The Ghost of Buck Hill
A Halloween Short by J.C. Hannigan
For decades, locals have whispered about the ghost of Buck Hill and the eerie things that occur there, should you take a drive down that old logging road at night.
As the story goes, during the great depression, a logger returned home during a harsh winter storm to discover his daughter missing. He’d cautioned his wife and daughter to remain indoors, but their pet dog had escaped, and his daughter went out to fetch him. She ended up disappearing into the cold. When he got home to find her missing, he grabbed a lantern and began to search for her. Up and down the road he went, to no avail: his young daughter had vanished during the stormy night, never to be seen again.
Legend has it that the logger went mad with grief and never gave up the search. He combed the area nightly with his lantern until his death. Locals in the area believe his search continues to this very day, and most avoid the isolated logging road completely.
It’s no surprise that there are few who are brave enough, or stupid enough, to test the truth of it. To see if the ghost of Buck Hill is really real. Especially around Halloween…
So far, despite living in Pembroke her whole life, Millie had been lucky enough to avoid it. She’d never ask her religious, do-gooder parents to take her. They’d be freaking out if they knew where she really was. Millie had been warned on more than one occasion to stay far away from that old logging road.
Usually, this suited Millie just fine, as spooky things weren’t her favourite. She’d much rather focus on happy, upbeat things. Not dark and scary things, like distraught ghosts searching for their missing child. She had no desire to prove the story true or false, in fact, she’d prefer it if she didn’t have to think about the creepy ghost on Buck Hill road at all.
Abigail, Millie’s best friend, however, was obsessed with the local legend. That obsession only grew around Halloween, it was all she ever wanted to talk about. Then...Abby started seeing Peter Townsend, the most popular boy at Fellows High. He was charming, handsome, and the star of their high school wrestling team. Peter also had his license and a car...and he’d do pretty much anything for Abby.
Which is how Millie found herself sitting in the back seat of Peter’s car, beside one of Peter’s best friends. Abby had been trying to work her matchmaking magic skills to get Millie and Beckett together. He was just as popular as Peter, maybe a little less good looking, but still cute. He was even further out from getting his license than she, but it was nice to not feel like the third wheel...or it would have been, if they were going anywhere but Buck Hill road.
Instead of embracing the fact that she was sitting beside the second most popular boy in school, Millie’s stomach was twisted in nervous knots. The closer they got to Buck Hill road, the more that knot seemed to grow and twist.
It was nearly ten o’clock when Peter made the right turn onto the old logging road.
“My granddad says we’re related to the old logger,” Abby said, turning around to flash her wicked, spooky grin at Millie and Beckett.
“Bullshit,” Beckett laughed with disbelief.
“No, it’s true. I come from a long line of loggers. Apparently, this guy was my grandpa’s second cousin.”
Peter laughed again, accelerating up the first hill. Millie’s heart thudded anxiously in her chest as they approached the second hill. The third hill loomed ahead of them, illuminated by Peter’s headlights.
Once they reached the top of the third hill on Buck Hill road, even Abby’s silliness had melted away. “Turn the car around,” she instructed Peter.
“Why?” Beckett asked, confused. Out of the four of them, Beckett was the newest Ottawa Valley resident. He wasn’t as familiar with the tale as they were.
“So we can get out of here before he reaches us,” Abby explained, turning her dark eyes to Beckett. She smiled, but it didn’t provide a lick of comfort to Millie.
Peter did as she said, turning his Volkswagen around so that the headlights faced the direction they’d come in. Then he flashed his lights three times and turned off the car.
Silence filled the cab, and all four teenagers stretched forward, peering out the windshield, waiting. For almost ten minutes, nothing happened. Just as the others started getting restless, a green orb appeared at the top of the first hill.
“What the hell is that?!” Beckett exclaimed, straining forward.
“It’s the logger’s lantern!” Abby answered, her voice an excited whisper. Millie gasped, horror filling her veins with ice.
The greenish light appeared to be moving closer, slowly at first, then increasing in speed until it disappeared beyond the second hill. Millie’s heart felt like it was going to explode. “Can we please go now? Please? We’ve seen it!” She begged, her voice barely above a frantic whisper.
Abby glanced at Millie, her eyes bright with excitement. “Not yet!” she said, turning her attention back to the windshield. Millie really didn’t want to look, but something akin to invisible strings pulled her focus back.
For a blessed moment, just darkness lay ahead. Then the greenish orb crested the top of the second hill, and started down, picking up speed until it was rushing toward them.
“Start the car!” Beckett shouted. Peter yelped, his shaky hands going for the ignition. He twisted the key, but the car didn’t start.
“Peter! Hurry up!” Abby squealed as the greenish orb got closer and closer, but for whatever reason...Peter’s car just didn’t want to start back up again.
“Oh my God, we’re going to die!” Millie screeched.
