Red Hair Rick
(Hauntings In The North Woods)
|Gwyllm Llwydd September 19, 2021|
This is one from the Stacks… I am working on a couple of others at this point, but this story of my friend Rick from all those years ago still haunts me. I have a couple of further comments at the tail end of this one…
Red Haired Rick
I have told this story many times over the years. After I left Big Sur, and ended up in deep Northern California, I eventually came out of the hills and re-engaged with “normal” life, going back to school, finding work, a girl friend, etc.
During the winter of 68 early 69′ I met Rick who was just up from San Francisco, trying to settle into the local area. (Lots of people were moving out of the cities at that point.) He was tall thin, very red hair and had an enormous appetite for life. Eventually, he needed a place to live, and he settled into our commune. He would do odd jobs in the local community, and many people liked him, he became quite popular locally.
One of the rules in our commune was that there was no drugs allowed. I know, sounds odd for a commune then, but there were a slew of different types of setups going on. Rick honored this, and kept his drug intake discreet, and away from the commune. He still enjoyed the party life, and would disappear for a few days at a time, sometimes locally, sometimes popping back to The Haight in San Francisco to catch up with friends.
We became friends over the months, and as the winter wore away and spring emerged we took on adventures together locally and up in the hills. He was quick with his humour, and he had a nice depth to him once you got past his moods.
One Saturday night on the full moon Rick went off to town to attend a party. He said he’d be in about midnight. We lived about 3 miles from the town, up a lonely road by a disused quarry and railway. Catching a ride in, he would have about a 4 mile walk back that night if he didn’t have a ride as the party was up into the hills on the other side of town. I was working on art that night, hanging out by the radio at the table by the front door. There was so little entertainment locally that I was trying to catch an AM radio station from the bay area so I could listen to some recent music. Being remote, we were out of touch with the mainstream, in this and other ways. I finally tuned into the station as it faded in and out, and started with my art.
The hours raced by. I looked up at the clock, and it was past midnight. I put my nose back to my work and kept going. I had discovered the joys of pointillism recently, and was completely entranced with the idea of using the technique to do a larger picture. As I worked away, I heard the dogs barking like crazy, almost howling then a noise on the porch, and with that the door popped open and Rick came in, looking a bit rough around the edges. I said hello, as he stumbled past shaking his head and mumbling… I thought nothing of it as he went upstairs to his room. As I continued to work, I kept on hearing noises. I finally turned the radio down, and I heard what seemed like a conversation going on upstairs. Knowing that Rick was on his own, I went up to investigate.
I bounded up the steps, across the common area and knocked on his door. I could hear a conversation going on, and it seemed as if someone was in there with him. Neither party responded to my knock, so I knocked again. No answer, just a silence. I opened up the door and looked in to see Rick writhing in a fetal position on the bed illuminated by candle . Stepping in it seemed if the room was deep in shadows, and as I walked forward I realized that there was a form in the darkness leaning over Rick as he twisted back and forth on the bed. As I drew closer, the form coalesced into the shape of a tall man, composed of swirling grey smoke and grey flame. I stepped back, it stepped forward. My mind was full of a screaming and a wailing and whatever it was swelled in size as it came towards me.
I stumbled out the door, slamming it as I ran down to the main room raving about what I had just seen upstairs leaning over Rick. A couple of the older members of the commune were versed in magick, and one of them moved to the foot of the stairs, and started to repeat a chant that went something like this: ” If you are of the light, come forward, if you are not be gone back into the darkness from whence you came.” She kept repeating this until there was a howl from upstairs that seemed to trail out into the moonlight outside. The dogs were going crazy, barking and howling, carrying on like a coyote was on the property. We rushed up to check on Rick, and we found him covered in sweat and passed out on top of his bed. We covered him up, and took turns sitting with him until the dawn came.
The next day we had a house meeting after Rick finally awoke. He looked pale and wrung out, twitching a bit as he rolled a cigarette and drank a cup of coffee.
“So, what happened last night” someone asked him. Rick sat there, puffed on his cigarette and then told us what had transpired that night.
“It was a great party, and I was drinking wine with friends, and as the evening wore on, someone offered me a hit of Acid, and not really thinking I took it”. He paused, drank some coffee, and then carried on.
