Friday, February 10, 2012

Wildwyck County: Clunker Heaven

The Sheer Mountain Mining Collective made a small fortune for itself in the late 19th and early 20th centuries cutting and shipping bluestone, a distinctive colored sandstone found only in New York and Pennsylvania. When the early sidewalks of the Big Apple demanded slabs of this stone, Sheer Mountain provided it, carving it out of the side of the mountain from which they took their name. When the mansions along the Gold Coast of Long Island cried for bluestone patios and pools, Sheer Mountain was there. Unfortunately, between the Great Depression and the growing concrete industry, the demand for bluestone waned. In 1933, the company went under, leaving nothing but rusting machinery at the bottom of a great pit hewn into the mountainside.

Nobody knows who started it, but the old bluestone quarry has become the final resting place for scores of decrepit automobiles, ones so rundown that even selling them for parts isn’t worth the effort. Instead, these junkers are abandoned at the bottom of the secluded quarry, left to rust amidst the briars and blackberries that are slowly reclaiming the old mine.

The variety of makes and models that rest quietly some 120’ below the lip of the quarry is simply amazing. A once-fine Cadillac sits beside an ancient Packard, now crimson and pitted with rust. Hulking trucks and 4x4s loom menacingly over sub-compacts. Raccoons and mice nest amongst the spilled upholstery while deer nibble at the grass growing around the dented hubcaps of forgotten Mazdas, Subarus, and Hondas.

On warm summer days, the quarry, called “Clunker Heaven” by the locals, is a popular site for teenagers to gather. They take their own rundown cars and trucks up a dirt road that winds along the slope of Sheer Mountain for miles, a route overshadowed by verdant branches and crossing chuckling mountain brooks, before arriving at the gravel patch that once served as the mine’s main yard. From there, it’s a short hike down the switch-back road that leads to the quarry's bottom. At the bottom, far from the sight of authority figures, they’re free to indulge in all the vices and pleasures teens find so attractive.

There are many tales told about Clunker Heaven, the kinds that would be called “urban legends" if they were told in a less bucolic setting. A popular tale is that one of the rusting autos contains a fortune in drug money, stashed here by dealers in an unsuccessful attempt to escape arrest. They’re up at Snake Hill Penitentiary now, but their stash remains undiscovered.

Another legends is that the ghost of a dead Prohibition-era mobster haunts the quarry, his bones moldering in the trunk of one of the ancient heaps from that era. He supposedly lurks amongst the rusting cars, angry at his violent death and unconsecrated grave. He inflicts horrible wounds on trespassers by causing them to cut themselves on the jagged pieces of metal which protrude from the briars and brambles. Those who do so are certain to succumb to tetanus or die from blood poisoning.

There is another legend about the place, but it’s not often repeated and only known by a few. These select folk maintain that there is something living down amongst the heaps, something that should not be. Decades of gasoline, oil, brake, and other fluids have seeped into the soil down at the bottom of the pit, polluting the water table and working its way into the plant life. These chemical have upset the natural order of things, giving birth to life that should never have seen the light of day. This mutation (or mutations) lairs amongst the cars, feeding on the larger animals that wander into the area. These meals have been sufficient to keep its hunger in check—so far. Who knows what might happen should the deer stop foraging in Clunker Heaven?


Trey said...

Great locale and hook for a horror game.

Michael Curtis said...

It's a little past the period I'm writing about in most of the Wildwyck series, but it all ties together in the end.