Five Days At The LakeDecember 25, 2011
When we got there, which is about 5 hours from Toronto, we were pretty delighted that it was so secluded. The nearest cottage was about a 45 minute walk away. The cottage itself was about 30 years old, and had been restored and updated with some nice amenities like heated floors and room to room sound system. Despite the updates, the owners kept with mostly original furniture, so the place had this quaint antiquated look, which I suppose serves the mood of the cottage well.
There were 2 bedrooms, one master and one smaller room with two beds, presumably for children. A large common open space and a wood burning stove and a nice wrap-around deck with a large barbecue rounded out the cottage features.
Next to the cottage was a smaller version of the cottage, like a 1/5th size miniature, built as a play house for children. It was really cute and the attention to detail was remarkable, however age and weather had given it a worn look, and it had not been repainted for quite a while. If you looked at it for too long, it was actually kind of creepy. It was like the little runt child of the parent cottage.
Also on the grounds was a wood shed where you’d get your fire wood. A sign encouraged guests to chop enough wood for the convenience of the next guest, with a good size wood-axe impaled on the chopping block ready to go.
About a 5 minute walk down a trail through the woods lead you to the lakefront where there was a jetty outfitted with canoe, paddle boat and another barbecue.
So that was basically the setting, and the first night was pretty normal. It was the second night that things started to get strange for me.
A strange rainy day
It rained. We happily spent the day indoors, although Rabbit was rather looking forward to traipsing around the woods. Around dinner time, I realized I had stupidly forgotten to shut off the gas valve on the barbecue, and it had drained over night. Recalling the second barbecue down at the jetty, I took Rabbit with me on the short hike down the path.
By now the rain had stopped. It was already dusk, and once you hit the path under the cover of trees, things were outright dark. I regretted not bringing a flashlight.
Rabbit was off-leash of course, and as a scouter, he would typically run ahead and come back and joyfully run ahead again. This time, he wasn’t, he kept right next to me the whole time which is unusual for him.
By the time I got to the jetty, fussed with the barbecue to unlatch the propane tank, and prepared to head back, it had already gotten quite dark, and I was starting to dread walking back up the path again. With a full propane tank, it was going to be hard to jog uphill in the dark, so I steeled myself for a steady walk, being thankful to have Rabbit next to me.
The whole hike up the path, I heard only the steady crunch-crunch of my feet, and Rabbit’s patter-patter next to me. Everything was quiet.
And then I remember hearing a rather loud rustling off in the trees.
It was a bit nerve-wracking, but it was nature, and any manner of creature could be making its way through the bush. I tried to ignore it, and eventually emerged back at the cottage.
My wife, Bethany, was standing on the deck.
“Oh, there you are.” She sounded a little surprised. “That took long?”
“Yeah, I had to fuss to get this thing out of the cabinet.”
“I thought I heard you coming back a few minutes go. But I’ve been waiting for at least ten minutes and you just showed up now.”
I thought she might have heard the same creature I had, though the timing didn’t quite add up. I was tired and just wanted to start dinner so I shrugged it off and we ate and called it a night.
When things get outright frightening.
It was decent enough weather to do some boating and fishing for most of the day. Rabbit got to swim in the lake, and we had a huge lunch and just sat and drank wine till the sun set.
That night while we were asleep, Rabbit started to whine and pace around. It was about 2am, and I was pretty groggy from all the drinking. Beth was out like a light. I figured Rabbit probably needed to go outside to do his “duty”, so I pulled some pants on and grabbed his leash and headed outside.
It was cool and a fog had crawled in from the lake. I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me. The porch light was meek and ineffectual, but it was enough to light the immediate patch of grass at the bottom of the stairs where I was standing with Rabbit, encouraging him to do his business sooner rather than later.
Well, he was taking his time, sniffing the ground and not really committing to it. I was getting a little antsy and was telling him to hurry up, and my agitation was likely not helping him.
That’s when I heard the crunch-crunch-shuffle, crunch-crunch-shuffle sounds coming from the woods, somewhere out beyond the fog. Rabbit froze, his tail was between his legs and he shrank behind me. This is not usual behavior for him.
