Most families have that special gathering place where so many of their treasured memories occur. For mine, that place is my parent’s cabin in Pennsylvania. Since they bought the property and built the place in my early 20’s, we have filled it with laughter and fun. But sometimes we wonder if we’ve been joined for our many campfires, meals and hikes in the surrounding woods by those we don’t count among our friends and family …
The cabin sits on a mountain. Originally, my father used it mostly for a place where he and his buddies crashed during their annual deer hunting trips. Although it is over the Pennsylvania line, the closest little township is Flintstone MD and the largest nearby town is probably Cumberland.
To get there, you veer off the main roads and travel for several miles on winding country roads, rolling through miles where you see nothing but farms and the occasional small family home, barns and old churches, wooded areas and, if you’re lucky, fields full of deer. One way in is to cross the Hewitt Covered Bridge:
Once at the cabin, there is only one other house in sight. Downhill across a rolling field sits the home of our good friends Charlie and Robin, who live there year-round and keep an eye on my parents’ property for them when they aren’t there. Between the two homes there is only the field and a dirt road. Our view from the cabin in the mornings is often smoke rising from Charlie’s chimney and deer grazing in the grass between us.
Everything else that surrounds us is woods. Behind the cabin, there is a trail that is sometimes used for horseback riding and dotted here and there with hunter’s deer stands. If you follow the trail long enough, it runs into a smaller and more overgrown trail that leads to a tiny family cemetary. The cemetary holds only 30 or so graves total, and many of those date back to the 1800’s and early 1900s. It is overgrown with briars and weeds, and if you aren’t looking for it you could wander right by and never know it was there.
These are our surroundings at the cabin. Is it any wonder that weird things happen now and then?
When dusk falls at the cabin, we light a fire in the pit, and sit outside. We chat and drink our beer or wine while watching the flames dance before us and the stars – bright shining beauties we just can’t see so clearly at home near the city – twinkling overhead.
Sometimes Charlie brings his guitar up and treats us to a few songs. Other times, we sit quietly and listen to the croaking of distant frogs, the occasional howling of a dog or other creature, the footfalls of a fox or deer in the woods, or the mournful call of a whipporwill.
Unless they’re away, Robin and Charlie almost always join us for our campfires. Sometimes, they’ll trudge across the field on foot. Other times, usually when it colder outside, they’ll hop in their pickup and ride the short distance. We’ll see their headlights coming up the dirt road, and know our friends are on their way.
Or so we think, anyway …
One night when I was in my early 30s, I went to the cabin with my now ex-husband Chris, my mom and dad, and my niece Jordyn. Our good family friends Deb and Bill had also joined us for the weekend.
We all sat by the fire for a bit that night. As it grew later, the men all headed indoors, lured by the call of Dad’s TV and the remote control. Chris, Dad and Bill settled in to flick through whatever sports were on TV with their beer and munchies, leaving the women to the fire.
It was a dark but starlit night, full of animal sounds. Once the men were gone, we started telling spooky stories. The night was chilly but not too cold – perfect campfire weather, so we sat and watched the flames dance even longer than usual.
It was unusual for Charlie and Robin not to join us on these nights. So when we all heard the rumble of someone coming up the dirt road and saw two headlights heading in our direction, none of us flinched. The headlights lit up the night and bathed the ground in front of them in a bluish glow.
All of our vehicles were parked in the “usual spaces” in front of the cabin near the firepit. So we weren’t surprised when the lights veered right at the side of the cabin and headed towards the open space there. We figured Charlie and Robin were just parking at the side of the house and waited to hear their truck doors slam and see them trundling up to the fire pit, shouting hellos. Most likely Charlie would have his guitar, and one of them would be carrying a six-pack.
We waited. And waited. And waited. And were greeted with nothing but silence.
It was only then that our thoughts turned to something a little more sinister. What if the truck hadn’t belonged to our friends? We are pretty isolated up there in those mountains. What if some crazy hunter had been staking the place out for a robbery? Or worse, what if the Wrong Turn clan were alive and well and had spread from West Virginia into Pennsylvania?
My niece had been running around the yard. She edged closer to the fire. We all waited and whispered. One of us called out a hello. Nothing.
We went into the cabin and told the remote-weilding menfolk. Then we investigated.
There was nothing there at the side of the house. No people. No truck.
All four of us – Mom, me, Deb and Jordyn – had seen the headlights and heard the sound of someone driving up the dirt road. We hadn’t actually seen the vehicle itself, because we hadn’t paid it much attention. It was so common for Charlie and Robin to come rolling up the road when they saw our blazing campfire that we’d just made an assumption and gone back to our talking and fire-watching.
Dad called them. They were relaxing in their house, and hadn’t left all night. They had family visiting and were staying in.
In theory, I guess, it could have been a lost traveler or a hunter. But if so, it is hard for any of us to believe we wouldn’t have heard a lot more noise if instead of turning around and coming back the way they’d come in, they had driven through the backyard and onto the trail. There were always tree limbs and even trees themselves lying in that trail, and parts of it just weren’t big enough for a vehicle bigger than an ATV to pass through.
So who came to visit us that fall evening, but never bothered to say hello?
The men all decided we were nuts. But we all KNOW we saw it.
What do you think?
That was several years ago, and nothing like it has happened since.
For a little extra fun, though, here’s a picture my niece took at the cabin recently when she was walking on the trail with her friends. She was just taking pictures of the scenery. But when she uploaded the pics, she saw this instead.
The photos below are by Jordyn Hawley. Can you see the shape that appears to be something walking in the distance? What does it look like to you?
Here it is blown up.
A hiker the girls didn’t know was sharing the woods with them? A hunter? A Wrong Turn character?
Or a shadow man looking for his misplaced shadow truck?