2011 HEBRON HARVEST FAIR REPORT or MY ENCOUNTERS WITH THE BLURRY PEOPLE
by Kurt Newton
DAY 1: THURSDAY
It was my first time at the Hebron Harvest Fair. As a lifelong Connecticut resident I’d been to other fairs in the area — the Lebanon Fair, the Brooklyn Fair, the Woodstock Fair — but never the Hebron Harvest Fair. Now I know why. It looked and smelled like any other fair — fried dough, roasted meat, the bright flickering lights of the midway, farm animals, country folk — but the Hebron Harvest Fair hid a sinister difference behind its rural facade.
It began innocently enough. I arrived Thursday afternoon and, after slogging through the rain-soaked hayfield turned parking lot turned mud pit, I was greeted by Jason Harris at the gate. Jason was wearing his black New England Horror Writer’s t-shirt. I’d met Jason before and it was nice to see a familiar face among the Lion’s Club and John Deere logo wearing locals. Jason led me to the NEHW booth and I was pleasantly surprised by the look and location of our humble home away from home.
NEHW member books were neatly displayed across two long tables. A custom made banner hung at the back of the booth proudly displaying our organization’s logo. Skeletons dangled on the walls and skulls rested on the tables, so there was no mistaking what kind of books we were selling. Jason’s better half, Stacey Longo, was there. Both Jason and Stacey were not only glad to see me, each simmered with that nervous excitement that is only found among couples expecting their first child.
“Wow…this looks great,” I said.
Jason fidgeted, making room for the books I’d brought. “I’m really hoping we do well so next year members won’t be so hesitant to come to this event. I don’t know why but we didn’t get the kind of response we were hoping for. Stacy and I had to put in $130.00 of our own money to get this booth. Look, I’m not complaining. As the organizers, we knew what we were getting into. It’s just that –”
“Jason…enough!” Stacey barked. She turned to me and smiled. “We’re glad you could make it.”
“Thanks,” I said, and settled in.
“I just don’t understand,” Jason muttered as he pulled out his IPad and began blogging.
Like I said, it began innocently enough. First night highlights: I got to hang out with Dan Keohane (author of Solomon’s Grave & Margaret’s Ark); I sold one book; I ate some really good Pad Thai noodles and garlic chicken on a stick; and no rain. Lowlights: I had brought my new 30x zoom digital camera with me, but when I went to use it the battery pack was dead; the grassy lane outside our booth was a bit muddy and woodchips had to be laid down to make it passable for foot traffic; and it got a little chilly once the sun had set. Overall, a good start to what I hoped would be a fruitful weekend.
It would still be another twenty-four hours before I saw my first blurry person.
DAY 2: FRIDAY
The weather had warmed. After spending an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to the fairgrounds, I finally arrived. The sun had already set. Jason met me at the gate again and, when I got to the booth, he introduced me to Danny Evarts (artist, illustrator of the children’s book It’s Okay to be a Zombie), Kristi Petersen Schoonover (author of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole) & Nathan Schoonover (Kristi’s paramour and extreme paranormal investigator). This time I brought the special battery charger for my camera’s battery and promptly plugged it in. I was determined to get some pictures tonight.
The fair was in full swing and no sooner had I arrived, Kristi, wearing low-cut shoes, had had a little accident involving an extra-long and extra-sharp woodchip. Apparently, the chip had flipped up and stabbed her in the ankle, taking a little gouge out of her skin. To me, it looked like a relatively harmless injury, one that a wipe with a damp paper towel would fix. But, no, Kristi was beside herself. Infection, even cellulitis was mentioned. Nathan eased her fears by taking her to the First-Aid center. I thought it was an over-reaction. But little did I know.
With my battery charged, I took the opportunity to take in the fair through the eye of my camera’s lens. I snapped pictures of the nearby Soft Serve ice cream vendor. I took a long shot of the ferris wheel. I even snapped one of a chiropractic booth. I took others. Here’s one of Jason doing his best H.P. Lovecraft imitation.
I intended to write a brief essay on the fair for the NEHW blog, with pictures.
Here’s one of Nathan Schoonover looking wary of what was in this lady’s folder.
When I was done taking pictures, I sat in the booth and reviewed what I had. Strangely enough, I began to notice a common element in some of the pictures. In and among the random crowds there were stationary strangers watching me. Here’s one standing alongside the Soft Serve vendor.
Here’s another in the foreground of the long shot of the ferris wheel.
I didn’t remember these people standing there when I took the pictures. But here they were, standing like security guards, eyeing me with bad intent.
