A Ghost Story
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. It was an old hunting cabin just outside our home’s property. But even still, what I’m going to tell you, circumstance and all, will make you believe that there’s something more in this world beyond just creepers and strangers lurking in the woods. That’s a lot of true crime bull crap, because in this case, a priest or maybe a white witch could’ve been of better use.
It was hard to explain the details of this story when it happened, but now, as a grown woman, it’s a bit easier. Most in my sleepy town would chalk this up to the paranoid unsettlement of my father, who was then only 38 and worried for his young family.
I remember him standing ghostly white in front of the cops on our lawn on the morning of June 19th, 2006, as he, exhausted in his New England Patriot T-shirt, explained the previous night’s happenings to them.
But I hope that with this tale, I can help him. I believe that if I can share this story more, more people will listen. To begin, from my perspective, I was excited that the school year was over, and I was quite looking forward to my friends starting to visit the house more frequently. The 18th was hot in the day, and between my friend Dianne and I, we were the only ones with pools for at least 8 miles in our quiet northern Massachusetts town. I was 12 years old then, just celebrated my birthday with my friends that day beside the pool.
I recall Dianne looking over at me from a chair, shoving a burger in her mouth, and asked, “Willow, have you seen that candle burning? I think your parents need to talk to someone about getting rid of that cabin.”
My father, looking over to her from the grill, said, “You know, when I was young, we never had to worry about keeping our door locked at night or during the day. Can’t be too careful these days, but I think it’s just squatters in there.”
But I don’t think he truly meant it. I knew he didn’t want to scare us, but we were always on our toes because of that cabin, and we had good reason to be. I always knew about the awful thing that cabin represented. Back in ‘98, a 10-year-old girl was killed in the hiking park in the next town over from us. I recall hearing ladies in the library, the first week we moved to town that year, say the man who did it shot himself in that cabin.
My parents had been young then, worried for myself, 4 at the time, and my brother, then 2. It was so shocking that it kept my mother in a state of constant vigilant protectiveness. For example, my brother and I liked to play right at the edge of the lawn nearest the road. My mother swears that, even to this day, a white van would creepily pass our house, come to a stop, the driver staring, and then peeling off as she stepped into their view. Not that it had anything to do with that murder, but it was enough to scare my mother, as it would myself with my own children. These memories made me shudder when I thought of the cabin, especially now with a small light having kept it dimly lit for those past two nights. I wondered if there were really any squatters at all, and if so, would they try to break into our house.
Thinking back, I remember Dianne shaking me from my unease as she dragged me into the pool, and for the time, I felt at ease. We spent the rest of the day playing and listening to music, as my parents laid out in the sun, my brother Chris, not far from sight as he preferred to play in the yard with our dog, Grizz.
As it got later in the day and the sun was going down, I said goodbye to my friends as they headed out of my driveway on their bikes. I walked over to the back patio where my dad was cleaning the grill when he asked, “there’s a meteor shower tonight. Would you like to watch it with me?”
He knew I loved watching the night sky, hoping to make a wish on a shooting star. So we waited for the sun to disappear from the sky as we finished cleaning up the pool toys and floaties, stuffing them into the garage. I remember running inside for a sweatshirt to join my father outside by the little fire he made, though I’m sure it was an excuse for him to smoke a cigarette, as my mom wouldn’t let him smoke inside. Just as I did, I heard him shouting from the backyard.
“Hey! Who’s there?” He shouted.
My mom had already gone to bed, and so had Chris, as it was about 10:00 now, their typical summertime bedtime. As I didn’t hear them stir, I was a bit scared, knowing that he couldn’t be yelling at them. When I got to the back sliding door, only looking through the glass, I saw My father standing with our dog’s leash in hand. I noticed he dropped a half-smoked cigarette on the cement patio. He looked out, squinting, and stopped yelling when he realized I was standing at the door. As I slid the door open, Grizz was down on his front legs, and his teeth bore. He growled low.
I stepped out of the door and whispered, “Dad?”
“Shhh!” He said to me. “Go get your mother.” He was hushed, though looking threatened. I say this because this is how I saw him when we last went hunting and a bear came our way. On that day, he was brave enough to wave his arms high, and I thought my father was just, well… the coolest.
