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Tuesday, October 05, 2010


The Curse of Bly

Well, it's October and Halloween is only a few weeks away. I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you about Bly. My pal Marie and I stopped outside of this tiny southern Oregon town during a road trip last June.

If you grew up in Oregon, you may have learned in high school that the only conflict-related death on mainland US soil during World War 2 happened right here in the state. In 1945, a Japanese balloon bomb detonated in a field outside of Bly, killing several picnickers.

During a long day on the road, Marie and I pulled into a rest stop outside of town. Along with an ancient bathroom and a memorial for the victims of the explosion, we discovered a well-kept playground littered with eerie playground equipment. About 300 yards up the highway, there was a ghost town with a few buildings. We grabbed our cameras and started walking.

A series of "NO TRESPASSING" signs and a fence blocked us off from a large house on its last legs. Signs likes these have never stopped me before and my wanderlust wouldn't have been satted if I hadn't slid under the gate to have a look around. Marie, feeling equally foolhardy and adventurous, gave me a "what do you I think I am, some kinda wuss?" look when I sheepishly asked if she wanted to explore the place.

The place was a disaster. '40s-era appliances were lying on their backs in the kitchen, looking like they had been tossed there by a werewolf. You could practically watch the rust spread on the springs of a bed in one corner. A blue recliner stood upright in the living room, its cushions shredded by a large blade. It seemed haggard and afraid, like a blood-soaked bystander after a nasty tavern brawl.

We shouldn't have been there. The house had a horrible, dark aura about it, even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on a summer day. Some places like this just ooze bad vibes. A slight wind seemed to growl like a dying bear. "Just go, get out of here. I don't want to get rough with you two."

I was in the backyard when I felt them on my skin. I batted one away but three took its place. Mosquitoes were all around me. I looked across the backyard and Marie was batting at her arms. Still hypnotized by the intrigue of this house, I stubbornly kept taking pictures, as more of the blood suckers descended. Suddenly, I was engulfed in a cloud of tiny needles and wings. It was a Biblical plague, remixed by one of God's most obnoxious and awful of critters.

We crawled back under the gate and hurried back towards the rest stop. I slapped a few of the mosquitoes on my elbow and came back with a palm full of blood. At first I said, "HA! Take that, you bastards!" Then I realized it was *my* blood. Now I tried to do the manly thing and escort Marie back to safety but they didn't seem to be after her. Despite the Crocodile Dundee fedora on my head, I turned to my fellow trespasser and said, "I'm sorry to abandon you at a time like this but they're fucking eating me alive!"

I took off running. The bugs, somehow, kept pace with me. I could feel them all over my skin, on my face, in my ears, down by shirt and up my cargo shorts. I flashed back to that scene in Stand By Me when Gordie and his friends made the mistake of jumping into a lake filled with leeches. I didn't even want to think about what parts of my anatomy the mosquitoes were feasting upon. I blazed up to the bathroom and slammed the door. I slapped myself all over, cranked the faucet and poured water all over my clothing and legs. My adversaries were dead or dying but I kept dumping water on myself.

A few minutes later, Marie strolled up and calmly knocked on the door. "You gonna live," she asked? "Maybe..." I sputtered. I ducked my head out. "Are they gone?"

"Yup, you're safe," she said.

At dusk the next day, we were sitting in the Alvord Hot Springs when we decided to count our collective mosquito bites. If memory serves, Marie had a lot but I had many, many more. There were at least 75 up and down my arms, legs and torso.

I've written about a previous run-in with the quote/unquote supernatural here on the blog. Am I convinced that this corner of Bly was haunted or cursed because of its dark history? Consider this: there was no standing water out there in the desert, as far as we could tell. Where had these mosquitoes come from? Surely there weren't enough snakes and jackrabbits to keep that large of a population going and thriving.

Whatever the cause or culprit, I won't be going back again. Consider this not-so subtle hint taken, Bly.

Oh, and Bly? Marie made a mix-CD to commemorate that weird afternoon back in June. It's filled with some pretty great music. If you or any members of your creepy mosquito legion would like a copy, feel free to drop me a line at anotherportlandblog@gmail.com.

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"If memory serves, Marie had around 10. I had 75 up and down my arms, legs and torso."

Riiiiight. We both looked like we had chicken pox.
Really? I could have sworn I had, like, a 100,000 times more bites than you. Drat, should have taken photos and had them notarized. This was bound to come up again.
I'm sure there were puddles of stagnant water here and there among the shrub. I got bit by mosquitos quite often in Tucson, and I can't recall much water around the place.

Nice photos. Certainly a place I wouldn't explore after sunset.
I have photographic evidence! I took photos of my ankles, where most of the bites were. They're in my Flickr photos. I count 9-10 bites just on the outside of my right ankle. We each had a good 20+ on one leg. Just sayin'. Still, you did have the swarm following you which was a bit frightening.
Sho: You're probably right about that but I'd rather think they were put there by the spirits of angry and bored dead people. You say tomato, I say....

M: Ok, fine. You win. But not the total # mosquito bite war, which I'm pretty sure I won at the Alvord Hot Springs. I had five billion bites to your mere 4,999,999,999.
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