Scarier Than Ghosts

So a friend and I signed up for the “Ghost Tour of Jacksonville.” It sounded like fun and the idea of snooping around the town after dark in the company of fellow spook hunters seemed interesting. The tour was fine and although neither ghosts nor our bus materialized that night, we had fun walking around a bit in the vicinity of the Jacksonville square, trying to scare up some excitement.

But all the time I kept thinking … geesh, I’ve experienced scarier things in Jacksonville than ghosts. Call me paranoid, but there are some fears I just can’t get out of my head. Like …

Okay, I know that the new Shell carwash is safe … probably. I mean, it’s Shell Oil and they’ve been around for a long time whether they’ve been washing cars or not. There’s often a line of autos waiting to be scrubbed and polished by their robotical arms and brushes and spritzers, and when you pull up to your car slot a young man will come out and motion you forward onto the cogs that’ll slide your car through the tunnel of suds. Here’s the problem: in order to get as many cars as possible through the carwash as quickly as possible, he lines you up nearly bumper-to-butt with the auto ahead of you. I keep thinking … no, let me wait a couple more cogs to put a safe distance between us. What if the guy ahead of is slow pulling out when the all clear is sounded? What if he’s lulled to sleep by the sound of the water or hypnotized by the multi-colored wax and fails to drive out at the end of the tunnel? What if the Rapture comes and he’s taken and I’m not, leaving me to crash into his unattended Chevy S-10? Oh come on, surely you’ve considered those possibilities, too. I’m telling you, Jacksonville can be one scary town.

There’s no sweeter local activity than simply strolling around the Jacksonville square. Lots of people do it. I’ve seen them. It’s a strolling kind of place, and one of the reasons for the square’s appeal is its splendid display of more-than-century-old buildings. Fires are the nemesis of history and many towns have had their centers decimated by various flames over the years, but Jacksonville has come away relatively unscathed … leaving me this question: Do you have any idea how old the brick and stone work might be on those buildings you’re walking under? Does anyone ever go up there and check the hundred-year-old mortar holding them in place?

Jacksonville’s tornado activity is 69 percent greater than the overall U.S. average.

Our historical earthquake activity is above the state average.

The last census lists Jacksonville as having American Indians as .03 percent of

its population. Where are they hiding?

I once heard Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” That’s half the day!

What are the statistical chances of driving down the full length of Morton Avenue and being assured that every single driver going north and south can see the stoplights?

The Kiwanis meet every Thursday at noon. This means that a 1 p.m. all these loonies are set free on the town at once … and the schools are still in session.

Mayor Andy Ezard is always smiling. What’s he up to?

Over 100 people are killed annually by falling trees. Jacksonville has lots of them.

Squirrels can carry Salmonellosis, Lyme disease, Tularemia, Leptospirosis and Rabies. Guess what’s living in all those trees?

It’s too easy to be fooled by long-shot statistics. Sometimes the impossible does happen and the Cubs win the World Series.

According to the Reuters News Service, one in five Americans is mentally unbalanced. Have you taken a good look at your neighbors lately? Take a moment to scan the pictures from your last family reunion. To be truly frightened, take a good look at your spouse’s family.

The majority of the people who ever lived in Jacksonville are now dead. What’s going on?

That settles it. This town is just too dangerous to venture out into any longer, and if I were smart I’d simply stay inside and … and … and my house is nearly 100 years old. What was that odd creaking I heard in the basement last night?

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website:

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