THE HORROR OF HIGH RIDGE
“It looks as if your only choice is the way you will die.”
If you’re after atmosphere, ghoulish menace, and a freckled hero dressed in an unlikely turtleneck, you simply must read The Horror of High Ridge, by Julius Goodman. I get an enjoyable chill flipping through it even now, when I’m old enough to have things like mortgages, a driver’s license, and my own coffee machine lurking in my character inventory. I can only imagine the kind of psychological torment it would have inflicted on me as a kid.
The Horror of High Ridge is a classically claustrophobic ghost story. You and a couple of interestingly-trousered school friends have retreated to a cabin over summer – a wonderfully reliable Choose Your Own Adventure set-up, ripe with intrigue and a promise of slight autonomy – and you’re looking for treasure. Forget fortune and glory, though, because on the night the narrative(s) takes place, the nearby town of High Ridge becomes home to an ancient war between spectral cowboys and Indians that plays out the same way every single year.
It’s spine-itching stuff, and it unfolds at a delightful clip as you and your friends pick your way through an empty town that’s turned into a ghostly murder-fest, trying to escape in as few pieces as possible. What makes it all the more special, though, is that there are just so many ways you can take one for the team on this particular outing. Stabbed in the back. Shot up with bullets. Shot up with arrows. Shot up with ghost arrows. Cleaved with an axe. High Ridge has 27 endings: very few of them involve breezy picnics or ringing alarm clocks.