The following story is true. It isn’t “based on actual events”, like how a found footage film will string you along, making you think what you’re watching is actually true. No. Not this. This really happened to me and several of my friends on a chilly fall night in 1995.
I was raised in small town Ohio. The population was under 300 at the time. If you weren’t practicing your jump shot at the local elementary school or exercising your imagination at the local library (which I did a lot of both), you were riding your bike around town.
I had just turned fifteen years old two weeks before Green Day released their fourth studio album, Insomniac. The album acted as the soundtrack for one of the scariest moments in my life.
We were one of the last generations of kids that had a close group of upper classmen, ranging from seventeen to nineteen years old. The kind of guys you feared a little because they smoked cigarettes that didn’t smell like the kind your parents smoked. They also drank and cussed…a lot. They listened to the music we weren’t allowed to: N.W.A., 2 Live Crew, and Too $hort and they reported on trending pop culture, like what was going on at MTV and what the hottest movies were.
“Dude, there’s this movie called Pulp Fiction. I can’t pronounce the director’s last name…its Tarantula or something. The movie is all fucked up!”
One day, we were practicing our ramping skills with our Huffy bicycles when a tall, skinny white dude approached us.
I remember his intriguing look and the fading NIN t-shirt he was wearing. He leaned in and almost in a whisper:
“There’s this statue of the Virgin Mary. Someone stuck a deer head on the top and stuck forks and knives in it. A blanket surrounded the statue. There were candles and shit that were burned. Fucking devil worshippers go back there. They ride on four wheelers and make sacrifices and shit.”
My friend and I smiled at each other.
“Dudes, I’m not fucking around. Ask my cousin. We went back there this morning and it was gone!”
My friend called his bullshit.
“No way man, you’re just trying to scare us. Get outta here.”
The skinny dude shook his head.
“There’s some cool trails back there to ride, but ride at your own risk man!”
That was the last time I saw him. He went off to college in the fall. As time went on, the legend grew. We came to find out there was an old girl scout campground that these so called “devil worshippers” would perform rituals. It was in the same forest the deer head was found.
On Friday, October 13, 1995, we finally mustered up the courage to go to the campground, take pictures, and put the legend to rest.
Rumor said there was a house at the end of the main drive. My friend and I went to check it out that Friday after school. We hoisted our bicycles over the gate, clearly marked PRIVATE PROPERTY, and scoped the place out. The drive was big enough for a single vehicle, with only one way in and one way out. Acres of land surrounded the area around the drive. After about fifty yards, trees aligned the path that would take us to the inevitable house. Their branches were woven at the top where the trees met, creating a mother nature-type tunnel. A trail broke off the main drive that led to an acre of open land where deserted cabins were.
After several minutes, we found the house. It was dilapidated. Boards were nailed over the busted windows, massive holes covered the wide and sunken porch, and a tree had fallen through the roof. The only signs of mischief were spray painted obscenities across the front door. We didn’t dare go inside, for fear of stepping on broken glass or being attacked by a rabid raccoon.
We rode back to the gate. I noticed a large pot hole on the way out and decided to place a tree branch over it. There was no way for a vehicle to avoid it and, if it was broken, we would know someone had been back there.
Nightfall. Five us packed into our buddy’s hatchback and drove down the back road that led to the main drag which would take us back to the camp. Several homes were on the main drag and they would provide us with an alibi if we were questioned: We were on our way to a party, missed our turn, and were looking for a place to turn around. It sounded good to us. Remember, only one way in and one way out.
Much to our surprise, the gate was open. The headlights were killed and the engine was placed in neutral. We coasted into the brush and parked. I checked the pothole. The branch was split in half, indicating someone was back there. I was given a crowbar for self-defense.
On my own, here we go.
We took the rest of the way on foot. Two of us on the right side of the drive, two on the left. We crept slowly. Just as we arrived to where the tree tunnel began, a shadow moved in the distance about twenty yards ahead of us. We got down and continued on. I remember adrenaline pumping through my body and my legs being heavy. Very heavy.
The other two guys scurried over the path to join my friend and I. Our plan was to wade our way through the thistle and take a photo with a camera. The flash would have to be on. We would snap as many as we could, probably up to three or four before we’d be noticed, then sprint back to the car.
“Hear that man?”
As we got closer, we heard thumping tribal drums, rhythmically increasing the scare factor. A woman was moaning, out of pain or pleasure, we could not tell. We stopped. The friend holding the flashlight wanted to leave. He was the smart one. After what we just heard, who could blame him? But we needed proof. As we snuck closer to the sounds, we saw a large fire. The flames danced through the thistle and brush. Just one picture. Proof. That’s all we wanted.
