I believe at some point during our teen, pre-adult age we are curious enough to visit a cemetery at night. Well, my friends and I were on that cuspis of curiosity one late weekend night. In fact, we were all huddled there debating on what we wanted to do and somehow it came up to two choices: Cemetery or Wal-Mart? So we did what any practical person would do; flipped a coin.
“Cemetery it is!” Ash declared.
We all loaded up into my big blue 1992 GMC Yukon. I love (and miss) this truck. Before this story goes any further, let me paint a picture of the sort of high schoolers we were.
First off, the driver and leader for the night was me. White tank top, flannel over shirt, grunge faded baggy jeans, black boots and I looked like a cross between a Nirvana fan meets Redneck tom boy.
Next is Becca, in her punky preppy shirt with something cutesy and smart written on it, and baggy pants, pretty mellow average for the evening.
Ash was a big guy, broader than most of the current football team and taller even. He was dressed much nicer than the rest of us in a nice grey shirt and black slacks.
Lastly, no night visit to the cemetery would not be complete without my favorite friend, Martin. Standing at the same height as myself, I believe he had either his Black Flag shirt or MIsfits band shirt on, black baggy pants, Black beanie hat, and insisted on carrying a giant carton of Whoppers in arm.
Oh, we looked like a pack of winners for sure as we headed out the door and started barreling down the road.
“Where is a cemetery around here?” Becca pointed out. “Does anyone know which one we want to go visit?”
“Oh! I know!” I was a tad too excited as everyone knotted their brow. “There’s one across from the school!”
“No way.” gasped Becca, “Where?”
“I’ll show you guys!” I was already turning in that direction. “My Great great Aunt Saunders is buried there! I always wanted to visit her grave.”
“Val!” Martin was cackling, “You can’t be serious?”
“No! Really!” I exclaimed.
“Only you, Val…” scoffed Ash.
“F*** Ya!” Martin popped a candy malt ball in his mouth as he laughed on. “Let’s go see your Aunt!”
We pulled up to the tiny little cemetery that had been tucked away in the woods across from our school. My friends looked to one another, none of them thrilled about the fact that there was no lighting and even crazier, the cemetery gates were open at midnight. Like usual, I was far too excited and cheerful for the event. I was eager to find my Aunt’s grave, something they had thought I was joking about.
“Val, what are you doing?” Becca scoffed. “We’re just walking around but you keep disappearing and I’m already creeped out that this has been here by the school this whole time.”
“I’m reading the tombstones… Martin! Check this one out!” I pointed to a tombstone adorning all sorts of occult-like symbols. “This one is right up your alley.”
“Holy cow..” More chocolate malt balls. “Didn’t expect to see something like this here…”
The cranking of the disposable camera and a flash came from Becca, “Creepy…”
We zig-zagged slowly down to the grave at a pond’s edge. I don’t know if I ever told my friends, but my dad and I went fishing there all the time, and while sitting in the boat I had imagined her grave facing the water. My Aunt was something very special, despite her passing while I was still very small. I have distinct memories of the Cherokee features and days spent on her couch. I would sit there looking out her front window where hibiscus and other plants attracted hummingbirds galore.
Anyhow, as we worked down the last line against the pond, I found it! I was so ecstatic and I crouched there and read the graving a few times to make sure. It definitely brought me a sense of peace to have finally visited her resting place… until the spotlights and police lights.
“What are you doing out here!” A tall police officer shouted, flashlight hitting us in the face. “Explain yourselves!”
“Officer, we were just curious.” Ash shrugged.
“Oh my god, I’m gonna kill you Val if I get arrested!” Becca palmed her forehead as she approached the officers.
“Now, which one of you want to explain why the hell you are out here at 1 am in a cemetery?” Fussed the short round dark skinned police officer. “Which one huh?”
You could see it on everyone’s face and even being lipped: Please don’t ask Valerie… Please don’t ask Val…. not Val… don’t pick Val… “You! Girl in the flannel shirt!” The whole group moaned and covered their faces which made the female officer pause in confusion. “Come over here with me a moment!”
“Sure!” I was still smiling and acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary. “What would you like to know?”
“Why the hell you four are out here?” she scoffed.
