Working on my cycle of Marienstadt stories has become something of an obsession and the latest one, the 8th in the series so far, is unique. It is a ghost story based on a legend that I heard from the time I was a little kid. In my home town there was a tombstone in the Catholic Cemetery of a priest, one Father Cooney. Father Cooney, who never actually served at any of the parishes in town, died in 1935 and was buried in our cemetery. That's pretty much all we know for real about him.
According to the legend he had an affair with a young woman and, when she became pregnant, he murdered her. Where stories like that begin heaven only knows. But the story was that if you went to his grave on a moonlit night you could see a ghostly image on his tombstone. What that image was tended to change – sometimes it was blood running down the stone, sometimes it was him carrying her dead body, or him stabbing her or strangling her. It depended on who told the story. Kids have such great imaginations.
But I, like most local kids, remember making a trip to the cemetery on a requisite moonlit night to see what we could see. I was in high school at the time and there were boys involved and scared girls need strong boys to protect them. The boys counted on that.
So, as I continue to work on these stories, which I think of as The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt, I decided I wanted to transform that particular legend into a story of its own and, wow, was that a fun project. I finished the first draft last night and emailed it off to my No. 1 reader for these stories, my buddy Ray. He wrote back and said, “Whoa and double whoa!!!! Spine tingling thrills, heart pounding, tears....wow....I didn't see that coming....wow...what an ending!!!! You have outdone yourself this time.” So I guess he liked it.
Of course you have to flesh out stories like these with more details and that is always both a challenge and a treat. For this story I created some new characters including Skidder Hoffman, an old hermit who lives in a camp out in the woods, and Marcella Fledderman, his cousin who was an Army Nurse during WWII and Korea. Of course some of my regulars are involved, Henry Werner, the handsome and gentle Chief of Police; Lola, the luscious strudel artist. We get to know more about Fred Sarginger, the former Police Chief who now owns a bar, and Candy Dippold, the always-up-to-something grocer. I also introduced a new character I kind of like. He has a small role in this story but he has potential. His name is Juney Wickett and he's a chainsaw artist. I meant for him to have a minor role but I like him a lot. And we also get a return appearance by Ethel Hauber, the cranky old lady who plays Lawrence Welk records at top volume to annoy the neighbors.
This story is called The Legend of Father Cuneo's Grave and it is a story both funny and sad with a ghostly twist. I loved writing it and I'm excited to add it to the collection. I have two more stories in mind and then this will be ready to be polished up, edited and launehd into the world. And now I need to get to work.
While working on this I found the following online:
COONEY'S GRAVE (St. Mary's, Elk County) There's reportedly a tombstone of a Father Cooney in St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery. He's supposedly got a girl in a family way in the early 1900s and killed her. There's alleged to be ghostly phenomena associated with the gravestone, that on moonlit nights it's said a blood-like liquid can be seen on his marker, according to The Shadowlands There's another tale, too. Back in the day, a crazy man named Cooney murdered his wife and hung her from a tree in St. Mary's cemetery. It is said that every Halloween, you can see the shadow of her lifeless body hanging from the tree.This was told in PA Legends
Thanks for reading.