Wilder Creek

Wilder Creek

Wilder Creek is a body of water in Capharnaum County that shares its name with a nearby bridge, park, and, road.

Wilder Creek is presumably south/south-east of New Zebedee based solely on the vague descriptions of the associated road and bridge. Little is said of the stream itself, except that Wilder Creek Road runs along a “high hill” on one side of the creek [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 99] and Lewis assumes the New Zebedee storm sewers feed into the stream [The Figure in the Shadows; 102].

The Park

The Park is “outside the city limits” [Figure; 62], presumably to the south and accessible from Wilder Creek Road. Wilder Creek runs near the park; Lewis uses this route as a shortcut to Oakridge Cemetery [House; 83]. Jonathan Barnavelt first eclipsed the moon at a ceremony held at the park [House; 51], and his nephew, Lewis, imagines himself a Viking chieftain and the park a battleground [Figure; 62].

Road

Little is said about the Road itself except that portions of it are blacktop and the bridge carries the road over Wilder Creek. Lewis’ earliest remembrance of the road came during a midnight car chase [House; 96]; where Twelve Mile Road runs into Wilder Creek Road (an area near where “three roads meet”), Lewis remembered seeing “a Civil War Cannon..., a wooden church..., and a general store...” [House; 96-7]. Later, he and Rose Rita ride through town, turn south, and take a 30 minute bicycle ride to reach the road [The Beast Under the Wizard’s Bridge; 53-4].

The Bridge

There have been at least three known bridges across Wilder Creek. An old wooden bridge existed first; it was replaced in 1892 by an iron bridge whose funds were donated by local citizen Elihu Clabbernong [Beast; 12-3]. It was later discovered that Clabbernong had melted down a meteorite that landed on his family farm and mixed it with the iron for the bridge construction; just as the meteorite was able to keep a series of intergalactic entities (known as the Great Old Ones) imprisoned, the special iron meant the bridge was able to keep Elihu’s transfigured great-uncle, Jedediah, imprisoned below the bridge for decades [Beast; 71].

This bridge was described as “a maze of crisscrossing black girders” [House; 99] and, because of its special makeup, appeared as “sturdy as all-get-out and not a speck o’ rust anywhere” [Beast; 55]. During the bridge's demolition, Lewis visits the site and finds a iron rivet.

In the early 1950s, the iron bridge was demolished and replaced by a modern concrete bridge [Beast; 2].

Wilder Creek Castle

Inspiration

Wilder Creek is a very real 10.5 mile tributary of the Kalamazoo River and is located east/southeast of Marshall. The creek takes its name from Oshea Wilder (1784-1847), an early settler and surveyor of the Marshall area. Near the creek is a railway bed once part of the old Interurban line that ran between Marshall, Albion, and Homer and a stone castle constructed by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s. Originally located near Concord, the castle has been used as a private residence, a haunted castle attraction during the Halloween season, and as the backdrop for a local renaissance fair. Today, the Wilder Creek Conservation Club maintains the area as a sixty-acre wildlife habitat.

Bellairs notes that the car chase “covered a large part of Capharnaum County that night” [House; 97], which makes plotting this route difficult, if not impossible, on a contemporary map of Calhoun County since the author has taken great poetic license in crafting the countryside of his fictional county.

For example, Marshall resident Sharon Peters tells us that there is no Wilder Creek Road – "just a creek and a park where I have spent many hours picnicking and playing.” The only bridge to cross Wilder Creek does so on Division Drive, about two miles east of the where Division Drive splits from Homer Road. However, this bridge, built in 1974, does not come close to the grandiose description given by Bellairs and Strickland, and no such bridge seems to currently exist near Wilder Creek. (One does wonder what existed here prior to 1974, though.) With a little imagination, however, there is one bridge whose looks and age make it a likely candidate. The 21 Mile Road Bridge over Rice Creek), located northeast of Marshall, is a Pratt Truss bridge constructed in 1885.

However, recall from above that Twelve Mile Road connects to Wilder Creek Road. In Calhoun County, at least, the county roads are numbered going east from the county line, which places Twelve Mile Road west of Marshall. This eight-mile stretch of road runs north-south and passes through the unincorporated village of Ceresco, crosses a railroad crossing, and over the Kalamazoo River - but never intersecting with either Homer Road or Division Drive.

What about the infamous intersection of the three roads, near where Wilder Creek Road and Twelve Mile Road meet? Continuing eastward on Division Drive, turn south on 22 Mile Road until you reach the intersection of 22 Mile Road, 22 ½ Mile Road, and F-Drive South. Nearby is the small community of Eckford and the East Eckford Community Church. Is the vicinity Bellairs had in mind?