” It was around 11:45 and I realized the time, and by that point the Acid was coming on pretty strong, and I realized I had perhaps done a bit much of everything and decided to walk home. A couple of friends tried to get me to stay, but I thought it might be best to be back at the commune to ride it out”.
” So, I started walking, the moon was out, it was beautiful out and I almost sailed along through town. Along the way, I realized a young guy had joined me, and that we were having a conversation… He seemed nice enough, and we were talking about things and I didn’t question his sudden appearance or the strangeness until he asked me a question.” Rick sat back, and re-lit his cigarette. His color was really off at this point and his hands were quaking as he held the match up to the cigarette. “He asked me, he asked me, ‘could I borrow your body, I have things I need to do. I have unfinished business to take care of’”, when I heard that I realized we weren’t actually talking, but that the conversation was still happening in my head, and he was serious. At that point I realized I wanted away from whoever, or whatever he was. I walked quicker, and he kept up with me, badgering and pleading. He was more and more insistent until he was demanding that I give my body up to his use.
We all sat back as Rick composed himself. There was still a spring chill in the air, and it seemed to have deepened with the telling of his tale. He pressed on with the telling of it.
“I don’t remember getting to the driveway, or even coming inside let alone getting up to my room. I just remember him practically beating on me, and then it ceased, and I woke up this morning.”
We filled him in on what we saw on our parts, and about the phenomena that we thought had occurred. “He may of died suddenly, and in life having great will power decided that he could will you to his wishes and finish up whatever he felt he needed to do….” Another of us popped up with, “Well maybe he wasn’t human what so ever, look at the description of what it looked like.” This went on for several minutes, and then we went about the day.
As the sunlight waned, the dogs took to howling and barking again. Something seemed to be there, but no one could pick up on it. My favourite pastime of going out side and watching the night stars didn’t seem like such a hot idea.. After a few days the dogs calmed a bit, but just after midnight they would go off like clockwork. This continued for a couple of weeks until the new moon came, and then they ceased.
It occurred to me that what ever had followed Rick home had been driven out past the property by the incantations, but was still lingering, waiting to get back in.
Rick recovered, but from what he said he would never mix his drugs again. He left shortly after, back to the city. He seemed a bit wary and cautious even. We kept in touch, he came back for awhile and we renewed our friendship, and then he moved on again. Later on he headed to Alaska and a new life.
I have often sat and wondered about what it was that had attached itself to Rick that night. The vision of a being filled with swirling flame and smoke, rising up and towards me has haunted me over the years. I don’t know who or what I saw. I only know that it was of ill intent, and that if it couldn’t have Rick, well I may have done instead.
I figured out some of it over time. What ever it was, it was waiting at the juncture point for someone whose natural defenses were down, and Rick fit that nicely. Loping along, high as a kite in various directions, he probably came across as an easy target. He proved resilient enough, until he got himself to a place of safety. It was ruled by some of the cycles of this place, fading with the new moon. I pray that it didn’t find someone else to ride, as what was the unfinished business? There have been tales in cultures throughout the world of creatures such as these. Until then, I had taken it all in as just stories. After this I was less given to dismissing the old tales. What I saw was frightening, and something not to be played with. So if you are walking on your own, give a thought to what you can draw to you. Sometimes, you may just want to keep on walking.
So, a ghost story. Not everyone believes or have experienced such events. Duly noted.
I wrote this down long, long ago. What I didn’t include was that I ran into Rick’s girlfriend a few years later. He had gone off the deep end, leaving her and departing for the bush in Alaska. I don’t know what happened to him or her, I lost touch in the swirl of the times.
A note on where I was then. By Spring Equinox in 1968 I no longer smoked, drank, took any drugs. I was pretty straight arrow as the saying goes. I was dedicated to the spiritual life as it was interpreted then. (this all changed later of course) The commune was drug free in that we were not that far out of town, and many communes/houses were being busted. It was at that point, simple survival. On the main the local populace was okay with the incursion of new people, but many weren’t, including the local police, sheriff etc. There was violence against the new comers, and times were tense as they were anyway. Things got much more heated as 1969 proceeded. I may touch on that later, of course.
I went to my old photo box looking for pictures of that time; no joy. Hopefully the pictures will be turned up, they document the period nicely. Along the way I acquired a Bolex 16mm, and I know those films are gone…
Again, thank you for reading. Comments are welcome, and please subscribe.