“Don’t see what the fuss is,” Jim said as he lit another cigarette, “They been there forever, and how many kids go missing for ‘em? None!”
Jim is a retired construction worker who just recently moved from Omaha to his lake house on Long Lake in Nebraska. His wife was quietly reading next to him on the blue bench in the smoking booth of the airport we met at as the couple waited to board their flight back home.
“Jimmy! Just tell your story, Lord knows you won’t make it interesting,” Jim’s wife urges then abruptly goes back to her book as Jim gives her an even look.
“Aright,” he puffs, “It’s basic. Boring. Basically boring. Still want to hear?”
Of course, I do want to hear his story. I tell him as much, he nods in response.
“Been keepin’ a house at the lake for best part of thirty years,” his story is always between drags from his cigarettes. He continues as he lights another, “Nothin’ out there but for the lake and woods, a few other cabins on the shore. Dirt road to our place ain’t on the maps, got a PO Box in Valentine, and drink lake water – after it goes through the house filters. So far from civilization got its perks – one of ‘em ain’t the utilities. Got our own septic, water, satellite TV, five-hundred gallon propane tank, and compost heap, don’t pay a thing for none of it. Well… they run us a line of power ’bout fifteen years back, but it’s cheap – from them wind-turbines on some of them farms. It’s the garbage disposal that you’ll want to hear about, though.”
I wondered why I’d want to hear about their garbage disposal, and soon found that I had been thinking of the kitchen appliance. Jim was talking about the actual service that takes trash from city-owned barrels from the front of my home every Monday, and that he had no such service at his home on Long Lake.
“So, we burn it,” Jim said, his cigarette glowing. He put the butt out and began another, “Once a week we burn the trash. That means it piles up for a week. Critters love trash. Raccoons, squirrels, feral cats, the occasional coyote or fox – stupid rats, too. So I built us a pen, maybe twenty years back to store our trash in to keep it away from the critters. Chain-linked all ’round – even the top, with a gate to get in’n'out. It worked – still does, mostly.”
“Mostly?” I asked, feeling his story was coming to its point.
“Mostly,” he puffed, “Except that some of the bigger… smarter… critters open the damn thing up anyway! Locks are no good – once, twice a month they’d just break in and take what they want – tear a section of fence off the posts, bend the gate latch, smash the roof off its clasps… Make an awful mess of the damned place, throw trash and compost everywhere – draw critters from all parts of the wood to our property! I stopped locking it up – figured one day the bears would get fed up and think it easier to break into the house instead. Damned expensive having to replace the fencing anyway.”
“What was so smart,” I rephrased my question, “What was strong enough to break into your trash pen?”
“Bearmen, I figure,” he said before taking another drag.
“Oh, call ‘em what you will – Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti, and what have you. We always called ‘em Bearmen where I’m from,” Jim explained. He finished his cigarette and didn’t light another one as he continued, “Big, dark-furred thing, moves like a man but has the size of a bear. Don’t talk much, but they watch, they steal.”
“They don’t talk much?” I had to get some clarification on this point, “You’ve heard them talk?”
“Don’t play the fool, boy, they talk like a bear does! They grunt and growl, little guttural barks and snuffs,” Jim shakes his head, “They don’t got words like us. Back to point, they visit my trash a couple times a month. Long as it’s not locked, they open the gate, close it when they done, and go on their way.”
“You’ve seen them do this?” I ask, “You’ve seen them come and go?”
“Sure, but not much,” Jim repositions himself on the bench and leans forwards a bit. His wife looks at him over the pages of her book as he describes his encounter, “One night I got up, old leg injury was keeping sleep from me. Went down to sit on the porch with a mug of hot cocoa and watch the stars shine off the lake for a bit, hopin’ to get drowsed before going back to bed.
I was damned near asleep in my chair when the gate hinge’s little squeak-and-click woke me. The moon was half and the stars were bright, so I saw ‘em clear enough. Big – twice my size – and shaggy with fur, two of ‘em opened the trash pen and gorged themselves! First I figured them for bears, so I didn’t move a muscle – it was fast, maybe five minutes before they left. It was their leavin’ that made me see they weren’t no bears. Bears don’t close gates behind themselves. I still didn’t move, but was staring so hard they must have felt my eyes on ‘em for one left and disappeared in the trees while the other looked right at me and grunted before following the other!”
“Jim…” his wife chimed in.
“Dammit, Ellie! What?”
Jim’s wife shrugged and went back to her book.
“What happened then?” I asked.
“Two things,” Jim answers, “I didn’t get no sleep that night and I figured out how critters was still getting into the trash with a gate. They don’t make near the mess when they get in easy – like they’re mad at me for putting a padlock on the gate, they make a mess then. But that’s it. I figure they still come by a couple times a month, but they don’t keep no regular schedule and I guess I like it that way. Eleanor here thinks I make my cocoa a little too strong, that it’s the strong-cocoa made me see Bear-Men. She’s not from the plains, we know about Bear-Men in the country. They want to be left alone, and we leave ‘em – what’s it hurtin’?”
Next Week’s Everyday Paranormal Experiences, Interview #4: “Haunted: Wolf-Hollow”
On the Article Series:
I myself am a huge skeptic of all things paranormal or extra-terrestrial and I tend to take most tales of either with a huge grain of salt – sometimes even an entire salt shaker, depending on the tale that’s being weaved. I have even had a couple ghostly and otherworldly experiences myself, which I may relate in later stories – and I’m skeptical of those! Is what I experienced the truth of the experience or is there an empirical explanation that I simply have not yet unlocked? Regardless of my skeptical nature, ghost stories and alien encounters have always fascinated me as they have all of humanity for thousands of years.
It is this fascination that I wish to convey in a unique and different paranormal or alien experience every week – Thursday, to be exact. I will be conducting interviews with everyday people to hear their stories and relate them back to you, the Paranoid Gamers. Perhaps I’ll be interviewing some of you, as well.
Do you have an experience of a haunted item, place, or person? Have you been visited by aliens or heretofore undocumented intelligent life – terrestrial or extra so? If you’d like to share your experience and possibly have your tale published in this series of articles, please contact me and we can relive your experience.