Be afraid … be very afraid

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

The Exorcist, Jaws, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Omen and Dawn of the Dead;. That’s a short list of some very scary movies. It is also a partial list of movies I could not sit through on my first attempt. Why? Because they absolutely scared the bejeebers out of me.

I remember going on a first-tim date in the late 1970s with a young lady who liked scary movies. For our first date, she wanted to go see the movie Alien. That may also have been our last date.

Whenever the music changed, and you just knew that the evil, slimy, chest-bursting, creature was about to eat someone, I would look away from the movie screen and start exploring the bottom of my popcorn bucket; anything to keep from seeing the bloody mayhem that was about to happen on screen.

However, in one scene, they didn’t play the monster-is-coming music. Instead, it got quiet as the crew explored their spaceship. Suddenly, a stupid cat was launched from a storage locker right toward the camera. I didn’t have time to divert my attention from the screen and I screamed like a 12-year-old girl. It wasn’t pretty.

Now that I think about it, I am almost certain that it was our only date.

This time of year, you cannot flip through the TV listings without noticing that almost every scary Halloween movie ever filmed is showing on one channel or another. Freddy Kruger, Dracula, Jason, and Michael Myers will be there to scare us and haunt our dreams.

I don’t like it. Life can be scary enough without adding more reasons to be frightened.

I still haven’t decided whether I believe in ghosts or not. Some experiences that I have had tend to shift my thinking toward believing in ghosts. As a Christian, I definitely believe in life-after-death. What the details of that life-after-death are… I’m just not sure. Does it include ghostly options? I’m just not sure.

Normally, I don’t spend a lot of time considering the paranormal, but during the Halloween season, along with most of the nation, my thoughts sometimes turn to ghosts, demons and poltergeists.

Many people are willing to talk about ghostly experiences they have had. My wife and I think we might have had such an experience. My mother, who doesn’t tease about such things, has told me about experiences from her past that are very convincing.

Right here in Wilmington, we have several ghost stories floating about.

After a late night of rehearsal in the Murphy Theatre, a shadow may appear to walk from the balcony to the box seats along the western wall of the theatre. Footsteps are sometimes heard on the empty stage. Lights flicker on and then off. The popular belief is that Charlie Murphy may be home and on the move.

Good friends of ours are convinced that an old lady haunts their home. When they first moved in, on several occasions, they clearly heard her walking on the hardwood floors upstairs. Doors would be found open.

On one occasion, her footsteps were heard coming down the stairs. When he looked, my friend saw a misty figure standing at the bottom of the stairs. Within seconds, she was gone.

A few years ago, as the city of Wilmington was in the process of taking ownership of Sugar Grove Cemetery, I heard rumors of another old cemetery in Wilmington. It was thought to be the first formal burial site within the city limits.

The old cemetery no longer exists, but when it was first used for burial, it had been known as the Old Methodist Cemetery. Apparently, it was located somewhere on the edge of town and was closed around 1858, about the time that Sugar Grove Cemetery was opened.

About a year after I first asked, a local historian presented me with an old, old map of Wilmington that shows the location of the Old Methodist Cemetery. It wasn’t on a main street or even a side street. It was located on the east side of town on a plot of land, at the end of an alleyway.

When the cemetery was closed, the bodies were all exhumed and moved to the new Sugar Grove Cemetery… or, were they?

Burial technology in the early 1800s was quite different than today. There were no vaults. Sometimes wooden caskets were used. Sometimes the body was simply wrapped in a quilt or canvas and was buried.

Decades later, after long burial in the ground, after many years of ashes-to-ashes and dust-to-dust, there may not have been much to move.

Were all the bodies moved? Were any of the bodies moved. No one knows for sure.

If you ever saw the movie Poltergeist, you know what Hollywood has to say about moving the headstones from a cemetery and not moving the bodies. Bad things can happen. Evil can dominate the area of the old cemetery. It’s scary.

I have decided not to say where the Old Methodist Cemetery was located. There are now four homes built on that site. As I said, I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to live on that property today.

If I did live there and if the TV set started coming on by itself and if voices were heard coming through the static, I would be afraid. I would be very afraid.

Happy Halloween.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist