Writing 101: Day 13

Day Thirteen: Serially Found:MILLERSYLVANIA PART IV

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something. Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

How many readers have witnessed a murder? How many have found someone who’s dead? How many have gone to court as a witness in a murder trial?
In past posts, I’ve mentioned the stray sod. You do remember there is such a thing, right?

Entrance. Photo taken by Callie Cobb
Entrance. Photo taken by Callie Cobb

Millersylvania Part I

There is a place in southwest Washington where the swirling mist wraps around your ankles and tries to suck you down into the rotting swamps with their tangled weeds, where the chilling blood cry of the cougar shakes ones bones in the night and where the spine shivering squeals and grunts of shadowed elk awaken you from the uneasy depths of sleep in the morning. It is a place of murder and mystery, the likes of which you dare not adventure into, unless you were dragged here as a victim never to walk out again, or you are me. . . .

MILLERSYLVANIA PART IV (because this is also an excerpt from a book I’m working on.)

Here’s a copy of the first half of a letter I wrote.

SUBJECT: Inquiry and investigation request

ATTENTION: Sheriff XXXXXXXX

The swamp. Photo by Lenee Cobb
The swamp. Photo by Lenee Cobb

Background: I was a camp counselor at Millersylvania four times. One week during the fall 1973, and one week during the spring of 1974, and one week during the fall of 1974 and one week during the spring of 1975.

During the fall of 1973, my first time as a camp counselor, my friend and I went walking one night (the teaching staff would give us counselors a bit of a break after the kids were asleep.) We walked from the group camp area, where we were, and turned right on the road towards the public area of the park. Just at the spot where the trail (mini road) shoots off to the left to run past the park ranger, XXX’s home, (which was hid in the woods,) there is a swampy meadow on the left hand side. The moon was out a little bit. It shone down upon the swamp sometimes and at other times it was blocked by clouds. Fog swirled. A skunk wandered out onto the road. My friend and I walked a safe distance behind the skunk, watching the moon glow on the white of it’s back.

The swampy-forested swamp was on our right (lakeside) and it was real dark there. We could not see anything past a couple of feet to the side of the road in that direction. A little bit further and the skunk meandered off, back into the meadow swamp on a small game trail through the tall marsh grasses to our left. We watched him disappear and continued walking towards the public camp area. As we neared the gate that separated the public area from the group camp area, we heard a blood-chilling scream in the swamp forest on our right. We both jumped. It sounded very close to us, just inside the blackness to our right. Someone was being murdered. And we could not see anything. We were petrified.

Millersylvania Restrooms in moonlight. Photo by Lenee Cobb
Millersylvania Restrooms in moonlight. Photo by Lenee Cobb

We returned to the group camp area and informed the teaching staff and fellow counselors. We were laughed at. We were told it was a cougar we’d heard. We were told we were just making it up. We did go to that area again during map and compass the next day and looked around the area between the road and the trees but we found nothing. We let it go.

During that first time as a camp counselor, another counselor and I took our cabins of kids on a hike. We hiked inside the woods up the hill behind the fields where soccer and archery were played, where the deer track casts are made, and continued our hike up the hill, following a trail. We hiked up to where there was a barbed wire fence at what we supposed was the property border. Down the other side of this hill, we could see a small lake. We continued to investigate this area by the back fence as it rounded a corner, and found the forest floor just off the trail was full of traps–animal traps–the steel ones, not crates, so we told the kids to stay on the main trail (mini road). Beneath a strand of conifers, we came across old rusted buckets and a cross. The cross was made out of two relatively small sticks and it looked like it was freshly made. Dirt beside the cross looked disturbed and the size of a grave. The kids got scared. We told the kids we found Mr. Millers cabin and gravesite. (That made it cool.) Later, kids all bragged about finding it to the other cabins. It was their coup. However, the other counselor and I were upset over the traps and the grave.

When I could, I went back up there with another counselor. He picked up a 3-foot long branch and stuck it down into the grave. It hit no rocks. He got another stick and placed it on the end of the other one and pushed. They both went down as far as they would and did not hit any rocks to stop them. He concluded that what we found was a real grave, and fresh. When we got back, we reported what we found to the teaching staff and recommended the area be checked out, if not because of the grave, then because of the traps.

We expected that area to be investigated at that time.

When I went there again in spring, nothing had changed but the season, the kids, and us counselors. (We were always a different group of counselors.) Once again, I took my cabin kids and another counselor and their kids on a hike up the hill to see the site of what “might be” the site of “old Mr. Miller’s cabin.” Imagine my surprise to find the traps still there, and the grave not only untouched, but the marker of small sticks was up and it shouldn’t have been, really, with wind and winter and maybe getting bumped or investigated. No, that marker and grave with little to no debris looked kept up. I was irritated because of the traps and the kids and I knew we were not the only schools coming here with kids in our care. Once back at camp, I again alerted the staff to the problem and was told to just “keep the kids away from that area.”

And the next fall, nothing had changed either.

Now I do not remember if it was fall of 74 or spring of 75 but it seems like it was fall, when the next disturbing incident happened. This was my senior year. Us camp counselors always arrived a day earlier than the kids to get things ready. This time was no different. The day had been overcast. All us counselors were sitting at the big fire pit it seems to me it was in the evening, just before twilight, when this man dressed in all white, white linens maybe– like as he was a doctor or a patient–ran by us panting, and stopped and gave us all the strangest scariest look. One of the guys in our group stood up and said something like “Hey! What are you doing here? This is a private . . .” and the man in white took off running down the road in the opposite direction (the opposite direction from the public camp area,) and he ran into the woods to the left of our group camp area (if you are facing the main entrance to the big kitchen, these woods are to the left) and we chased him. All of us were from Lakewood (Clover Park H.S.,) and we were thinking he looked like a Western State escapee. (W.S. escapees were plentiful in Lakewood in those years.) We chased him through the woods and boy did those woods get thick. The trees grew close together and their twiggy branches were in the way, tangling us. We lost him as dusk settled, around where the woods opened up into a sort of circular clear-cut or a swamp or something—a depression in the ground—where there was no more forest, anyway. We got out of there because it was getting dark fast. That man gave us the creeps.

What do you see? Photo taken by Callie Cobb at Millersylvania swamp.
What do you see? Photo taken by Callie Cobb at Millersylvania swamp.

The spring of my senior year, I hiked again up the hill to the backside of Millersylvania and again visited the grave with another counselor and our kids. It had, like always, a freshly made stick cross. Nothing had been done about it yet so this time, instead of just telling the staff, . . .

To be continued. The stray sod will surface again.

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