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The Caretaker's Cabin

A frightening tale!

By Stephanie DownardPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 16 min read
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Photo by Stephanie Downard.

“The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window,” William said as he pointed through the trees to show the newest guests as they walked to their campsite.

William maintained the campground, even during the off-season. His favorite part of the job was telling tales of the old cabin to the first campers of the season. Every year he would give a little teaser hoping they would take the bait. But it seemed more often than none Andrew, the newest campground manager, would beat him to showing the guest around. He found it odd he wasn’t there that day.

“So, who lit the candle?” One of the campers asked.

“ Well, if you want to know the rest of the story, I will come back tonight and finish the tale.”

“Ok, Mr. Caretaker, you have a deal.”

“Actually, my name is William. William Caretaker.”

“Haha, Good one. My name is Sadie since my husband Dan so rudely neglected to introduce everyone, and these are our friends, Megan and Owen.”

“It's nice to put names to your faces. Your campsite is just straight ahead. I will see you, folks, right before dark to finish the story. I hope you don't get scared easily.”

“Don't worry, we have extra underwear,” Sadie said with a laugh.

William chuckled as he walked away. He thought to himself and knew the story had to be really good this year. It wouldn't be too hard, considering the cabin tale was true. The only thing that bothered him was that he couldn't remember the father's name in the story. He racked his brain for a while and decided he would just have to make one up. The guests wouldn't know it wasn't the correct name. William wandered back to his camper to wait until it was time to tell the story.

“Sadie, why in the hell did you invite the weird caretaker back to our campsite?”

“Oh, Megan, he seemed harmless. You're always so paranoid. Besides, you know I can't resist a good ghost story.”

“Whatever, but if I get murdered in my sleep tonight, I'm haunting you for all eternity.”

“I wouldn't want to any other way, Megan. At least if you haunted me, we would always be together. BFF isn't the same without forever.”

“Really, Sadie, the lame rhyming again.”

“You know you're just jealous of my mad skills and the ability to give you chills.”

“More like kills as in your killing me with these ridiculous rhymes, Sadie.”

“The only kills your getting is from William tonight.”

“Uh, stop it, Sadie! Dan! Your wife is being mean again!”

“Don’t worry, I’ll punish her tonight,” Dan said with a wink.

“Why don’t you ladies stop chit-chatting and come help Owen and me set up these tents.”

“It's all your fault, Megan. Now we have to do hard labor.”

“I don’t think putting up a tent is considered hard labor Sadie.”

“Says you!”

It was nearly nightfall when they got everything set up. William was making his way back to their campsite. He stopped to look at the cabin, and as he went by, he saw a candle burning in the window. It dawned on him that tonight ten years ago, was when the tragic events took place. This made him even more excited to tell the story. It would add an extra scare effect when he was done. He started to walk a little bit faster to hurry and get there. Once he arrived at the campsite, they already had the fire going good and strong. It was the perfect setting for a campfire ghost story.

“Alright, who’s ready to hear a scary story?”

“Hey, William! I was wondering when you would get here. I know I’m ready. Megan, on the other hand, better get her fresh underwear ready.”

“Whatever, Sadie. Let’s just get this over with.”

Owen, you better come hold your wife’s hand. She already looks like she’s going to pee her pants.”

“Dan, you and Sadie are definitely made for each other. But they’re probably right, honey! It might be a good idea to grab those undies,” Owen said with instant regret.

“You guys are jerks! Owen, maybe you should sleep in Dan and Sadie’s tent tonight!”

“Oh, come on, honey, we’re just fooling around. Besides, I really doubt you will want to sleep alone tonight.”

“We’ll just see how the night goes,” Megan growled.

“I apologize. I didn’t know my story would cause a conflict without starting it yet.”

“Don’t apologize, William. Megan will be fine. Now come sit down and let’s hear it,” Sadie replied.

“Ok, I hope you're ready,” William said excitedly.

