A less structured, impressionistic post for you today, covering several of my trips to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and surrounding environs.
Roughly a mile upriver of Point Pleasant, and on the Ohio side of —you guessed it—the Ohio River, is a quiet nook easily missed unless you’re looking for it. A green-lawned patch, replete with picnic tables, shelters, and a timeless air common to most memorials. This cozy stasis belies a grim reality symbolized by artifacts languishing there.
The commemorative plaque tells the story, and the concrete-anchored eye-bar shows it.
Number 13, determined already to have been weakened by a hairline fracture, gave way around 5:00 PM on the icy evening of 15 December 1967 . . . and took the Silver Bridge, plus those crossing it, into black water and blacker death.
Where once stretched a symbol of progress, flashy and enduring, stands now empty space edged by a rusting railroad bridge . . . miraculous survivor of a catastrophe beyond imagining.
Some seven miles north stands another haunted place, vaster far than Main Street, ticking time away among rasping crickets and trees hissing in the wind of 4,000 acres. The McClintic Wildlife Management Area, or “TNT Area,” is a nowhere land barren in winter and greenly mysterious in warmer months, miles of back-roads threading through like paths in a melancholy dream.
Scrub-shrouded domes of concrete and steel (100 silent nodes) bulge from the landscape, Cold War bunkers once—and, apparently, still—used for storing munitions. Blast-doors 12 inches thick and unfathomably heavy bear signs warning of explosives and legal punishment. At least three stand open. In 2009, one exploded.
Above, observe the luckless fellow exposing a “Watch Your Back for the Men in Black” t-shirt like some voodoo totem against evil. He did, alas, survive the rainy trek, and ended up resting here, where another luckless traveler named Keel once stayed.
Alas (again), the sacred blue fountain has been replaced by a profane and nameless enterprise, dull as dust and just as dirty. . . .
Mr. Keel suffered many fools on this September day in the Year of Our Horde, 2003—one of which I was whom. Undaunted, and despite the heat, Mr. Keel paused during his exit to give directions to one lost soul.
Speaking of lost souls, four of these on 15 November 1966 claimed to have seen a monster.
Which looked nothing like this:
Some have further claimed that these terrified teens stopped at Tiny’s (now Village Pizza) to gush out their story to whatever patrons might have been present well after 11:00 PM on a weeknight.
But as the old saying goes: Life goes on . . . if you can take it. . . .
Stay tuned for PART II