I stood there for a while at the bottom of the stairs on the patch of grass, and listened for the crunching of leaves and shuffling noises again. It was coming from the side of the house, where the miniature play cottage was. I directed the flash light there, but the beam didn’t get too far. I took a couple of steps to see if I can make out anything. The crunch-crunch-shuffle came again.
Then I heard panting, the heavy laboured breathing of a tired animal. Was it an animal? I couldn’t really decide if it was. Other than a dog, I didn’t really know what other panting animals might sound like. Then I heard the sound of the small door to the play house creak open, and slam shut. Loudly. It rattled the glass and scared the crap out of me. I ran back up the porch with Rabbit leading the way. We hurried inside, and I closed and locked the door.
I was absolutely terrified and I tried to inject some sense into the situation. We’re in the middle of the woods, it’s the middle of the night, humans are here, which means food might be lying around nearby, of course we’re going to attract nocturnal creatures. Raccoons have been known to claw open doors and trash cans. I was acting absurd.
Rabbit still hadn’t peed but was now curled up on the couch. His eyes wouldn’t leave the door. I headed back to the bedroom, to find my wife, awake, standing at the window.
“Hun? What are you doing up?” I asked. She didn’t respond. I touched her shoulder. She turned around, her eyes were open, but she had this look on her that was a mixture of worry and confusion. “What is it?” I said again, she was scaring the crap out of me.
“I saw it,” she said.
“Oh! Was it a raccoon? I figured –”
“NO!” She said breathlessly. And the way she said it, it was like a pleading “No!” sent a chill through me, and my heart started racing. I did not want to hear what she saw. I knew I didn’t.
After a moment I asked her, as calmly as I could, “What was it?”
“Something was crawling around down there,” she said. I nodded. Pause. “It was a child. There was a child crawling through the bushes. A little girl. On her hands and knees. Like some animal.”
I didn’t even know how to respond. The image of what she was describing sent my head spinning. I was blinking rapidly, I remember this, and it was giving me a headache. Beth didn’t say anything more, after a minute, she sat down on the bed, still confused as if she wasn’t fully comprehending what she saw or what she just told me she saw. I watched her. She lay down after a few minutes, and fell asleep.
I couldn’t sleep a wink for the rest of the night. I just lay there, listening to every single sound inside and outside the house. Cracking twigs, creaking noises, tap-tap-tapping, scratches on the roof.
But I did not hear the crunch-crunch-shuffle for the rest of the night.
I visit the miniature play house
I must have dozed off sometime before dawn, because I woke up to bright sunlight, Rabbit was standing on the bed looking down at me with this kind of pleading look. He was hungry, and he probably really needed to pee.
Beth was still half-asleep but was rousing, stretching and rubbing her eyes.
I took Rabbit outside where he was relieved, and I studied the play house. Even in the sunlight, it gave me the creeps. I heard Beth inside, up and about and then running water in the bathroom. I headed over to the play house, Rabbit followed me.
It really was a near exact replica of the main cottage, right down to the little details like the flower boxes, the shutters, the placement of the chimney. It was about 5′ high, and no more than 8′ x 8′ square. There were two little steps that lead up to a miniature door that closely resembled its larger version. A hand painted sign over the door read “Play House”.
Oddly, there was, at one time, a padlock on the door. The latch had now broken off. Next to the door was a large window which had long dusted over. I peered in but could only see odd shapes lying about. I opened the door. It smelled of paint and mould. The resemblance to the cottage of course was superficial only; inside was just a single room.
There were old paint cans stacked in a corner, paint-rollers, pieces of old carpet rolled up and leaned in another corner, a broken small rocking chair lay on its side, a stack of floor tiles, and some random pieces of wood lay scattered. Apparently, it had been relegated to storage some time ago. Cardboard had been taped up over the windows on the opposite wall.