Suddenly, the green orb was upon them...right outside Millie’s window. Peter’s car started shaking as if something very large and powerful had a hold of it. They all screamed in terror, Peter fumbled with the keys in the ignition, struggling to start it again.
Finally, the engine fired to life and Peter stomped on the gas, propelling the car forward. Dirt and dust kicked up beneath the tires as they searched for purchase on the dirt road.
“What the hell was that!” Beckett shouted, twisting to look out the rear window. The greenish light had disappeared, but the terror lingered.
“The logger’s ghost!” Abby replied. Millie turned her head, looking out the rearview mirror, hoping like hell the ghost wasn’t following them. The greenish orb seemed to have disappeared, but the terrifying feeling lingered in the cab for them all. Millie certainly didn’t feel safe, and she knew she probably wouldn’t until she was home. But as they got closer to the first hill, Millie’s fears grew.
As they neared the turn off, the engine of Peter’s car sputtered, and then seemed to die. “What the hell?” Peter exclaimed, trying to restart.
“You’re gonna flood the engine,” Beckett warned him, just seconds before he did. “Great, now we’re stuck here with a goddamn ghost on our asses.”
“We’re safe,” Abby reassured them all. “You only see him at the top of that third hill.”
Abby’s words didn’t provide any comfort for Millie. She peered nervously out the windows, watching the wooded area around Peter’s car for any sign of the ghost at all. She couldn’t explain it, but she had a feeling that it was far from over.
Mille thought uncomfortably about the malevolent energy she felt shaking Peter’s car at the top of the hill, and the sense that the ghost wasn’t finished with them had her trembling in her seat.
“Abby,” she whispered, her eyes still trained on the treeline. “Where did you say the logger’s cabin was?”
Abby followed her gaze, swallowing hard when she realized they were fairly close to the logger’s cabin. “Try it again,” she whispered to Peter, her face belaying her fear.
“Oh my God! It’s coming back down the hill!” Beckett, who’d been watching out the rearview, exclaimed. The frantic terror was apparent in his voice, too.
Peter twisted the keys again, begging the car to turnover.
“I told you this was a bad idea,” Millie wailed, tears streaming down her face as the green orb closed in on them. She was beginning to hyperventilate; she couldn’t seem to draw enough oxygen into her lungs, but her gasps were soon drowned out by the sound of Peter’s car finally starting.
He drove like he had the devil on his ass, not stopping or slowing down until he’d reached the Pembroke townline. Then, he pulled off to the side of the road to collect himself. His hands were trembling on the steering wheel, and he looked every bit as frightened as Millie felt.
The four teenagers sat in the car in stunned silence, trying to process what they’d just experienced. “I told you it was real.” Abby said after several minutes, her voice breaking the silence. “That was so cool!”
“We are never doing that again.” Millie sobbed, still shaking.
Beckett put an arm around her shoulder, drawing her close. “I wouldn’t have let it get to you,” he told her, suddenly the perfect picture of bravery. Millie rolled her eyes, scooting away from him.
“I just want to go home, okay? I’m done.” Millie informed her friend. Abby stared at her for a moment, as if weighing how serious she was. She must have seen something in her friend’s eye, because instead of razzing her or trying to coerce her into staying out later, Abby relented.
“All right, fine.” She sighed, nodding at Peter. He pulled back onto the road and drove until they reached the old farmhouse Millie’s family lived in.
Millie didn’t mean to slam the door on Beckett as he spoke, but she was in a hurry to get inside. She almost tripped racing up the wooden porch steps. She opened the front door, rushing inside before closing it and locking it. Then she turned, leaning against the hard wooden door.
The house was silent and dark. Her parents were already asleep, which was unusual. Normally, they’d wait up for her, making sure she got in safely and didn’t stay out past her curfew. There wasn’t much for them to do either in town, aside from police Millie’s every move.
As she listened to the old grandfather clock in the den chiming, an uneasy feeling settled over her. Her heart pounded as she quickly and quietly climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She had to pass her parent’s room to get to hers, and she could hear them snoring softly.
Once inside her bedroom, Millie closed her door and crossed over to her dresser. She changed into her pajamas and dove into her bed, pulling the covers up over her head. For close to an hour, she lay there...waiting for sleep to come...thinking about the green orb and the terror she’d felt.
Safe in her bed, she seemed so far away from the situation that she could almost convince herself she’d imagined it. Yes, it had all been a trick of the light. Another driver's headlights, perhaps. Maybe one had been out.
Finally, around one thirty in the morning, Millie fell asleep.
She awoke an hour later, her lids cracking against the bright greenish light that filled her bedroom. At first, she was too disoriented to relate the strange green light in her room to the greenish orb she’d seen on Buck Hill road earlier that night. She blinked, sitting up in bed, and stared at the tall dark figure standing in front of her closet. The greenish light was coming from the lantern in the dark figure’s hand.
Before Millie could scream, the figure charged toward her, the greenish light intensifying until it blinded her. Then, everything went black...
To be continued in next week’s newsletter!