutes, five. Then...
Murphy pointed far off to our left, near where the white glow hovered over the road. Moodys Ghost was shooting like a meteor, now blazing yellow, across the field in a straight line. In barely a second it covered what must have been more than a thousand feet of space, to flash behind the stand of trees in the field and disappear.
We turned around. As though on cue, the white glow vanished from all three roads at once.
And suddenly there came this weird, slightly sad feeling that we were now alone.
OK. What did I think? Well, what would you have thought? As much as we had spent the trip out in silence, we spent the trip back planning our next assault, with tripods, cameras, thermometers, infrared filters, holy water, and Steve Mott, trussed up in the Chevelles trunk if we had tothe works. And just as surely as we intended to go back, we never made it. One weekend was a dance, another a trip to the beach, and then I discovered CB radio, and then, well, you get the idea. Murphy lost the scrap of paper with the directions, and a few years later I lost track of Murphy. Almost 25 years since, the best I can say is that it was somewhere within ten miles or so of Rensselaer. Ill go back if I can find somebody who knows where that lonely T-intersection is. (I even have a Chevelle again.) And you can bet, Ill know the place if I see it.
So what was that thing? Swamp gas? Ball lightning? Some sort of hoax? Or a gen-u-wine Dead Guy? It seemed to have size and finite distance. It knew we were watching somehow, and set up roadblocks to make sure we hung around until it could put on the finale, that final searing trajectory across the field, at a speed that could well have been faster than soundin perfect silence. And that white glow...gakh, thinking about it still makes my skin crawl.
I may never know. And in some respects, that may be just as well.
Well, I think I've found it. Since posting this essay on the Web back in March 1997 (I actually wrote it in 1995 for my car club newsletter) two people who don't know each other wrote and described the spot, right down to the street names. One even sent me a snippet from a CD-ROM road atlas showing where the intersection is. The two people described precisely the same place and now I'm pretty sure I can consider the directions reliable.
Copyright considerations prevent from posting the map snippet I was sent, but in fact the easiest way to find Moody is to get yourself a copy of one of the CD-ROM road atlases. I use Street Atlas USA from Delorme, and the intersection is plainly marked with street names and I had no trouble finding it.
You're looking for the intersection of Division and Meridian, in the unincorporated rural area northeast of Rensselaer, Indiana. What we did was take Interstate 65 south from the Chicago area, and got off going east on Indiana 114, which is the main Rensselaer exit. Go through Rensselaer on 114 and look for CR 20E (County Road 20 East) on your left. It's about 5 1/2 miles from the center of Rensselaer.
Turn left (which is north) on CR 20E. You're out in corn-land now, so keep going for about four miles. CR 20E will stop at a T-intersection with Moody Road. Turn left. (Which is west.) In less than a quarter mile you'll find Meridian on your right. Turn right.
Meridian is the road we were on when we saw the ghost, and the road down which we made our damfool run with me on the hood and the headlights out. A little ways up Meridian was that gigantic oak tree, which, sad to say, was cut down years ago and is no longer the perfect landmark it otherwise would have been. (The stump is still there, however, and if you're sharp or go by day you can see it, according to my correspondents.)
If you travel down Meridian long enough, you'll run into Division at that spooky T-intersection where the ghost made its last wild run. The Delorme road atlas shows Meridian continuing on for another thousand feet or so past Division, but we saw no trace of that in 1971, and it may be a map error. (There are plenty of those in the CD-ROM road atlases, sorry.)
The gentleman who sent me the map snippet pointed out that line of sight north from Meridian aligns perfectly with Indiana Highway 49 about a mile further north across the fields past Division. He believes that Moody's Ghost is and has always been tail lights of cars travelling north on Highway 49. I'll have to reserve judgement myself until I get back there, but doubtless a good pair of binoculars (which we didn't think to bring back in 1971, alas) will tell us immediately what the truth is.
I'm not a pathological believer. If it's tail lights, it's tail lights-- but that doesn't explain everything that happened that night so long ago, (especially the ghost's final blazing arc across 90 degrees of night in a matter of seconds) and I will consider the matter open until I can return and see it with my own eyes.
Obviously, when I do that, I'll report here. Bookmark this page and come back now and then. Who knowsI may have another ghostly encounter!
Numerous people have written to tell me that they have gone out to see the ghost, and that the ghost was there. I keep wanting to get out there, and almost managed it this past summer...but then my mother died, and that was that, at least for this summer. (And looking for ghosts in cold weather doesn't strike me as the best use of my time or my immune system.)
But the most interesting event to report this time is that I've discovered Murph and Harris again, and this past summer we gathered together for the first time in unknown years (I would guess since my wedding in 1976) at Basta Pasta in Edison Park on the Northwest Side of Chicago, right across the border from Park Ridge. I grew up less than a mile south of Basta Pasta, and it was eerie to be there again. Al Buschauer (who had been in Boy Scouts with us in the mid-Sixties) took the photo on the left. Left to right are Dennis Harris, George Murphy, and me. Also at Basta Pasta was Rich Maas, who has also gone to see the ghost, though not with us. Next week we're going to meet at Basta Pasta again, this time with skeptic Steve Mott. And next summer, it's ghost or bust!
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