|The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
| The Monster Hiding in Your Neighborhood
~ Rose Titus ~
The readers of fantasy and horror love the things that they consider to be
scary: Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, evil robots, and maybe an alien
invasion once in a while, too! But if people would for a brief moment take their
eyes off the pages of their favorite Stephen King novel and look around at the
world we are all living in, the real world, they would see some things that in
reality are for real very, very scary.
Plagues, famine, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, violent
crime, the neighborhood drug dealer with the pit bull, pollutants in our drinking
water, perhaps even flammable toxic waste dumps in the swamps behind our
quiet suburban homes… These are real dangers that we as a society live with
every day. But we don’t think about these real life dangers, and often don’t
seem to notice the threat to human life and safety in our own neighborhoods,
until something truly terrible happens.
Instead of reading Stephen King, anyone who wants to know true horror
should try reading the book “A Civil Action,” which is a true horror story indeed,
telling of what happens to normal American families having their lives slowly
destroyed by the chemicals in their drinking water, having their health wasted
away with cancer and other disease, seeing their own children suffer leukemia
and other strange illnesses only to watch them finally die young, and the people’
s fight against the big business that left its chemical filth and liquid garbage in
the drinking water. A true tale of real life horror suffered by real people in
Woburn, Massachusetts, a nice average working class town about twenty miles
away from where I grew up.
Does your neighborhood have anything industrial, perhaps storage for
hazardous chemicals that may be harmful, for instance? Do you ever think
about it? Do you ever worry about it?
Maybe you should.
Because in the town where I grew up, there was, and still is, a very large
storage tank for liquid natural gas, which as most of us know is extremely
dangerous. This tank is larger than a building. There it is, you can see it when
you drive down the road, and look across a placid, quiet lake, you can see it, a
tragedy waiting to happen.
And one night, decades ago, a disaster did happen…
I was dead asleep that cold winter night, and my mother woke me up, “Come
on, we have to get grandma and grandpa. We’re going to Canada.” And then
she said something about, “the Russians are bombing.”
“What--?” I tried to go back to sleep. I was just a kid and I didn’t know who
the Russians were, or why they were attacking. I was somehow vaguely aware
that my mother was packing things, like clothes, for some reason… I didn’t
care, I just wanted to sleep!
This was still a time in America when we feared an attack by the Communists,
and the bomb; and although no families that I knew of then had a bomb shelter
in their backyard that I can recall, my school had signs posted directing people
to the “fallout shelter.” It was a time when people still worried about such
things. As I drifted back down into oblivion, I was soon awakened again when I
heard my mother say, “Never mind. Go back to sleep.” It wasn’t the Russians
It was something much closer to home.
In the morning I found out what happened. There was in fact a massive
explosion in the area that lit up the night sky with a horrible orange fireball,
making people think it was a bomb blast, an earthquake, or even a nuclear
And so on that fateful winter night in 1972, a mushroom shaped cloud did
burst into the cold dark sky with flames that reportedly shot up “hundreds of feet
in the air,” so the story goes, and could actually be seen more than 50 miles
away, making many residents fear the atomic bomb. Residents of the town and
surrounding communities reported that their homes were shaken so badly by
the blast that pictures fell off walls and rattled windows. People who lived close
to the gas company facility were forced to evacuate. A retired firefighter
recalling the event said the nighttime blast lit up the town “like noontime.”
However, as the story is told, many people from the local trailer park down the
road from the facility did the opposite of evacuating. Instead, residents of the
trailer park drifted toward the danger zone out of curiosity, and to “watch the
There were also reports of looting in the area.
Newspaper articles dated from that time state that the switchboard of the fire
department “lit up like a Christmas tree.” Fire trucks and ambulances were also
sent from other towns, as well as from New Hampshire, as the small town fire
department could not cope with this disaster on its own. In fact, the fire burned
so hot that one fire truck was actually destroyed, along with a cinder block
And how did it happen? It was a simple accident.
The driver of a large gas truck backed into a feed pipe, which was connected
to a tank, which set off the explosion. The driver was killed in the blast and the
heavy truck thrown down like a toy. But the fire continued, and firefighters
needed to get the flames under control before more tanks exploded, or else the
town would be destroyed, and nothing left but a crater.
Firefighters worked desperately to keep tanks cool so they would not ignite,
until finally the fire was brought under control after midnight when three foam
trucks were sent from Hanscom Air Force Base.
Over twenty people were injured, and four people were killed in this tragedy.
Even though there was a lot of damage, the town is still there today. If it weren’t
for the efforts of the firefighters, it would have been a lot worse.
So look around your neighborhood, and never fear zombies shuffling down
your street crying that they want our brains, or evil robots or alien attack. Worry
about the scary reality of modern life. Are there any hazardous chemicals
stored somewhere near your home? If there are, maybe you would be wise to
have an evacuation plan ahead of time. Keep your car’s gas tank full and keep
a duffle bag of clothes with some extra cash to make a run for it, if you have to.
Never mind where you’re going to run to, if disaster strikes your neighborhood,
you just want to be able to get away, go anywhere, fast. You never really know
if you’re safe. You never really know if your water is pure, or if the local factory
is manufacturing something that could explode... Do you?
This story is dedicated to those that were lost on that tragic night.