Maybe I was just reading too much into what must have been random figures. Maybe they weren’t looking at me at all. But there was something else. The blurry people. At least, that’s what I thought they were. People. One (the white-haired lady on the left in the chiropractic booth picture) looks almost skeletal. Ghostly. Was I imagining things?
After reviewing the pictures, I put my camera aside and thought nothing more of it. After all, I’m a horror writer. I have a horror writer’s imagination. If I didn’t let my mind go off on these crazy tangents, my stories wouldn’t be very interesting, now would they? But as the evening progressed I found myself watching the crowd. Just when I thought I’d spotted one of those security guard-looking figures, they’d round a corner or fall in behind a group of fair-goers only to disappear. I finally let it go and focused on selling books.
Kristi came back hours later with a bandage on her foot. She was still worried about it. Nathan was still trying to calm her worry.
I sold two more books and stayed till closing. I packed up my stuff, grabbed my camera, and headed home. It had been a long day.
DAY 3: SATURDAY
I didn’t go to the fair. I had to move that day into my new apartment. I felt bad. I was going to miss meeting a lot of people that I wanted to hang out with. But my dreams the night before had left me feeling as though maybe it was best.
I had dreamed of the fair, only I was the only one in the booth. I stepped out onto the woodchips and noticed all the other booths were empty. I went looking for someone, anyone. The rides of the midway were operating but I could hear no screams of delight, no far-off loud-speaker voice announcing entrants to the tractor pull. In fact, there was very little sound at all. Except for the eerie shuffle of footsteps following me. Footsteps I knew belonged to that of the security guards I’d captured in my photographs. Security guards that were following me because of what else I had captured in my photographs: the blurry people. I approached a tent and heard the buzz of wings. The sound grew louder, filling my ears. I reached out to push back the tent entrance, to see what was inside, to see what was making that horrid buzzing noise, when a hand fell on shoulder.
I woke up then and tried to shake the dream from my head. I looked at the clock. I was already behind schedule. My girlfriend would be arriving soon to help me move. Funny, but as I got out of bed, I could have sworn I saw a figure standing outside my apartment window. I rushed to the window to see who it was, only to be greeted by green grass and bright sun. Nobody there.
Throughout the day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. I wanted to call Jason and warn him. But warn him about what? Security guards that weren’t there? Blurry people that buzzed in my dreams? For some odd reason I thought that what I was imagining had to do with the fact that we were horror writers. That because we immerse ourselves in darkness, we perhaps unknowingly uncover what the average person cannot see. That perhaps what we think is a product of our imagination is in fact true. That perhaps because we have the ability to “expose” these things, these things are watching us, making sure we don’t go too far.
It was a crazy thought. But it unnerved me just the same. I couldn’t wait until the following day when I could share this crazy thought with my fellow horror writers. It would be good for a laugh or two.
DAY 4: SUNDAY
It was the best day of all. Bright sunshine, warm, dry September air. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to finish this experiment in bringing horror to the local fair.
I arrived before noon. Jason and Stacey, and Kristi and Nathan were there. Although Jason and Stacey looked tired, there was a renewed excitement in the air. I was told Saturday was a success. Many books were sold. A good time was had by all. Today was the day of the big country music concert, so the crowds were expected to be big. Jason was hoping we’d finish on a high note, so to speak.
Nathan Wrann (author of Dark Matter Heart, and writer/editor/producer of the film The Hunting Season) had joined us.
Kristi was walking with a limp. When she sat down and put her leg up on a chair to elevate it, I couldn’t believe the swelling. She told me she had to visit the emergency room and get a tetanus shot. I was amazed that such an innocent mishap could produce such a painful injury.
Music boomed all day in the distance. I visited the Thai vendor again, this time eating some spicy cashew chicken with vegetable rice. I got into some interesting conversations with Nathan Schoonover about the correlation between the TV series House and Sherlock Holmes, and the origin and evolution of the Freemasons. Best of all, people seemed to be in a spending mood. I sold two more books, as did Kristi and Nathan Wrann. It was a nice cap to the weekend.
I’d almost forgotten about the blurry people and their bodyguards…until I looked at one picture of Kristi I had taken. While those of us in the booth were perfectly still and clear, Kristi appeared as a buzzing blur.
Needless to say, I packed my things and promptly left, excusing myself early on the grounds that I needed to get back to my new apartment and unpack. Nathan Schoonover eyed me as I left, the smoke from his pipe curling around his head like a disembodied spirit.
It’s been five days now since the fair ended. Every night I’ve heard rustlings outside my windows.
They’re watching me. I know it. They’re probably wondering if I’ll expose them, tell the world of their existence.
I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I can’t help myself.
I may be moving again…very soon.