In unscripted fashion, our friend decided to improvise. He turned the flashlight on, sending a beam of light in the general direction of the movement we saw earlier. Four men in black, hooded cloaks stood down the trail. They were holding medieval torches and pointing at us.
Scary devil worshippers…check.
We ran. Fast. I was the slowest out of our group but with the adrenaline pumping and the fear of knowing that we were spotted I was able to keep up with everyone. The engine fired up just fine, unlike the movies, and we got the hell out of there. It was exhilarating.
The next hour was spent cruising the back roads, trying to process what we saw. Some “holy fucking shits” were exchanged, along with some hi-fives. Then we voted, three to one, that we go back to get the proof we were looking for (for the record, I voted yay).
We weren’t concerned about going to jail because we were all minors. As if going to jail was our biggest consequence. Don’t ever underestimate the naiveté of a teenager.
We passed the open gate. Then we saw headlights bobbing up and down behind us. One way in, one way out.
“Stick to the plan. Looking for a party, missed our turn, need a place to turn around,” I said in my calmest voice. I hid my terror.
Our driver turned his car around. The headlights stopped at the entrance, making it impossible for us to escape. We were staring head-on at an old pick-up truck. Care to play chicken?
A guy who reminded me of the hitchhiker in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre got out of the passenger side. Our friend riding shotgun smacked the lock down on his side of the door. The driver smacked his down. We braced ourselves.
The squirrely fella smacked our windshield with his hands. He was going berserk. Since I was the smallest, I was in the rear under the hatchback. He came to the back of the car and started beating on the glass above me. He yelled obscenities and threatened us:
“Yur gonna git it. All of ya’s! Yur really gonna git it. Jus you wait. You’s trespassin private pra-pertee!”
After some hazing from crazy guy, the driver finally got out. He was a large man who wore a cowboy hat and flannel which complimented his discount blue jeans. He spat a few times and played with his nose on his way to the car.
“Knock it off, Buster!” he cried.
Buster obeyed, but was far from calm.
The large man tapped on the driver’s side window. Our driver cracked it.
“What’s ya’s doin’ back ere’?”
“G-g-got lost. N-n-needed somewhere to t-t-turn around.”
The large man caught a glimpse at all of us in the eye.
“Lemme see yur license kid.”
Our driver slid his license through the crack, disobeying the “no way, don’t do it man” that came from his back seat. The large man inspected it.
“Who else got ID?”
We all shook our heads.
Buster was hopping around like a coked out Roger Rabbit. He tried to snatch our driver’s ID from his friend. The large man played a good game of keep-away and slid the ID back through the gap in the window.
“Well, like my brother here Buster said, this here’s private propert-ee. We live in the house back down this here trail. We was comin’ back from the grocery store and followed you in here.”
I looked over at my friend. He scrunched his eyebrows knowing the large man was lying through his brown teeth. Of course, we were lying too. Funny thing is, they knew we were just there an hour ago. They were waiting for us to come back. We fell into their trap. But what they didn’t know was that we knew they were lying and that’s probably what saved us. We didn’t dare call them out on it.
We nodded that we understood. Thinking we were on friendly terms, our bravest friend in the car asked: “Didn’t this use to be a Girl Scout campground?” The two men looked at each other and smiled. Buster turned to us and said:
“Ain’t no more girl scouts runnin’ through here no more!”
A maniacal laugh followed.
That moment however, was just like the movies. It would be the infamous line that our classmates would have us recite over and over again. We were sought after like a precious relic in the times of dragons and knights. Everyone wanted to hear the story. They all believed it because the story never changed, no matter who told it, because it was true. Some discounted the experience, dismissing it as “just kids partying”. Maybe they were right. Then again, I’ve been to plenty of keg-er’s in the woods, none of them involved a moaning woman, torches, and black cloaks.
Our bravest friend, the one who asked about the girl scouts, passed away a few years ago. He would’ve been the first to start swinging if the shit really hit the fan. As for the others, we don’t talk anymore. We just went our separate ways after high school.
Although we never did have physical proof of what happened, we came close enough to determine we should just leave well enough alone. Obviously, it stuck with me for this long. I wonder if it still sticks with them or did it just get filed under the “don’t care to remember” part of their brains. I bring this story up from time to time. Most recently, it was around last Halloween. The person I shared it with had a similar story about creepy séances that happened in the small town he came from.
I went back to visit the camp recently. The same fence protects the entrance from curious, meddling people like myself. The same PRIVATE PROPERTY warnings are posted. But, I’m older now and I could go to jail. Besides, I no longer have any interest to find out what is running through that forest now that the girl scouts are gone.