Click to see the Spooky Legends Master List with links to all the previous posts and giveaways
Today’s Spooky Legends guest is Alma Katsu. Alma’s debut, THE TAKER, was recently released and named one of the best debut novels of 2011 by Booklist Magazine. The story continues with THE RECKONING on January 5, 2012. Our spooky story is tied back to an event in THE TAKER (Sophia Ostergaard is a character in the book), and features the baby bridge urban legend.
There’s a spot on the Allagash River that’s haunted. All the river guides know about it. It’s the one old legend that most people here seem to think is true, and in a town as spooky and weird as St. Andrew, that’s saying a lot.
If you grew up in St. Andrew, you know: you can’t get away from the Allagash. Chances are you’ve been on the river canoeing, kayaking, fishing. It brings the tourists in the summer, and that’s how half of us make our living, guiding them up and down the river. Us locals know where it’s rough and where it’s calm enough for novices, where its gets boggy in the weeds and will hold your kayak tight as a miser’s fist.
That’s the haunted part: a funny kink in the river that created this stagnant pool, a pocket of marsh grass and cattails where it’s easy to get tangled up. They say you can hear a woman crying at that spot. Horrible crying, heartsick crying. You know something bad happened there.
Most people believe that the woman is one of the early settlers who had a baby out of wedlock, and drowned it to keep her secret. They say she was driven mad and ending up taking her life at spot where you hear her crying. They even have a name for the woman—Sophia Ostergaard—but I think someone just lifted it from a headstone in the old graveyard. After all, she couldn’t be buried in a church cemetery if she was a suicide, right?
The last person who claims to have seen the ghost is Claude Ostergaard. Claude’s been a river guide forever. He doesn’t like to talk about his experience, certainly not for the summer tourists: bad for business.
He’d been out paddling at night—which sounds like a stupid thing to do, but the sky here is so open that when there’s a full moon it’s nearly as bright as day—and miscalculated when he got close to the bend (beer might’ve been involved). As the story goes, he’d just climbed out of his canoe and was pulling it free of the weeds when the crying started, made the hair on his arm and neck stand up. He looked around to see if someone was playing a joke on him, but he already knew there was nobody there. All he can think about is getting his canoe out of the water and getting the hell out of there when he sees her, a woman floating face down in the water. She was pale blue and bloated, her hair spread around her on the water like a sunburst. And the crying got louder and louder, like it was trying to burrow in his head, and Claude was about to leave his canoe and run for it, take his chances trying to find his way back through the woods, when it stopped. The woman disappeared into the river, and the crying stopped.
Some people say this proves it was Sophia, since she showed herself to Claude. A lot of people who’ve heard the story want Claude to lead them out at night, offered him good money because they hope to see her, but he won’t do it. I think he’s crazy, what with the recession, and I told him so. Claude said he’d give the tourists my name then, if I’m in that much of a hurry to meet the crying woman. ‘Why not,’ I say. I don’t believe in ghosts. And even if I do meet one, I’m not going to be all afraid, like him. ‘That’s what you think’, he says to me. ‘But when you see her in the water, just as real as me standing in front of you, you’ll sing a different tune.’
So I had to do it then, didn’t I? I had to agree to go down to the haunted spot in my canoe. We picked the date, and it’s tonight. A full moon, just like the night Claude saw her. Only I’m taking a couple tourists with me, because what the hell, it’s easy money. And it’s not like we’re going to see anything. I know I have nothing to be afraid of.
Many writers have certain genes in their DNA. We’re the kids who always have their nose in a book, who live in the library (my first paying job was as a page—yes, a page in the library), are loners, and inordinately fond of fairy tales. I grew up reading my oldest sister’s gigantic Golden Book of Fairy Tales until it fell apart. I loved the book because it had fairy tales that I’d never read before, like “Bright, Deardeer and Kit” and Japanese fairy tales (growing up half-Japanese without seeing any references to Japanese stories, this seemed very enlightened to me). I also loved the slightly horrible things kept in those translations, like how frogs and snakes would fall from a villain’s lips whenever she (the main characters were often female, another plus) told a lie. Once we’d all grown up, my oldest sister decided she wanted it back. I pined for it and thought I’d never find it again, but to my delight my husband had a copy from his childhood—in pristine condition! It’s one of my prized possessions.
Want to read more from Alma Katsu?
Available on September 6, 2011 from Simon & Schuster/Gallery Press
About the Book:
True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. . . .
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.
Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
**Don’t forget to visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Spooky Legends guest blog with MaryJanice Davidson and a chance to win a copy of WOLF AT THE DOOR**
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.