October 30, 2008

When Camping Goes Wrong

I've talked about my friend Adam in the past. I even mentioned him the day before yesterday when talking about high school and cliques. That, of course, got me thinking and sparked a memory of one of my many Adam Experiences. There were many and they were often grand, hence the capitalization.

During our senior year, Adam and I went camping a lot. I think it had something to do with the fact that he didn't really get along with his parents and I, well, I had no sense and just enjoyed hanging out and seeing what Adam would do next. We'd take a canoe, a tent and supplies up the Potomac River into the absolute middle of nowhere for a night or two. We'd generally find a small island in the middle of the river to set up camp or an uninhabited piece of riverbank, build a big fire, eat MREs and generally just be stupid. Adam and I were awesome at that.

One Friday, after school, we loaded up Adam's Ford Escort wagon (we called it his Stretch Escort and boy could I tell you stories about that car) and headed out to camp. Almost immediately, we got a flat tire. We changed it and continued the trip but by the time we got to the river, it was already getting dark. We decided to put in and try to find a campsite anyway. We navigated by flashlight and after a few miles, we found the closest abandoned riverbank and pitched a tent (heh).

Everything was fine until I had to take a leak. I wandered into the woods and, fifty feet in, tripped and fell into what felt like a giant roasting pan. It was, instead, a stainless steel tub. I stood up as quickly as I could and shined the flashlight around the area. I'd walked more than fifty feet, apparently, from the woods into a large room. The brick wall separating inside from out had crumbled. Grass, leaves and dirt covered the floor. A now-useless window, glass remarkably intact, lay next to a fallen tree. The room itself was covered with what must have been, at one time, white tile. It was grimy and gray. Scattered throughout the room were more stainless steel tubs. I didn't pee. I turned around and ran in precisely the opposite direction using the fire we'd lit as a beacon. I told Adam what I'd found. Which of course turned out to be a mistake (because this was the guy who hit road signs with his car to see which way they'd fall). We returned to investigate.

We grabbed a couple extra flashlights and I took a gas lantern and headed back to the room. Everything was as I'd left it but in the increased light, it looked truly eerie. A steel door, falling off its hinges, was open inward. On it was a still legible sign that read Hydrotherapy. I turned to Adam and, as usual, he didn't pick up on the clues.

"This is an insane asylum, dude." I said.
His response - "No way."
"Way." We were eloquent in those days.

And against my better judgment, we went exploring. We exited the steel hydrotherapy door to see a long white-tiled hallway stretching out in front of us, rooms on the left and right. We were obviously in some sort of treatment wing. Doors bore words like Electro-Convulsive Therapy, Insulin Shock Coma Therapy, and Occupational Treatment Orientation. These frightened me to my very soul yet we kept walking. We walked through surprisingly intact double doors into a lobby which looked as though it had been snatched from a documentary on Art Deco architecture and dragged through mud puddles. It was both gorgeous and terrifying.

And there, stopped in the lobby taking all of this in, trying to force my eyes to reconcile what I was seeing with my brain, we heard footsteps. We hid but like idiots we neglected to shut down our flashlights or the lantern I was holding. And then, from the same direction as the footsteps came a voice so twisted and frightening, I still have nightmares about it to this day. It was screechy, sounded at once old yet powerful, with a decided Southern twang.

"I'm the care taker. Come on and let me take care of you." the voice said, echoing down the tiled halls.

At that instant, Adam and I looked at each other and mouthed shit. And ran. We realized our cover was blown - or had never existed to begin with - so we ran as fast as we could without any regard for stealthiness.

"I'm the care taker! And I'm going to take care of you, motherfuckers!" Imagine to most insane-sounding, horrifying scream you can and multiply that by a thousand. With that scream motivating us, we made it to the campsite, ran past it and got in the canoe. We heard no footsteps following us from the woods so we decided to put out our fire, dismantle our tent and make as graceful exit as possible. We worked in silence but we weren't alone as we though. As our canoe pulled away from the riverbank, slicing the water behind it we heard echoing from the forest...

"Happy Halloween!"

* * * * * *

Okay, so, yeah I'm a day early carrying on my annual tradition of quickly writing a lame scary story but it was unexpected, right?

What are your best Halloween memories? And what's the creepiest, spookiest thing that's ever happened to you?

Posted by Chris at October 30, 2008 6:37 AM

Nice one! Have you ever considered writing a collection of short stories?

Posted by: ironic1 at October 30, 2008 6:58 AM

Haha I had to click through from reader ;) Good job dude. Most entertaining as always.

Posted by: Heather at October 30, 2008 7:33 AM

I'll blame it on the fact that I'm so tired, that you scared the wits out of me. ;) Very nice! Hope you have a great halloween!

Posted by: secha at October 30, 2008 7:44 AM

You just described every single one of my camping trips.

How scary is that? ;-)

Well done!

Posted by: Mike at October 30, 2008 7:56 AM

I don't love Halloween, so I don't have crazy fantastic halloween memories... I do remember the year that I thought "xanadu" was the best thing ever. I think I trick or treated on roller skates.

Posted by: Sarah at October 30, 2008 8:15 AM

Fantastic story! Perfect for Halloween. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Jessie at October 30, 2008 8:40 AM

Damn you! :-) I knew it was coming and yet, you had me going there for a minute. Happy Halloween!

