Allen Foster is a contributing writer to The American Traveler Magazine. His pieces highlight destinations or attractions with historical significance.
The Poplar Branch Hotel
I first arrived at the Poplar Branch Hotel in Broken Rock, Idaho after driving a winding mountain road surrounded by imposing granite cliffs where small, twisted pine trees fought to hang on. Once the sun sat in the west behind the snow capped mountains, the red and orange light had me convinced I was driving to Hades itself.
I had heard of the Poplar Branch Hotel in the early eighties when many artists and writers came here for inspiration and a chance to escape the larger cities. All had checked into the Poplar Branch and claimed to be different people upon checking out. I myself was interested in room 192, said to be “inhabited” by a dark energy. The hotel had forbidden people to stay there since 1982, but I was able to convince a reluctant desk clerk with a couple of hundred dollars taped to the bottom of a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Once I had reached the infamous room 192, my eyes were drawn to the canopy bed, the antique furniture, and the magnificent crown molding in the solid oak room. However, nothing intrigued me quite like a small iron door, no more than one foot tall, that someone had tried to obscure with a large steamer trunk. I attempted to open it, but it appeared that something from the other side was holding it shut.
After a couple of drinks at the bar and some amusing conversation with a couple of local elk hunters, I decide to retire. The Makers Mark ensured that I was asleep within minutes. I was stirred from slumber sometime during the night from what sounded like a scurry across the hardwood floor and my eyes opened slightly. Standing in the middle of the floor was a small red animal, for lack of a better term, standing on two legs smelling my brown leather shoes with its beak like snout. My mind was still wondering if I was awake or dreaming when I suddenly remembered that the last tenant of Room 192 before it had been closed to the public had been Jim Henson and that’s when it occurred to me that I was looking at a real life fraggle.
A fan of the show as a child, I quickly realized that this was Red, the rambunxious and carefree fraggle. This was not the Red I had grown up with, however. While remaining still and faking sleep, I watched as the fraggle sprouted a row of sharp teeth and began to tear into the leather of my show, whipping herself(?) into a frenzy that ended with an epileptic type seizure and a spray of urine approximately two feet beind her. I gasped. I wish I hadn’t.
The gaze of the little monster quickly turned on me, her eyes shining like little embers that only a creature of hell should have. That’s when I heard more scuffling, but this time from above. I fixed my eyes on the shadows and saw the rest of the Fraggle village crawling along the ceiling as if gravity no longer applied to them. Every fraggle let out a blood-curdling scream that seemed to harmonize and unite into the phrase “Dance your cares away”.
They were all there: Gobo, the nice guy and leader of the fraggles; Wembley, the indecisive whimp; Boober, the depressed fraggle; Mokely, the spiritual Earth mother of the bunch; and the aforementioned Red.
The little demons were quickly upon me, stroking my face with their three fingered hands. Their strength was unimaginable. Gobo held me down almost single handedly, while Wembley and Boober kept their faces less than an inch from mine, their hot breath obviously meant to intimidate.
Mokely moved around my body with intense curiosity, but seemed to be obsessed with my genitals. I was petrified with terror.
As Gobo sank his teeth into my right bicep, my fear was replaced with an urge to survive and I hurled him across the room, where he became impaled on a small American flag on the desk. The fraggles all paused for a second, but once they saw the blood running down the pole of the miniature Old Glory, their blood lust took over and they began to feed on the former leader. In under a minute, the remains of Gobo were just some scraps of hair and a few teeth scattered around the floor.
Again, their gaze was upon me, but the energy of the room was different this time. Having killed their leader, I was now looked upon as the successor to the fraggle throne. They circled around my feet making a high pitched cooing sound and defecating in a nearly perfect circle around me.
Their sudden shift in demeanor caught me off guard, and that is all the time needed for another to challenge the new alpha male. I felt a sharp pain in my left arm and saw a small blade sticking through. Someone had stabbed me from behind. That someone was Gobo’s only true ally. Uncle “Travelling” Matt.
I spun to face him and he let a crisp scream. Suddenly, the little iron door began to move and the steamer trunk was flung across the room. Like a horde of army ants sprang a swarm of doozers. They surrounded me and I began to stomp my feet frantically, as green doozers popped like grapes under my weight. Uncle Matt, sprang forth and knocked me to the ground, knocking the wind out of me. The fraggles sprang to my defense, but Wembley and Boober were quickly reduced to skeletons by the little constructors. Mokley was of no use as she was still attached to my genitals and seemed to be pleasuring herself.
Doozers swarmed my injured arm like pirahnas in a frenzy, feeding on my wound. I grasped Uncle “Travelling” Matt by the throat, but I was loosing blood and I could not hold him much longer. Luckily, Red sprang to my rescue and finished the world traveller by shoving a letter opener through one of Uncle Matt’s ears and out the other. As I looked over and noticed that I had very little remaining of my left arm, I blacked out.
When I awoke some time later, my head was still swimming from the blood loss, but my mind quickly went to my injured arm. As I turned my head, I noticed Mokely and Red attempting to attach a small Fraggle arm(presumably from Uncle Matt) with a sewing needle and thread in an effort to replace my lost limb. I attempted to wiggle the fingers. The index finger came to life quickly followed by the other two fingers and the thumb soon thereafter. My new friends had proven to be miracle workers and despite my freakish condition, I felt happy to be alive. I went to make myself a quick Makers Mark on the rocks, but the weight of the half full bottle was too much for the shoddy limb replacement and the dead meat ripped loose from my torso. In retrospect, it was asinine of me to think that a small race of feral birds who live in a series of underground caves would understand the intracacies of neural and muscular regeneration. But I’m an eternal optimist.
I stood up slowly, trying to not to faint. I did my best to remove Mokely from my genitals, but it was easier to wait until she was finished masturbating. I had been uncertain before, but it was clear now that she was masturbating. I staggered to the telephone and called the front desk, telling them I needed medical attention. Their urgency told me that they knew exactly what had transpired.
Someone from the hotel was there within twenty seconds. He did not knock. He simple opened the door and released six large ferrets into the room. The fraggles fought bravely, but the ferrets ate well. After the last fraggle, Red, had been disembowled, the ferrets quickly scrambled for the little iron door and went into the tunnels below. The whole ground beneath us erupted in screams for approximately half an hour, until only two exhausted ferrets emerged, missing tails and feet, and one an eye.
Should you travel to the Poplar Branch hotel, make sure to go in the fall for Pioneer Days(bring a costume), get a room with a view of the mountains, and try the crabcake eggs benedict at breakfast.