It has been a drab, dreary week at the shore. Right now, the skies are gray, and there is a dampness surrounding everything. We’ve had the type of rain that doesn’t necessarily come down in great quantity, but that seems to soak to the core of everything. If you go out walking, your shoes are liable to come back wet and your pants legs are probably going to be in the same boat. Days like these make you long for soup and a warm drink. They make you want to stay under a blanket, no matter where you are.
This week we didn’t have too many guests–the October retreat season rush is giving way to the November cool down. With Halloween, All Saints Day this week, and this gloomy weather, you can’t help but think of all those stories you heard and told here at camp. Maybe you were sitting around the camp fire, late one night when a fog rose off the lake on the dark night of a new moon. Maybe, you were hidden under a sheet with a few friends and a flashlight. Maybe you and a friend were walking back to your cabin, when the creatures of the night began to come out of their dens. Some of the scariest stories I know were told to me in a Lakeshore cabin, late night, when a group of boys couldn’t go to sleep. The stories didn’t help.
The most famous Lakeshore ghost is Johnny Lakeshore. There are many incarnations of this story, but most of the stories I’ve heard center around a former maintenance worker, of course, named Johnny. In life, Johnny was a pretty crabby old guy, and the kids had a lot of fun tormenting him behind his back, because of his reactions. On a very fateful day, Johnny was mowing the lawn on the side of the hill when some mischievous boys decided to throw rocks at Johnny as he came by. At first, Johnny thought it was a mosquito and kept slapping his neck to the amusement of the boys. But, finally he figured out what was happening. Johnny turned to yell at the boys, but being on the side of the hill, he lost balance and rolled with the lawn mower down the big hill. The lawn mower landed on top of the poor maintenance man, and I will spare you the gruesome details of what it did. The boys ran as quickly as they could back to their cabin, hoping no one had seen their part in Johnny’s terrible death.
Later that night, the boys couldn’t sleep at all, because they couldn’t get the terrible images out of their minds. The rest of the cabin was sound asleep, but the boys could not help but hear every noise. They sunk deeper and deeper under their covers every time they heard a sound. There were noises on the roof, under the floor, and in the walls. The windows began to rattle. No one in the cabin woke up. The boys told their counselor the next day, but the counselor told them to “be a man,” and not be so scared of the dark. The next morning, the counselor woke to find two boys missing from from the cabin. There was no signs of them left, but rake and a shovel rested on the cabin walls right next to the door. Word has it the Johnny Lakeshore comes back on dark summer nights, taking campers who will not go to sleep somewhere no one has ever escaped to tell about.
In the spot where the Calhoun and Hopper lodges now stand, there used to be a hillside of trees that was mostly unused. Several camp dogs were buried there years ago, including Jake, a yellow lab. When they began building the lodges, they cut down all the trees there, bulldozed, and dug into the side of the hill. On full moons, I’ve heard guests in Calhoun and Hopper complain about hearing a dog howling and barking for hours on end, for stretches of time that no dog should be able to sustain–no living dog, that is. No one has ever seen, definitively, a yellow lab in Calhoun or Hopper, though some have wondered if that shadow that moved in the bottom floor may have been old Jake looking for a new resting place because his old one was disturbed.
More often than not, though, our scariest ghost stories go like one evening when I was setting up worship in the Tabernacle. It was a very dark night, and I was going alone to set up the worship. I had to cross the entire Tabernacle in the dark to get to the light switch, and I began to freak myself out over what might be in there waiting for me that I wouldn’t see until it was too late. I reassured myself, giving myself a pep talk to be a man, trying to be brave and strong. Finally I resolved that I wouldn’t be scared, that I would take on anything that came after me. There was no reason to be afraid. After all, I was a man, and there wasn’t even anything in there anyway. I sped up my pace, no feeling very courageous, when, out of the darkness, something hit me square between the eyes with so much force that I saw stars. I staggered backwards, half scared, half in intense pain, wondering what hit me, when I realized what had happened. I had ran right into one of the support poles. Right between the eyes.
May your nights be safe and warm this week. Snuggle up in a blanket, sip on a warm drink, and watch the leaves fall from your window. This weekend we have a Conference wide youth retreat, a painting class, and a small group of campers at our tent and trailer site. Till next week…