It was late fall 1976 when Charlie DuFrain’s Chevy Caprice station wagon was found abandoned in the middle of the road. The keys were in the ignition, all the doors were locked, and his belongings were still inside. The location was a seldom-traveled country road in rural Georgia.
Charlie had attended a gathering of friends and family, some from various parts of the state. It was kind of an unofficial reunion with an evening filled with beer, football, and more beer. However, no one recalled seeing Charlie drink much of anything. He had to work in next morning, so he begrudgingly refrained from excesses before departing.
When his car was found, authorities speculated that he had run out of gas and left to find the nearest filling station or house. He might have left the road at some point and got lost in the marshes. The local sheriff tried using hounds, but they couldn’t pick up Charlie’s scent in any direction. It was as if the young man had vanished into thin air.
There had been similar disappearances on that same road before and after the DuFrain case. Some locals believed the missing people had been abducted by aliens, while others believed the Devil himself had come to claim the bodies and souls of the wicked. Local authorities blamed it on a possible serial killer who would one day slip up and leave some damning evidence behind. And then there were those convinced that it was all just a hoax.
Regardless of the theory, most agreed that people should stay away from that road, especially at night. There was nothing about it noticeably different from any other country road in Georgia. It was so narrow that it would be difficult to pass a car traveling in the opposite direction without clipping the side mirrors. A shallow drainage ditch and thick woods line either side of it before giving way to green pastures. Again, just like every other country road in Georgia. But due to its ominous reputation, the locals eventually dubbed it Judgment Lane.
A few people claimed to have survived mysterious encounters on Judgement Lane. While there were variations in the details, the stories were remarkably similar. One survivor, whom I’ll refer to as Sam, said he turned on the forbidden road while trying to find his way back to the main highway. Sam hadn’t driven a full mile before the engine cut off, and the lights went out. Since it was a moonless night, everything around him was pitch black. The car was still rolling, so Sam figured he’d try to pop the clutch to get the car started again. No such luck.
That’s when he noticed a light up ahead. It looked like someone was scanning the ground with a flashlight while walking toward him. Sam brought the vehicle to a stop because it was too dark to tell if he was about to run off the road. Sam rolled up his windows as the mysterious traveler neared. The light stopped moving a few feet in front of the car before the beam shined directly through the windshield. Just as Sam shielded his eyes, the dash lights and headlights came back on. There was no longer any sign of the flashlight or the person wielding it.
Sam hastily turned the key and sped away. He checked his rearview mirror to see if he could still see the flashlight, but there was only darkness. But what he saw inside his car was most alarming. In the mirror, Sam saw the head of a dark figure seated behind the driver’s seat. Long stringy hair occupied the sides, and the top was surrounded by what he described as a crown of six or seven horns.
Sam opened his door and jumped out of the sedan while it was still moving. Although dazed, he reoriented himself using the receding taillights. Sam screamed for help while running down the dark, dusty lane. He figured he would run across the person with the flashlight, but no one was around. It was a miracle that he made it to the intersecting county road, where he flagged down a flatbed truck. The driver offered to take him back to his car, but Sam wanted nothing to do with whatever sat inside it. His automobile was found, still idling, the next morning where it had crashed into a tree.
While other people reported their vehicles losing power and sometimes seeing the flashlight in the distance, Sam was the only one who reported seeing someone or something in his back seat. Maybe the others saw it too but weren’t so fortunate.
Copyright 2022, Darrell Winfrey