I Can See You
The following story occurred during an off season camping trip in 98'. I was attending Humboldt State University at the time and I'd just experienced a particularly stressful week. My girlfriend of two years was leaving me, I was failing several classes, and it was the anniversary of my mother's death. I convinced my dorm mate and two of his buddies to head south to a lake area I knew of to relieve some stress.
We filled my van with beer, hot dogs, chips, and various items to smoke, typical college stuff. We arrived at the campsite as the sun was setting over the lake. Being the off season we were the only campers on the south side of the lake that I could see, possibly in the entire camp ground. I remember that there was nothing particularly menacing about the location. There were just tall trees, mountains on the horizon, and a beautiful lake with the sun setting behind it.
We set up camp and got down to the serious business of pounding beers and goofing off. I remember around my third beer, I felt all the stress and pressure of the last few weeks pass to the back of my head. What a relief. My buddy Ryan was playing his guitar, we had a nice campfire going, his two friends Chad and Gareth were arguing the finer points of hot dog roasting, and the sky was filled with brilliant stars. The vibes were good. What could go wrong?
Fast forward two hours. We'd switched from beer to Vodka. You know the generic bottles in the grocery store that just say Vodka? Sadly, that's what we were imbibing. Ryan was just coming back from taking a leak in the woods and excitedly told us that he'd found something cool.
He'd stumbled across a cheap plastic Ouija board, apparently left by other campers. The board was the typical flimsy kind that you'll find in any toy store inside any mall. It looked like it had been tossed in the fire, the back of it was black with soot and warped in places. Surprisingly, the top of the board was nearly pristine despite some rough scratches near the bottom. Chad was the only one who'd ever used an Ouija board before and suggested it might be fun to give it a try.
We sat the board on top of the ice cooler and gathered around it. Chad said we needed some sort of pointer. I slapped an empty beer bottle down on the board. “That works,” he said. We were ready to play beer bottle Ouija!
We started moving the bottle around the board and Chad asked if any spirits were there. Gareth let loose a loud fart. Chad kicked him saying something about being respectful. Nothing happened. The bottle pointed to 1, then to E, then to 9, just random gibberish. Ryan forced the bottle to spell out a bad word which Chad was NOT happy about.
“This is retarded,” I thought to myself. That's when Chad asked one final time if there was anything in the woods that wanted to make its presence known.
The board spelled out slowly in a jerking manner “I can see you.”
Chad asked for the name of the entity that was making the bottle move. We waited for several minutes... and nothing happened. Bored, I started thinking about the hot dogs that were sitting in the cooler. I looked at all of our hands grasping the bottle and realized that I was basically holding hands with three other guys. Lame!
Just as we were about to give up the board again spelled out “I can see you.”
Just slightly creeped out, I scanned the dark edges of the camp site. The fire created flickering shadows that seemed to dance in and out amongst the trees. Shadowy images appeared to fade in and out of my peripheral vision, teasing me. I felt that classic tingling sensation rise up the back of my spine. The one you get when reading a good ghost story, or watching a movie by Michael Bay.
Chad asked a series of questions that I can't remember but I do recall wanting to stop using the board. Again nothing happened for several minutes and one the guys suggested we play cards. That sounded just fine to me.
The bottle suddenly jerked over to the I and again spelled out “I can see you.” Without pausing it then repeated the phrase, this time faster. And then again. And once more, this time the bottle racing very quickly across the board as if the surface were made of smooth ice.
"This is dumb, let's do something else,” Ryan said, his voice having an edge to it that I'd never heard before.
Chad said, “Um guys, there's no goodbye on the board.”
"Yeah? Who cares,” I responded getting ready to stand up.
"Moving the pointer to goodbye is the only proper way to end a session. Otherwise whatever is communicating with us through the board can't leave! See the scratch marks on the lower part of the board? That's where it should say goodbye,” said Chad.
“I'm done,” I said, taking my hands off the bottle and standing up and away from the board. Ryan and Chad did the same.
Gareth said, “Not cool!” He placed the bottle on its side and gave it a hard spin.
We all backed away from the board and stood for a moment, frozen in silence. We looked like a bunch of frightened kids. And then we all burst out laughing.
“Dude, who needs a beer!” Ryan said.
“Screw that, I need a shot!” I exclaimed.
We moved back to the cooler. Someone remarked that the bottle was still spinning. It was very slowing moving counter clockwise in the center of the board. Then it stopped, the tip of the bottle resting above the “I.” I don't mean that it lost its momentum and slowed down peacefully, I mean it freaking STOPPED like someone slammed their hand down on the bottle.
Without hesitating Ryan kicked the board off the cooler, grabbed it, and hucked that sucker right into the fire. I'd had enough and was rummaging through the cooler for a drink, ANY drink. I'm glad my hand pulled out a beer and not the bottle of Vodka because I probably would have downed the remaining half in one gulp!
I looked at the campfire, so warm and comforting just an hour ago. The Ouija board was sitting in the flames, only it was not burning! It wasn't melting, it wasn't turning black, no warping, nothing. It just sat there in the fire looking almost cool enough to touch.
This will sound melodramatic, but I suddenly felt a wave of nauseousness flood over me. My ears started ringing and I felt like I was going to pass out. I lowered my head and knelt down on one knee to keep all the blood from rushing out of my head.
Then a bell started clanging loudly. I'll repeat that, we heard a freaking bell in the middle of the woods! It sounded like it was coming from the other side of the campground. The weird thing is that it didn't seem to be level with us. It almost sounded like it was coming from slightly above the camp. The sound reminded me of one of those huge church bells only it was off somehow, if that makes any sense. It was like the first part of the clang was sped up, but the last part as it would fade away slowed down abnormally, almost like a distorted tape recording. Listening to it made my head hurt. I felt dizzy, like I was going to throw up.
As far as I know there are no structures around the lake except for a small rangers office on the north side. There are certainly no churches anywhere within at least 60 miles and no building that I'm aware of within earshot that would make a sound like that.
Almost immediately we all ran to the van, started that sucker up and sped off. I think I would have had a minor heart attack if the engine had stalled. We left everything at the campsite. Ryan's guitar, an ice cooler full of drinks and food, camping gear, I mean everything.
Now normally, when a college guy wets his pants, it's from drinking far too much and occurs during a deep drunken sleep. Pictures are taken and the poor individual never lives it down. Years later people recount jolly stories about the time their buddy wet himself and received a sharpie makeover.
Ryan wet himself that night in front of us all, right when that hellish bell started ringing. No one ever said a word about it.
I think back to that night sometimes and wonder was it just the beer and Vodka? They say that mixing drinks is a bad idea. Did it have something to do with what we were smoking?
I've always come to the conclusion that it wasn't some alcohol fueled hysteria. Later after sobering up, we recalled experiencing the exact same things. Whatever it was I haven't been camping in over ten years. I still hear that weird bell sometimes in my nightmares. The way it sped up and slowed down almost made it seem like it was partially in our world, and at the same time somewhere else.