Since 2007, I’ve lived in the country outside Abita Springs, Louisiana, on a dirt road surrounded by woods. It lies in a sparse community of mostly trailer houses on other dirt roads. And it is a nexus of mystery. First there was/is the house. While most houses in the area are trailers or modular homes, this is a nice two story, possibly the most beautiful house in the neighborhood. And yet it lies abandoned. For a while, there were clothes hung on the rail of the back porch, as if set out to dry. Those finally rotted away. But at night, lights come on inside and a single ceiling fan begins to rotate. I’ve never seen a car there, or a person. I no longer walk past it.
One day I discovered a whole set of women’s clothes—socks, jeans, sweater—lying just off the ditch on one of the roads. They were arranged in the shape of a person sleeping on their back. Another time I discovered a white van run off the road into the woods. It was empty, with broken windows. I told the police about the clothes and the van. Nothing ever came of it.
My son and I discovered an unfinished wooden shed in the woods about fifty yards behind my house, clearly hidden from the road. It has since nearly rotted into the ground. We also discovered a bloated wild pig carcass in a ditch. I’ve found other unsavory things—deer heads, fish carcasses, and once a huge smear of what looked like blood across a gravel road. I’m pretty sure the dead animals and blood were from hunters throwing out the parts of their hunts that they didn’t want to take home. Pretty sure.
In the last couple of years, periodic explosions have rocked our neighborhood. Usually we’ll hear a big bang, or maybe just feel vibrations. One of these explosions was explained as an accident when someone was burning trash, but the authorities haven’t even acknowledged the others that have been reported by local residents.
In the last few weeks, another little mystery has reared its head. I often pass a house on my walks where there is a strange sound. It sounds like someone slapping their hand on a road sign, a kind of “spang.” And it’s very regular. Each time I’ve heard it, I’ve stopped and tried to figure it out; today, I realized that it’s coming from underground. As a writer, my first thought was, someone imprisoned in a cellar is tapping a metal cup on a water pipe to get attention. Then the rational part of my mind kicked in. It’s far too regular to be a person. It’s clearly mechanical and maybe it has something to do with these folks’ plumbing. Maybe. Or…
They say mystery is the spice of life. My life outside Abita Springs has been pretty spicy.