Back in my hometown of Lovell, Wyoming, there is a river that runs a few miles outside of town called the Bighorn River. Many years ago, they built a dam on the river up in Montana and flooded a couple hundred miles of deep canyon and wide floodplain. Before they built the dam, there was a town out there (now underwater) called Kane. All that is left of the town of Kane are some abandoned outlying farmsteads and the cemetary, which was built on a hill overlooking the river. Over the years, the river has eroded the cliff and at one point the cemetary was in danger of being washed out. There were some community service projects to try to protect the cemetary, and I understand things are okay now out there.
However, that place has always been a pretty creepy spot. The cemetary is way out in the middle of nowhere; there are no houses around, you're on dirt roads when you're out there, and the nearest lights are probably 20 or 30 miles away. The lane leading up to the boneyard is your archetypical Spooky RoadTM. Long and straight, narrow, flanked by thick underbrush and tall trees that arch ominously over the road. The place is nestled at the south-eastern extremes of the Pryor Mountains, in country that was held by the Crow Indians for long years before white men ever came, and there are legends that speak of some pretty scary shit in those mountains: skin walkers, caves filled with the bones of little people, you name it. Edgar, an old Crow artist and sculptor I once knew, used to warn me to stay clear of those places, but they're some of my favorite places to go on this earth so of course I ignored him.
Anyway, aside from the scary Crow legends, there are some more 'modern' stories centered around the cemetary. One of the stories, which I did not hear before the spooky shit I'm about to account happened but which I have heard several times since then, is sorta freaky.
One night, some friends and I were bored (life in a town of ~2200 people will do that to you) so we piled into my car and headed out into the hills. We were just dicking around, killing time, and at one point we ended up at the Kane cemetary. I have a number of ancestors buried there, as some of my forebears were among the first white settlers in the area, so I thought it would be interesting to wander the cemetary a bit, see if I recognized any of the names on the headstones. I did, of course, and we spent a couple hours there just wandering around and talking. It was actually pretty fun.
Leaving the cemetary, however, the mood and atmosphere of our little excursion changed. All of us fell silent, and it almost seemed as if the air had gotten colder. We drove away from the cemetary slowly, heading down the long, straight, spooky road. About halfway down the road, one of the people in the car glanced behind us. She gave a sort of gasp, and so we all turned to look. In the road behind us, following at a distance of perhaps 250 feet, was what looked like a giant black dog perhaps half as tall as an average horse. At first I saw it only in my rearview mirror (since I was driving), so I stopped briefly and turned around to look.
When I stopped, the dog started to run toward us. I can't claim to be any kind of expert on dogs, or the supernatural, or the behavior of ghost dogs, but I clearly remember feeling an unmistakable sense of danger. Something about the dog's gait indicated that it meant us harm.
I threw the car in drive, and floored it.
Rather quickly, I had it up to almost 65 mph (bear in mind, this was a badly washboarded dirt road, so I couldn't go much faster without slewing us off into a ditch). But the dog kept pace with us, and even seemed to be gaining a bit. I edged the car a little faster, to where I could feel the back end shimmying around, but the damned dog just kept right there on our tail. Finally, we reached the end of the lane, and the dog just disappeared. I was concentrating on driving and only threw occasional glances in the mirror, but one of my passengers said she was watching it the whole time and didn't ever see it dodge aside or duck into the brush. She said that one minute the dog was there, a bounding black shadow, and the next it was just the shadows of the trees and the dog was gone. Nevertheless, I kept up an unsafe speed until we were well on our way back to town.
I told a couple people the story, but I didn't really think anything of it. I figured it was just a mean old dog, and that fear and imagination made it look bigger and faster than it really was.
A couple years later, I was talking to my grandmother. When I was younger, she and my grandfather lived for a time in a mobile home outside of Lovell. It wasn't really close to the Kane cemetary at all, so I do not know if there is really any sort of connection. However, grandma told me that once, while they were still living in that mobile, she had awakened in the middle of the night to a strange sense of heavy terror. She said she heard the bedroom door squeak open, and saw a large black dog-like shape push through and come over to stand near her bed. It just stood there for a long time, while she felt powerless to move or do anything about it. After awhile, it just vanished. She put the occurrence out of her head, attributing it to a mere nightmare.
Since that time, I've heard mention of a large black 'ghost dog' a couple of times from different people. One fellow (whom I actually ran into down here in Arizona) said he used to see it loping up and down the length of irrigation ditch that ran along one edge of one of his father's hay fields. Another girl said she saw it once in the overgrown brush of the river bottom, down in the willows while she and some friends were having a little party.
I saw it on more time. I think.
A little over a year ago, it was, before I moved down here to Arizona. Back in the hills at the foot of the Pryors (miles away from Kane, closer to the western end) is a winding dirt road that carves a path up the flank of a rather tall hill, all covered in tumbled piles of boulders and scattered stands of juniper and sage brush. I got in the habit of climbing this hill perhaps two or three times a week for exercise. This was during the time that I worked in a furniture shop, building rustic log-style furniture for the tradeshows in Red Lodge and West Yellowstone. At the time I worked for a bit with an old Crow artist by the name of Edgar. Edgar was a good fellow, well educated and a several year convert to my church (the LDS church, Mormons if you will) but he still held to a lot of the old traditions and he used to warn me, only half-joking, that the Pryors were a bad place and I'd best stay clear of them.
Anyway, this one day I was hiking my road. It was hot and still, middle of July, and the sky was deep and clear. The air was not moving at all, save the occasional very light breeze. I was slowly getting some of my physical condition back (a sad circumstance of having spent so much time on Golem at that point is that I was about 30 lbs. overweight), so on this day I decided to go a couple miles further than normal. The road reached the top of a smallish plateau, and continued back toward the slopes of the Pryors for a ways, passing between two rather deep washes along a narrow ridge. The ridge widened out into a gently slanted slope, all tumbled with boulders. (There is some truly fascinating geology to be seen in that area, as an off-topic aside. Geologists travel there from all over the world to study some of the peculiar rock formations.)
Just where the ridge widened out, I stopped for a breather. And at just that instant, I saw a hint of movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look, and for a brief second I saw a large black shape standing next to a scraggly juniper. My first thought was that it was a mule deer, since I'd already seen a couple. But this was black, black in a way that couldn't have been a deer. My second thought (strangely enough) was that it might be a mountain lion. (I must admit to a certain thrill of fear at that particular grim fantasay; I have a deep and healthy respect for those bastard cats.) But, again, the shape was all black, and besides it seemed too tall to be a lion.
In an eyeblink, the shape disappeared behind the juniper, leaving only a gentle waving of branches. Not two seconds later, I heard an awful, eerie, frightening sort of yowling or hissing noise. It was loud and shrill, and seemed to be originating in mid air some three feet in front of me and to the left. I turned to look, but could see nothing. It sounded almost as if two large tomcats were tied up in a burlap sack and being dragged across the ground, hissing and spitting. I thought (and still halfway believe) that it was merely an extraordinarily focused little whirlwind, whipping and trashing it's way across the ground. Although I've seen more than my share of little whirlwinds and dust devils (common sights back home, and common sights here in the Arizona desert) and I've never heard any dust devil make a noise even remotely close to that eerie spitting.
At that point, I turned around and ran back to my truck. Enough is enough.