Outside, it is humid even by Florida standards, made all the worse by machines pumping fog into the heavy air. Red emergency lights revolve in silence; floodlights splatter ruddy light on walls and puddle it on the ground. Speakers snarl or hum with elegiac music that is vaguely Gregorian. Sconces belch fire; the flames go up like a mimicry of startled park goers, in sudden gaps.
It was nighttime and we had been quietly sitting around a table in the large boardroom of the Saint Cloud Chamber of Commerce for ten minutes, acclimating to ambient sounds. I bounced twice in my leather captain’s chair, testing it. Phil cut the lights and said, “You’ll hear a thump-thump. That will be the AC turning off.” In darkness, it becomes apparent how the slightest bodily adjustment can make a wooden floor whimper. The four ceiling fans petered out. A laser grid latticed on a projector screen at the front of the room. I heard the sound of zippers as people around me pulled out their own electromagnetic field meters and ghost boxes. Some people had brought their own ghost-hunting toys.
The Arkansas Diamond Company ringed their claim with armed guards, but part of the crater lay under the land of a neighbor named Millard Mauney, who set up his own operation. For fifty cents a day prospectors could mine Mauney’s land and keep what they found. At the time, Murfreesboro’s only hotel was a ten-room structure made of logs with no electricity or indoor plumbing. But a ten-thousand-person tent city sprouted between town and the mine. One prospector discovered a 13-carat diamond. Mauney himself recovered hundreds of diamonds. His son Walter had a local dentist embed a diamond in one of his teeth.