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Scary Stories: Spahn Ranch

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When people trade scary stories, it's usually something that happened to them; a ghost they saw, a voice they heard. Unfortunately, most of my scary stories are things I brought upon myself. When I was a teenager, I hung around with a group of people who took a lot of acid. We would just take some acid, then decide where to go. The woods or the beach were usually good places to fry. 7-11 or the mall were not. A lot of people liked going to Disneyland or the laserium, but I knew that would be way too much for me to handle.

One day me and my friends Don and Jamie took some acid and decided to go to UCLA's Mardi Gras. The closer we got, the more Jamie started to freak out. He said there was no way he could handle it. So we drove around, trying to decide where to go. Somebody noticed there was a copy of Helter Skelter in the car. Then somebody noticed it had a map. The next thing you know, we're driving through Topanga to Spahn Ranch. Because UCLA would have been too weird. We passed a convertible that had run into the side of the mountain. There was a dead body lying against the front tire, as if it had been thrown from the car and rolled back down to rest there. We all freaked out. That was definitely a bad sign. Now, as I look back, I wonder why we didn't do anything. There must have been something so dead about him that we didn't even consider looking for help. We didn't have cell phones and the nearest pay phone was who knows where. Plus, we were on acid. The last thing we wanted to do was talk to the police. I am still not sure whether we even saw a body, or if it was something we talked ourselves into later.

We were driving up and down Santa Susannah Pass Road, looking for some kind of sign. Just as we noticed a boulder spray painted with "CHARLIE IS LOVE" Bang! We blew out a tire. We pulled the car over, and looked down into a little canyon. We were at Spahn Ranch. Don announced that he did not have a spare tire. We were stuck at Spahn Ranch. On acid. And it was getting dark.

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We walked around while we decided what to do. We passed by the train tunnel, and the rock overhang, walking along the trails the "Family" had worn in the dirt. The acid was coming on really strong, and I started seeing shapes forming themselves into letters. I saw RISE written over and over again in the dirt, a million times, disappearing into fractals. The lettering on the rocks seemed to say PIGS. The sounds of nature started to overwhelm me. the chirping and clicking of birds and bugs, the buzzing and the croaking, would get louder, and louder, and louder, until it built itself up to an unbearable crescendo and I wanted to scream, then it would stop. And it would start all over again, very quietly, building, building, building, louder, louder, louder. I turned to Don and Jamie and said, "No wonder they killed people. No wonder." They slowly nodded their heads, their wide eyes seeming to understand.

We decided we were going to have to walk to one of the neighbor's houses. The people who lived next door to Spahn ranch would love to see strangers, I'm sure. Since I was the only girl, we decided I would be the least intimidating one to approach someone's house. But Don had to call his dad, so the two of us walked up the road and started walking down the long dirt path to somebody's ranch. An old truck pulled up alongside us. The driver turned his head towards us, revealing an eyepatch. Multicolored sequins had been sewn onto the eyepatch to form a giant, glittering eye. I tried really hard not to freak out. It took every bit of self-control I had to not totally freak out.

I stammered, "Uhhh, we had a flat tire." The guy with the eyepatch parked his truck and walked with us towards the house. Don said, "Yeah, we were just looking for Spahn Ranch." I wanted to kick Don and scream, "Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!" at him for blowing it. Maybe this rancher had thought we were just lost. Now we were screwed. The guy said, "Yeah, we get three people here a week looking for that place." When we got to the gate, the guy said only one of us could come with him into the house. Don and I stared at each other as he walked off, certain we would never see each other alive again.

Jamie and I sat in the car. By now the sun had completely set, and everything was pitch black. Cars zoomed past us down Santa Susannah Pass Road. The car was parked on the edge of the canyon. If one of the cars hit us, we would have gone over, so we sat with the headlights on. Then we worried that the battery would die, so we sat there in the darkness, cringing every time a car started down the road towards us. Whenever they got to the curve in the road where they might hit us, Jamie would go, "BAM." BAM...BAM...BAM... I wanted to slap him. Instead I said, "Any minute now Don's head is going to come rolling down that road."

Finally Don came back to the car with his father. His dad decided they would return for Don's crippled car in the daylight, and drove us all back to sanity. Don took me to The Apple Pan while we waited to come down from the acid. He told me that they had rodeo music playing in the house, and a little girl wandering around pulling a duckie on wheels behind her. An old man sat in a chair and didn't look at them. The guy with the eyepatch said, "He blew a tire." The old man just sat there. The guy with the eyepatch said, "He needs to use the phone." The old man said, "Yup." While Don waited in the house for his dad, no one looked at him or spoke to him. The guy with the eyepatch kept asking the little girl, "Who's a little pill? Who's a little pill?" Don took a bite of pie and said, "That house was crazy." I stared at my slice of apple pie. I stuck a fork into the center and left it there. The pie's thick juices oozed out from the holes the tines had made in the crust. All I could think of was Leno La Bianca's stomache, and I pushed it away.

Photograph by Tasha for LAist