Stranger Bridgerland: True Paranormal Stories from Northern Utah by John Olsen
Stranger Bridgerland by John E. Olsen is a pamphlet-length collection of interviews in the weird Fortean vein. They all come from Utah's Cache Valley, and the everydayness of life comes through nicely. People are going on dates, working on road crews or at Arby's, camping and fishing, when their day or night is utterly transformed.
Readers of horror fiction will be at home with this proto-folklore. While terms like "sasquatch" and "UFO" are used as rationalizations by some of Olsen's experiencers, a number of stories recall tales like "Out of the Earth," "The Shining Pyramid," and "Opening the Door" by Arthur Machen.
Stranger Bridgerland is best taken in small doses. Each interview is rich in suggestive detail. I found it useful to Google Map and Google Image the locations mentioned, and this wonderfully contextualized the chapters.
1 MY STORY
....The unfamiliar female voice called again, this time a little louder. She sounded as though she had stepped into the foyer right next to the front room. "Cody!" One of the boys looked at Cody and told him his grandma was calling him. With wide eyes Cody explained that his grandparents were on vacation and they were alone in the house.
2 THE GHOST AND MY DAD
....The Stair Monster started to show his displeasure by running from the front room and jumping off the step to land with a big bang in the middle of the room. He did this in the middle of the night. My dad didn't sleep very well because he had to sleep through these loud gymnastics routines.
3 GOLDEN SPIKE GHOSTS
....After a nice tinfoil dinner and talking by the fire, we decided to go for a night hike. Not wanting to get lost in the desert, we decided to walk the railroad tracks so it would be easy to find our way back. We grabbed our jackets and headed west along the tracks. After about 30 minutes, we stopped to listen to a pack of coyotes off in the hills to our right. Out of nowhere, their yelps cut off and it became deathly quiet. As we stood there wondering what had stopped the coyotes, we heard a faint train whistle out in the distance.
4 LEFT HAND LIGHT
....Just as we rounded a bend in the road, the sky opened up to a big ridge that sloped up to the south (our right), and the lead scout stopped. He pointed at the hill and asked, "What is that?"
5 LA PLATA
....I was awoken at around 2 am with Tim shaking my shoulder. Even with the little light there was in the tent I could see his eyes were wide. I asked, "What's wrong?"
"Listen," he whispered.
6 ENCOUNTER AT ROCK CREEK
....I fished while working my way up the canyon. I was mostly crawling through thick brush as I walked about half a mile. I got to an opening and began fishing again when all of a sudden, I had a feeling of pure terror wash over me. It was as creepy sensation, as if someone had poured cold water down my back. All the hair on my neck stood up. I stopped fishing and looked around. I couldn't see or hear anything. Suddenly, it hit me that there was no noise around me. The birds and insects that had been singing up until now were dead silent. Even the river seemed muted and I felt a crippling weight in my chest. The fear I was experiencing could only be described as overwhelmingly primal fear.
7 THE TRAPPER
....Across the river from me was a man standing and looking right at me. It was not someone I had ever met, or anyone I expected to run into out in the woods. He looked like an old time trapper, a young man in his late 20's but his face had seen hard times.
8 CHEWED OUT BY A GHOST
....He called out to see if I was okay. At the sound of his voice I regained the use of my legs and I bolted. I ran right past Brian and kept on going. I ran past Brian's house and all the way to my own home six blocks away. Frantically I ran through my back door and up to my room. I turned on the light and sat shaking in my bed. My dad yelled from downstairs to check on me and I said I just come home to sleep.
9 THE SCREAM AT MARIE SPRINGS
[Readers of M.R. James' "A Neighbour's Landmark" will find this interview of interest.]
10 BIGFOOT AT THE BEAVER
[An "innkeeper's tale."]
....The husband was standing in the hallway looking rather nervous. He asked if they could check out immediately. Confused, I asked if something was wrong. He hesitated for a moment then stated he and his wife were on the balcony enjoying the moonlit night when something ran across the parking lot right in front of them. I told him there wasn't anything to be afraid of. I explained that there are a lot of animals in the woods during this time of year, when we didn't have many guests. Many people that visit are not used to the woods. I suspected that maybe a bear or mountain lion had scared them. He looked at me and said it wasn't an animal they had ever seen before. I asked him to describe the
animal to me. He shuffled his feet and said, "It ran on two feet."
11 BIGFOOT UP LEFT HAND
....The noise was ten seconds in length, and I could feel it in my chest. The scream elevated to sound that I can only compare to nails being drug across a chalkboard or like a woman screaming for her life. The growl/scream had the intensity of a bull horn pointed right at us. I could feel my shirt collar vibrating. I don't think it was the wind, but the harsh vocalization that reverberated through me.
12 CHILDS PLAY IN LEFT HAND
[Recalls "The Shouting" by L. T. C. Rolt and Machen's "Out of the Earth."]
....As I stood there in the dying light, I was about to get back in the truck when I heard something in the brush to my right, just on the other side of the stream. It was children laughing. It sounded like 2 or 3 young kids laughing at me.
13 THE SCOUT AT THE TABERNACLE
....As our walk brought us closer to him, we stopped to get a good look. Just then he looked up with a snap of his head. He looked startled to see us and he had a confused, frightened look on this face. I didn't want to alarm him so I smiled and nodded my head, my wife did a little wave and we started walking again. He did a little wave of his own and with big eyes he watched us walk away.
14 LITTLEST GIRL AT THE CEMETERY
....As I walked out of the room he looked at me with droopy eyes and said, "If that girl comes here Grandma, don't let her in. She scares me."
15 BLACK EYED AT THE MOVIES
…."You have to invite us in or we can't get in your car. We are just little children. We aren't going to hurt you or anything. Just let us in."
16 I SERVED A TIME TRAVELER
....I handed him his bag and he nodded and headed out the door. At this point I really wanted to see what a Viking drove so I hurried around the counter and to the door looking everywhere…nothing. There was no vehicle and I couldn't see him. Thinking maybe he had walked towards the mall, I stepped out the door and looked around but couldn't see anything.
17 UFO OVER DRY LAKE
....As dusk was descending, we loaded our gear in the trucks and headed for the sheds. Just as we started driving, the truck in front of me slammed on its brakes and everyone jumped out pointing back at Babbit Shanty Hill. I looked back and saw that the silver object wasn't silver any more. It had turned a bright orange red color.
18 OLD JUNIPER SHADOW
....We laughed and chatted for about 15 min when Jen pointed out something coming across the sage brush flat down the trail. It looked like a tall skinny figure traveling rather fast.
25 August 2018