Crayon markings decorated the walls, and there were remnants of toys and colouring books amidst the clutter. When I looked immediately down, I saw wet markings where the dust had been disturbed. Something had obviously moved through here. I followed the trail, it moved around the room, maybe twice or more, and then disappeared, or perhaps went back to the door, I couldn’t really tell for sure. I didn’t see any kind of animal footprint, or anything I recognized, just a weird mess of swishy lines through the dust. Something had definitely been in here.
I looked back at the walls again, and noticed the drawings of small hands. The way a child would put their hand up and trace around the fingers with a crayon. All the drawings were of the right hand, I don’t know why I noted that.
I realized Rabbit was back up on the porch, lying next to the door. I backed out out the play house, and closed the door. It rattled the glass just as I had heard it last night.
Over breakfast, I asked Beth how she slept. She said she slept OK, but had had a disturbing dream. I asked her to describe it to me. Bashfully, she said she only remembered being frightened by something out in the woods, and that it went back to an old childhood fear of being chased. She was trying to be joking about it, and to pass it off as nothing much.
I didn’t press her for details. I didn’t tell her that she looked wide awake when she told me she saw a little girl crawling around on her hands and knees in the forest in the middle of the night. I just didn’t want to bring it up.
The rest of the day was decent, we went into town to pick up some food and sundries, and spent most of the day relaxing on the deck in the sun.
The next day, several bizarre things happened that was enough for us to pack up and leave early.
Day Five: Part 1
Things get way too real
We took the canoe, and spent most of the day out on the lake. We left Rabbit at the cottage for the day, promising him a full day of swimming tomorrow to ease our guilt.
It was a bright and cheerful day, and it was easy to forget the events from a couple nights ago. In fact, it started to feel downright silly.
After paddling around our part of the lake for most of the day, stopping to fish, snack and drink, we decided to paddle across to the far side of the lake where the other cottage was located. We could see the dock that must belong to the cottage, but not much else. So we started paddling, in no real hurry.
After about 15 minutes, we meandered over. The dock was empty except for some debris and a wrecked rowboat. We were surprised to find that the cottage here had actually long since collapsed. A green roof lay a few feet above the ground, and there were old wood boards everywhere. Cinder blocks lay amidst the overgrowth, and there was nothing else. There was a hole in the roof and it looked like some enterprising animal had made a den within.
Beth suggested we go check it out. I felt strongly that we shouldn’t. I said that it didn’t look safe, and that it was already getting turning into evening. Secretly, I really wanted to head back before dusk.
It didn’t quite happen that way, Beth wanted to paddle around more at the very least, so we killed another hour before leisurely meandered back to our part of the lake. By now, the sun had set behind the tree line, and mist had started to creep over the surface of the lake, reflecting grey and somber light over everything. It went from bright and cheery, to dreary and depressing in a matter of minutes. Things got cool quickly, and it was a bit tougher paddling against the wind which had picked up substantially.
“Oh, shit.” I said, and I’ll never forget that moment when I looked over to our deck where we were headed, to see the figure of a man standing there. Beth saw him, too. We instinctively stopped rowing. “Now who the fuck is he,” I said, annoyed and terrified. A really strange combination of feelings.
The man was far enough that we could make out only the vaguest details, but beyond arms, legs, and what appeared to be rain coat, it was hard to discern much more. He was thin and he stood start still. Beth waved an arm, but he didn’t wave back.
“Maybe it’s the owner? Come to check on us, see how his guests were doing?” Beth suggested. I wasn’t too sure about that. Why come and check on the fifth day? Why not a phone call? I wasn’t buying it. It was getting quite dark. “Well, is it rude to just be sitting here. I think he’s waiting for us,” she said.
I didn’t care. I’d rather sit out on the lake as the mist crept around us, than to paddle over to our dock where this man was standing there. So we sat there for a while.
“OK, now I’m scared as shit,” Beth said. The man hadn’t moved at all. I felt a little comforted that I wasn’t the only one behaving irrationally. Before we knew it, the mist had encroached over everything and both the man and the dock faded from view. All we could see was grey.
