Horror Story Setting Inspiration: Frozen Lake

Frozen Reservoir

For the latest story setting inspiration photo, I took a shot of a local reservoir, Lake Ontelaunee, back in February. It was an odd day to say the least. The temperature was heading into the mid-60s, like an early Spring day. Yet the reservoir was still frozen over from the recent cold.

As I was driving by, I saw a couple of ice fisherman standing on the frozen lake. I’d actually never seen it frozen over this completely, and that plus the warm weather made it a surprising sight. I decided to pull over in one of the lots and snap a few photos, figuring the ice wouldn’t last long.

I was right about that. By the time I made my way home later that afternoon, nearly the entire ice sheet had melted.

How might this kind of setting inspire a story in the horror genre? Here are a few possibilities that came to mind:

  • The reservoir, in late fall or early winter, could be a great place to dump bodies, knowing it would likely freeze over for months before those bodies would have a chance to surface.
  • The frozen lake near the end of the cold season could pose all sorts of hazards putting characters at risk — those ice fisherman hitting thin ice, children playing on the ice without realizing how quickly it was melting, or maybe something more malicious.
  • There’s also something about this reservoir that you can’t tell from the photo itself: it was created by flooding a formerly-inhabited area. There was a Quaker meeting house and other buildings there which had to be dismantled and moved. A cemetery also had to be moved before it was flooded, with around 500 graves, including some early settlers to the area. All that remains submerged is an old stone bridge. According to the local paper, occasionally the arches of that bridge emerge when the water levels are low enough. Personally, I’ve yet to see it. Story inspiration? A man-made lake installed over an old cemetery where bodies had to be relocated and souls disturbed — maybe they don’t allow boats or swimming on Lake Ontelaunee for a reason. Let your imagination run wild.

It’s a bit strange for me to share this because Ontelaunee is where I like to go to clear my head — sitting along the reservoir edge admiring the trees in the fall (it’s gorgeous) or just driving around the huge lake (far exceeds what you see in the photo). Even knowing its history I never would have imagined anything sinister. Maybe I’ll think about it a bit differently the next time I’m there.

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