“This is a true tale that happened ten years ago today.”

Wait, this is a true story,” Megan interrupted.

“Seriously, Megan, shut up. I want to hear the story.”

Jeez, sorry, Sadie, I just didn't know it really happened.”

“Well, now you do, so be quiet!”

“Anyway, back to it, I should probably start at the beginning,” William announced.

“It all began when Warren and his family moved into the cabin. Warren had been out of work for a while, so landing the job as the campground caretaker was such a blessing. Things had been hard for his family. They were barely scraping by, and food was scarce. Luckily when they moved into the cabin, it was fully stocked with enough food to get by until his first paycheck. Warren had a wonderful wife named Clara and one beautiful daughter Allison. Who preferred to go by Ally. He loved his family and would do anything to keep them together.

Shortly after moving into the cabin, Clara shared the news that they were expecting their second child. He was over the moon with happiness and was hoping with all his might that this one would be a boy. Of course, Warren thought the world of his daughter, but he always wanted a son. Warren knew if he had a son, he would be the best man he could be.

You see, Warren had a drinking problem. It had gotten so bad he was the reason his family lost everything, the house, his job, and, although he would never admit it, his wife's respect. Clara gave him an ultimatum, either he would stop drinking, or she would take Ally and leave. Warren did what any man would do to save his family. He stopped drinking, cleaned himself up, and found new employment. That's why getting the caretaker job was so important to him and his family. He had gotten too close to losing Clara and Ally that the thought of it alone made him shutter. Allowing himself to get back to that point wasn't an option.

Things were finally going in the right direction. Warren loved taking care of the campgrounds, and he enjoyed meeting all the new people that came through in the summer. Although he hadn't taken a drink in months, Warren never stopped thinking about how refreshing a nice cold beer would taste after a long day of work. It was a demon he fought day after day. Each evening as the time passed, it became more and more challenging to resist the urge. Some nights Warren would sit in the woods and secretly watch the campers drink their beer. How he desired it could be him raising that can to his lips. He imagined the sensation of the icy cold liquid going down his throat to soothe his undying thirst. The cravings were getting too intense. It was getting harder to withstand the impulse to go and steal the camper's beer. Warren was many things, but a thief wasn't one of them.

A few more months passed, and Warren continued to watch the campers gulp down their alcohol. One night he couldn't take it anymore, so he waited until they went to sleep. When he was sure he wouldn't get caught, Warren made his move. But just as he was about to open the cooler to claim his prize, a drunken man slurred out,

“Hey, what are you doing?“

Warren felt a hand on his shoulder. He threw his whole body back and pushed himself into the man behind him. He heard a loud thud and turned around. Warren was shocked to see the man unconscious on the ground while blood pooled out around his skull. Panic set in as he realized when the man fell, he hit his head on the fire ring. He reached down to check for a pulse, but he felt nothing. The guy was dead. Once again, the need for beer was going to destroy his life. Only this time, he didn't even get a taste.

Warren decided he couldn't let that happen. Why should he and his family suffer more from one mistake? He had to act fast and quietly. Just through the trees, not too far, was a high cliff. If a person were to fall, they would die or, most certainly, wish they had if the impact didn't kill them. Warren found a towel hanging and wrapped it around the man's head. He carefully dragged the man into the woods and ran back to the campsite. He scooped up the bloody dirt left behind and threw it in the still-smoldering fire. Hoping it would burn away the evidence. Then he picked up the cooler and sprinted back to the dead body.

It took Warren a while to pull the corpse and the cooler to the cliff's edge. It was a tiring task, and he was so thirsty. He knew he had to drink some of the beers as that was the only way to make the scene look more believable. It had to appear the man drunkenly fell to his death. The first swallow was like an instant relief to a scratch you couldn't reach. He savored the flavor as that familiar taste lingered in his mouth. The rest of the can flowed effortlessly until the last drop dripped down on his tongue. It wasn’t long before he polished off the last beer in the cooler.

