Our collection of strange tales is set in Graves Grove, a small town in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It sits in a valley between the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. The town is shrouded in mystery, unsolved crimes, and intrigue. The people seem normal superficially, they function well enough. But each one is deeply disturbed, wrapped in secrets and neuroses which drive them to strange behaviors.
The Constable’s office is plastered with missing children fliers layered over each other an inch thick, dating back to 1895 (*enough time for a sycamore tree to become full). No one knows why so many children are abducted. Theories and superstitions abound.
Missing children aren’t the only thing strange about Graves Grove. The mysteries start as early as the founding father. Samuel Madsen Graves arrived in eastern British Columbia with a small band of followers in 1880. He claimed to be from the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia and had accumulated his followers along his journey west, so no one really knew his roots. Years later, when a small band of his followers visited his so-called Virginia hometown to pay homage to their leader’s origins, no one in town had ever heard of him.
Samuel claimed that God had sent him on a journey to Canada to begin a new spiritual life. He planted a sycamore tree upon his arrival in Graves Grove as a symbol of his life’s rebirth.
Some say that Samuel Madsen Graves was an alias and that he had fled the United States to avoid punishment for some unspeakable crime. Others say that Samuel was fleeing a great tragedy and invented a new identity for himself to disassociate himself from his past. Very few believe that Samuel may have come from another world. Those who believe this are the same people who believe Queen Elizabeth II is a shape-shifting lizard alien.
One of Samuel’s prized possessions was his extensive wardrobe. To this day, the bronze statue of him that stands in the heart of town will change appearances, one day wearing a stylish bronze coat and trousers and another day wearing a bronze raincoat and fisherman’s hat, for example. No one ever sees the change occur. Some speculate the town mayor has a barn somewhere full of different Samuel statues, though no one can explain how he could drag them out into town and make the switch unnoticed every night.
Samuel Madsen Graves died in 1930, fifty years after founding his beloved town. He passed away peacefully in his sleep, something far too unusual in Graves Grove.
If your story occurs during the time period of 1880 to 1930, please make mention of the founding father. If your story occurs after 1935 (when the statue was built) please mention the wardrobe changing statue in your tale.
Some of the more colorful townspeople you may pass in Graves Grove are:
Mamie Rue Le Doux
Ms. Mamie Rue Le Doux is the widow to the late Virgil Le Doux, Mayor of Graves Grove from 1979-86. In the midsummer of 1984 Mamie Rue gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. A black pram was promptly purchased from the catalogue at Grady Gravis’s General Store and Feed Supply. Mamie Rue proudly pushed her pram with little Archeroy Effraim Le Doux around the town square every day until noon when Mayor Le Doux would exit his county court house office and walk with them to the river for a picnic lunch. This was the happy routine for the Le Doux family until the fall of 1985. On that colorful day the leaves rained down on the happy family as they ate crisp apples and roast beef on rye sandwiches. Little Archie toddled through the leaves and loved climbing over the sycamore roots. Mamie Rue and Virgil argued over the grocery list. Mamie felt frustrated, so she gathered up the picnic basket, wrapped it in the picnic blanket, shoved it in the pram and turned for Archie. He was gone. They never saw him again. The Constable dragged the river bottom and Mounties searched far and wide. But little Archie Le Doux was lost forever.
The Mayor died of grief (some say) less than a year later. Mamie Rue wakes every morning, puts on the same dress, coat, and hat and pushes her moth-eaten pram around town, squeaking and thudding. The picnic basket is still wrapped in the checkered blanket. She has been seen talking to it in baby talk.
Her dress is a shiny harvest gold A-line with a frayed hem and a rhinestone belt. In cooler weather she covers it in a gray and black herringbone swing coat with raglan sleeves and adds a faded moss green hat and scarf. Her graying mouse brown hair is curled into a messy bun with ringlets at her temples. She still lives in the old Graves Manor, a Tudor built by the founding father, Samuel Graves. The town council bequeathed the broken-down manor to her on her husband’s death and built a new mansion for the succeeding mayors. She lives there alone with her stooped and tottering butler, Clancy Harrington.
You are encouraged to mention Mamie Rue in your story in passing. If your story occurs during the time period of 1955-present, please mention Mamie Rue in the way she would have been in that time period. (i.e., 1979 mayor's young wife, 1960 a five-year-old girl, present a strange pram pushing eccentric, etc…)
Copper is a russet mutt with soulful brown eyes. He is seen around town near the butcher shop, sitting on the corner watching everyone go by or hanging around the park where the old elementary school once was. Usually he is walking the streets of Graves Grove in a rush, like he has somewhere to be. Occasionally, he will stop to nuzzle the hand of a child or gratefully accept a snack from a Graves Grove regular.
We encourage you to mention Copper in your story if you are writing a present-day tale.
Mrs. Avalean Harper is the Editor-in-Chief of the town newspaper, Graves Grove Gabbler. She also serves the town as the president of the Graves Grove chapter of the National Arbor Society. She is a staunch protector of all things tall and woodsy. She is large and in charge. Her personality, height, and girth are demanding. She has gray hair that she gets “done” every Thursday at 11 am at Agnes Borkman’s salon, called Grovey Chops. It faces the town square and Agnes has an unobstructed view of all the comings and goings of Graves Grove that Avalean appreciates.
If you write in the present, please mention Avalean Harper, Agnes Borkman, Graves Grove Gabbler, and/or Grovey Chops.
Maggie Pinker, a round-faced woman with rosy cheeks and curly brown hair, has a serious case of kleptomania. She says she can’t help it whenever she’s caught stealing. Items of note she has absconded with are a pizza from the grocery store (tucked inside her coat, no less!) and the Canadian flag from outside the post office, which she turned into a bedsheet. She also enjoys making off with flowers and other items left in front of headstones down at the cemetery. When Maggie isn’t stealing, she can be found hanging out on the front porch of her boyfriend, a sixty-year-old trucker named Moses Mackenzie. Moses, a rail-thin man who loves fine wine and poetry, got the trucking job so he can stay away from Graves Grove as often as possible. Or did he get the job to stay away from Maggie?
If your story is set in the late 2010s, Maggie will be in her late fifties and Moses will be in his early sixties. (Update: Maggie’s story has already been written.)
The Sinister Sycamore of Graves Grove
Planted as a symbol of rebirth by the eccentric town founder, Samuel Graves, there was more beneath the twisted roots of this old tree than anyone dared suspect. The townsfolk often liked to meet beneath the tree to discuss important affairs, aka town gossip. Couples chose it as a clandestine meeting spot for their secret make-out sessions. Families often chose to picnic in the shade of its expansive canopy. Children were naturally drawn to it—most imagined they just enjoyed climbing on its twisting tangle of limbs. More than one child had vanished without a trace…last seen crawling through the Sycamore's twisted root formations. The town mutt Copper dared not lift leg upon it.
Was it just a revered symbol of the town's history? A "birthmark" upon the landscape? Or was it much, much more? Only one person really knew the truth, and he was long dead. Buried, in fact, beneath the tree... just like his darkest secrets.
Do not write a story centering around the tree eating people. It has been overdone.