Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Cheat Lake mystery

Maryland novelist Gary Clites, a West Virginia University alumnus, tells an interesting story about the inspiration for his new thriller Seneca Wood:
When I was in college, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Cheat Lake, just a few miles outside of town. There was an old disused road there that ran to an old abandoned bridge to an island where a bunch of bikers used to party. One day, the school scuba team went diving in the area and found a dead body. I don't remember what the situation was, whether it was a suicide, an accident, or what, but while the police were investigating, they found a stolen car in the water near the bridge -- then another car. Then they found a bunch of illegal slot machines and other things.
Judging from the rest of the press release, Clites must have been a student in Morgantown, W.Va., circa 1978-82. Anyone else recall the WVU scuba team finding a body in Cheat Lake during that time? I'd be keen to know more about it, if so.


Lex said...

Please post whatever you learn. That's muy intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Andy Duncan and Others:

Hi. Gary Clites here - the author in question. It was in the early 80's at WVU. I actually knew a guy who was on the WVU scuba team. One member was swimming along and, in the dense Cheat Lake waters, swam up to a dead body in the waters.

I, honestly, don't remember whether it was a suicide, accidental death or what. Following the discovery of the body, the police drug that section of the lake. They found a stolen car then, I think, another. Then they found some illegal slot machines.

I may not have the details perfectly, but I remember thinking at the time that the area would make a great place for dumping bodies, etc. Then, I wondered what the bad guys might do when their dumping ground was found.

Many years later, when I began to plot my novel, Seneca Wood (Casperian Press, 264 pp., $15), that's what I started with. In the novel, the Baltimore mob has been using a backwater of Cheat Lake to dump bodies. When they are discovered, they try to pin the murders on an ex-reporter hiding out in the Monongahela National Forest whose land they've been trying to grab.

The real event would have been between 1980 and 1983, though I honestly do not recall exactly when. It may have been in the Spring or in the Summer (I generally stayed in Morgantown during the Summers).

Anyway, thanks for taking note.

Gary Clites

Anonymous said...

Hi, guys. I wrote more about this issue on my blog at Look for the entry "The roots of Seneca Wood."