Noah tells his favorite campfire ghost story
As the camp fire flickers in the moonlight, Noah begins to speak. He doesn’t make a big show of engaging his audience, or jumping at someone to punctuate his words: he simply speaks matter-of-factly in a quiet, even tone that hushes the others around the fire. Somehow, Noah’s simply sounds… genuine.
So this is the story of of a couple of kids, fresh in their second year of University. It’s early into September and their teacher takes the entire class on a week long camping trip in Western Ontario. You know: study local vegetation, enjoy a camping trip before it’s too cold and get extra credit for it. The entire class loves the idea. Well, these three get in their car and head out to meet up with the rest of the class.
So, Tom, Mike and Samantha are driving through the country with all their gear, heading to meet up with the rest of the class when something strange happens: Three odd looking deer come out of the woods and run beside the car. Tom points it out first, but after a while they’re all looking: it’s hard to tell, but something is off about their heads. Something about the shape looks different and they all realize that they don’t recognize the type. Before long they’re arguing excitedly, trying to identify the species which is clearly not native to the region.
So, this is very distracting for these kids and it’s not long before Mike misses a turn and swerves into the trees. As soon as he does, the deer run off, leaving the kids in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a highway in the middle of a forest.
After a few minutes of freaking out, reality sets in. Their gear is intact, but the car is trashed. They’re gonna miss the camping trip and all the extra credit. They barely get reception out here, but they manage to get a call out for someone to come tow the car.
It’s Samantha that has the idea though. She finds tracks where the deer went into the woods and comes up with a plan. Since they have all the gear and know how to camp, why not track down the deer? The tow truck can come pick them up at the end of the weekend just as easily and surely documenting these weird deer that probably aren’t local to the region is probably worth an A this semester?
Tom and Mike aren’t so sure, but it’s worth a try right? So, they pack up their gear and head into the woods after the deer.
The first day of hiking is great! The forest is actually pretty nice: big, beautiful pine trees, gentle hills, big batches of moss and mushrooms to check out: they have a blast and take a tonne of pictures. They find the trail really easily and it leads into a great big clearing just as the sun begins to set, so they set up camp. It’s a beautiful night, there’s lots of dry firewood – perfect conditions for camping. That is of course until Tom notices it: no stars in the sky.
Well, it takes a while for them to be sure of it, but the moon is bright and round in a clear sky that has no stars at all. The three know enough about camping to know they should see something, even if it was cloudy. The group is freaked out! This is too much for Tom and Mike and, although Samantha is convinced there’s a reasonable explanation, the other two insist on going back. They try to get what sleep they can, and the next morning they’ll try to head back.
The next morning comes and they head back the way they think they came. This time it’s Tom in the lead, following their trail from the day before as best he can. The trail is downright obvious: boot prints, broken branches, marked trees… but something is really wrong. They realize they’re not seeing any familiar landmarks. The trees look different, with huge silk nests of bugs devouring the shrubs and rotting trees where there used to be healthy amounts of moss. The rocks aren’t the same, the hills and valleys are far rougher, and a lot of branches are broken and jagged. As it gets toward evening they are just starting to panic when they spot them: the deer are back.
Tom and Mike are in full panic mode, but Samantha doesn’t think twice. The deer run and she follows as fast as she can. Not knowing what to do, the other two chase after her. They find her standing in the middle of another clearing looking confused. There’s no sign of the deer, but once again following them has led the three of them into this excellent camp ground. Samantha is just as freaked out at this point and tell the other two what she thinks she saw: the deer don’t just have weirdly shaped heads: they didn’t have eyes at all. Just flat spaces where the eyes would normally be.
The three don’t argue and hardly talk that night as they set up camp. The deer had led them to a very nice, convenient clearing to camp in after all, and no matter how freaked out they were, they knew better to keep trying to wander out of the forest after dark. Again, there’s no stars in the sky: only a bloody red sliver of a moon this time as the three eat dinner in silence and try to go to bed. They toss and turn but eventually each fades off.
They don’t get much sleep before they hear a horrible screech in the darkness. All three are out of their sleeping bags in seconds with flashlights: they catch glimpses of deer bounding through the camp away from something in the woods: and then their light flashes across something in the woods. Something big, on two legs, with what they could swear was a huge set of antler horns. But Samantha will tell you that what really made her panic were the eyes. Dozens of little beady white orbs that flashed as the light hit them.
The three don’t think twice: they charge into the woods at top speed after the deer: after all, they’d lead them to safety twice now, maybe they could help again? They charged through those woods like their lives depended on it, just inches behind the deer at some points and at one point Samantha can even remember outpacing one in her adrenaline fueled sprint away from whatever it was that had come out of the woods.
The search party found Samantha two days later: dying of dehydration and with two broken legs on a small outcropping of rock about 50 feet down a sheer cliff over a ravine. They had to airlift her to the hospital, but she lived. The other two were not so lucky: having been lead right off a cliff. It took another week to recover their bodies.
They only recently closed the case after the investigation: calling it a shared mental break. Samantha tells her story, but no one believes her – she’s in a mental hospital just outside of Toronto actually. The coroner’s report says the other two died in a camping accident – although it does have an odd note: they found it very odd that even though the bodies were clearly dead for a week or so before being recovered, there was no sign that any animal or bug had attempted to eat the corpse. It was as if the local wildlife were actively avoiding them…
So the next time you go off the path to follow an animal into the woods, remember this story. Make very sure you’re tracking it, and it’s not leading you. There are darker things in the woods than you can possibly imagine…