But this time was different. He stood his ground bravely, but I couldn’t see what it was he was trying to scare off. Grizz appeared to me as wild, hair stood up, and looking ready to attack whatever was there. Taken aback by this, I didn’t immediately adhere to my father’s request to wake my sleeping mother because I, too, was trying to see what was causing this. Then, I saw it. A faint light, smaller than a penlight, glowing there by the oak tree, right off our outdoor play set.
I shuttered to think someone, who most certainly didn’t belong there, was standing there. The figure did not fully show, just the light. It was almost as if they were smoking a cigarette, too, like my father. Looking further out, I could see the light again, coming from the dilapidating cabin out in the middle of our woods.
“Dad. What’s that?” I whispered again, standing just a foot behind him now. He was frozen still, his braver look now gone. He didn’t answer. I did the same. If my dad was scared, I knew I should be shitting my pants. Within a moment, we saw the suspected cigarette embers fall and the sound of it being stamped out by a large boot. When the unseen figure began to walk into the woods, Grizz’s growl emerged into a loud bark.
My father attempted to restrain him, but the 120-pound black lab pulled himself free with a mad dash after the darkened figure. They were headed straight for the cabin. We were being watched by this figure for god only knows how long. Thinking that this stranger’s intentions weren’t good, I realized as I saw Grizz disappear into the woods after them that I couldn’t imagine life without my four-legged protector. I sprinted, barefooted, through my mother’s roses after him.
Just as I made the wood’s edge, a large hand grabbed me, and I yelled. My father dragged me back and said quietly, “No! I’ll find Grizz. You, go, wake mum and Chris, now!”
As the dutiful daughter I knew I was, I rushed to my feet, not even caring for the 3 rose pricks stuck in my foot, and ran through the still open sliding door. I crashed through my shared bedroom door, jumping on 10-year-old Chris, with tears of fear in my eyes. “Wake the frig up, Chris! Dad needs our help!”
He grabbed my arm, nearly breaking my fingers for having woken him, but I didn’t care. I was on a mission. I could hear Grizz in the distance through the open bedroom window, barking louder, and my father shouting still at the unknown creeper in the shadows. I didn’t need to wake my mother, as she was near me in seconds when she heard the commotion.
In the frame of our bedroom, she stood listening for the sounds outside as my brother pushed me off his bed to get on his shoes. I walked up to her and whispered to my mom what dad and I saw. Chris kept asking what we were talking about, but she told him to hush. She took a moment to think about what I’d told her, the color washing away from her olive-skinned face. Then, shaky, she said, “I’m locking this door, don’t move. I’ll go find dad.”
As I walked back to the window, Chris looked sleepy and confused as he pressed his face against the window screen to try to get a better look. “Where’s dad?” He asked me.
“In the woods, looking for…” I stopped myself. I didn’t want to tell him what I saw. I still wasn’t sure what I’d seen. Chris was also only 10 and scared easily, so I knew I needed to choose my words carefully. “He’s looking for Grizz; he got out.”
“Dumb dog. He did that last time we went duck hunting, didn’t he?”
I sighed at that thought when we almost lost our beloved pup before, but was more worried now that my mother was going out into the dark on her own. From my respective window, I could finally see mom. She turned from the side of the house to the backyard. I wanted to tell her to stop, but I saw a large 12-gauge in her hands. I was shocked because this indicated she actually believed what I told her, which wasn’t often when it came to bumps in the night and spooky things.
Luckily, Chris couldn’t see what happened next, as he was across the room to the door to get water from the kitchen… When I saw a large man. He just stood there, staring at her, just behind the crab apple tree on the front lawn. I ducked down, but still kept him in my sight. He didn’t move. My mother was only about 20 feet away from him, though preoccupied with shouting for my dad from the wood’s edge. As soon as I saw more of the man’s figure start moving from his spot, I screamed for my mother to turn to see him before whatever god-awful things could happen. She saw it. But she didn’t shoot, not even when this man showed a knife.
“MOM! SHOOT HIM!” I encouraged.
