In the late 1970’s, the isolated road leading east off of the Michigan end of Flanders Road was dubbed “Spook Road”. We had our very own urban legend, before the world even knew urban legends existed.
As the story went, there were mutants living in the woods on either side of the dirt path. Unfortunate souls driving down the desolate road at night, particularly on a weekend night and especially under a full moon, risked running the wrath of these mutants. They’d attack your car, break out your windows and kill you and your occupants.
None of us claimed to believe the legend. But our trips down the dark road were spooky indeed. I personally never dared to challenge the legend with fewer than three people in my car. Not so much for backup. My friends and I weren’t fighters – we couldn’t box our way out of a paper bag. No, not for backup, but for witnesses.
One of the crowd we ran with is married to an attorney now, so I’ll refer to her as “Jane Doe.” Jane hadn't heard the legend of Spook Road. When briefed on the story, she claimed not to believe it.
Kids are intuitive. They sense things. We knew that each of us, though we claimed to disbelieve the story of Spook Road, was scared on those many excursions. Each and every one of us but Jane Doe. When we took her to Spook Road for her debut visit, she was fearless.
This was wrong. Although she was one of the brighter students at Notre Dame Academy and she would go on to become an architect, (not a George Costanza architect, a real one), she still had no right not to be afraid of Spook Road. This, I decided, must change. I devised The Great Spook Road Caper.
I wasn’t one of the brighter kids among the St. John’s Class of 1979. I did graduate in the top two-thirds of the class. But this was my one glimmer of ingenuity. Countless hours sitting clueless in third year German class, pulling gentleman D’s from Mr. Paderi, God bless him, were spent cerafting this scheme. I planned…the party.
About twenty people were at the party, all in on the secret except Jane Doe. At a pre-appointed time, I announced that we were low on beverages and was going to make a run to Joseph’s grocery store. Jeff and Lynda came with, and we asked Jane Doe to join us. She agreed.
As we left Joseph’s, we decided to take a quick, “impromptu” trip down Spook Road. By my calculations, everyone from the party should have parked their cars out of sight near Spook Road and should be waiting in the woods for us. They should all be in the white lab coats my physician father loaned us.
We arrived at Spook Road, turned east, and began the eerie 1/10th of a mile drive. As we drove, I saw the signal in my rear view window – three discreet blinks of a flashlight just off the road behind us. All was ready.
At the end of Spook Road, I turned the car around and ventured back. Midway, at the road’s darkest, loneliest spot, I allowed the car to stall. (It was easy to make a 1972 Ford Maverick stall. The challenge was keeping it from not stalling.)
The car did indeed stall, but Jane Doe remained cool. Until I rolled down the window. And the howls begun. Low and distant at first. Gradually growing. Jane Doe’s eyes widened, her body stiffened.
From out my windows I saw the mutants burst from the woods on both sides of the road. There were about 16 of them, all, oddly enough, wearing white lab coats. They moaned and groaned in the dark night, barely visible.
I looked over toward Jane Doe, but she was gone! It took me a moment to realize she was cowering on the floor under the dashboard. Bravo!
I pretended to try to start the car. Suddenly the mutants started rocking the car back and forth. “That’s it – I’m not putting up with this anymore,” I gallantly declared.
I opened my door and started to exit the car, ready for hand-to-hand combat with my mutant friends. That’s when Jane Doe, in a feat of super human strength, grabbed my shirt and violently pulled me back into the car. “Get in this car, get it started, and get me the hell OUT OF HERE – RIGHT NOW!”
Okay, enough was enough. Even misguided teenage pranks have their limits. I started the car and pulled away from the mutants.
I drove back Flanders Road to Monroe Street and pulled into Dunkin Donuts to “check the car.” I parked strategically so that only I could monitor the intersection of Flanders and Monroe. In a few short minutes, I saw the caravan of cars heading back to Merriweather Road. I waited another minute or two, and returned to the driver’s seat, declaring the car fit for travel.
We arrived back at the party and found everyone sitting about where they were when we left. As I started to announce that we’d just been down Spook Road, Jane Doe burst in and declared, “There ARE mutants on Spook Road. They attacked our car. It was Really Scary! And (pointing to Karen), one of them had long black hair JUST LIKE YOURS!”
We eventually came clean with Jane Doe. She failed to see the humor in the caper.
During a recent trip home, I decided to take a drive down Spook Road, just for memory’s sake. At about noon under a bright Saturday sun. With two of my brothers. Why take chances?