A bride late for her wedding drives up Ogden Canyon and is never seen again, at least not alive. An enormous German shepherd prowls a cemetery, standing guard over its master's grave. A young Weber High School student meets a mysterious, handsome hitchhiker, and they decide to play in the snow together at Powder Mountain.
These are a few of the short stories in the new self-published book, "Tales From Huntsville, Eden, Liberty and Beyond." The $10 book, also called "Tales From H.E.L.," has proved to be a popular little seller at local bookstores and coffee shops, the first two printings totaling 500 books have sold out, with a third printing now available for sale.
A quick read at just 170 pages, the book was edited by Lynda Scott, Drienie Hattingh and Sandee Drake. It includes stories by the three editors, along with stories by Tanner Clark, Kera Erickson, Wendy Toliver (writing under the pen name Roxanna Scott), Dimitria Van Leeuwen, Ryan Russell and Brenda Hattingh, all of whom have Ogden Valley ties.
The stories were born out of the Eden Writers Fall Conference a few years ago when Hattingh challenged the group of writers to get out of their comfort zones and write a spooky short story. Some of the stories are based on local legends in the Ogden Valley and surrounding area; others come directly from the authors' imaginations.
Readers are drawn into "Tales from H.E.L" with a story by Hattingh that takes them on a spooky ride on a snowy night up Ogden Canyon to Pineview Reservoir.
Hattingh, who is originally from South Africa but has lived in Eden for eight years, incorporates a few local legends in her story, "Three's a Charm." As her character drives in the growing darkness by Rainbow Gardens near the mouth of the canyon, she hears the preternatural sound of children laughing.
At the turn of 19th century, Rainbow Gardens was a sanitarium where patients went to recover after operations and severe illnesses, Hattingh explained. Children who died at the sanitorium are rumored to haunt the premises.
"Before I turned into the canyon road I saw the glittering lights from Rainbow Garden's Posy Porch," the character thinks to herself in the story. "Then I heard the echoing laughter of children in the cold January night. It's the howling wind coming from the canyon, I assured myself."
Like the victims of many a scary story, Hattingh's character ignores her better judgment and continues driving up the canyon, where she begins thinking of another legend, a bride who didn't have such a great wedding day. Apparently, this bride was in such a rush to get to her wedding that she drove too fast up the winding canyon road and crashed her car. All that was found was her white veil floating in the water below Rainbow Falls, referred to by some as Bridal Veil Falls because of the legend, Hattingh said.
The ghost bride is still trying to get to her wedding, and drivers have reported seeing her hitchhiking in the canyon, Hattingh said.
"The legend goes that when people see this ghost bride in the canyon and they give her a ride, when they look back in their rearview window, she is not in the car," Hattingh said.
Hattingh puts her own creepy twist on the tale as her character, also in a rush to drive up the canyon and get home to her husband, encounters the ghost bride.
Hattingh is pleased with the interest the book is generating and believes readers are drawn to the local legends and the numerous references to local landmarks, roads and countryside. Interestingly, Pineview Reservoir is referenced in a few of the stories as a looming, dark body of water waiting to swallow a person whole if they are not careful on the road.
"Mountain Maggie," by Ryan Russell, is also based on a local legend and tells of a boy who doesn't believe in the frail old woman who turns into an evil-eyed witch on Halloween -- that is, until he sees her.
Readers might like a story titled "The Saloon," by Tanner Clark, if they have heard some of the strange stories about the Shooting Star Saloon in Eden.
"Whoever closes the bar at night comes in the next morning and finds nickels and dimes stacked in neat little piles," Tanner writes as he sets the stage for his story. "No one knows who did it or why. And sometimes the jukebox plays appropriate songs to match the mood of the clients and sometimes, so they say, it even plays a tune while unplugged ..."
Readers have told Hattingh they like that some of the stories are told in a lighthearted fashion -- such as "On a Dark and Stormy Night" by Sandee Drake and "The Ring in the Snow" by Wendy Toliver. Drake lures readers into her story with a deserted shack where a strange light glows and cups of hot chocolate are still warm.
Toliver, the author of "The Secret Life of Teenage Siren," "Miss Match" and "Lifted," all published by Simon Pulse in 2009 and 2010, uses her unique voice and sense of humor to tell the story of a somewhat snarky high school student who's not too happy with her current boyfriend.
"What's a girl got to do to find a decent boyfriend in Eden, Utah?" Toliver's character, Brooke, wonders in the story. "I'm beginning to think it's no coincidence that my hometown is named after the Biblical paradise-turned-hellhole."
Picking up hitchhikers is never a good idea, particularly in an anthology of spooky stories, but Brooke rationalizes that the snowboarder is "totally hot."
"My parents would positively kill me. But he looks nothing like Ted Bundy, Michael Jackson, or Freddy Kruger," Brooke muses in the story, as she stops for the stranger on Powder Mountain Road. The duo end up sharing a lift to the top of a ski run and that's when the story takes a turn into the Twilight Zone.
Toliver, who lives with her husband and three boys near Powder Mountain Road, said she drew inspiration for the story from the nearby resort, where they can often hear the explosions set off to reduce the avalanche danger. She said Ogden Valley is an ideal setting for scary stories because of its remote setting, winding roads and sometimes treacherous landscape.
"We don't really have street lights, so when it is dark, it is dark," Toliver said.
There may not be street lights, but there are graveyards in the Ogden Valley, and no book of spooky stories would be complete without a story set in a cemetery. That setting goes to Kera Erickson, whose story "The Protector" is about a seemingly menacing German shepherd standing guard over its master's grave.
Erickson, who grew up in the valley where she is raising her children and writes for the Ogden Valley News, said the story is not based on any local legend, but rather a dream her father used to have about such a dog.
When she was writing the story, Erickson said, she visualized the Huntsville Cemetery because it sits out on the point jutting into Pineview Reservoir.
"When I reached the far corner of the cemetery, the hairs on my neck stood on edge," Erickson writes in her story. "He was the biggest German shepherd I had ever seen. I glanced up and saw his lips curl to display a set of sharp teeth -- teeth white as snow. His silver fur looked surreal in the moonlight and his broad shoulders amazed me."
Nice doggie or bad doggie? What does the hot college snowboarder have in mind for the love-struck high schooler, and who's the ghost bride now?
Hattingh, Toliver, Erickson and their co-authors hope readers will take the time to find out and enjoy some local flavor while they're at it.
"They are ghost stories that have some local ties that people can identify with," Erickson said. "That's what makes it really fun."