Campfire Ghost Story: Quinebaug River, Canterbury, CT
Earlier in the week, I asked the landowner permission to camp and fish on his property. He was glad I asked. Years ago he and his boys cleared a campsite. You can’t miss it, he said. I drove the truck down through the hardwood, skirted the edges of the open hay fields and stopped in the vicinity the landowner described. Walking toward the river searching for the campsite and not 10 yards into the woods Josh stumbled—literally—across an old headstone. It’s common to come across old family cemetery plots in New England woods for what is now second- or third-generation forest growth was cleared farmland centuries ago. The plot no doubt belonged to the original owner of the property and I hoped Josh did not disturb old Jonathon’s rest, I joked. The campsite was nearby. The river was low. Rocks hidden in the spring now afforded steps to pools that held fish. At dust I cleaned the smallmouths and perch; my son, Josh, started the fire. Dusted in flour and fried in a bit of butter in a cast iron skillet over the coals, the fish hardly satisfied my teenager’s hunger. He opened a can of beef stew and placed it next to the fire. The slow moving Quinebaug gurgled as the night sky grew inkier the campfire glowed. Night creatures began their serenade. Josh stirred the stew with a spoon. Did I ever tell you about—Josh finished my sentence—the story of Three-Finger Jack who preys on unsuspecting campers? I’ve heard it few times, dad. And as if on cue, the propane lantern died. How about the Jewett City vampires? In the firelight I could see Josh roll his eyes. I took that as a sign to continue. Years and years ago—before cars and iPods—across this river in a town called Jewett City there was a family burial plot. A lot like the one we found today. People reported strange things. It was said a family of vampires slept in the plot during the day and at night roamed the country side looking for victims to feed on. There were very few who lived to tell the story of their glowing white faces or their screech like an owl just before they pounced. I jumped toward Josh for dramatic effect. Josh acted nonchalant. Yeah, right, dad. Then the screeching sound started in the distance. We saw spots of light moving through the woods. They were coming closer. Josh, wide eyed and mouth gaping dropped his can of stew. The lights grew brighter. The sound deafening. I’ll admit my heart skipped a beat. The landowner and his boys parked their ATVs next to the fire and switched off their headlights. I thought we’d stop by and ask about the fishing said the landowner. Josh, visibly relieved the Jewett City vampires had not appeared, salvaged what he could of his stew.