Posted by: Fraulein N at October 30, 2008 8:50 AM

Okay, I am not a Halloween lover. When I was 7 years old, my older sister took me out to trick or treat and some local hooligans tossed a coke bottle filled with gasoline and a rag that was lit at my sister's feet. She caught fire, and I remember rolling her on the ground to put her out. I never celebrated the holiday again.
When I had my own children, my ex took them out to trick or treat. I always stayed home.
To this day, the memory haunts me.

Posted by: Maribeth at October 30, 2008 8:55 AM

Hey, that happened to me once too. That caretaker guy gives amazing foot rubs, you should have let him take care of you.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 30, 2008 8:56 AM

I'm a juvenile diabetic and let me tell you there is nothing therapeutic about insulin shock! Unless you consider a near death experience therapeutic!

Posted by: Shannon at October 30, 2008 9:13 AM

The most horrifying thing that ever happened to me actually happened on Halloween night. Back in high school, my friends and I used to get high and then go hop on freight trains going thru downtown. We'd ride them for a short while then hop back off before they picked up speed going out of town (well, except that one time - that was a nice 10 mile walk!)

Anyway, it was well after midnight Halloween night and we were walking the tracks waiting for a train to come by. As we walked, we would pick up shoes (why are there always shoes by the tracks?) and put them on the rail so they would get chopped in half when the train went by. My friend went to pick up a shoe and there was a partial leg still in the shoe - from the knee down. We freaked out, smoked another, and kept walking. A little further down we found the rest of the body.

Funnily enough, the guy that was with us started jumping up and down, waving his arms and shrieking like a girl before running back to the car. I stood there going "it's just a Halloween prank, someone put a mannikin on the tracks."

A guy had tried to hop a train, missed, and got dragged. That was the last time we tried to hop a train.

Posted by: Sherri at October 30, 2008 9:55 AM

all my scary stories are dumb, but I feel like I'm going to puke from everyone else's stories. That's a good thing, I love being pukey around Halloween, that means it's working

Posted by: lora at October 30, 2008 9:59 AM

You almost had me, up until "Insulin Shock Coma Therapy."

Posted by: Kalisa at October 30, 2008 10:14 AM

I'm on the fence about whether or not to tell my scariest story. Because it's 100% true but not the kind of thing that is generally retold or probably even believed.

Actually I think I'll post it on my blog tomorrow.

Happy Thursday!

Posted by: jessica at October 30, 2008 10:14 AM

Good story. You actually had me believing it was real until the scary voice.

Posted by: Adi at October 30, 2008 11:26 AM

Actually, its was the "Occupational Treatment Orientation" room that made me laugh. It sounds like a euphemism for a job placement service. Very well written, dude. You rock this out every year.

Posted by: J at October 30, 2008 11:37 AM

AWESOME!! I'm reading like crazy and skipping parts to get to the meat of the story (like I do when I'm into a really good book) when it dawns on me that it's almost Halloween and you are infamous for your stories.

Like someone else said, maybe you should write a book.

Posted by: zanie at October 30, 2008 11:58 AM

Yeah I forgot about you telling stories at Halloween and I was totally into that story. I was like, "OMG run!" HA! That was awesome...you need to write a book.

Posted by: Shannen at October 30, 2008 12:20 PM

Mr Lady was right. Your site really does make for some fun reading, which I'll be doing more of from now on. Great, original and different stuff here. Nice job.

Posted by: Matt at October 30, 2008 12:43 PM

Awesome story :-D. I've never been a huge Halloween person. I have been in an abandoned insane asylum though (for a photo shoot) ... it's WAY creepy and you can feel the energy about 500 ft before you even get to the door.

Posted by: Kristy - Where's My Damn Answer at October 30, 2008 2:21 PM

creepiest thing that has ever happened to me? Your site!

I keed I keed.

Posted by: Jeff A at October 30, 2008 2:46 PM

Great story! I don't think I was reading your blog at this time last year, so you had me going there for a little bit, but then I was like, "Wait a minute...is this for real?" I'm so gullible. But that was a great story.

Posted by: Cassie at October 30, 2008 3:08 PM

GREAT story. You're such a natural -- yeah, WAY! :) Happy Halloween!

Posted by: Haley-O at October 30, 2008 5:28 PM

Awww, I'm sad. I thought this was real, and truly awesome.

Posted by: caleal at October 30, 2008 6:35 PM

This reminds me of an actual (swear to god!) time my high school friends and I went out to an old abandoned nursing home in the middle of the night and spooked each other. One girl had just watched Children of the Corn, so her brother went out and disconnected her spark plugs or something in her car, so when she opened the hood to see what was wrong, he had all these cornstalks inside! She definitely freaked. Happy Halloween!

Posted by: Heather at October 30, 2008 8:38 PM

hmmmm..you got me. My current Creative Writing professor would call this "suspended disbelief while believable suspension" or some such scholarly thing like that.

Posted by: Kristy at October 30, 2008 10:03 PM

Just as I got to the last paragraph, reading about how that scream was motivating you to run faster...my husband came up behind me to ask a question and I jumped sky high!

Good story. Had me going! I'm a total sucker, I also was thinking it was real!

Happy Halloween!

Posted by: cyndy at October 31, 2008 10:59 AM

Great! I'm a such a sucker for Halloween and scary stories. Loved it.

Posted by: Bella Rum at November 2, 2008 1:32 PM