The Goat roared down the dusty country road, shattering the silence of the late October twilight. The Goat was a 1969 Pontiac GTO “Judge”, Ram Air and a Rock Crusher transmission. Jay had painted it a glowing, canary “arrest me” yellow, and he had mounted a goat skull on the dash. “You wanna see Methenes Chapel?” Jay shouted at me over the roar. “Sure,” I said.
We were college roommates, both nineteen, weird, into heavy metal, goth, industrial, and false occultism. We both knew our inverted pentagrams were fake, but it surely offended the normals in those small, rural Alabama farming communities. One of our favorite activities was ghost-hunting, which to us meant driving to supposedly haunted locations and acting out our own developmentally-challenged “Beavis and Butthead” episodes.
Jay jerked the wheel sharply, and The Goat slewed onto a smaller dirt side road. “What’s Methane Chapel? Temple of Farts?” I asked.
“Meth – eee – neees, you asshole. It’s a long eee sound. It’s an old abandoned church,” Jay said. “It’s about halfway between here and Buck’s Pocket. We can park The Goat around back and nobody can see it from the road.”
“Did you bring The Kit?” I asked. The Kit was our ghost-hunting kit: flash lights, glow sticks (in case ghosts ate our flash lights, I suppose), wooden stakes, rock salt, chalk, candles, a camera, and a crucifix filched from some relative’s dining room wall.
“Of course. It’s in the trunk,” Jay said. Jay was about a foot taller than me, lanky, with long wispy black hair and a thin goatee of which he was inordinately proud. He wore a black leather duster, black jeans, and black cowboy boots. I stood an even five and a half feet, and weighed a hundred pounds in my own grey trench coat. Ten years later, we would have been instantly marked as “trench-coat mafia”, and likely arrested solely on the suspicion of being suspicious, but in the early nineties a kid could get away with dressing poorly.
Jay drove The Goat more slowly down the winding dirt road, and began to tell me the story of Methenes Chapel.
“A while back this lady named Elise Whitley and a bunch of her friends decided to break away from their local church, and make a new church. I think part of it was that she decided God had told her she should be a preacher, and her church wouldn’t let her because you have to have a cock to talk about God or whatever. She and her friends got enough money together to build a church, and they built it off Gray’s Gap Road. The problem was, they built the church on land that was right next to a big grow operation. These were not people that you fuck with; they would just kill you and bury you in the woods if you bothered their operation.
“The church had a few Sundays, and about a month after it opened, Roger Clem, the boss of the grow-op, showed up outside the church. When Elise came out at the end of services, Clem went up to her and told her, point-blank, that she was to move her congregation elsewhere, or she would be sorry. Elise laughed at Roger Clem, and told him God had filled her with the Holy Spirit and she feared no man. Clem didn’t say anything to that; he just nodded his head once and walked off.
“A few weeks later, one Sunday morning, the church caught fire. The whole congregation was inside, and someone had chained the doors shut. Most of the people got out the side door, but Elise Whitley burned to death trying to rescue some kid.
“Of course Clem had an alibi and never got busted. The remaining congregation vowed to rebuild, and they did. Six months later, they opened the doors to a new church, built on the same spot as the old one. The congregation said it just wasn’t the same. The place felt bad, felt wrong. People that were there alone said they felt like they were being watched. Others heard noises, laughter, or crying. That building nearly burned down three times in the first month, twice due to faulty electrical outlets and finally due to a freak lightning strike.
“Maybe the lightning strike was the last straw. The congregation dispersed, and the building sat empty. I’ve been up there once, and it was creepy, but never at night.”
“First off, let me point out that you’re an asshole,” I said. “That story is total bullshit. You’re going to take me to another burned-out cow barn and swear it’s a meeting ground for Satanists.”
“It is not!” Jay protested. “I’ve been out there once, and it’s really there! It’s creepy as hell, man!”
“If it sucks, I get to drive The Goat on the way back.”
Jay laughed. “Deal. You’ll never get to drive The Goat.”
