Winona Boulevard winds through a swath of the leafy Rochester, New York suburb of Irondequoit, the town where I grew up. Rolling past manicured lawns fronting family homes and kissing a public park, the street was one of my favorite places to go out for a run.
As a young man, I was a runner. Well, really, I still am. These days I just find myself far from the liquid freedom of movement of those halcyon days of youth. One thing that I haven’t lost over the years, however, is my love of a late-night jaunt in the ol’ running shoes.
I worked a summer job in high school as a Ride Operator (Read: Carny) at Seabreeze, a local amusement park. After the park closed, I often tried to hook up with friends for the night. Sometimes, it was just too late. On those nights, I slipped on the running shoes and headed out into the cool night along Winona.
Today, I heard a song that reminded me of an experience I had on one of those midnight runs.
Yes, the Scorpions classic, “Still Loving You.” I know that the song isn’t a horror staple in any way. Really it’s a song about attempting to reclaim a lost love. But it is unquestionably atmospheric and proved a haunting companion for this experience.
A hot summer day had given way to a cool night, raising a foggy mist in the air. A mid-August full moon cast a glow over the landscape, bringing out a surreal chiaroscuro in the darkness.
As I rounded the blind corner at Chapel Hill Drive, the haunting opening guitar strains of “Still Loving You” surged through my headphones.
What I saw next can only be described as true kismet.
In a bizarre almost-recreation of the iconic poster from “The Exorcist,” I came upon the stone keep of All Saints Anglican Church with one of the clergy lit in the darkness by a single old-style lamp, standing in mist, looking up at the rock steeple.
I found a real picture of the church. I have done a little light Photoshop magic to merely hint at the scene here.
I felt transported. It was like standing in that legendary scene from the film, watching Father Merrin pausing at the work before him before entering the terrifying MacNeil household. An icy chill poured down my spine.
I stood silent to leave the scene interrupted. Minutes passed and eventually the tableau was broken when the clergyman left.
I haven’t forgotten that experience and every time I hear that song, I think of the night I was visited by Father Merrin.