Thursday, February 16, 2012

The October Country: Torn Letters

In a quiet Chattaquogue neighborhood, not far from the water, there is the secluded street of Salt Thatch Lane. It is not a particularly notable road. The houses might be a bit more expensive and private, hidden behind high hedges and shady stands of trees, but that’s to be expected of waterfront property on the South Shore of Long Island. In spite of the lane’s seemingly normal exterior, there is something strange going on here.

For more than a decade, letters, or more specifically fragments of letters, have appeared along this road. Often found amongst the fallen pine needles or blown against a high privacy fence, the missives are all handwritten on aged and usually water-stained paper, looking as if they had been left exposed to the elements for several days. The letters are most often torn, and only a small portion of the message is found despite efforts to locate the rest of the page. The letters are always written by the same two individuals identified as Clarissa and Malachi.

At first glance, the letters read a simple love letters, ones exchanged by lovers separated by great distances. The fragmentary nature of the pages makes it difficult to comprehend the entire subject of each letter, but exchanges of affection dominate the message. However, every so often, an unsettling line is legible amongst the affirmation of love. “…found the child’s leg torn to pieces…”, “…leaning there with holes for eyes…,” and “There will be death again when the moon…” are some of the most recently discovered and unnerving snippets.

The most unnatural facet of these letters is that they vanish. An early morning walker who finds one and puts it in her pocket arrives home to find that pocket empty. Curious children put a found scrap into their treasure boxes only to have it missing the next time they peek inside. One local artist attempted to make a collage of photos taken of the found letters. When he developed his film, the entire roll was blank.

So far the knowledge of these mysterious letters has been kept inside the neighborhood. Despite the fact that some alternative news sources would pay a small sum to learn of this phenomenon, the residents are inclined to keep it a secret. Whether this is to keep their quiet streets from being overrun by cranks and lunatics or if it is because of some desire to keep the two separated lovers’ poignant letters private remains unknown.