Warren started to feel numb as the alcohol rushed through his body. He missed the way it felt to be drunk. The fact that he just killed a man hardly bothered him. But it was starting to get really late, and if he didn’t hurry, he risked getting caught. He stood up but had to catch his balance after staggering back and forth. Once he got his stance, Warren scattered beer cans around the cliff and kicked some below, took the towel off the man’s head, and pushed him over the edge. He picked up the towel and hoped on the way back to his cabin; that he would find another smoldering fire to dispose of it. He also made sure to drop a few beer cans in front of the tree line by the dead man’s campsite. By doing that, he thought it might convince people he walked off drunk.

Warren snuck around the campground in search of a fire. He could not bring the bloody towel back to his cabin. Fortunately, he managed to find one that barely had a flame. Inch by inch, he slowly burned the towel to ensure it didn’t smother the fire. When it was gone entirely, Warren felt relieved. As long as no one saw him that night, there wasn’t any reason for him to be suspected. Everyone would assume the man died by accident, and It wouldn’t be long before the body was discovered because the bottom of the cliff was a well know hiking area.

The only thing on Warren's mind was how much he wanted another beer. His buzz was almost gone, and he didn’t want to go home just yet. So once again, he went on a hunt for more. After a few attempts, he finally found a cooler filled with beer. It didn’t take him long to chug every last one. Too drunk to comprehend his surroundings, it took Warren hours to find his cabin. By that time, it was a few hours until the sun came up.

He staggered in the door, and a loud crash came right after him. The sound echoed through the whole house. Clara awoke to the noise, jumped out of bed, and ran down the stairs. She found Warren unable to stand on his own, and her dish drainer with broken dishes shattered all over the kitchen floor. Clara was filled with rage. Warren broke his promise after he assured her he would never drink again. She yelled,

You’re nothing but a worthless drunk, Warren! I knew you couldn’t change! I’m taking Ally and leaving! And you will never meet your unborn son!”

Warren stood up straight when he heard the word son. He turned around and grabbed the gun hanging above the door. Clara panicked and ran for the stairs. He went to chase after her but slipped on the broken dishes.

BANG!

The gun went off. When Warren fell, his finger pulled the trigger. He looked up and saw Clara and Ally on the ground bleeding out. The bullet shot Clara in the chest and went completely through her. Ally, who heard all screaming came down and was right behind her mom when it pierced through. The bullet had struck Ally in the neck as it passed through Clara. Warren was too drunk to get up and crawled through the broken glass to his family. Tears rolled down his face. Warren's selfish thirst for alcohol killed his family.

He was too intoxicated to deal with the terrible things he'd just done, so he stumbled upstairs. Before laying down, Warren lit a candle and placed it in his bedroom window. To him, that was a nice way to honor Clara and Alley. He watched it burn until he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer.

No one knows for sure what happened to Warren after that. Some say he still stumbles around the woods looking for beer. Others think he ran off and drank himself to death. But every year on this day, a candle burns in the cabin window.”

“Well, that's the story of the cabin in the woods, but if you want an extra scare, follow me, and I'll show you,” William explained.

“Let's go, guys,” Sadie responded

“I think I've had enough scaring for one night.”

“Oh, come on, Megan. Hold Owens's hand, and let's see what it is.”

“Ugg, fine, Sadie,” Megan groaned.

William led the campers back up to the cabin.

“Holy crap, a candle is burning in the window,” Sadie exclaimed.

Megan was freaking out,

“Nope, Nope! I'm out of here! Owen, come on, let's go back to the tent!”

“I'm sure he lit the candle to scare us, honey,” Owen said as he gestured to William.

“I didn't lite the candle. It was already burning when I walked by earlier. That's why we came back up here so everyone could see.”

“Well, I don't care how the candle got lit! Can we please just go back to the campsite now! I'm done looking at the creepy cabin!”