Half an hour later, Jay whipped The Goat onto a nearly-hidden dirt track in the midst of a thick wall of vegetation. A minute later, and we saw it: Methenes Chapel. At first glance, the building was not very impressive. It was a single story building of indeterminate architecture, white paint peeling from wood siding, blind vacant windows staring into the darkened interior. The building may have once been made of straight square lines, but time and neglect had warped and softened those lines, so that none of them were straight. The building seemed slumped, slouched on the ground as if exhausted. Trees and bushes had grown up around the building, limbs pressing against the siding, their silhouettes framed in the dying orange light of the autumn sky.
Jay eased the car around the building, peering into the doorless openings. He pulled the car up and back so it was facing the entrance, in case we needed to make a quick getaway, and we got out. No, Methenes Chapel had not seemed impressive from inside the car, but once outside, the hush around the building had a weight to it. The building felt less slouched, and more like it was hunched, and waiting. “Pop the trunk, Jay. This is not a good place.”
Rather than rub it in my face, Jay quietly opened the trunk. We both grabbed flashlights and glow sticks, and I grabbed the Polaroid camera. Jay shut the trunk and started off toward the rear door of the building. I started popping Polaroids at the entrance. We moved through the open doorway, and into the Chapel.
“This place is a wreck. You seriously need to watch where you put your feet.” I shined my flashlight around the floor. “Half these boards are rotten. If you get a nail through one of those gay cowboy boots, I will definitely be driving The Goat tonight.”
“Here’s the work of a genius,” Jay said, shining his light on the wall opposite the door. There was a crude pentagram in red spray paint, with the phrase “SATIN IS THE DEVL” written around it.
“Yeah, you better watch out for Satin. He’ll … do what, make your sheets soft?” I said. Jay laughed, and moved to the next room. I popped another Polaroid, while Jay swung the flashlight beam around. We were standing in what must have been the main room of the church. Smashed and splintered pews were stacked in heaps against the walls. In a small area at the front of the room, beer cans and litter suggested someone had once camped there. We walked into the room. Jay turned toward the doorway on the right, and a voice boomed “PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE CAR.”
We both flinched. “What?” Jay said. “PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE CAR.” Jay turned and began to run back the way we came. “Some redneck drug dealer is messing with my car!” he yelled. I followed him into the hallway, and through the open doorway, into another room. Jay stopped for a second, then ran through the doorway at the back of the room, into another hallway.
“Umm, this isn’t the way we came,” I said, looking at the featureless gray walls.
“Yeah, I know. Let’s go back to that first hallway, I think.” We turned around and retraced our steps to the first hallway. “Try that door,” Jay said.
“None of the doorways we’ve been through have had doors,” I said.
“I know, but I think it’s the right way,” Jay said. I pulled the door open, and went through into another small, dark room. “We must be in the middle of the church. There’s no windows in this room,” I said, as we walked across the room to another doorway. Jay opened that door, and we looked down a long hallway, with several identical doors along its length.
“please step away from the car.”
Jay looked at me. “That sounded far away, man.”
“Yeah. Really far away, and on the wrong side of the building. This is fucked. This place is not that big. It’s only a couple hundred feet long.”
Jay reached for the knob of a door across the hallway. As his hands closed on the black metal, something slammed into the door from the other side. The door shook in its frame, and Jay jumped back. The distant sound of a car alarm began to blare from our left, down the hallway. “Go!” I yelled, pulling Jay’s coat, and we both ran down the hallway. We ran through room after room, following the sound of The Goat’s car alarm, until we stumbled out the room with the pentagram sprayed upon its wall. We leaped through the open door, pushed through the weeds and overgrowth and reached Jay’s car.
For a panicked moment, Jay couldn’t find his keys. Cursing, he ripped at his jeans pocket until he snagged the keychain. Hauling the keys out, he triggered the alarm remote. “VIPER IS ARMED.” said the alarm. We looked at each other. Jay pressed the remote again. “VIPER IS DISARMED.” We got into the car, carefully checking the back seat.
As Jay nosed The Goat down the overgrown path to the road, I took a final look at Methenes Chapel. It was only a glance, but to this day I can remember seeing her in the doorway, pale dress blowing in the autumn wind, black eyes filled with so much rage.