The Surpising Truth About Who First Carved Into "The Bridgewater Triangle Explorer's Tree:" An Interview With the Bridgewater Triangle's own, Horror Writer James Michael Rice

Early on in my exploration of the Bridgewater Triangle, I spent a lot of time with one Joseph DeAndrade, Bridgewater Triangle researcher and alleged Bridgewater Triangle Bigfoot witness. DeAndreade and I spent hours talking on the phone about his experiences hunting for Bigfoot and discussing our theories on this strange area where we live. We took many hikes through Hockomock Swamp. One day, he said he wanted to show me something very special: "The Bridgewater Triangle Explorer's Tree." The tree is located off the Elm Street Hockomock Swamp path and for all means, is hidden in the middle of nowhere.

It took us two trips back to the swamp to find it, but we did (with the help of a helpful young man who knew that area of the swamp like the back of his hand.) So there we the tree. The over-sized Beech Tree was covered in carvings. The two most profound carving being "Welcome to the Triangle" and another, a very creepy looking carving that simply read "HIRE THE NIGHTMARES."

Joe had carved his name in years ago, so he took out his switchblade and passed it to me and I went to work carving my own name into the Explorer's Tree. Now I was immortalized! (Until the tree died, anyway. FLASH FORWARD SIX YEARS...
Now nothing that happens in the Bridgewater Triangle surprises me. The nature the beast of  the Bridgewater Triangle is simply this: "Expect the unexpected." A car collides with a cow on Route 105 in Middleboro,  and as the driver is trying to get her bearings, she hears "MOOOO!" from the backseat, the cow just sitting there, unscathed...yep, not surprised. A person is killed when they are struck by an owl in broad daylight? Mmmhmm. Baby seals swimming in the rivers of East Bridgewater and Middleboro. Not a problem. Five alligator sightings in the triangle in the span of four months? Totally acceptable. But whenever I was contacted by horror writer, James Michael Rice, author of such books as "Rebel Angels" and "A Tough Act To Follow" I simply didn't believe what he had to say.
There was no way this guy could be telling the truth. That he had seen my pictures of "The Bridgewater Triangle Tree" and he was the original carver. It was last February when I found this message in my facebook inbox:  "I don't know whether to laugh or cry. How on earth did you stumble upon that tree with "Hire the Nightmares" carved on it? I carved that and I think "Welcome to the Triangle" back in the late 80s/early 90s. My friends and I had our own paranormal investigation group when we were about twelve years-old (circa 1986). Most of us lived on Elm Street, therefore we called ourselves "The Nightmares."

Then this guy tells me that his experiences growing up on Elm Street helped shape him into becoming a writer. And that he has written three books that were all in part influenced by his childhood. I was in total disbelief for the first time. That this could be true...that this tree in the middle of nowhere which took much effort to find, just happened to be originally carved by this random guy facebooking me. And he happens to have written books that deal with Bridgewater Triangle themes such as hauntings, murders, suicide and mysterious disappearances. At first it was seemed too far fetched to believe. Then I remembered: it's the Bridgewater Triangle, the land of strange accidents and coincidences. I started to believe.

I recently interviewed James Michael Rice to dig a little deeper into what it was like to grow up on Elm Street, a fact that undoubtedly shaped him into becoming a horror writer he is today.

Q. What are some are some themes in your books that reflect themes of the Bridgewater Triangle?
A. Some of the darker themes include hauntings, murders, suicides, unexplained disappearances. A little bit of the history and lore of the swamp trickles into each book, however briefly, even if it is not the focus of the story. For example, when I was a kid, my friends and I found a lone stick poking up from the ice of a shallow pond on Elm Street. It looked like a skeletal hand, with gnarled fingers. I always thought that was creepy, and the image stuck with me. In "Rebel Angels", the killer hides his victims in a mysterious pool in the Hockomock. He hears voices coming from the pool, telling him he is doing God's work, and that It wants him to keep feeding It more souls. Later, in a novella titled "The Still", the reader gets to see what's beneath the surface of that pool, and it's definitely not God.

Q.  How many books have you written to date?
A. I've written four books to date and two screenplays. My first book was “Rebel Angels,” a story that came to me when I was twelve-years old and never left me. “Rebel Angels” is about a group of kids who unwittingly cross paths with a serial killer, and are then framed for murder the killer’s most recent victim. Hunted by the police, FBI, and the killer himself, the friends take refuge in a remote cabin in New Hampshire, where they must find a way to survive until they can clear their names of the crime. My second novel is called A Tough Act to Follow (soon to be released on Kindle). For this book, I took a step back from the horror genre, and wrote a coming-of-age story based in the fictional town of Rainbridge, Massachusetts. The story follows a group of friends as they move from junior high to high school, from high school to college and beyond, illustrating that strange mix of wide-eyed optimism and hopeless uncertainty we all face during the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The third book is a collection of short stories called, “The Still.” Most of the stories were written when I was in sixth or seventh grade. In a way, each story connects to the other. It was not meant as a companion piece to "Rebel Angels," although it does connect to several of the characters.

Q. What was special about the woods you explored as a child?
A. To me, the woods of Hockomock Swamp were as deep and full of mystery as any jungle on earth. My brother and I spent most of our time exploring those woods, discovering little trails, hidden streams, and ferny groves; it was easy to think we were the first to ever lay eyes on these places.

