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Backpacker Magazine – October 2005

Terror in the Trees

Ghost stories always seem scarier beside a flickering campfire. So, dim your headlamp and scoot up closer: our writer-at-large explores the ghoulish beginnings of these age-old tales and shares a few of his all-time favorite blood-curdlers. We dare you to read on.

by: Steve Friedman

(Illustration by Jackie McCaffrey)
(Illustration by Jackie McCaffrey)

TELL A SCARY STORY
Learn how to tell your own tale of terror with our how-to guide, right here.
“That seems complicated,” Melissa said as we got in the car. She hadn’t seen the scars. “What if we get lost?”

“We won’t get lost,” I said, trying to believe it. “And she seemed really nice. I’m sure it’ll all be fine.”

As we got into the car, I glanced back at the diner. Kath was sitting at the table with the guys in robes. Was it my imagination, or were they talking to her? And was she nodding? And were all of them smiling, looking out the window, straight into our car, as we pulled into the night? Would you believe me if I said it was the first time in my life people smiling made my fingertips icy?

Kath’s directions were perfect. The spot was perfect, a grassy piece of velvet beneath giant redwoods, just yards from a spunky stream. The stars were perfect. Melissa asked if we could sleep outside, she wanted to look at the stars, and the way she felt, nestled next to me, that was perfect, too. We stared at constellations and listened to the quiet rush of the creek and that’s when I heard it.

It was a soft, sibilant, caressing whisper that turned into a sharp crack, which was followed by the longest, most desolate moan I had ever heard in my life.

I imitated the sound for my sister one night, at her cabin in the mountains of Colorado. “If you can tell the story,” she had said, “maybe you can finally put it behind you. Maybe you can get off the meds and move on with your life.”

So I tried. “ssssssSSSSSSSSCRACK!, Oooooooooh,” I said to my sister, and she looked at me, wide-eyed with worry.

“What was it?” she asked, and before I could say anything, I heard a whimper and my sister got up and peered around the corner and there was her four-year-old boy, my nephew, who must have heard us. I don’t know how long he had been there. That was the night Izzy started wetting his bed and waking up screaming. He still hasn’t stopped. Just two weeks ago, my sister took him to a child psychologist, who told her it was a developmental thing, a natural part of the growing-up process, that it was only coincidence that it started the night he heard me make the sound. I have my doubts.

What was it? That’s what I asked myself that night. A bird, no doubt, or some rodent I had never heard before. That’s what I told myself, as I lay under the stars, but I couldn’t help imagining something else. Those moans!

“I want to thank you for bringing me here,” Melissa said. “I never would have gone into the wilderness by myself.”

“Uh-huh,” I murmured to her. Did she not hear the noise?


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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
The John
Jun 21, 2014

I liked it. It was a little confusing at times but I liked it.

Star Star Star
Tukan
Oct 31, 2013

Here are some really really scary stories, I have read recently

http://www.amazon.com/After-Dark-Ghost-Stories-India-ebook/dp/B00DYA0H7E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383238448&sr=8-1&keywords=after+dark+ghost+stories+from+india

Star
noala
Oct 21, 2013

Star Star Star Star Star
jayasurya
Oct 21, 2013

hai! good

Star Star Star
Katie
Jan 17, 2013

No offence, but that wasn't very scary (it wasn't scary for me).

confuzled :/
Oct 31, 2012

??????what?????

confuzled :/
Oct 31, 2012

??????what?????

rebecca
Aug 21, 2011

I'm very happy about this, for me you pulled me in with earnies, kept me interested with the other directions and came back in with the kicker at the end.....i honestly can't decide if its true or not....well done

calboy147
Oct 31, 2010

Wow, I found it to be a quite amusing tale till i read the majority of these posts. Now i think i must have fallen asleep and dreamed it all up.
I certainly don't remember reading anything about his girlfriend screaming.. I guess i better go back and read it again. My macular degeneration must have gotten worse.

NevikS
Oct 29, 2010

I thought it was pretty goo - tied several stories together nicely.

The Smokey Joe story is told at every session at Camp Orr - a Boy Scout camp on the Buffalo River near Jasper Arkansas. There was just a snippet told here. The whole story is a 45 minute long tale about the derranged camp counselor presumably hiding in Compton Hollow. We were there a couple of years ago, and prior to starting the story, they warned the audience and allowed anyone about the disturbing nature of the story and allowed anyone to leave that wanted to. This really helped set the mood.

I wonder if the other stories are original by the author, or if they are also snippets of stories he has heard at some time?

emo person
Oct 27, 2010

its so bad that i stopped readin after the 1st page.

claudia
Sep 03, 2010

whhat the hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

claudia
Sep 03, 2010

i think he fell asleep writing it what a shame oh well at least he finished it.......heheheheheh

hi
May 01, 2010

hi

such a retarded storie
Feb 16, 2010

what the hell is this about?How do you not hear your girlfrend screaming? What a dumb as. This story is#&(@$&(^%*$

PS.I wrote the storie below to=)

such a retarded storie
Feb 16, 2010

what the hell is this about?How do you not hear your girlfrend screaming? What a dumb as. This story is#&(@$&(^%*$

PS.I wrote the storie below to=)

Anonymous
Feb 16, 2010

The most retarded scarie storie i have ever read! I laughed the whole way. My dog could tell a better storie than this! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sarah
Nov 20, 2009

I liked it. Scared the hell out of my 6th grade class.

Me
Nov 19, 2008

I thought it was pretty good. For those of you who think you're missing something make sure you go through all the pages they're listed on the bottom. I can imagine sitting around a campfire with friends and looking into their fire-flickering eyes, seeing them hope but not know that it isn't true. haha

Steve
Nov 19, 2008

This was so stupid

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