Monday, August 08, 2011

The Eerie Arrow

Back in my newspaper days I was always on the lookout for good subjects for photographs. As a reporter, I had a beat to cover (city hall), and there was always plenty of small town news to write. But good photos, or front-page "art" as we called it, could be hard to find (which is one reason why so many pictures of my cats made it into the paper).

I experimented with night-time photography occasionally, which was hard because other than my old Minolta, a tripod and some high-speed film, I had no special equipment.

One night as I hung out with some friends at a local tavern I heard a story that I thought might make an interesting picture. By this time I had learned to take with a grain of salt these "local legend" stories, many of them conceived by drunken teenagers years before and handed down to successive generations of drunken teenagers as fact.

Seems there was a "Devil Worshipers' Road" somewhere in central Canadian County, Oklahoma. And on this road, a monument had been erected at the scene of the devil worshipers' atrocities. Something like that.

But unlike many of these local legends, one of my friends claimed to have seen it himself, and he offered to take me there.

Good deal, I said. Let me go home and get my camera first.

We drove around for more than an hour on dusty, unpaved backroads halfway between El Reno and Yukon, looking for this thing. Evidently, the County Commissioners hadn't gotten around to erecting a "Devil Worshipers' Road" street sign.

I was ready to give up and go home, sometime after 1 a.m., when we spotted a glow on the horizon ahead. That's it, the driver shouted. As the car slowed we moved past a clump of trees, and a field revealed itself on the right side of the road.

The field was the size of two football fields laid side-by-side, bounded by the road (and a barbed wire fence) on one side and trees on the other three. In the center of the field stood an enormous arrow, pointing straight up. An old street light, mounted on a nearby utility pole, bathed the scene in a soft glow. 

I have to admit, it creeped me out a little bit.

We climbed through the fence and quietly crept around the arrow. Once we were standing in the field, we could see a gravel driveway leading to a house at the opposite end of the field. The arrow had a metal framework that was covered by fiberglass sheets. Four guy wires held the arrow in place.

Whatever this thing was, it lacked context. Had the owner built it and erected it here? What was its purpose? There was no evidence of "devil worship" around it - no dead goats, no pentagrams. But it was weird as hell.

I set up my tripod, screwed a cable-release into the camera's shutter button, and tried a series of shots with different f stops and apertures. We left for home without being detected, or sacrificed.

When I developed the film and printed a few of the shots, my editor was not impressed. Did I have the owner's name? No. Did I have an address? No. Did I have the story behind the arrow? Well, no. 

I tried to drive back there the next week, and could not find it in the light (and sobriety) of day. So I forgot about the pictures.

Years later, I found out that the arrow had once stood atop the Space Needle tower at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City. Some guy bought it when they replaced it with a newer one, and he took the arrow home and set it up in his yard.

This is the first time this photo has appeared anywhere. If you click on it and look at it full sized, the creepiness factor increases. Besides the dust particles and scratches on the print, you can see a weird light effect in the upper left corner that I like to tell  people is a UFO.



Alice Audrey said...

I noticed that light in the left corner right away. Definitely adds something to the picture.

Friar said...

We could have anticipated the whole "Blair Witch" thing by years...