Marchers in the Woods
When I was young, in the Boy Scouts, I went to summer camp in a remote spot on the Mason Dixon line. It was fameous for being on the route of the South’s retreat from the defeat at Gettysburg.
There was a story that there was a lost patrol that still marched through there, on moonless nights. Anyone they noticed would be conscripted to join them.
It was one of many campfire stories we told, and I might have forgotten all about it, except for or one night. I woke up to the sound of drums in the woods.
The camp was silent. I cracked open the flap and froze. On the path a troop was marching through a low fog. Most were wounded, all wearing civil war uniforms, rucksacks, carrying muskets slung over the shoulder; as they marched a single drummer ticked off the time.
I tried not to even breathe as they marched by. Finally the last soldier came into view, and something about him really sent a chill through me. Just as they were about to go out of sight his head whipped around, and I thought our eyes met for a moment.
Soon after my family moved far away from Pennsylvania, and I convinced myself it was all a bad dream. I moved back here last month, and have been hearing drums late at night.
The new moon is soon, and I figured out what was disturbing about that last soldier. He wasn’t wearing a Civil War uniform. He wore a Boy Scout uniform.
There was a hunter in the woods, who, after a long day hunting, was in the middle of an immense forest. It was getting dark, and having lost his bearings, he decided to head in one direction until he was clear of the increasingly oppressive foliage. After what seemed like hours, he came across a cabin in a small clearing. Realizing how dark it had grown, he decided to see if he could stay there for the night. He approached, and found the door ajar. Nobody was inside. The hunter flopped down on the single bed, deciding to explain himself to the owner in the morning.
As he looked around the inside of the cabin, he was surprised to see the walls adorned by several portraits, all painted in incredible detail. Without exception, they appeared to be staring down at him, their features twisted into looks of hatred and malice. Staring back, he grew increasingly uncomfortable. Making a concerted effort to ignore the many hateful faces, he turned to face the wall, and exhausted, he fell into a restless sleep.
The next morning, the hunter awoke — he turned, blinking in unexpected sunlight. Looking up, he discovered that the cabin had no portraits, only windows.
Coffins used to be built with holes in them, attached to six feet of copper tubing and a bell. The tubing would allow air for victims buried under the mistaken impression they were dead. Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied.
“You Sarah O’Bannon?”
“Yes!” the voice assured.
“You were born on September 17, 1827?”
“The gravestone here says you died on February 19?”
“No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!”
“Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”