Q. At what age did you first realize that you were living in an area where anything could happen? Did you experience anything “unexplainable” before you heard of the “Bridgewater Triangle,” or did you rather learn about the Bridgewater Triangle and then start investigating?
 A. The neighborhood kids often talked about feeling watched in the swamp, and hearing something bulling through the forest, knocking down trees. We'd also heard of people actually hearing loud, bloodcurdling screams. It wasn't until I was maybe ten or eleven that some friends and I experienced these things for ourselves...along with a whole slew of other phenomenon: disembodied voices, trees being "thrown" at us while deep in the woods, what looked like large human footprints in the corn fields, ghostly forms, strange lights, a strange squeaking sound that seemed to be coming from a plastic toy (a Native American head), that seemed to respond to questions and things we were saying), cult activity, you name it. This was a few years before PM Magazine aired an episode on something we'd never heard of..."The Bridgewater Triangle" on Halloween, featuring Loren Coleman. I still have an old copy of that episode somewhere

Q. That toy Indian head sounds interesting, please tell me more about that.
A. I don't know where the Indian head toy came from; probably something my dad, an avid collector of anything antique, picked up from a yard sale at some point. My friend and I were in my basement when we heard the sound. I cannot remember what type of questions we asked it (I'm guessing I was only ten or eleven at the time), but it was probably something along the lines of "Is there someone here with us?" and the squeaking would intensify. We didn't know it was coming from the toy at first. When we traced the sound to the toy, we thought maybe there was a mouse inside of it, because the head was hollow and stuffed with old newspaper. We took the newspaper out and it was empty. Then it squeaked! We both freaked out and tossed it out the window, into my backyard. It was quiet for a little while but then the sound came again, so we picked it up and hurled it into the woods behind my house. The was the last I ever saw of it. But the story doesn't end there. I didn't find out this next part until this past summer. My older brother and I were talking about some bizarre things that happened to us during our childhood, and he mentioned a séance he'd had with some friends when he was a teenager. I vaguely remembered coming home with my parents, who were alarmed to find the house empty, with all the lights on and the doors all left open, with no sign of my brother. Well, here's the part I didn't know: While having a séance with a Ouija board, my brother and his friends began hearing a loud squeak that responded to their questions. It scared them so much that they all took of running! My brother never knew about the Indian head and my similar experience with the squeaking sound, so we both just looked at each other, same to say: "Yes, that's Elm Street, all right!"

Q. Tell me about the “The Nightmares.”
A. "The Nightmares" is a reference to "A Nightmare on Elm Street," which was released around that time. My friends and I called ourselves "The Nightmares" because we were really into all the unexplained, scary things the swamp had to offer. At the time we carved that tree, I believe it was a blank slate, no other carvings on it whatsoever. I think we were just bored one day, and decided to go wandering. We carved "Welcome to the Triangle", and "Hire the Nightmares", and a few other things. We were probably thirteen or fourteen at the time, and I guess some part of us hoped someone would call us if he or she experienced something unexplainable, so we could go in and investigate it. So many people have written about the swamp, but many of those authors, talented as they may be, have never even "experienced" the swamp. Well, my childhood was filled with experiences, and I guess that's why we wanted to leave our mark there, to let others know they were not alone.

Q. At what age did you start writing and were they all horror stories?
A. I owe my love of writing to comic books, the old Marvel and DC stories. I started writing and drawing comic books when I was in fourth grade, and once I read some Stephen King short stories, that sealed the deal for me. Besides horror, I dabbled in action, thrillers, sci-fi, drama, etc.

Q. Tell me about some of the strange things you saw and found as a child living on one the most infamous streets in the Bridgewater Triangle.
A. Some of the more memorable things I experienced include: a man in a full ninja costume out in the swamp, the gathering of a cult in the blueberry fields one Halloween (we found a burnt cross and other evidence the following day), shrill screams coming from the swamp, ghost lights, unexplained voices, a nebulous glowing shape that seemed to gather energy enough to take a human-like form before it eventually winked out. The list goes on and on.

Q. Tell me about the screenplay you wrote about the swamp.
A. "The Curse of the Hockomock Swamp" is the story of a man named Jesse who receives a call from an old friend who still lives in Bridgewater. One of their childhood friends has gone missing (we later learn this is the second of their friends to have gone missing in the swamp) and the man reluctantly returns to Bridgewater to help find him. Once there, he visits with his old "friend" Doctor Harrington, a psychiatrist who operates the local asylum. While talking to his former psychiatrist, the man recalls the traumatic events of his past...growing up in Bridgewater, run-ins with local bullies, and more importantly, the discovery of an ancient tomb in the swamp, which contained strange pictographs and a single skull placed atop a stone alter. Well, one of Jesse's friends stole the skull, thinking it might be valuable, and as soon as they exit the swamp, it unleashes a terrible curse that takes possession of their friend... and eventually the entire neighborhood. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but the boys ultimately realize they must bring the skull back to its proper resting place... but the skull doesn't want to go back. Think "Excorcist" meets "Stand By Me."

For more information on James Michael Rice or to order his books in paperback or kindle version, please click here for Amazon.