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A classic Northern Indiana urban legend.
We jumped in my ‘93 Chrysler Concorde on a cool, early October night. I called that car the “Love Shack” — not for those reasons, but because it was “as big as a whale.” When I was a kid, there wasn’t anything else to do but drive around the country and listen to music, talk shit, figure out what to do next or whose house we should stop by.
“Let’s go to Moody Road,” he said with a grin.
A quick stop at the truck stop off I-65 for some snacks and Mountain Dews, then we were on our way.
I let my best friend take care of the music — the St. Lunatics debut, Free City, was in heavy rotation that summer and fall. “Boom D Boom” through “Let Me In Now” without skips got us most of the way there. Well, no skipping songs. Every bump on the road made us wince, knowing my Sony Discman could very well skip and disrupt the vibe. As long as the cassette’s adapter didn’t disconnect, we were (probably) golden.
When we approached Division Road, we killed the music and rolled the windows down, thankful we brought hoodies.
“Take a right — watch for the silos.”
I carefully pressed on the gas to find the perfect country road speed — a nice fifty-six — so we wouldn’t get pulled over for speeding should a deputy be out and about patrolling the countryside.
The inky sky was dotted with iridescent stars. The fields, still filled with the now-amber stalks of corn, ready for the John Deere combines, glowed bright under the Full Harvest Moon. The road, both ahead and behind us, was empty. With the exception of the tires pressing against the pavement, it was silent out here. If we came on a Friday, we’d never get to see it. Hopefully the legend would be realized before our eyes in a matter of minutes.
Passing the final, probably empty brick silo, we knew it was about time to make a right onto Meridian Road. Before we turned, we saw a dark farmhouse that looked abandoned. We took a quick detour and pulled into the gravel driveway, overrun by weeds, to check it out. The grass surrounding the house was tall and the bushes were overgrown, almost crawling up the brick pillars of the porch. Like the Earth would swallow it whole, given the chance. Not a single light came from inside the house and rusted farming equipment peppered the grounds surrounding the barns.
My friend in the backseat said he heard a classmate of ours went there last weekend and looked around. “He heard a weird noise and couldn’t leave fast enough!”
That was all I needed to back out of the drive and get us back on course. I slowly approached Meridian Road, which was just yards away from the farmhouse.
“How far do we go?”
“Before it Ts, just keep going.”
We fell silent as I drove up the road, looking for the old tree that would be on our left before the intersection.
“Turn around up there,” he pointed toward the crossroad ahead. “Let’s park under that tree,” he gestured at the lone, old oak that sat next to the road, with a mixture of crumbling asphalt and dirt at the base of the trunk. I wonder if that tree still stands today, and how many kids parked underneath it in search of the same legend.
I slid the car into park and we turned it off. Crickets chirped. Rural nights in northern Indiana are a different kind of quiet. Most of the leaves hadn’t fallen from the oak’s branches quite yet. The breeze rustled between the drying leaves and the cornstalks that lined the desolate country road. The hair on the back of my neck stood and my arms rippled with goosebumps.
We continued to sit in silence for another minute. Then, from the backseat, my friend whispered. “Flash your brights three times. Slowly.”
Old Man Moody would appear for the lucky ones. For those who were willing to wait it out, to time it just right…
The story of Moody Road has many variations, but the result of the action is always the same. Flash your brights three times — 1… 2… 3… — and a few moments later (literally, it could take up to three minutes or more), a small bright light down the road would appear. The light was always Moody’s lantern, in search of someone… and if you waited long enough, it would glow so bright that it seemed like it was getting closer to you.
One version of the story is about two brothers who were riding down the old country road in a horse-drawn buggy. One brother fell out of the buggy and was decapitated, and the other was said to be searching for the head by lantern light.
Another version is that Old Man Moody came home late one night to his house burning down, with his family dying inside. The light seen is Moody searching for his family from the great beyond. This is the version I heard most growing up, with little details changing here and there over the course of time. Instead of the whole family, it was Moody searching the fields for his young daughter, whose body wasn’t in the burned house.
I flashed my brights, leaving a full second in between each flash, and we held our breath. It was still, silent — the kind of quiet that made you more skeptical of what hides within the darkness.
Suddenly, the wind picked up and in the distance, we saw the light. It bounced toward us, as if someone was running through the fields beyond Division Road, which was about a half of a mile from where we parked. We stared at each other with excited eyes and couldn’t exhale just yet. It was happening!
Before we could celebrate, we heard a loud horn, like what you’d hear from a train approaching a crossing. There were no train tracks anywhere near where we were. We froze, trying to hear it again, but it never came. I looked at my friend sitting in the front seat and she whispered with a quiver, “let’s go…”
I turned the key, but the ignition stalled. Nothing happened. One of the guys in the back seat punched my shoulder, kind of hard, and said “stop messing around, come on, let’s get out of here!”
“I’m not messing around! It won’t start, see?” I tried the ignition again, and nothing. The lights wouldn’t even come on in the interior of the car. This is the last thing we need! We didn’t have cell phones yet. It would be at least a two mile walk to someone’s house for help, and it was approaching curfew. We could kiss going to homecoming goodbye if we didn’t get home soon! (Tragic, I know!)
We looked up and saw the light again, but this time, it wasn’t as bright and seemed further away. The wind picked up again, and I said a silent prayer before trying the ignition again. It started right up, and we were on our way.
As we drove back toward Division Road, we searched for anything that would have been the light, but came up empty. We speculated what could actually make the light, but in the end we enjoyed the urban legend more. Who wouldn’t?
The whole way home, we were riding high off those few anxiety-ridden minutes. Can you believe the car wouldn’t start? We spent the whole drive speculating about the light, the spirit of Moody, and making plans to go back again, but not until after Halloween because we knew it would busier than it was tonight. We got lucky.
I dropped my friends off and got home just in time to avoid getting my car taken away for being late. Turning on the television, I tuned into Dateline and settled in with my journal to capture the events of the evening. I popped open my window just before turning off my bedside lamp and let the sounds of the wind rushing through the cornfields lull me to sleep.
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