I slowly put my paddle into the water, and gently nudged us forward. I just wanted to get close enough where the mist parted so we could see the dock again. Then I planned to stop, and just watch. After a dozen gentle strokes, the tip of the dock reappeared from the mist. I let us coast for a while until the whole thing was in view. The man was gone. I heard Beth gasped.
Enough was enough. I paddled on, really annoyed for some reason, and we got to the dock. I helped my wife out, and we pulled the boat up and left it there. We said “Hello?” a few times, but heard nothing. Beth was clinging to my arm and fright and cold was making her shake.
Now I wanted to get back to the house and be indoors as quickly as possible, and that meant a brief march up the path, through the woods, in the dark, in the fog. But it had to get done. We hadn’t planned on being out here till dusk, so I didn’t bring a light.
The trail was easy enough to follow, but we just couldn’t see beyond 10’. We walked, awkwardly and stiffly as Beth clung to me, trying to not step on each others feet and wishing that Rabbit was with us.
As always, once we got under the trees, it became oppressively dark, still and quiet. We were breathing heavily as the way was uphill, and we were both cold and spooked out of our minds. I tried to keep focus, remembering that it was only five minute walk, and that’s it.
And then we heard it. crunch-crunch-shuffle Beth pinched my arm, and we both ran for it. crunch-crunch-shuffle… pant-pant…
In the distance, we could hear Rabbit barking. Rabbit never barked. Of his four years alive, he might have barked twice, by accident. But he was barking loud, almost angry. Or fearful?
I heard the crunch-crunch-shuffle somewhere behind, far enough, but still distinct, and we were at the end of the path, we scurried across the grass, up the stairs, opened the door, and threw ourselves inside. We were wet, sweaty, panting and scared stupid. Then we laughed. For a bit. Then I remembered that Rabbit had been cooped up all day, and he at least needed to go out and do his business. I gave it a few minutes to catch my breath. Things were quiet again, and I took him back out while Beth stood on the porch and looked around.
Rabbit peed, and then suddenly started barking into the mist. Did I see a man move through the mist? It was impossible to tell. I had had enough of being outside for the day, so in we went. I kept by the window, looking out for any signs of movement.
“OK. This is the scariest shit, ever.” I finally admitted to Beth. She agreed. We tried to have a laugh over it, but we were both genuinely pretty spooked.
By now, it had gotten really windy. So much that sometimes the gusts shook the whole house.
During the day, Rabbit, home alone, must have knocked over the main lamp in the common room, so it lay busted on the floor. I remembered that there was a lamp in the spare bedroom, so I headed down the hallway.
The spare bedroom door was closed. Funny, I don’t remember closing it. I assumed Beth did. Now it started to feel creepy inside the house. I opened the door, and looked in, there were no light switches, so I tried to make out the layout of the room in the dimness. There were two small beds on opposite walls, in between them was a small table upon which was the lamp I was after.
I crossed the room toward the lamp, walking between the two small beds. I saw that the covers had been disturbed, on both beds, and that there was a dent in one of the pillows.
I assumed Rabbit had been in here, maybe napping during the day. But the door had been closed. This started to not feel right.
I grabbed the lamp, and realized I would have to unplug it first before I could get it out. The plug was behind the right-side bed’s headboard. I bent down, getting on my hands and knees, and peered under the bed. And there she was, the little girl, white-faced, peering back out at me.
I swear I saw this, but when I jerked my head back, I whacked it against the edge of the beam and my eyes flashed. Of course there was no one under there. My stupid imagination had projected that image into the real world. I grabbed the cord and yanked it from the plug, snatched the lamp, and marched out of the room. I walked down the hallway, and heard the door gently close itself behind me. I was holding the lamp in one hand, and I had bunched the cord up in the other hand, so there was no way I had closed that door on my way out. Rabbit was waiting for me at the end of the hallway.
I decided against telling my wife this, we had enough of a freaky evening, and she was just loosening up with some wine now. She had the wood-burning stove going and I could have been fooled into thinking everything was warm and cozy and fine. But I was a nervous wreck. I wanted to get out now, call it quits, pick our stuff up, and leave. Now. I don’t think Rabbit would have minded either.
