I actually had almost half of the third, untitled, CeeCee Gallagher novel completed when I decided to pitch it. I was driving to work one day, down Pleasant Valley Road, when I began to think about the fun my friends and I had at the real Mary Jane’s Grave in high school. Needless to say, I was literally 5 minutes passed Tucker Road (the location of the real grave) when the ending, of what was to become Mary Jane’s Grave, popped into my head. Work was excruciating that day, I couldn’t wait to get home and start my new novel. I tossed aside the current manuscript I was working on and got down to business. What I thought would be easy, turned into approximately 5 weeks of research. I couldn’t believe the websites and the “experiences” people claimed to have had down at the grave. Whether you believe it or not, it made for great storytelling and fabulous material for the book.
The basic legend of the grave (started by a nearby campground) is that a witch, Mary Jane, was hung from the large, old, pinetree that is situated in the center of Mount Olive Cemetery (pictured above left). Right after her death, a cross mysteriously formed, burned into the bark (pictured right). Anyone that goes there is cursed, and if you urinate on the grave bad things will happen, blah, blah, blah.
During my research, I remembered years ago a robbery that took place there. I wanted to get my hands on the case file and I was lucky enough that my own sheriff’s department investigated it. You see, the road leading back to Mary Jane’s Grave is a narrow, uneven, dirt road that leads to a very isolated graveyard. To block someone in back there to rob, assault, or rape them wouldn’t, and hasn’t, proved very difficult. It’s actually pretty risky to go down there at night–and illegal. As I reviewed the case file on the robbery I was astonished to see that one of the suspects was a kid I used to babysit. Of course, when he was 5-years old, I guess I couldn’t have predicted I had a future thug on my hands.
As much as the citizens loved to go to the real Mary Jane’s Grave for a scare, so did the cops. Whenever a new rookie started it was commonplace for their training officer to take them there and scare the hell out of them. Of course, those stories always opened up the following days’ rollcall. Honestly, the place creeps me out. Haunted or not, it seems like it’s always dark there since it’s in the middle of a thick forest. I don’t care if I’m a cop or not, a gun on my hip won’t help me shoot something that’s already dead. No, I’ve never “experienced” anything there, but obviously, I have a very vivid imagination. The mere notion of a “ghostly presence” brings out the true wimp in me. Hey! I watch Ghost Adventures!
The real Mary Jane’s Grave is located in Monroe Township and the trustees are quite sick of all the vandalism to the graves (pictured left), littering, etc. that takes place. I don’t know why they just don’t open the place up during the Halloween season for ghost walks. I think it would cut down on the curiosity seekers and they could even make a few bucks. But, that’s just me.