Crystal Lake Camp... before Jason
very late 1960s to early 1970s
Many years before the
Friday the 13th
movie franchise series of slasher films struck movie theaters, through our church my brother and I spent a few summers at
Crystal Lake Camp
(relatively near Eagles Mere in Pennsylvania).
Broken into two segregated groups, the girls' section aspect was at the front of the camp, the boys at the far back, closer to the deep woods.
In the boys' area, there were four cabins, broken up by age group.
The youngest were in Bena, followed by Genesee, Ogdonia, and the oldest boys were in Norman Lodge.
Another cabin was for the next level: for the C.I.T.s
(Counselor In Training).
Once or twice a summer, there would be a hike out into the deep woods for actual overnight camping, and each cabin had their own campsite, each location being farther into the woods, most of which nearby had a flowing stream.
I actually do not know whether it was the same stream or if there were different ones.
The youngest children had Red Rock campsite, its stream which contained flat water-worn brightly coloured rocks... not actually red, more orange as my memory conveys.
While Genesee and Ogdonia cabins had their own campsites, sometimes one of the cabin's group would be hiked out to what was called the C.I.T. campsite.
There were a few interesting memorable events that took place, each mostly on different years, two of which were strange enough to include here
(the third being my managing to get separated from the hikers on the way back from such an overnight; after waiting an hour or so at the campsite and not being missed, I chose the wrong path, erring further by trying to cut across the woods to reach the correct path
[at one point inadvertently flushing a deer that I didn't know by about two feet I was passing], eventually my finding the end of the woods at the outskirts if a field across which to the main road; I flagged down a car and asked directions to find a set of parents bringing their son to the camp, so I had a lift back safely where I found the adults in an understandable panic at my being missing; at summer's end a weekend or two later whilst my father and I sat watching a presentation on the stage, the camp director's wife came over to admit "having lost" me in the woods... as I'd already regaled my father with my adventure, plus with my sitting right there next to him, he took the humourous route and inquired as to whether I was the boy that was missing, to make sure he had the right one...).
One day one summer my Floridian friend John Hamilton and I went for a walk, literally through the girls' camp and out the front gate To See What Was Out There around the main road leading to the camp entrance. Maybe after a mile we turned left into the wide open space at the tree line, opposite from which I'd emerged the summer I "got lost." A few hundred feet in, we figured it was time to head back, when suddenly at the tree line a few feet from us, a massive bush began to shake so violently as to imply a very angry bear or such; John and I hightailed it from there all the way back to the boys camp cabins. We didn't just jump to "bear:" the sudden and fiercely violent shaking of the foliage could have been something else, the least likely explanation there having been someone from the camp already out there ahead of us.
Later that or the following summer Ogdonia headed out for the weekend overnight. After a massive long hike, we arrived at the C.I.T. campsite, a secluded if sprawling section of forest. The stream we crossed went around the rising foothills; John and I and two others did a quick scout-'round, and for our large "tent"
(essentially large rubber ponchos strung together),
chose a wide "ledge"
(more like a path, at one side going nearly straight up the foothill, the opposite side a steep decline down to the swift stream), up along the mid-point of the foothill at the base of which the rest would be setting up their tents. Technically we were Just Out Of Sight of the campground proper.
There were four of us in our tent: myself, John, Josh and a fourth guy whose name I cannot recall... and he somehow managed to sleep through the entire night anyway.
After a counselor or two made some lame attempt at ghost stories over the campfire, we all retired to our respective tents.
Some time later
(sadly none of us having time pieces),
I awoke, feeling something under my sleeping bag that I felt was not supposed to be there.
It felt to me as though it were a human foot, but coming from outside... as though someone lying down Outside The Tent had his/her leg inside ours, despite that area being at the edge of the gully heading downwards. Each time I would touch the object with my leg, I would hear a sharp growl, but this easily could have been ironic timing to one of the others happening to snore at each moment I tried that experiment.
It simply did not occur to me merely to hurl aside my sleeping bag.
I gently woke John, asking if he thought the impression made under my sleeping bag "was a leg."
Again, we looked into my sleeping bag, not moving it, to which
(as though trying to scare me),
John comically exclaimed: "It is!"
