(From Ghostly Legends and Monstrous Myths of Texas, by Harrison Folger, copyright 1994 by Big Armadillo Press at the University of Texas)
On October 30, 1920, Merllyn Sanger came home to his two-story frame house after a 12-hour shift at the Collins Paper Mill. Sanger, like most people in his tiny community, didn’t have a car; he’d ridden in the back of a horse-drawn cart with other mill workers. It beat walking the six or so miles, even if the cart dropped him off at the head of Tyrell-Sanger Road and left him with another mile to walk. (The narrow, dirt road was named for the two families who lived down it.)
When Sanger walked in the door, it was nearly six o’clock. After a dinner of bacon, cornbread, and milk, Sanger went outside while his wife, Anna, cleaned up and his two girls, Bea and Addy (8 and 10, respectively) went into the small parlor to read the family Bible in preparation for church the next morning. Halloween fell on a Sunday that year, and their reverend had been gearing up for his sermon all that month, railing against the mischief of the local children that happened every Halloween night.
Sanger chopped wood; it had been unseasonably chilly that week, and the family had taken to sleeping together on the parlor floor near the fireplace. He brought in the chunks of oak, along with the ax. The family soon went to bed.
At midnight (give or take), Merllyn Sanger rose from his bed of blankets and quilts, picked up the ax from where it (perhaps) leaned against the wood stove in the kitchen, and killed his entire family.
He dispatched Anna first with a brutal chop that decapitated her. The two girls were next, and judging by their positions under the quilts, the sheriff thought that their deaths had occurred in their sleep. One can only hope. Like their mother, the girls’ heads were severed.
Sanger then went outside and hanged himself from the porch. The Tyrell family, on their way to church later that cold Sunday morning, saw his frost-covered body swaying and rode into town to alert the sheriff.
The reason for the horrible slayings is still unknown. The bodies were laid to rest in Mitchum Bay’s Holy Oak Cemetery, about 25 miles away. The community that the Sangers resided in was called Collinstown, after the paper mill; it had a general store, a church, and a farrier, but no graveyard.
It didn’t take long for the Sanger house to develop a reputation for being haunted, especially since the horrific circumstances had happened on Halloween. It was said that if one were to go to the house at midnight on Halloween, one could watch the sad events unfold again, ending with a ghostly Merllyn Sanger fashioning a noose from a length of clothesline.
The house was demolished by the mill in 1929 (the mill owned it, along with all the houses and buildings in Collinstown) and shortly thereafter, the mill itself folded.
The legend of the Sanger house mutated over the years, eventually developing into a rather complicated one: on Halloween night, the house will appear in its solid form, enabling intrepid ghost hunters to walk inside it and observe the events, but only if Halloween falls on a Sunday and it is unusually chilly, as it was then so long ago. Supposedly, the night Sanger annihilated his family, the area reached a low of 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
The curious seek out the site, even though, further according to the legend, Merllyn Sanger’s ax claimed a head twenty years after the house was torn down: in 1949, after a Halloween night when the temperatures were reported to have reached 36 degrees, the headless body of Bodie J. Wright, a self-described ‘spiritualist’ from Boston, was discovered in the middle of the old Tyrell-Sanger Road. His head was never found.
Directions: From Highway 87, take the Mill Road exit (just past the Texas A&M Agricultural Conservatory) and drive down Mill Road until it dead-ends at a field. Walk into the field, heading north, until you come to a metal pipe sticking about 3 feet out of the ground. This marks where the house once stood–
“Okay, enough bullshit,” I said.
David Mercer, my about-to-be-kicked-out-of-the-car-boyfriend, chuckled. “Scared?”
“Ha, no. But hearing that much bullshit is turning my eyes brown.” I took a sip of coffee. “Where’d you get that book from anyway?”
“Hope you kept the receipt.”
David thumbed through the pages. “Nah, it’s too interesting. Here’s a bit on the Marfa Lights, Bragg Road–hey, we should do that next week.”
David tossed the paperback on the dashboard. He drummed his hands on the steering wheel and yawned. “I think I’m going to walk around a bit.”
“Don’t let Merllyn get you.”
He grinned at me, then opened the patrol car’s door. Cold air rushed in. The door closed. I wrapped both hands around the Starbucks cup and sighed. This was not how I had envisioned spending Halloween. I had planned to be in bed, watching stupid horror movies with David, not parked at the end of a dirt road, backed up to an overgrown field that contained a few scraggly oaks and one infamous metal pipe.
But the Sanger ghost house attracted teenagers and stupid adults every year, and three years ago, a pack of the idiots had somehow managed to set the field on fire. Two firefighters had suffered second-degree burns and smoke inhalation. After that, the sheriff started assigning patrol cars: one at the end of the road, the easiest and most well-known route to the site; a second on the other side of the field, about a mile away, on the shoulder of County Road 6790, and a third to just drive around the area and watch for slow-moving vehicles.
I yawned and checked the time on my cell phone: 11:56 p.m. Still Saturday, still no ghost hunters or–I checked the car’s side mirror–no haunted house. I polished off the rest of my coffee and tossed the cup on the floorboard.
Pierce Kemp and Jon Antony had been assigned to this goat rope, but Pierce had caught a rather disgusting stomach flu, and David had been assigned to take his place.
I, in a heroic act of amazing courage, had paid Antony fifty bucks to let me take his place, even though I knew that come Monday morning, there would be condoms and pregnancy tests stuffed in my locker. We were dating, and we could even be assigned together (on a case-by-case basis), the regulations were fine with that, but there were always consequences, which would probably involve a couple of snickering deputies going to Walgreens.
But I was willing to take a bullet for David because, despite being Agent Scully earlier, I was afraid that there might be something to the Sanger legend. I was a werewolf, after all, and thus, open-minded to the supernatural. It would just be my luck to have my boyfriend killed by an ax-wielding ghost.
Worse than that, he might haunt me.
And now I was trapped inside a car that smelled like lemon-scented Lysol, stale vomit, wet leather, and several layers of body odors. I cracked my window a bit, even though that rendered running the heater pointless. My cell phone reported the outside temperature as 45 and dropping, and damn it if I didn’t have to pee. Frickin’ Starbucks.