But she just ran back inside. I heard Chris drop the water glass in the kitchen and then a thud, as he slipped over the pieces and water trying to run back to the bedroom. I didn’t take my eyes off the tall man who stamped out another cigarette, and then saw him walk down the road towards the woods where my father was. My mom didn’t come right in the bedroom. I ran right to the sliding door to find her there. She stood with a blank stare, and tears running down her eyes.
“Go. To your room. Now,” she said, seeming lost in fear and sadness. “Mom, but what—“
“Willow, GO!” She shouted at me. I ignored her anger, but could see and feel her fear as I tried to tell her about Chris, who could be heard crying in pain from a piece of glass caught in his foot. As I walked to the kitchen to help him, the phone rang. The clock against the wall showed that it was now 11:00 at night.
Mom and Chris were both crying now. I felt like I needed to be grown up. I could see that someone needed to be, since everyone was falling apart, and my father was out in the woods with a potentially dangerous, unknown person. Like a hardened war veteran ready to do battle with whatever asshole was trying to mess with my family, I threw a dish towel to poor Chris, told him to clean himself up, and then, as calmly as I could, answered the phone next to the front door.
“Willow.” A breathy voice said. It sounded dark. Like they wanted to hurt someone. I don’t know how I could tell that tone from a simple mention of my name off this person’s mouth through the phone, but I could.
I paused before answering, trying to sound brave. “Who’s calling?” I said in a small, but demanding voice. Heavy breaths on the phone were followed by the snap and growl of what I assumed was a dog’s mouth, followed by a whimper. Then the line went dead.
Just then, a loud bang came on our back door, but none of us moved. We just went quiet. Even Chris, who didn’t know what was happening, was now scared, not even whimpering as a stream of blood ran down his foot from the broken glass.
Another bang, louder than before, came through, then the sound of the back door glass breaking rang through the whole house. The gun my mother brandished earlier was leaning up on the cupboard door. She pulled Chris across the floor, urging me to put down the phone and join them. Again, I felt I needed to be brave. I grabbed the gun, and walked toward the back door against all my mother’s whispered protests. I knew I was far too small to shoot it, but felt the sight of the gun was enough to scare anyone off; even forgetting the man’s knife scared my mother. I didn’t care.
As I turned the corner from the kitchen, through the living room, and to the door, I saw what made my mother turn away. There, right in our backyard, stood a ghostly, large man in full view. He wore a white, bloodied shirt, and still held a large knife in his hand. I couldn’t move. It was as if he held me with his eyes; these large, dead, black eyes.
I couldn’t even keep my grip on the gun.
I dropped it, and felt my body being pulled out from the house and into the backyard. I could hear my dad screaming for the man to stop, as he rushed at it, but it waved it’s hand and threw him back. I couldn’t even scream.
As the blood-soaked ghost continued dragging me outside, my feet dangled above the grass. I was no longer in control of my body. I was not able to scream either. All I could do was try to keep my eyes open, as I approached the edge of the woods and felt faint. But this didn’t last long. The last thing I remembered before everything went black, was the sight of the worn cabin door, and being pulled inside. I thought for a moment I was going to die.
When I woke the next day, I was greeted by Grizz, laying with his face inches from mine. I was laying in the woods on a cold piece of moss, bruised, but unharmed. He licked my face, urging me to get up. I could hear the footsteps of others approaching, my parents’ voices yelling for me. I yelled back, running when I saw my mother’s purple night dress appear from behind a tree.
I tried to tell them and the police about the cabin. My father said he had been to the cabin, but wouldn’t say what he saw other than what he saw was “awful”. The police, though, didn’t know what he was talking about, telling him that they hadn’t seen a cabin. Even Dianne, when I told her about it, had seemed to have no idea what I was talking about, despite our talk from the day before.
I’ve now spent the better half of my adult life looking for the story of the man who’d killed himself there, but it was as if any trace of it had vanished. Even the story of the murdered girl was erased from the memories of everyone in town, but still spoken about as a disappearance. The cabin isn’t there anymore. But my family still believes everything we saw and knew about that awful shack, and wonder still what happened to the man in the woods.