- Don Barone, Outdoors
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"My 12-year-old granddaughter will be sitting at the dinner table, and something will grab her arms and try and pull her under the table — and when we look, of course there's nothing there."
— Larry Cormier, Manager, Tomhegan Wilderness Resort
A HAUNTED FISHING LODGE IN MOOSEHEAD LAKE, Maine Werewolves are easy. So are vampires, for that matter. But the dead are tough interviews.
Here's a tip on how to do Halloween journalism with paranormal type interview subjects like werewolves. From experience I know you can be direct, because time is on your side. "Okay, it's a full moon at 8:13 p.m." you say. "If you're not a wolf and howling by, say, 8:30, tops, we're out of here. No fangs, no fans."
At that point I always tell the cameraman, "Dude, keep rolling no matter what."
Just in case, you know.
I've also never brought garlic to a vampire sit-down either. The spice gives me a migraine.
When I get a migraine and still have a job to do, I wear mirrored Gargoyle sunglasses to block out the light, but it tends to freak out the vampires, what with their natural problem with mirrors. So I'm extra careful with known headache triggers around monsters.
One vampire interview cameraman, Oscar, did bring a stake in his microphone bag, but I told him, "Just keep rolling, and hang the bag off the tripod. Just in case, you know."
I never set up an interview with fortunetellers. Me and the camera guy just show up, and if they act surprised we are there, I just leave. No sense wasting the tape if they couldn't see us coming. ESPN appreciates little cost saving touches like that.
The dead, though, make for challenging story subjects.
Unless of course you already have them on VHS tape, as the folks at the Tomhegan Fishing Lodge in Maine allegedly do.
Be forewarned: If you're the type that turns on all the hall lights for your midnight pee, might as well just leave them on tonight. After you read this, you'll thank me for the heads-up because it's going to make taking them covers down and making the run to the john a lot less stressful.
Male, female, this going to scare you both. If you read it to the dog, you gonna need to paper train the pooch again.
For you outdoors types, this story has fly fishing for landlocked salmon with Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin Short (K-Pink as I call him; Barone, as he hollers at me), a Maine Master Fishing Guide who looks like a human outdoor action figure, and db (me) in new waders I bought at a real store with receipts and things not my normal Army/Navy surplus joint, because the only waders they had stank, and as Bill the Owner told me, "May have some holes. You ain't wading too deep, is you?"
For all you others, this here is a Halloween story that will make you shiver and possibly chase you back to watching Oprah.
My goal is NOT to make you sort of squint your eyes shut like you do at those jump-out-at-you horror movies (or like I do at most of the chick flicks I see with my wife) but to plant a seed in the part of your brain that never lets go of these things but instead releases them at just about the worst time, because some time, when you are alone, completely alone with just your own smell and thoughts, you're going to think back on what the people in this story told me, and your skin will get all bumpy, and whatever hair you may have left will start quivering. Even if you try to go through the grocery list, or name the starting offensive line for the Buffalo Bills to clear your mind, it won't help you, because when it's over you'll swear the movement you catch out of the corner of your eye is something coming for you.
And you would be correct.
Oprah can't save you now.
On the fly with K-Pink
"If you can't find a ghost in 12 hours it's time to go home."
Kevin Short, 11 1/2 hours into a ghost hunt
That's the hand-lettered sign K-Pink is holding, in downright plain-arse view, at Boston's Logan Airport (and if you are not a Bassmaster Elite Series pro fishing person, don't you EVEN think of calling me that).
Here's our airport howdies: "Hello," "How are you," "Fine," "You brought your own Fly Rod and Reel," "We are Fly Fishing, right?" "And Ghost hunting," "Do you have other luggage," "Duh," "Where," "There," "I'll get the minivan," "Nice."
And this is how the minivan talk begins as I hit Massachusetts I-95 North in what would be a six-hour ride to the haunted fishing camp.
Then K-Pink pipes up: "I need to find a Montreal Whore."
Pretty much a conversation first for the minivan.
db: (If I knew how to put quotes around silence, it would be here.)
"A Pink one," he says. "Do you know where we can get one?"
For the record, and for my wife and kids, I DON'T!
K-Pink: "I'm sure we can find one in a bait shop," at which point I drift across three lanes of Boston rush-hour traffic.
"Nice driving there, Barone," he says. "You do know a Montreal Whore fly is a pretty good streamer for landlocked salmon, right?"
I do not. But I do stop saying the Act of Contrition in my head as K-Pink waxes on about fly fishing.
"You are standing right there in the water," the pro says. "You can feel how strong the water is, how cold it is, which way the current is going. It's a totally different experience than tournament bass fishing. You're that much closer to the water."
We hit New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die State, and K-Pink pipes up again. "I think I lived with a creature, or being, or some kind of spirit once," he says.
I go into another three-lane drift. K-Pink is playing with and talking to the hula girl on my dashboard.
"I lived in this house once that had this long hallway that had various rooms running off of it," he tells hula girl and me.
"Every once in a while, you would go in and out of a room, or turn into the hallway and catch a quick glimpse of someone/something standing at the end of it."
I look at him and smile with the kind of smile you give your boss when you run into them at a place where he isn't your boss. And this is what I'm thinking as K-Pink talks about the "being" in his hallway: "Bad time to have given up the toddies."
I take a quick glance in the rearview mirror just in case K-Pink brought his hallway "being" with him, then I look in his direction to see why he's suddenly quiet. And that's when I see it.
We're on a six-lane bridge and K-Pink is looking down at the Piscataqua River between New Hampshire and Maine. And I understand, having being around these bass guys before. It's like the water calls to them; it's where they are made to be.
"Barone," he tells the water, since he never turned to look at me, "even if I don't catch a fish fly fishing, it's OK. I don't know why that is. In the Elite tournament, if you don't catch a fish you're kicking your ass all the way home. But I can go out and stand in a river all day and not catch a fish and not really care."
As K-Pink watches the river disappear in his rear-view mirror, we cross into Maine. My GPS says it's only 241.99 miles, or four hours and 27 minutes, to the ghosts of the haunted fishing lodge.
Two hours later, I'm hoping the space aliens up ahead have donuts. If I'm going to be abducted, it better not be on an empty stomach.
If there is some place called "Outer-Nowhere," I'm doing 80 through it. That is, I am until the space aliens show up.
Maine at night is dark. Stephen King dark.
Story continues on Page Two
Don Barone is a feature producer for ESPN and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. Other stories of his are available on Amazon.com. You can reach him at Don.Barone@espn.com.
Salmon, spooning spirits and moose tipping