But we didn’t. Not yet.
Day Five: Part 2
In the middle of the night, when we had split almost a whole bottle between us, I woke to sounds coming from the end of hallway again. The wind had died down, there was the occasional gust, but it was otherwise pretty quiet outside. I waited, and heard it again.
Tap-tap-tap-tap. Scratch. Tapping on the window in the other room. Then the rustle of something shifting on the bed, possibly blankets being pushed around.
I looked up. Rabbit was at the foot of the bed, his head was looking in the same direction, his ears were up and he was stalk still.
Tap-Tap. Rustle-rustle. Creak. Still from inside the house.
Rabbit started to growl, that deep, low internal growl that he does when he’s not happy about something.
That came from outside. The play house door. Followed by the familiar rattle of windows. Beth was now awake, and when I looked over, all I saw were her eyes wide and bright and staring at me. She was almost on the verge of tears, and I tried to say “Shh. It’s fine…” But she cut me off. She told me, in a whisper, she remembers what she dreamed of the other day. I nodded. “Was it the little girl?” She looked panicked now.
From the end of the hall way. The door creaked open. Pause. Then closed shut. With a click. Rabbit had stopped growling, but he hadn’t moved. He was staring intently at our bedroom door, which I had closed. There was the sound of something moving through the house. Softly, very carefully, moving. I could have convinced myself I was imagining it, if it hadn’t been for Rabbit. I watched Rabbit turn his head as he tracked the sound moving from the back of the house to the front where our bed room was. Then his head turned as he tracked it back the other way. By now, I couldn’t hear much, just the odd creak and rustle, but Rabbit was very aware of something.
We lay there for a long time for maybe an hour. Then we heard it, and this time it was close, it was right outside the bedroom window.
“It’s her,” Beth said. I really really wished she didn’t say that. There was a flash light next to the bed, I thought about going to the window, and playing the light around outside. I imagined seeing a little girl crawling around through the leaves on her hands and knees under the moonlight. I decided not to do this.
We lay there, with Rabbit at our feet, listening to the shuffling and crunching of something crawling around outside the house. This must have went on for only a few minutes, but it felt like hours. Neither of us moved, and it had gotten really cold, or we had scared ourselves silly that we were feeling cold. Either way, it was the most uncomfortable, most terrifying situation I could ever remember.
We decided not to stay another night, and as soon as the first crack of sunlight appeared through the window, we got out of bed, packed our stuff, and within an hour, we were in the car.
On the ride home, we didn’t talk much, and when we did, we talked about what we experienced. I had asked Beth if she ever closed that spare bedroom door. She doesn’t remember that she did. I had asked her if she ever went in there. She confessed to me that since day one, she didn’t feel right going down the hall to the spare room.
The first day, she had been looking for some blankets, and when she headed down there check if there were any, she was struck by a strange feeling that made her stop. She said she felt weird going in there as if she were intruding. She knew we were guests in someone’s house, so the feeling of being in an unfamiliar home was always present no matter what, but still, she said she had this irrational desire to not want to go in there.
I didn’t blame her, I told her I felt strange while I was in there getting the lamp, and that I might have let my imagination get the better of me as I recalled the “dream” she said she had had about the little girl crawling around under the trees.
This is just a follow-up thread to my original story about our Five days at the lake.
A got a few PMs asking how real this place was, so I thought I’d dig up some of the photos I had backed up a couple years ago and share them with you.
So here you’ll see:
- The play house. This was taken when we just arrived so it’s the exterior. I didn’t think to shoot the interior, and after the experience, I didn’t go near it
- This was one of the spookiest parts of the lake
- This was how dark the path got while it was still light out
- A shot of the collapse. More shots in the photo album.
- Needless to say, I did not take a shot of the spare bedroom, this was grabbed from the cottage’s website
Some more photos are here: http://smugcanuck.imgur.com/five_days_at_the_lake