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June 30, 2006
Footsteps at Nashua Fresh Air CampRate this encounter: William J. Corriveau, Greenfield, New Hampshire, Summer 1988
It was told to me once that my grandfather attended this summer camp. At that time I’m sure the camp had a different name like “Camp Greggson” or “Watananock”. It was told to me once that my father and my uncles attended this camp too. I’m sure it’s possible, it was an old camp.
Nashua Fresh Air Camp, nestled in Greenfield, New Hampshire on Sunset Lake at the base of Crotched Mountain, unfortunately closed now, was my home for a few weeks every summer from the age of six to the age of twelve. My story takes place when I was around 10 years old (1988ish).
I was being punished that night, I had a horrible temper. I had decided to punch a fellow camper in the back at dinner because he wouldn’t stop slurping his tomato soup. My punishment, sit outside the Nurses Office on a small group of boulders and get eaten by mosquitoes.
Horrible time to be punished, it was mid-session and everyone was celebrating with a bonfire down at the waterfront. I had heard of the games they were going to play and occasionally I could hear their laughter being carried on the wind to my rock.
Mosquitoes are ruthless, and even though I had tented my t-shirt around my legs and tucked my arms inside, they managed to still bite me on every surface possible.
For a bit of relief, I concocted a story that I had to use the bathroom or something and entered the nurse’s office. I shouted for the nurse but received no answer. I shouted for a counselor and received no answer as well. After a little exploring, I discovered that I was alone.
I decided to go back to my cabin and read a book.
There were four main cabins that I knew of that were reserved for campers; “Bunny Hole”, for the newest and youngest of campers, “Eagles Nest”, for those who were a bit older, “Hawk Eye”, for the oldest campers, and “Dugout” which seemed to have different use every year I went to camp.
That year “Dugout” was being used for the oldest campers and “Hawk Eye” had been turned into a cabin for camp counselors. And this is where I stayed that year, “Dugout”.
To get to “Dugout” you took a narrow road/trail from the Nurse’s Office, passed the other three cabins which were relatively close together on the right side of the trail, took a left turn after the Bathrooms onto a new wide rocky trail leading up the mountain. This trail ended at “Dugout”.
Each cabin held 24 campers. Four single wooden beds lined the walls on the left and right side of the cabin. The center of the cabin held 8 sets of wooden bunkbeds attached head to toe and side to side. There was a large room at the front of the cabin as you walked in where cubby-holes were found to place your personal stuff in. This room was separated from the sleeping area by a wall with two doorframes, one to enter the left side of the sleeping area, the other to enter the right. At the backend of the cabin was a single room reserved for the Cabin Counselor.
My bunk that year was bottom-bunk, third toward the back, on the left side of the cabin.
When I arrived at my cabin the lights were on. I called out a “hello” or two but nobody answered. I checked the counselor’s room and found it empty. Fine by me. I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway.
I crawled underneath my covers and broke out my collection of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, careful as to not get too comfortable in case someone should enter the cabin and I’d be forced to slip underneath my bed quickly.
I must have read for awhile because when someone did enter I didn’t hear them coming.
I was startled from my reading, the front door of the cabin swung open and slammed back again viciously, bouncing off the doorframe as the spring tried to return it. A heavy set of footsteps entered the front room. Those footsteps told me it wasn’t a camper. Darn. Busted.
I had been lying on my stomach propped up on my elbows so I flattened myself down on my bed in hope that I wouldn’t be noticed. The footsteps circled the front room restlessly and it sounded like whoever they belonged to was searching through the cubby-holes. From my position I couldn’t see who it was because they weren’t walking far enough left or right to reveal themselves in the doorframes.
I was lying there on my bunk, eyes darting back and forth from doorframe to doorframe, trying to catch a glimpse of someone as my ears followed the footsteps, when they shuffled to a stop. Silence. I held my breath because of all the noise it was making.
What happened next came fast and infinitely slow at the same time. With a greater haste the footsteps resumed and traveled to the left side of the front room. I followed them with my ears and my eyes. Their intention was unmistakable, they were going to walk down the left side of the cabin, down the corridor between the beds and most importantly past my bed.
When my ears started telling my eyes that I should definitely be seeing someone now, I’m sure I was only confused for a fraction of a second. But when my ears directed my eyes to where they were hearing the footsteps I was frozen with fright because I could see the footsteps.
A heavy imprint in the wooden floors, a puff of dust, the retracting of released weight, the floor thundered and moved with the progression of steps that made their way down the corridor, past my bunk (an arms reach away from me), and entered the counselor’s room at the far end without disturbing the curtain that separated the rooms.
I sprang from my bed and exited the cabin, ran down the rocky trails at break neck speed all the way to the nurse’s office. Still no one there. I resumed my punishment on the rock and waited the rest of the night until everyone returned from the waterfront. I never told anyone there.