“Well, I work during the day, and well, I wanted to visit my Aunt’s grave.” Sighing, I pointed down to the pond. “You see, it’s over there, I had just found it when you guys hit us with the spotlight. It’s spooky with no lights out here so I brought some friends with me. I didn’t think we were doing anything wrong since the gate was open and no signs posted to say it closed after sunset. In fact…” I looked about for a moment since we were back outside the front gate, “The only sign is that one stating that its the property of the church. Not even a no trespassing sign.”
“Huh…” She looked around to verify the sign statement. Huffing, she countered my statement, “But why on earth do you think I will believe you were out here to visit your Aunt’s grave?”
“Because it’s the truth.” I then described the tombstone and what was written on it and the exact location. “You can go check and see. I’m not making it up, honest.”
She made a face and sighed as she hit her radio, “Put the others in the car for now… I’m gonna walk with this one and verify something.”
“10-4.” Screeched the radio.
“Show me.” And I started to walk to the grave as prompted. “Hold up! Slow down!”
“Oh sorry, nervous!” I laughed, waiting for her. “I’ll walk slower.”
Suddenly she tripped, gripping my arm catching her breath in fright, “Oh my god, if something jumps out at me I’m shooting you and it.”
I giggled as we walked down to the edge of the pond and pointed to the grave. She looked at me with a skeptical expression before finally hitting it with a flashlight. I watched as her eyes grew wider and then confusion started to settle in.
“Will this is a first.” Sighing, she looked to me as if lost of what to do with me. “Ok, well it seems you were telling the truth. And considering you are right, no signs were posted and the gate shows no signs of being forced open… all we can do is give you guys a slap on the hand.”
“Understandable.” I nodded. “If there had been signs or a closed gate I would have tried during a day I was off again. I swear I’ve seen this gate locked during the day more than at night as of late.”
“Yea, in fact, we’re only out here to check on the place since last week some kids were caught sacrificing chickens on a grave.” She shuddered. “So we thought you guys were here doing that.”
“Yikes!” I made a face and then point off to another grave. “I can assume it was on that one over there.”
“Y-yea.” She stopped in her footsteps to flash the light. “How’d you know that?”
“It’s the only one here with occult symbols on it.” Sighing we continued our way back to the cop cars. “That’s all it takes to attract questionable attention. Anyhow, I take it we’ll be sitting in the back of the cop cars for a few minutes while you guys scare and lecture us on, right?”
“Pretty much.” Again, she paused to look me over. “How old are you?”
“Seventeen.” I pulled out my ID, “Here, since I assume you’ll be wanting this for a report.”
“You’re pretty chilled for a seventeen year old.” She read over my ID a moment, “Just do me a favor and no more weirdo antics like this. Plus, cemeteries creep me out.”
“Yes ma’am.” She opened the back of her car where Becca was sweating bullets.
I snuggled in beside her, “No worries! I explained it all to her.”
“Oh my go, no. You didn’t tell her about your Aunt’s grave, did you?” The two police officers were chatting outside as Becca kicked me. “Please tell em you didn’t! Val, I’ve never been in the back of a police car! I BETTER NOT BE GOING TO JAIL! Oh no! They’re going to call our parents! I’m so dead!”
“Relax. We’re not going to jail.” I smiled, the calmness I displayed adding to her anxiety. “I told her about my Aunt and proved it to be the reason we are here.”
“No…” she gasped. “I’m never talking to you again.”
At this point the police lady sat in the car and gave her scare speech. It was hard to pretend I was startled. After a good 15-30 minutes we were let out of the back of the cars, our ID’s given back to us, and back in the Yukon.
“I f***ing hate you, Val.” Ash grumbled, “I can’t believe you actually told them about your Aunt’s grave as our excuse.”
“Well, it was true.” I laughed, “We didn’t get arrested!”
“And Martin!” Ash threw himself back into the seat, laughing, “A ski mask! REALLY?”
Martin shrugged… eating some more Whoppers. “Why not?”
What we had thought was a black beanie cap was then pulled over his face to reveal it was a ski mask. He began cackling and I realized, this could have went horribly wrong if I had failed to explain our bizarre nightly visit to the local cemetery.
Drawing by Valerie Willis (The year it happened!)