This sent us into highly amused laughter, waking Josh.
As the three of us looked into my sleeping bag so Josh could see about which we were laughing, the object under my sleeping bag withdrew as we watched, leaving my sleeping bag flat on the packed dirt forest floor.
Predictably, we three young teens went into total terror mode.
It did not help that, minutes later, the tent began to shake violently as though from trespassers from without.
As we were around the bend in the mountain, our terrified screams went unheeded by the counselors, the small mountain and thick surrounding foliage muffling our cries.
The shaking stopped, but we could hear movement outside; we had no way of knowing whether it was animals, humans, or what, though even a tiny bear cub could take out our sad little tent with little effort.
The gallons of adrenaline coursing through our veins notwithstanding, we retreated into our respective sleeping bags to await the dawn.
With a slight scuffling sound, I could hear Josh's voice call out, but the voice was clearly headed away...
Then I felt my sleeping bag being moved; someone or something had reached from under the tent side, and was rolling my sleeping bag out from the tent farther down the path...
I was not being dragged: the two massive hands or paws I could feel rolled me from the side.
When the large hands/paws receded, I had no choice but to poke out my head to see my location, just as Josh was doing the same. We were both several yards from the "safety" of our tent
(close to the edge to rolling down to the stream).
In the near distance down the path, bright moonlight shown through some of the tree branches to light the path just enough that we could discern at least two massive figures, far too large to be adult humans... and while a bit slumped, the two silhouettes were clearly bipeds.
Josh and I scrambled out of our sleeping bags and hastily brought them back to the tent in which a frantic John wondered what had happened to us.
We could hear unearthly vocalizations and screams down the path, but we were left unmolested.
As far as I can recall, we maybe have just passed out from terror and exhaustion, as soon it was safely the next morning.
Too shaken up really to relate our story
(almost immediately it was obviously we were disbelieved),
we stopped trying to report what had taken place against us.
A week or so later back in the main camp, as we were having lunch, two of the younger if bigger counselors came over to razz us, laughing at how they'd scared the daylights out of us.
They clarified shaking the tent, but seemed a bit confused about Josh and my having our sleeping bags dragged from the tent.
However, we were more relieved to learn this than be angry with them, until one of them said something that didn't add up.
"Yeah, we really got your guys at Red Rock," he said.
"Wait," I pointed out. "The Bena kids were at Red Rock that night; we were up at the C.I.T. campsite."
"Oh," the main guy said, a bit surprised.
"We were over at Red Rock, we were nowhere near the C.I.T. campsite.
I dunno what happened to you guys..."
A few years later I was old enough to be in Norman Lodge, which was a massive cabin with numerous rooms, and no doors, not even to outside.
Literally any sort of wildlife could just wander in if it so chose.
This was one year in which we had a major problem kid named Arvid, whose given name probably didn't help his behavioural problems except maybe make them worse.
Arvid had rage issues mostly, as well as thinking it comical to injure other campers.
Finally one warm night, the darkness broken by bright flashes of heat lightning, Arvid was given a time out outside.
After many minutes Arvid rushed in, declaring there was Someone by the main bathroom building.
The figure was described as large and quite white, as though wearing white.
For once Arvid sounded sincere and he was clearly and truly terrified.
Two of the larger counselors went out to investigate, as the bright, silent heat lightning continued.
When they returned a few minutes later, the larger of the two was obviously shaken, all the colour having drained from his face, which was a feat in itself as he was mostly east Indian.
In a very shakey voice that he was attempted to sound calm, he "suggested" no one go outside for a while...
They refused to convey What They Had Seen; they pretended everything was fine, while the fear in their eyes and faces clearly said otherwise.
While we never learned What It Was, many years later in a book on Sasquatch it reported Sasquatch sightings are in every state, not just the pacific northwest.
Literally, the chapter was called The Pennsylvania Effect, and many of those sightings reported... they had white fur...
We never did find out what had been Out There, clearly lurking about.
As I finally drifted into a twilight-sleep, I began to dream the Lodge was empty; that everyone had left but me, and I can still recall saying, "Is anybody there...?"
The next day one of my friends reported I had continued, carrying on a dream-state conversation with him, as he reassured me of my safety.