The Haunted Trailers
3/12/15 By Lenee Cobb
This is an excerpt from Moonwalks and Unknowns featuring The Trespassers
1962 (I think.)
Unbeknownst to me, my mom was pregnant with my first brother, Gerald. He was born in February, but he was the first baby born that year and because of that, he was the New Year Baby. My folks won some free gasoline for his birth. It was snowing the night he was born.
I was at the hospital in the lobby where there was a TV and a couch and some chairs. Alice and Wonderland was on and it was in color. That was the first time I’d watched color TV.
A few months before my brother was born, my parents did something they’d never done before, they purchased a turquoise house in a brand new government housing development as high as one could live in the Chugach Mountains above Eagle River. For the first time I could remember, we lived off base.
Spring came and the sap ran and that is a scent I’ll always remember. To me, this place in these mountains was paradise. Mom was pretty busy with my little brother and not paying any attention to my whereabouts. I did pretty much as I pleased.
Summer days were lovely there and I was constantly wandering through the yards and woodlands of this new neighborhood. Front yards, backyards, and inside people’s homes, whether they knew I was there or not . . . I had no conception of private property that summer. I was the youngest of the neighborhood kids, now five. The neighborhood kids would usually gather in the woods at our end of our block and it was with them that I first trespassed, officially–that is.
I knew it was wrong only because the older kids were so hesitant and I realized some of their hesitancy had to do with fear, but there were words one of them uttered that clued me in that what we were doing was, in some sort of way, wrong.
“What if we get caught?”
The challenge was this: two blocks behind the one I lived on was a lot with a group of three trailers. The oldest boy, he might have been ten or twelve, was bouncing on top of a thin sapling we termed a monkey tree because it would bend and you could bounce on it, said, “They are too haunted. Someone killed the old man and hid his body somewhere and now everything is just like it was when he was alive—unchanged—I bet we find his body inside if we just go and look.”
“No way,” said another boy, “We’d get in trouble.”
“No we wouldn’t.”
“Yes we would. We’d be trespassing.”
“Who cares? The old man is dead, I tell you. No one has seen him since Christmas. Someone should go inside to find him and tell somebody.”
“Then why don’t you do it.”
“Oh no, I ain’t going inside those haunted trailers all by myself.”
“My dad said that the man down the road that races sled dogs killed his wife and fed her to his dogs.”
“Mine said that too. No one has seen her since Christmas either.”
“Maybe he killed the old man who lived in the trailers?”
“Maybe he did.”
“Okay, let’s go check it out.”
“All of us?”
They all turned and looked at me. “You won’t tell, will you?”
I shook my head no. The oldest boy looked up at the other kids and said, “All of us.”
Through the woods we crept, crossing one dirt road, sneaking through another bunch of woods and then through another. This block frightened me, and the haunted trailers weren’t the only reason. At the end of this road, there was a family who raised fighting dogs. The owner kept the dogs tied with chains around tires and those dogs were the meanest things I’d ever seen, frightening to walk past. I would have never come here if I were not with the older kids. But we never had to walk out on that road because the trail through the woods ended sooner than I’d thought and we came right out into the clearing of the old man’s lot and there before my eyes were the three haunted trailers.
They were silver trailers; long, but small enough to haul behind a truck. Red curtains in the cracked-open window above the hitch quivered in the slight breeze. The oldest boy whispered to those of us standing behind him, “See? He wouldn’t have left his windows open if he were alive, would he?”
We all shook our heads.
“I’ll go first,” he said.
We nodded and tiptoed right behind him as he rounded the first trailer, the one on the south side of the U they formed. He strode right up to the door and we all filed close behind him. Me, I was on the end, being the smallest. Our leader reached for the knob. The boy directly behind him whispered, “Are you just going to walk right in there?”
“Sh—shouldn’t ya knock first?”
Our leader looked back over his shoulder and made a big to-do rolling his eyes. He rapped the metal door a couple of times real quick and so quiet I could hardly hear it and then his hand shot back to the door handle and before anyone else could protest, it creaked open. I seem to recall a few of us letting out a gasp but our leader stuck his head inside and then called back to us, “All’s clear. Follow me.”
The kid in front of me helped me up the steps but I could have handled it. Inside, it smelled stale. The first thing we saw standing directly in front of us was a dining table. The strange thing about it was that it was set, not for just any meal, but it had place settings for four people. However, these weren’t regular settings.Each setting consisted of a bright green placemat, a red-rimmed white plate with painted holly berries at its center, red napkins rolled inside of wooden napkin holders with tiny poinsettias painted on them, and a mug in the shape of Santa’s head. In the center of the table was a statue of Santa and some evergreen boughs.
“But it’s summer,” someone whispered.
We looked around the rest of the small trailer. There were candle Santa’s on the shelves, some half-burnt, some never yet lit. Everything here was Christmassy—but it was all wrong. It was creepy.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” someone said.
I might not have been the first one out the door but I was not the last. Our leader shut the door softly behind him and we all fled into the woods from whence we’d come a good little ways before we stopped.
“See, I told you he was dead.”
A boy who was eight and a little chubby said, “He’s gotta be. Ain’t nobody going to just up and leave their Christmas stuff all like that. Nobody.”
“He must be lying around, maybe in one of the other trailers or out in his woodshed, murdered.”
“I wonder who killed him?”
“Maybe that mean man with those fighting dogs down the road did it.”
“Don’t want to go near those trailers after dark.”
“Don’t want to go near those dogs, neither.”
“Maybe he murdered him and then fed him to his dogs?”
And so the conversation went. To my knowledge, the gang never did investigate the other two trailers. Maybe they did and just never invited me to come, but I think I would have heard them talk about it. They included me in pretty much everything they did and I do owe those older kids my life, but that’s another story, which has nothing to do with trespassing or moonlight or unknowns . . . well, maybe unknowns, but to the best of my knowledge, the whole time I lived in the Chugach Mountains up from Eagle River no one ever saw the old man, and those three silver trailers with their red curtains remained haunted.