One of the neat things about Southern Maryland is that there are a lot of back country, winding beautiful roads that have very little traffic. It’s what makes them creepy too, especially when you breakdown after midnight and have to hike a mile down a wooded road to find help. Thankfully, I had friends to keep me company, of course they brought up every horror movie we’d ever seen while we were walking and the house that we lived in at the time was old, creaky and built next to an abandoned plantation, so none of got sleep any when we made it home.
It was on one of these many back roads that a friend first told me of the Legend of the Goat Man who supposedly haunts P.G. County, no more than twenty minutes from me. The Goat Man is an axe-wielding, half-man, half-beast who attacks cars as they go through his territory. Some claim that he was once a scientist at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center who experimented on goats until it all went bad. Others claim that the scientist, Dr. Stephen Fletcher, created the creature by mixing the DNA of a goat with his assistant, who then escaped. Another version is more harmless, where the Goat Man is actually an old hermit who wanders the back roads and lives in a cave nearby and runs away when people approach.
There are several different locations in the area where the Goat Man is supposed to pop up. Fletchertown Road is one place, another is the roads behind the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. (Lucky me, I went to college right next to there.) Or near an old tuberculosis sanitarium near Governor’s Bridge which also has another legend connected to it, the Cry Baby Bridge. Supposedly, if you stop there at night, you can hear the sound of a baby crying. Apparently, the baby’s mother threw her child off the bridge when the baby’s father refused to acknowledge it and abandoned them.
As you can tell, I love ghost stories of all kinds. I’ve recently submitted my own ghost story, Ghosts in the Wind, which has a few things in common with these local legends. Like the Legend of the Blue Dog, my story involves the ghost of a murdered man and like the Legend of the Goat Man, my story has a hybrid creature. There are Jackal Wraiths who feed off the spirits who linger in limbo and at one point, the murderer gets possessed by them. There’s even the ghostly sounds of a crying baby.
Andrei Cuza and Dean Marshall just celebrated the ten year anniversary of their commitment ceremony only to have their happiness shattered. On his way home from closing a business deal, Dean stops on the side of the parkway to help a young mother with her flat tire when her ex catches up with her. Blake Olsen murders her and Dean and takes off with his two kids.
Andrei has been haunted by ghosts all of his life and bears the guilt for his younger sister Ileana being stuck in limbo. When Dean returns to him as a ghost the double-punch of losing him and now having to watch him founder if he doesn’t move on is almost more than Andrei can bear. Ghosts are stuck at the moment they died, unable to adapt to the changes in their living loved ones.
Dean has made a promise though, and until he helps Andrei track down the missing kids, he isn’t going anywhere. There are dangers in limbo that Andrei doesn’t know about, Jackal Wraiths that devour souls who succumb to their anger and they’re hunting Dean. And dangers to Andrei as well, who pays a price so he can have Dean’s touch one more time. Time is slowly running out as Dean and Andrei try to figure out how to say goodbye while they track down a killer who’d be more than happy to kill again.