When invited to pitch for this anthology, I immediately thought back to my story “The Loneliness of Monsters” in Castle of Horror 7—set in the Tales of the Weird World War series developed by William Leisner and myself—and wondered if I should return to that 1950s time period. I love period pieces and mashing up genres. The theme for this volume was “young adult” and required teenage characters having teenage problems. Those elements mixed together in my noggin and came together in a simple pitch: Stand By Me, but with a monster instead of a dead body. Rather than going grim and dark, I decided to go for a nostalgic, PG-rated story. Like “The Loneliness of Monsters,” it was written to stand alone, but, hey, if you like it, why not read the other Tales of the Weird World War?

“The Creature in Jay Cooke Park” appears in Castle of Horror 9: Young Adult, edited by Jason Henderson and In Churl Yo. The excerpt below is from the opening scene of the story.

The Creature in Jay Cooke Park

June 1955
It was just before midnight, under a moonless sky, and Pete was driving his girlfriend home. A sudden, loud thump made Shirley scream as the Chevy started wobbling down the road through Jay Cooke Park.
       “Just a flat,” Pete said, pulling the car over onto the narrow grassy shoulder. “Nothing to worry about.”
       “Except for my dad when I get home after midnight.”
       As Peter got out and hurried to the back of the car, he heard whispers in the darkness. He quickly opened the trunk, fumbled with the flashlight, then turned it on, shining it across the road toward the sound. It was probably only the St. Louis River splashing along its rocky banks. After a moment of flashing the light around, he shook his head at himself and pulled out the jack and spare.
       But then he realized where they were—right near the old pioneer cemetery. Hidden in the woods were gravestones sticking out of the ground like crooked, broken teeth. As he shined the flashlight that way, a whisp of fog floated like a ghost into the road. Pete shivered, then laughed at himself. He hadn’t believed in ghosts since he was kid.
        Then . . . something yanked his arm. . . .

Cover copyright Castle Bridge Media. All text copyright Scott Pearson.
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