DUKE CENTER — Many of Bill Robertson's best horror stories have been published separately in Canadian and European publications, but the release of his latest book, "Fear is Forever," marks the first time they have appeared in one volume.
And just in time for Halloween.
"This book contains many ghost stories and folk tales from our area," Robertson said. "My grandmother, Bernadine Johnson Robertson, was the one who originally told me many of these yarns that were published in Europe. Some of the others came from other people I trusted and even a few from personal experiences. They can be told around campfires and are perfect for Halloween."
Robertson specializes in understated Gothic horror fiction, a mode of literature that combines fiction, horror, and the gruesome and macabre, but also can include romance.
In many cases, Robertson, the prolific author from Duke Center, adds his own twists, or surprise endings. In yet other stories, he lets the readers to draw their own conclusions.
"I want to preserve local legends from McKean County and Western New York," Robertson explained.
One of those, "The Spirit of Catherine," is based on an old local folk legend. It tells the story of a young Catherine who went into the woods near Clermont on a Christmas Eve to pick ground pine for a Christmas wreath and became lost in a driving blizzard. Some say the echoes of her cries for help still can be heard today from the dark and foreboding swamp, known locally as "the Catherine swamp."
"Her frozen body was found next spring," according to Robertson, who adds his own twist to the story.
The famous Kinzua Bridge provides the setting for two of the stories: "The Brakeman" and "The Eighth Wonder of the World."
In "The Brakeman," Robertson's story is based on the legend of "Swede" Anderson, who was known for his terrible temper.
"The Eighth Wonder of the World" traces the history of constructing the 301-foot high and 2,053-foot long viaduct, as well as remembering family visits to the bridge through the eyes of a character named Erik.
Robertson's story "Can You Give Me Sanctuary" illustrates the influence of Gothic rock music on younger generations as "Bobby" finds escape from his parents' constant arguing in the music of Jim Morrison and The Doors.
Morrison, who died in Paris in 1971, is remembered as one of the most rebellious musicians representing the generation gap and youth counterculture.
No Robertson book would be complete without at least one reference to the famous Bucktails of the Civil War, designated as the 42nd PA Volunteer Infantry. It was also known as the 13th PA Reserves, the 1st PA Rifles and the Kane Rifles.
Historically, there has been a connection between horrible deaths and haunting experiences. The Gettysburg Battlefield that saw ferocious fighting on the second day has been the subject of ghostly and paranormal happenings. The Devil's Den, a rocky area full of massive boulders, is the most paranormal area at the battlefield. This area hasn't changed much since that time, and people believe the battle could account for the high level of paranormal activities there.
Robertson's story "Rescue at the Devil's Den" tells of a young Boy Scout, who, after accepting a dare from a friend, gets stranded on a rock formation and encounters the ghost of Col. Fred Taylor. Taylor was killed while leading a Union charge against the rebels. He was the North's youngest colonel at the time.
Robertson also writes about a haunted dormitory at his alma mater, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, in "North Hall is Haunted."
Robertson said, "A friend from Bradford Area High School, who also attended Mansfield, told me about the building being haunted by a young girl who had an unhappy experience, which caused a difficult adjustment to the collegiate years. A ghost tried to get her to commit suicide like the ghost did."
An avid outdoorsman, Robertson leaves it up to the readers to decide the ending for "When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted" as Frank and his hated boss, nicknamed "Boss," are hunting deer.
"The Long Way Home" tells Robertson's perilous trip in a dangerous snowstorm from Bradford, where he had spent the day painting the interior of a woman's home, to his residence in Duke Center.
Robertson edited the book, he said, "to eliminate wordiness."
Bradford artist David Cox, who has designed covers for most of Robertson's books, created this one as well.