A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters’ belief in them. Colloquially, the term “ghost story” can refer to any kind of scary story. I couldn’t pass this up since I was once upon a time a part of a paranormal research group. So I thought I would take one of my experiences with them and add a little oomph to it. Settle in, it’s a long one.
It was the summer of 1999 and Y2k was approaching fast. I had just graduated from high school and decided that a haunted road trip would be the cure to my mundane life. Since I was a little girl I heard the warning tale around a campfire that in the end was designed to warn the young to check the back seat or to not make out on back roads. I’m going to the Big Woods.
I just told my dad that I was going on a road trip and would be back in a few days and that it was something I needed to do to clear my head before figuring out the rest of my life. He gave me his handgun and an extra $100. ‘Jo, if you’re going to camp do it in a park, not on someone’s land or on the side of the road in a clearing. I don’t want you to be another tragic story on the news. I bit my lip thinking about the news and how devastating it would be for him to make a speech about bringing me home safe. I could feel the guilt rising in my throat. Then the confidence of my youth screamed for me to go for it.
I kissed my father on the cheek, through his duffle bag that he lent me in the back seat on top of my cooler full of ice, Dr. Peppers, and sandwiches and pulled out of the driveway. I got choked up a little as I saw my father getting smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. I reached into my bag and grabbed the mixtape of 80’s music that my father made for me, pushed it in the radio and hit play. I sipped from my Dr. Pepper and belted out in a tone def song the words to Cher’s ‘Just Like Jesse James’.
For a few hours, it was me, my tunes, and the open road. I knew I was getting close to the landmarks I would pass. Places that I put together the town fold would talk about. I passed the tree that was hit by lightning that was now shaped like a spider. I crossed over the wooden bridge with the railroad tracks. Supposedly this was another haunted spot but that didn’t interest me. My next landmark of the water tower should be coming up and it would also be time for me to pull over at the campground and settle in for the night. I didn’t see the water tower but found the campground. I pulled into a spot in the back and set my tent up. The firepit was ready and decided a hot dog was a great celebratory dinner with a side of chips and washed down with another Dr. Pepper. I kept the fire burning and fell asleep.
The brightness of the morning woke me along with my hunger. I made bacon and eggs over the fire. That’s one thing my dad made sure I knew to do was cooking over an open fire. After breakfast, I packed my things, put the fire out and headed out. I drove for over an hour and didn’t see my next landmark. I know I turned in the right direction by the dirt road that I was on. There was a thicket of trees that lined both sides of the road towering overhead causing a depth of darkness that wasn’t right. It was more dark than light even though it was now past 11am. I started to get hungry but there really wasn’t anywhere to pull off to the side and have my roadside picnic lunch. The road really wasn’t that big enough to have two lanes of traffic but I was able to pull off into a small clearing. Big enough for a car. It was almost big enough for one car wreck. ‘Why only one car?’ I thought.
I sat there eating my sandwich when I noticed that there weren’t any sounds. No birds, no bugs, no cars passing on the highway off in the distance, no wind, no nothing. The hair on my neck started to stand on end and I started to feel like someone was watching me. I nonchalantly turned and seen that no one was there. I took a sip of my canned Dr. Pepper and that was the only sound. My breath and me swallowing my soda. It felt like something was standing right behind me but when I turned around nothing was there, just a wall of woods. I felt there was an urgency to get in the car. Almost like my life was in danger. I grabbed everything and tried to cooly walk to the car if there was someone watching me. I wanted to get to the gun under the seat. I was afraid that if I ran whoever if anyone was watching me would jump out and come after me. But nothing. I got into the car and started back onto the road. I was looking at the trees but I should have been looking in front of me. I looked up in time to slam on my brakes and slid to a stop.
What was in front of me I should have seen from where I had lunch. Infront was the largest wooden gate I had ever seen. The gate had been there so long that moss was growing on the front. In fact, it looked like it hadn’t been opened in decades and what’s even odder is that there was a chain around it. I sat there looking at it in awe and still heard no sound. I locked the doors and looked at the map. It looked like I was going to have to drive in reverse all the way to the main road and then back to the highway. I folded the map, threw the car in reverse and nearly ran into the wooden gate.
