by Ellen B. Wright
Where do you get your ideas?
Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader holds infinite possibilities. Then, too, I once saw a perfectly decrepit headstone in New Orleans with the name BASTIAN REBEL chiseled on it and vowed to use the name in a story. Yeah, sometimes vodka is involved. The most inspiring source for me though is history and travel. After reading about mortuary hospitals in Victorian times and making a visit to the UK, I wrote a story about a mentally handicapped man who invents a toe bell contraption meant to ferret out the living among the dead. That’s what history does to me — it sets pale lifeless digits to wiggling inside my head. History is better than anything I can make up.
I immediately zeroed in on the mention of ghost towns in your bio — having been to a few, I’m fascinated by them. Do you have any good stories from your visits, with or without ghosts?
Most of the stories that come to mind involve strange folks we’ve encountered in the middle of nowhere. Because we prefer to get off the beaten trail, it’s surprising enough to run into another four wheel drive bumping along in a similar direction, much less stray people. A man who looked like Charlie Manson once walked straight out of the ether and into our camp to mumble something completely incoherant, then disappear again. Because we were not far from Barker Ranch, where they arrested a large number of the family back in the day, his sudden appearance was even more spooky. Maybe it was a lost hippie still wandering the hills looking for his leader? I still wonder what he was trying to say. Another time, we passed a man standing outside his van in the blistering heat on a plain of endless scrub. He had an easel set up and he was painting, buck naked. Another naked fellow walked by us once and tipped his cowboy hat. He was wearing boots and a bandana around his neck and nothing else and I’ve never been able to cleanse my mind of the image.