Last night I visited two historic Los Angeles cemeteries as part of this month’s edition of RIDE-Arc (a late-night group bike ride for those who might not know). The first one that myself and about 100 other cyclists visited was East L.A.’s Evergreen Cemetery. Founded in 1877 it is the oldest in L.A. The second one was Mid-City’s Angelus-Rosedale, which was founded in 1884.
It may be odd to love cemeteries, but I do. Always have. And to visit them at night –especially these two landmarks, which are typically closed to the public after dark — is an added bonus. Sure they’re spooky at night. But they’re still very serene and fascinating and I have no problem exploring them.
That doesn’t mean my wicked imagination can’t couple to a strange noise at the least opportune time and scare the bejeebus outta me, as it did not long into our visit to the second cemetery.
I had parked my bike to move in among the headstones and crypts to find a vantage point from which to photograph — of all things — the manificent Byzantine-Latino Quarter neon sign visible a few blocks away, like so (click to doublify):
After finding a good spot and nearby tombstone upon which to set my camera on its tripod I got busy setting the shot up and while doing so in the deathly quiet (none of the other riders were around), from out of nowhere above me comes a low cluck-cluck-cluck sound. Not like that of a chicken so much as the sound one might make with their tongue. The first time it doesn’t register as out of the ordinary, but the second time an alarm goes off inside my head and I look up quickly to find I’ve positioned myself under a stand of pine trees whose boughs have formed a canopy over my head.
Of course I see nothing, but since there are thick branches all above me my rational self says it’s probably just a bird up there. Maybe a raven or an owl.
And I totally agreed: Yeah, it’s just a raven. Then I went back to framing the shot. Then came the cluck-cluck-cluck again and my rational self tried really hard to keep me calm, but my irrational side pulled out a bullhorn and said something like: “Ghhhhhhhoooooooooooooossssssssttttttttt!”
And in a flash my heart rate’s up and I’m debating whether to stay or flee and instead I pull my mostly inadequate flashlight out and shine its beam up into the thick branches, darting it back and forth trying to find the strange sound’s entirely logical source but also feeling the hairs on the back of my head stand up as chills race down my arms because what if the source isn’t a frickin’ bird but instead a demon with beady red eyes and jagged fangs and long enough arms to reach down from its perch and pluck me up off the grass and into its eternal hell?
I did the right thing. I laughed it off and went back to my camera pretending to be calm and after getting the shot I began my exit by looking up into the darkness and for want of a better line called out “Good one! And a raspy wet voice that sounded like 200 gallons of fetid slime filtering through a barrel full of maggots said “Agggggggghh!” And then I felt something like a very cold finger touch my shoulder as if trying to snag the fabric of my shirt, and pull.
No, not really.
But I’ll tell you this: Silent though it was, I didn’t walk back to the bike as casually as I’d walked from it.
Pix from the night are here in this photoset on Flickr.