I was a reporter for a small mid- western newspaper. My life in general was dull and the stories I wrote for the Granger Post were routine in nature. I filled the bi-weekly little rag with uninteresting tales about the New Employee at the Ford Dealership, Road Improvement Projects and the Inner Thoughts of the High School Football Hero.
So when I was told the Pharmacy in Hope Garden was shutting down after 100 years of continuous service, I thought, ” Oh hum, I guess the folks in Granger should know about that, after all Hope Garden is only 20 miles North on Highway 30 and someone in Granger might have had a prescription filled there at one time or another.”
As I approached the green rectangular sign that read Hope Garden 3 miles; I realized that in the five years I had been employed by the Granger Post, I had never actually been to Hope Garden. I had past the sign on numerous occasions, but had never gone into town.
I got a creepy feeling as soon as I turned off the highway. Hope Garden couldn’t have been more misnamed. The asphalt road leading into town was horribly cracked and over run with weeds. The buildings; of which there were not many, were in poor repair. Most of them seemed to be abandoned. The houses surrounding the town looked uninhabitable, faded and peeling paint, broken windows and sagging roof tops
I pulled up in front of what had been the Hope Garden Pharmacy and shut off my car. The place looked as if it had been closed for a 100 years; not for just a few days or a week, like I was told. A window was broken and the wooden door was almost completely rotted off the hinges. I cupped my hands around my eyes and looked through a dusty window. There was a counter, an old cash register and some empty shelving. On the filthy wooden floor I saw a rock that I expect was used to break the window.
Stepping back from the window I looked up and down the street. Not a soul stirred, it wasn’t a very pleasant day, cloudy, chill, the feel of rain. If it wasn’t for a couple of trucks parked outside the local Tavern I would have swore; I was in a Ghost Town.
The Tavern was just a drab little hole in the wall type of place; tucked in between what appeared to be a Mechanic’s Shop and the Post Office. Since the Tavern seemed to be the only source of activity in the whole Town I decided to go in. There was a Bartender. An Old Man sat at the end of the bar. The Old Man had a half a glass of beer in front of him. I introduced myself and asked about the Pharmacy.
The Bartender spoke up quick, “Yeah, they closed her down last week but nobody’s done business there for years. The family that owned it went crazy.” “Went Crazy?” I asked.
“Oh yeah.” The Old Man with the beer chimed in. “The Danbury’s all went insane, started happening to them years ago. Some say they were possessed.” I asked the Old Man if he could elaborate and he looked at me as if I had just spoke in French. “I would like to hear the story.” I said.
“Oh, okay. It all started with a kid by the name of Charlie Pitts. Charlie’s Dad was the Preacher at the Methodist Church over in Harlan. Charlie’s Grandfather, Dale Pitts lived here in town. Dale took Charlie in, after the crash.”
I sat down at the bar next to the Old Man realizing that this story was going to take time; but thinking it would be worth the wait. I ordered a beer and asked the obvious question. “What crash?”
“The family was here visiting, they left town around dusk, about the time the Santa Fe comes through. Nobody knows what happened for sure but everyone in town remembers the metal on metal crash and the sound of the car being drug down the track, the screams. Mother, Father and Charlie’s little Sister we’re all killed in the crash. Only Charlie survived.”
“Charlie always swore that the car was pushed in front of the train. There was an investigation but there was no proof to support that claim. The weird thing is; it wasn’t the first time people had been killed at that crossing and it wasn’t the last.” The Bartender injected. “There’s been six separate incidences’ at that crossing, and 12 people killed over the last 75 years or so.”
“That seems like a lot of tragic events for one place, seems unusual, but what does it have to do with the Danbury’s and the closing of the Pharmacy?” I asked.
“If Charlie were alive today he would be my age. We grew up together”, said the Old Man. After the crash I don’t suppose Charlie was ever right in the head. His Grandfather took him in but didn’t treat him well; folks back then didn’t mettle in each other’s business much. People in town just figured Charlie was crazy and that was that. Today they would have called what Charlie had; an anxiety disorder. The bottom line is Charlie needed help and didn’t get it.”
“A few years went by and Charlie was just Charlie. He would walk around town all nervous like he was, sometimes out of breath, sometimes in a sweat, he talked ninety miles a minute, never seemed to sleep, sometimes he would just pass out cold in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk.”
“Charlie needed help. He was in a bad way but no one knew what to do. Then the second crash occurred, a couple of teenagers died and Charlie went off the deep end. Mrs. Danbury, who ran the Pharmacy at the time, wanted to help. She gave Charlie some medicine to help calm him down. The drugs seemed to work so Mrs. Danbury kept giving them to Charlie. A couple of weeks later Charlie jumped in front of the Train or at least that was how Mrs. Danbury saw things. She went crazy for the guilt.”
“How did other people see it?” I asked.
“Well the Engineer on the Train that night claims that Charlie was pushed. He didn’t see anybody but was adamant about the fact. He hounded investigators until the day he died. The Danbury’s, one by one went insane and had to be shipped off to the asylum. Martha Danbury was the last Danbury; she only stayed out of the Funny Farm as long as she did because there was no family left to commit her. Martha would open the Pharmacy everyday, she would just stand behind the cash register and stare out the window. She hasn’t had anything to sell in that place for years.
People around here think all the Danbury’s were possessed. We just left Martha alone until the State came and got her. I don’t know if that was right or wrong but nobody wanted to have her committed.”
“Okay, so people think the Danbury’s were possessed. Possessed by who, possessed by what?”
“A long time ago before the town was even here the Santa Fe wanted to run some track. There was one problem. Menard Hopegarden; Menard didn’t want the train coming through and he owned the land. To make a long story short; there was a fire.
The Hopegarden’s had thirteen children, every one of them died in that fire. Of course the Hopegarden’s blamed the Santa Fe. Menard and his wife Sally committed suicide together a few years later. People still claim to see their sprits walking along the tracks. They say the Hopegaarden’s want a life for every child they lost.” The Old Man said.
“According to our records they have one life to go.” The Bartender added.
“Wow, it’s hard to believe that I only live twenty miles south of here and have never heard this story.” I said truly amazed.
“Hope Garden has always been a Town that keeps to its self” The Bartender said.
I finished my beer and said good bye to my two new friends. It was about dusk.