Urban legends are something every child grew up with, at least here in America. They’re the kind of stories told over crackling campfires, gooey s’mores, and in the deep, dark woods. While they fall into a similar category as creepypastas, urban legends typically have similar formats (wayward hikers on the road, a creepy graveyard, former occupants going bump in the night) but are unique to the area.
Unlike creepypastas, which thrive in the void of the Internet, each urban legend has a distinctly local flavor. With every unsettling crime comes the ghosts of its victims. The spirits of those who died in accidents haunt their violent pasts. And creepy somethings inhabit the empty space between the crumbling drywall of abandoned buildings.
There’s no shortage of urban legends around my area, and my favorite urban legend from Ventura County, California is about the Charman.
In the aftermath of the devastating 2017-2018 Thomas Fire, there’s no shortage of fear around wildfires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Local legend says that there is a haunted bridge near the old RV campgrounds in Ojai, California called Camp Comfort, where the homeless folks live and the Charman frightens drivers in the dead of night.
Creek Road is an undulating mountain road locals take to avoid traffic on Highway 33. Drivers speed along all its curves, avoiding deer, rocks tumbling down the mountainside, and the occasional ghost hitchhiking among the long dry grass.
The story changes depending on which local you talk to. Some folks say a motorcyclist died along the windy mountain road. Others say it’s the spirit of a firefighter who died during the last great wildfire in the 1980’s. But what is certain is that something haunts the road and that certain something is a burning man who terrifies drivers who stop on the bridge just outside of Camp Comfort.
Locals even have cocktails named after him! If you’re ever in town, be sure to try out the Charman Margarita (traditional margarita with hot sauce) at Seafresh.
Of course, in all of the 18 years here I’ve never once seen the Charman on the bridge. But maybe, when I’m driving home one night, that will all change!
The McWaterford Witch
For writers, using urban legends as part of their eerie little tales allows for great creativity. In my upcoming short story, “The McWaterford Witch,” a group of girls on a camping trip witness an urban legend that comes to life. The horror arises from their own fear: that something will happen to one of them. For who knows what lurks in the woods at night?
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