Two words that have many
different meanings to different people. To some it brings back memories
of sitting around a campfire late at night, listening to tales that slowly
raises their imagination to the point of terror.
I remember such a night in my youth, many years ago. I was with a group of kids camping in a Georgia state park. There were nine or ten of us around twelve years old, and we had a few older boys who were our chaperones. The day had been spent doing all the things important to a twelve year old when in the woods; hiking, fishing and generally just running wild.
Right before dark, we were called in to get ready to eat. We suddenly realized exactly how tiring spending a day running in the woods can be. We were all about ready to drop from exhaustion. After eating a large helping of traditional gourmet campout food (hotdogs): we settled around the fire and started talking about our day.
Although most of us had been camping many times, to a few boys this was their first overnight stay in the woods, and this was cause for a little excitement for the rest of us.
There is a ritual played out between those kids that have been camping and those that have not. I guess it is a long and wide spread ritual, because I don't think I've ever met a kid that camped that hadn't been through it.
It usually started after the talk began to slow and the kids looked like they were ready to turn in for the night. One of the older boys would suddenly yell for everyone to be quite. " I thought I heard something in the woods!" he would say. A couple of others would ask what it was, and one would say, " I hope it's not what got those other people!" The younger boys would
edge closer to the fire, and with knowing looks the older boys would sit down and slowly start to tell the story.
We were camped at Indian Springs State Park, and as long as I can remember there has been a story about some Indians that were killed in the park. This story has been a basis for scary tales in middle Georgia for years. The story was especially frightening to the kids, because they had heard of the rumors that the old museum with the wax figures had been closed because it was haunted. Since we could see the old building sitting there (closed), we figured that the story must be true, and if the State would close a building because they thought it was haunted, it must be.
It always starts the same. As the Indians finished working on the building, the owner herded them into the basement and murdered them all. Then, the bodies were carried to other side of the park and buried next to the cemetery (the same cemetery that was just down the road from our campsite.).
The building the murders took place in was used as an inn, and there had always been rumors of unexplained events in the inn and strange noises from the basement. Later the land was turned over to the State for a park. The inn was eventually turned into a museum that depicted what the old building had been used for over the years and what the park area was like in the past.
I remember going into the museum as a child, and can still vaguely remember the rooms set up in different scenes that where realistically clear because of the use of wax figures. Over a period of time, one by one, the rooms were slowly closed to the public, until one day the whole building was closed.
I don't remember the exact day or the official reason posted for the closing, but the people who lived in, and frequented the area regularly, have always claimed it was because visitors where increasingly being troubled by strange and sometimes scary encounters in the building.
Fueled by the stories that we have heard over the years about the area being haunted, and given our age, it was easy to be swept away by stories of avenging Indian ghosts.
The story was of course greatly embellished, with ghosts storming out of the walls, chasing some people out of the rooms, while grabbing others who barely escaped the building with their lives. There were tales of people being chased away from the cemetery at night, and seeing strange floating lights move around the headstones.
After an hour or so, everyone sitting around the fire was pretty worked up about the tale, and every once in a while the older boys would suddenly turn around and stare into the dark woods like they had heard something.
As the story slowly came to an end, one of the older boys would jump up and yell, "What is that!" Then just as all the terrified kids turned their heads, one of the boys that had slipped into the woods without the others knowing, would come running out of the darkness, yelling at the top of his lungs.
This was always followed by a few minutes of bedlam. Kids running around, and into each other, trying to get to their tents, even the boys that knew something like this was going to happen were so worked up by the story, that they got caught up in the moment.
I have been on a number of campouts that were exactly like this one. For some reason most people enjoy getting scared in a situation with other people, and even people who may get mad at being the brunt of a scary joke will usually soon be laughing it up with the others, as soon as they calm down.
I don't know who started the ritual of telling ghost stories around a campfire, but I am sure they would be proud of the way the tradition has been carried on.
I guess as long as there are campouts and kids - there will be ghost stories.
Director - Paranormal Activity
(Note: Mr. Prescott is a noted regional columnist. He has many articles published on the topics of the great outdoors and the sporting life.)
Handy links about Indian Springs...
Parkmaps.com camp ground overview
Butts County Chamber of Commerce