‘How in the hell?’ I said out loud with more fear than curiosity. It was like night fell already inside this gated area. I wasn’t about to get out of the car and decided that the best thing for me to do was to drive ahead a little way and turn around. If the gate isn’t open I’ll ram the bitch until it does open. I started forward when a fog rolled over the hood of my vehicle. I could hear wood against metal and looked over to see an old woman bent over a huge kettle, stirring with a huge wooden spoon. Looking closer I could see that she hadn’t showered in a while. Her hair was stringy and oily. She stopped, jerked up with speed that wasn’t becoming of her age and stared at me. She grinned and licked her lips. I checked the door lock when I saw her neighbor’s shack and gate. At the front of the gate instead of having something normal like a mailbox, there was an entire pigs head on a stick facing me.
I found a place to turn around and headed back towards the gate. This time passing the old woman I notice that she had a few more people around her. All looked filthy and sinister at best. Then I heard something like a gunshot and felt the car start to limp. Then there was the familiar sound of the flopping of a blown tire. I wasn’t getting out of this car. No way in hell was I stepping foot out of this car, I would just flop along. My windshield was hit with something dark and wet. Mud? Now, whoever or whatever was slinging mud at my windshield. I should be at the gate by now. More mud, less visibility, and still galloping along until the fog gave way to the gate. It still had the chain around it. I started to recognize that my car would not be able to bust this gate open. Something crashed on the hood but it didn’t sound like anyone was on it. I could hear something dinging off the side of my car. Rocks? There was no use screaming for help. I accepted the fact that I may not see my father again. My head fell on the steering wheel and I began to cry. Huge sobs and me pleading for me to get through this and promising I would never do anything so stupid again. The car started shaking and I reached for the gun and prepared to make a last stand. I looked up from grabbing the gun when the gate was behind me. I didn’t ask questions nor did I hesitate. I just gunned it.
The wooded road gave way to light and the main road. I didn’t stop to change my tire until I was safely at a gas station where there were plenty of people. I cried loud sobs and huge tears changing my tire.
‘Ma’am, do you need any help?’ Asked this young.
‘I need my father,’ I blubbered.
I jumped when he put his hand on mine trying to take the tire iron from me. ‘Are you ok? Do you need me to help with the tire?
‘I think I’m losing my mind. Or maybe I was dreaming.’ I whispered.
‘You’re not from here. Was it a wrong turn or did you deliberately turn down the road to hell?’ He asked jacking my car up.
My shame was all over my face when I confessed that it was a deliberate turn. ‘You’re lucky you got out of there alive. Let me tell you a story, one that you probably haven’t heard or only heard bits and pieces. Long ago when the settlers came from England they brought their God but they also brought their devil. This devil settled in his own kingdom that he built in the middle of the Big Woods. Every 10 years new blood is needed and there is this silent call that goes out and only heard by select few people. These people are past the gate and their souls are taken. The lucky survivors that leave with their soul intact have a far more insidious journey to overcome.’ He explained. My mouth was dry. He stood up, reached into my cooler and handed me a soda. ‘Thanks, what do you mean by insidious?’ I asked. ‘You have another test to pass before you’re rid of the darkness that is on your back. You have to face a demon. Your strength will either fail you or help you succeed.’ he said walking away.
My tire fixed and I sped home driving straight through, no camping out. My dad was sitting on the porch when I pulled up. He knew where I had gone. He held me for the longest time then said, ‘You’re not the only one that has had to overcome a demon. I was afraid that you would have to do this as well. All of our family has had to face this same demon for decades. I told you not to go. I didn’t want you to face this demon. The stories were for the safety of your soul. You don’t want to end up behind that gate being tortured by those people. They were once like you and if you don’t defeat the demon then you will be theirs. Believe it or not, it’s better to be the devil’s puppet behind the gate than to be the puppet’s puppet.
Years later, I faced my demon. I was investigating a house where the kids were being tormented by this dark being. It could control the beetles on the ceiling to move into satanic symbols, contort wildlife into puzzles, and control the depth of darkness. I felt it when I walked in the house, I felt my demon. It was like that summer all over again with the silence and the feeling of being watched and the urgency to leave. After investigating and catching the EVP of the being telling me, ‘Turn around bitch. I’ve been waiting for you.’ the priest came to do an exorcism on the house. It was successful and I could only blame myself that this only happened to the innocent kids because I went to that terrible place.
I told my father what happened and he asked me, ‘Don’t you remember seeing the snakes in the yard twisted into symbols? Or smelling rotten meat in your room?’ I shook my head no. ‘Jo, our family has been battling this demon for years. We are the only people that can keep him at bay. Sometimes we aren’t quick enough and the devil obtains another puppet.’ Now, I tell my children the story of being energy vampires and to be aware of when we are overly tired. It’s because the devil is looking for another puppet and the demon will show itself soon. Be prepared and stay strong. Listen close around the campfire my dear ones and have a Dr. Pepper.