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Valley of Shadows

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Valley of Shadows


“I’ve got a ‘69 Chevy with a 396, Fuelly heads and a Hurst on the floor, she’s waiting tonight down the parking lot outside the 7-11 store.” -Bruce Springsteen

With Lost in the ‘50s this month, what more appropriate story than a car with a mind of its own? I’ve taken the liberty of making this a cousin to Stephen King’s novel, though not as grandiose.

WE start with a ‘69 Camaro purchased in 2006 by a then-local resident from one of those online sources, Craigslist or some such. Our self-employed local resident, whom I’ll call Don, took the bus into Spokane to pick it up on a fine spring day. The car was a deep red—cherry, so to speak.

Driving into his garage at the west end of town, Don started suspect that he hadn’t purchased a normal car. He turned the engine off after driving into the garage and took the three steps to the door leading into the kitchen after closing the garage door when the Camaro’s radio turned on. With no keys in the ignition? Maybe it was a short or something.

Going back, he opened the driver’s side door. The radio was tuned to KPND. He stared at it a moment, then reached in to turn it off when the selector began moving as if someone were physically looking for another station. Now, acting as if the thing might bite him, our haunted car owner quickly tried to shut the radio off, only to discover it was already it the off position.

Backing away, Don slowly stepped into the kitchen and shut the door. Calling out to his wife, there was no answer. He forgot, it wasn’t quite 4 pm. She wouldn’t be home from her meeting yet, and his son usually played at Traver’s Park until just before dinner.

Going to a small, locked cabinet in the dining room, Don poured himself a bourbon, then went into his home office. Sipping the drink he thought about what had happened. After some minutes he decided this was the reason the owner had sold the car in the first place for such a reasonable price. There was an extensive—and likely expensive—electrical problem he just didn’t want to deal with.

When his family got home he made no mention of the odd incident, other than to tell his wife of this unadvertised electrical problem when she asked him how the car was. His son said it looked like a Model-T. What did a twelve-year-old know?

The next day was a Friday and Don decided to take the car to a local mechanic to have it checked out. As he came into the kitchen, his wife was making a quick breakfast. His son was already wolfing down a frozen breakfast burrito. With a “see ya,” the twelve-year-old headed out the kitchen door and into the garage, clutching his skateboard. A moment later he was back with a puzzled look. “Hey, Dad, didn’t you park that old car in the garage?”


“Well, someone must have stolen it.” Don had been sipping coffee and, with this report, swallowed too much. It burned a trail all the way down his esophagus.

Following his son out to the garage, his wife tagging along curiously, sure enough, no car. “I’ll call the police,” his wife said and went back into the kitchen. Shaken, Don and his son went to the small side door of the garage and looked out to the street. There sat the car, parked neatly at the curb. After a moment and an exchange of funny looks with his son, he called back to his wife, “Don’t bother. It’s out front.”

There was nothing wrong with the car. No sign of forced entry to either the car or the garage. His son found it funny, kidding his father that he was losing his mind, and went to skateboard. His wife said something about the electrical problem. “Yeah,” he replied, “an electrical problem that starts a car by itself, opens and then closes an electric garage door, and parks itself at the curb. Some glitch.”

The mechanic checked out not only the electrical but everything else while he was at it and pronounced the car fit and ready. No repairs except maybe a tune up.

Nothing odd happened... for a while. But as summer wore on, other... things would crop up. For a week, there was a smell of rotten flesh in the car. One morning in August, Don opened the door to the garage just after sunrise just to look at the car. For an instant, it appeared to be a total wreck.

The final straw came a month later. He was coming home from a fishing trip to Brush Lake, less than ten miles south of the Canadian border, where he had caught four nice rainbows.

Parking in the driveway in front of the garage, the late afternoon had turned dark and cloudy. His son was no doubt just home from school, his wife from her new, part-time job... something seemed off. For some reason he had decided to leave the Camaro out of the garage. Grabbing his fish and tackle, he went in through the small door into the kitchen and looked back through the glass. The Camaro just sat there like some... thing. Then the headlights turned themselves on, the engine coming to life with a roar.

The dark overcast was enough to turn the streetlight on down at the corner and for a moment, Don son the silhouette of a person sitting at the wheel. No features, just the indistinct form of a person. And then it was gone.

The next day, so was the car. Don took the car to the wreaking yard just past Algoma and got $300 for it. Two years later, he and his family moved away when a job opportunity came up in the Seattle area. As far as this author knows, he never found an explanation for the strange car.

Happy “Lost in the ‘50s.”

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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