Traveling west along US Highway 136 in Missouri, on the way to Interstate 35, one passes near the village of Mt. Moriah. It is a tiny place; the most recent
census places its population at approximately 143 persons. Mt. Moriah has a smattering of houses, and a small city center made up of buildings in a town square form along the perimeter. It sits some 103 miles to the north and slightly east of Kansas City and, demographically, has the typical mix of races and ethnic backgrounds that might be found in many American villages.
That's from the standard data about the village that can be found in a number of places. What the data doesn't reveal is the strange feeling about the village . . .
In 2001, during a driving trip along US 136 heading ultimately toward Kansas City, BriarCub and I saw a sign pointing toward Mt. Moriah. On a whim, we decided to turn off and have a look – we've encountered many interesting sights that way. As we entered the town square, we were struck by the decrepit nature of all the buildings. It looked as if no one had lived there for years; most were closed or shuttered, and none of the buildings appeared to have seen a coat of paint in years. No vehicles were to be seen parked around the square. The town appeared deserted.
Stranger still was the sparkling new playground equipment in a small public area in the center of the square. It was almost the only bit of color in the entire square, and didn't appear to have been used very much. We didn't leave our car; all this we took in from a drive around the square.
Feeling as if we might be in a scene from the television show Twin Peaks, we turned out of the square and rejoined US 136, continuing on our way. We didn't think too much about Mt. Moriah after that, other than that it had seemed a bit of a strange place.
The next year, we were again traveling the same road, returning from Kansas City, this time with a friend along. Having told him about this strange village in Missouri, we now had the opportunity to show it to him. It was early November, and the day was gray, cold, and a bit rainy. Again we turned off on the road into Mt. Moriah, and as we entered the square, our jaws dropped. The buildings still looked deserted . . . little appeared to have changed . . . but the playground equipment in the center appeared to be as old and decrepit as its surroundings!
We couldn't figure out how anything could age that badly in just a year. Our friend, a worker in metals and materials, assured us that not even Missouri weather could've done that. BriarCub and I were certain that it was the same equipment – the configuration of swings, climbing bars, etc. looked identical to what we'd seen on our previous visit. This time, though, there was a light on in the cafe on the square, and one car parked in front.
We didn't stop in. We'd all seen too many movies about strangers that stop by strange cafes in strange villages, and what happens to 'em. I turned the car, headed back down the road to US 136 (perhaps a bit faster than was safe), and we went on our way. The creepy feeling lasted for a long part of the drive back home to Illinois. I'm sure Mt. Moriah is a perfectly nice place, but . . .
Wikipedia, Mount Moriah, Missouri. 25 May 2006. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Moriah,_Missouri>. (November 2006)
Repeated visits, ostensibly out of curiosity.