“Your such a baby Megan. Always have to ruin the fun.”

“No, Sadie. If this were fun, I wouldn't want to leave.”

“Yeah, right, fun sucker. Since you can't handle a little candle, we'll head back. Thank you for a great story William. I hope we see you soon.”

“It was my pleasure, Sadie. Thanks for letting me tell it. Have a great night.”

“Bye, Warren, the ghost,” Sadie whispered in Megan's ear.

“Knock it off! You're so ridiculous sometimes, Sadie!”

All the campers made their way back to the campsite. They sat around the fire for a little while and talked. The main topic was if the cabin story was true and if William lit the candle. Sadie was convinced it was the ghost of Warren who lit the candle. Owen spent most of the night assuring Megan it was a made-up tale to scare them.

Megan tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep. At one point, she woke up Owen and claimed she heard something outside the tent.

“Owen, get up. I hear a noise. I swear it sounds like beer cans being thrown around.”

“Megan, go back to sleep. It's probably just animals or the wind.”

“It's probably the creepy caretaker coming to kill us, Owen.”

“Maybe probably it's the ghost of Warren stealing our beer.”

“Why would you say that now I'm never going to be able to sleep.”

“Honey, we'll be fine. Like I said earlier, it's just a story that William made up. Please try to get some sleep or be quiet so I can.”

“I can't believe you just told me to be quiet. If I weren't so scared, I would go to Dan and Sadie’s tent.”

“Why they would say the same thing. I love you, honey, but I seriously need some sleep!”

“Alright, fine, I love you too. Good night.”

Megan felt the warmth of the sun coming through the tent. She was glad it was daylight because now that meant she could get out. For most of the night, she laid awake, listening to the strange noises. Her suspicions were correct because when she unzipped the tent, there were beer cans all over the campsite.

“Owen! Get up! Come look at this!”

“What time is it,” Owen mumbled.

“I don't know! Just get out here!”

Owen crawled out and was shocked to see beer cans scattered everywhere. Soon after, Sadie and Dan followed.

“Megan, what's with all the yelling? It's too early for that crap.”

Well, Dan, if you had a look around, you would understand, Megan replied rudely.

Dan stared around the campsite and started to laugh.

“What's so funny,” asks Megan.

Sadie was this your work,” Dan said with a snicker.

“You've got to be kidding me, Sadie! I was freaked out all night because of you!”

“It wasn't me, I swear.”

“You really didn't do it, Sadie,” Dan asked.

“No! Maybe it was William playing a prank on us.”

“I don't think that's very professional considering he's the caretaker. I may just file a complaint,” Megan declared.

“Don't be such a Karen, Megan. It's a harmless joke that I happen to find funny.”

“Of course you do, Sadie. He probably did it for you because he's in looove. Better watch out, Dan. She might leave you and run off with William.”

“What kind of husband would I be if I stood in the way of true love.”

“Oh yeah, Dan, you know I can't resist the creeps. And if he killed you, all this could be mine.”

“I think I'll bow out gracefully. There's no need to murder me.”

“You two are ridiculous,” Owen butted in.

“Can we just clean this place before we look like the drunks,” Megan interrupted.

It didn't take everyone long to clean up the mess. As Owen picked up the last can, an unfamiliar voice beckoned behind him.

“Hello, I'm Andrew, the campground manager. Sorry I wasn't here yesterday to show you around.”

Hey, Andrew, it's nice to meet you. I'm Owen, and this is my wife, Megan. These are our friends Dan and Sadie.”

“It's wonderful to meet all of you. Again sorry about yesterday. I ran into some car trouble on my way here.”

“That’s ok. William showed us the ropes,” Sadie explained.

Andrew had a perplexed look and answered confused,

“William?”

Sadie chimed in and said,

“Yeah, the caretaker. He even told us the story of the cabin up the road last night.”

