Spooky curves of Panther Hollow & my love for her

Spooky curves of Panther Hollow & my love for her

The rain beats heavily against my window as my chilled fingers lift a cup of coffee that has gone lukewarm. The bright hues of fall color are muted through the pane, and I pull my cardigan tighter around me as Halloween week slips in.

I follow an account on Twitter called @DoththeDoth, and he just gets me. One of my favorite tweets of his is “Be the reason why your local woods are haunted.” There’s nothing more I’d like to do than haunt the undulating hills of Holmes County (instead of the requisite brooding moors in England somewhere), white dress billowing inside a chill wind.

We took a ride two weeks back on my birthday, which is the only thing I asked for this year. It was an overcast Sunday, a bit misty, and the skies had that soft blue-gray metal color that only appears in October. The leaves were brilliant, stunning even as we turned south toward one of my favorite spots — Panther Hollow.

I was mellow and relaxed, having been served a breakfast of spicy shakshuka and strong coffee, plus a maple cream stick upon rising. We were chatting amiably in the car as we approached the opening to the hollow, that yawning crest that dips you down, down, down into the gorgeous depths of her wooded bliss. Then I saw them. Big auction signs dotted the entrance and each parcel as the gravel road of her enveloped us. My heart sank, and I audibly cried out in distress with the worry the entire hollow would be developed, losing itself in the process.

My history with Panther Hollow and all things spooky goes back years and years. Mom was an avid Sunday afternoon car ride fanatic. She took us through tiny backroads with grass growing in the middle, rundown graveyards that contained the most magnificent Gothic tombstones we did tracings on and the most splendorous place of all — Panther Hollow.

We didn’t just go in the autumn when the leaves and her legends beat a thunderous spell over me; we went in the spring too. The canopy of unfurling new leaves and the fecund smell of earth awakening from winter slumber wove a spell that’s been hard to break. There are countless pictures of light spilling through trees, somewhere in the stacks of albums and loose photos she left behind, that need explanation. The answer is always Panther Hollow.

I fully embrace the mom I was and the thrilling rides I took my children and their friends on through the hollow. The witching hour would approach, and the hands on the clock always crept slowly until the ride was near. I wove spooky stories for them as we traveled the several miles between home and there and as we crunched over the windy road that led deep into the velvety night. My audience was rapt as I spoke again of her urban legends. Those rides seem like last weekend instead of now years ago, and every once in a while, one of my children’s friends brings up those memories and how much they enjoyed them.

Maybe her curves and silent trees spoke to me because of my love for Gothic horror novels and movies, the flick of a whisper down your spine around a fire on a moonlit night, and the sound of a pumpkin as you cut into it to create a grinning face.

We drove on through Panther Hollow, and I allowed myself to enjoy her beauty despite the nagging worry of what would become of her. We continued south and stopped at a garage sale that was spread out on a misty, curved bend in the road. We found treasures and drank hot cider, continuing the ride that took us through roads I’d never been on in Coshocton County.

But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about Panther Hollow. I know the auction was last Saturday, and I don’t know who bought her. I doubt I’ll look. I wish I could’ve been a millionaire for one day and have purchased her 216 wooded acres. I doubt I’d have done anything to her pristine land except haunt the hills on chilly October days, letting the wind caress my face, enveloped in memories.

Melissa Kay Herrera is a columnist and author. You can find her published novel on Amazon at www.tinyurl.com/Tonolives, as well as The Gospel Book Store in Berlin. For queries or speaking engagements, email her at junkbabe68@gmail.com.

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