Ghost Stories at a Religious Summer Camp
Ever attend summer camp? If you did, what did you do there? Did you hike? Go boating? Did you learn how to make a bow and arrows or how to tie intricate rope knots? Did you roast marshmallows and eat s’mores? What did you hear? The sounds of nature? Stories around a campfire? Ghost stories? Bible stories? At summer camp, I heard both Bible and ghost stories. It was awesome!
The summer camp I attended was nestled in the beautiful pines of the Tonto National Forest located in northern Arizona. There were six of us from my reservation who when to camp. We had chopped and picked cotton, cleaned yards, did any and all menial jobs to earn money to pay the cost. When the day came for us to begin the long drive north, we all arrived at the church at five-thirty in the morning, piled ourselves and our gear into the back of the minister’s pick-up truck, and off we went, eager and full of excitement. A canvas tarp rigged to the truck’s wooden sideboards shielded us from the blazing sun as we made the six to seven hours drive up to cooler country. I don’t remember minding the heat, but then, I was only eleven or twelve and that was so long ago.
Upon arrival at the camp, we were assigned to a counselor who took us to the cabin which we were to share with a billion daddy-longlegs. Our daily schedule ran something like this: Breakfast at 7:00, followed by morning devotions, group chores and activities (such as hiking to various scenic points in the national park). Lunch was at 12:00, then rest, and any other activity the counselor had in mind. Dinner happened at 5:30, and this was followed by a religious lesson, songs, and group skits, which I did not enjoy being a shy girl. The day came to an end and back to the daddy-longlegs we’d go to shower and then climb into our beds.
This was the best time of day as far as I was concerned. Our counselor was an easy going high school senior, full of youthful enthusiasm, an athlete, which meant long daily hikes for our group of eight, but like loyal soldiers, we happily trudged after her. I remember hiking to the Tonto Fish Hatchery and up to Zane Grey’s cabin. Zane Grey was the great western writer who wrote of life in pioneer America. She told us ghost stories because we begged for them and she listened patiently to our feeble ones. Her stories were mild, really, not about vicious entities or the devil, but they were scary enough to give us chills and to cause us to pull the blankets up over our heads. The wind blowing through the tall pines provided great spooky effects, as did the sounds of the night birds living in the forest. I’ve often wondered if someone told on her and if so, did she get into trouble for telling us ghost stories? We were at a religious summer camp, after all. I hope not because she made nights at summer camp so much fun. Never did it enter my mind then that I would be writing stories that involved ghosts, spirits, the supernatural. That I would write a short piece based on a story she had told us one summer night so long ago.
Two really scary stories I remember her telling was about a man who stayed in the shadows and the hitchhiker who was a spirit haunting the highways and byways, catching rides with unsuspecting travelers only to vanish into thin air after so many miles had been covered. The man in the shadows was about a man who didn’t have a face and who, if you looked at him, would steal your face and take your place in the real world, leaving you in the shadows. I guess the shadow man was a shape shifter of sorts. It was an awesome story, a story I used later on in a college creative writing class. I scored at B on that piece.
I love stories, always have. I love listening to stories, I love making stories up, and I love writing stories. Legends. Bible stories. Love stories. Stories of the past. Ghost stories. You name it! What about you? What kind of stories do you like?