Andrew, stunned by Sadie’s reply, reluctantly responded,

“William, the caretaker, died ten years ago with his family when that cabin tragically burned down.”

“I thought a man named Warren and his family lived in the cabin,” Sadie questioned.

“No, it was definitely a man named William who lived there. With his pregnant wife Clara and daughter Ally.”

“So what's the name of the caretaker who works here now?” Megan asked Andrew.

“We haven't had a caretaker since William died.”

Megan was absolutely terrified and questioned Andrew once again,

“Then who the hell showed us around and told us a crazy story about a guy named Warren who killed a camper and made it look like he fell off a cliff and then killed his wife Clara and daughter Ally ten years ago yesterday? Then he walks us up to the cabin last night to see that mysterious candle burning in the window!”

“Ma’am, please calm down. I'm not sure who you saw yesterday. But like I said, that cabin burned down with William and his family inside. So I'm baffled as to how you saw a candle burning in the window last night.”

Sadie's curiosity got the better of her, and she blurted out,

“Wait, so what cabin did we see? Is there another one at the campground?”

“No, we only had one cabin. I can take you up the road to show you where it was.”

“Yes, please do, Andrew. We'll prove there is a cabin,” Sadie insisted.

Andrew took everyone up the road. When they reached the spot where the cabin used to be, Andrew shared some of his past,

“I remember that morning so vividly. I had only been working here a few weeks. Right before sun-up, I came out of my camper and saw the smoke. I ran to the cabin, but it was completely engulfed in flames when I got there. I felt helpless watching it burn, unable to save the family inside. That day got worse because later on, a camper was found dead. Someone discovered him at the bottom of the cliff, surrounded by beer cans. The police ruled it an accident. I almost quit because of everything that happened.”

“Oh my God, I don't understand. The cabin was here last night. We all saw it,” Dan said nervously.

Andrew looked at the campers and was astounded that they still believed the cabin had been there.

“We have to get the hell out of here,” Megan demanded.

Sadie replied,

“This time, I agree with you. This is too much, even for me.”

“Yep, sorry, Andrew. We won't be staying,” Owen added.

They all turned around and started walking as fast as they could, almost running back to the campsite. Andrew yelled after them,

“But you paid for the week!”

Everyone shouted back,

“Keep it!”

All the campers scrambled to pack their belongings. They didn't care what went where. Sadie went to grab the chairs by the fire pit. She turned to fold the last one but was frozen in terror by William. He appeared out of nowhere and said,

“Leaving so soon?”

fiction
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About the Creator

Stephanie Downard

I'm a mom of 3 plus a bonus son. I've discovered I love writing, and in my free time, that's what I do! I may not be the best, but that will not stop me! It can only go up from here! I hope you enjoy the words that trickle out of my head.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (12)

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  • Julie Lacksonen2 years ago

    Great job! Love the twist at the end.

  • J. S. Wade2 years ago

    Creepy! Love the epigrams. Great story! ❤️

  • L.C. Schäfer2 years ago

    That caretaker is so creepy - you wrote him well! Good luck in the contest 😁

  • Call Me Les2 years ago

    Oh shoot! That ending! Also I love that it's a story in a story. Great job!

  • Trevor Wells2 years ago

    Engaging storytelling and a nice cliffhanger ending; well-done!

  • Whoaaa your story was awesome! Excellent storytelling

  • Love the layers. Great campfire story!

  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Brilliant story!! Loved it💖💕

  • P.K. Lowe2 years ago

    Chills!! Such a wonderful piece! You did an amazing job with the dialogue between the characters and the story building. I love it !

  • This was excellent. From character development to the build-up to the end. There was nothing predictable in the style and approach. Great summer horror story.

  • Angela Derscha2 years ago

    I loved this story! The narrative is incredible, the storytelling is great, and the characters were interesting.

  • Carol Townend2 years ago

    Your story is awesome! Your storytelling, characters, and narrative are well developed and it made for extremely engaging reading.

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