Butt End: Real Life Ghost Story | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
Butt End: Real Life Ghost Story Illustration: Lorenzo Del Blanco

Being afraid of heights or terrified of circus clowns is one thing, but being afraid of sleeping in the woods is another. That’s more serious. It has to be controlled. The more we’re afraid of the wilderness, the less we’ll enjoy it and the less we’ll protect it.

That’s why I agreed to spend the night in the basement of a haunted jail. This spooky 100-year-old prison closed its doors in 1998 before being reopened as The King George Inn. Thrill-seekers can now rent out retrofitted jail cells and spend the night.

Problem was, I didn’t get a room. I chose the basement—the belly of the beast where the real baddies were placed in solitary confinement. It was a perfect experiment. I took myself way outside of the familiar and tested my fear of the unknown, just as a new camper would the first time they slept in the woods.

I think the feeling I had the moment the lights went out and I was left alone in the basement of the jail was the same a novice camper would sense as the sun drops below the horizon.

I heard strange noises and bumps in the night. I lay there in my solo tent pitched between the iron bars, imagining ghosts circling the tent, the way a new camper might fear a bear.

The week prior I’d spoken with a local medium. He told me that this jail is one of the most sought-after destinations for paranormal investigators around the globe. He warned me of demons disguising themselves as children, powerful energy that could move things across the room and angry spirits. He said to be careful of the witching hour, when the spirits are more active, usually around 3 a.m.

Despite the dire warnings, everything went well. At first. A double shot of Jack Daniels put me to sleep quickly.

At exactly 3:02 a.m. I woke suddenly to a loud bang. I became aware of a strong force pulsing outside my thin ripstop nylon tent. I hoped it was outside the protective circle of sea salt the medium recommended.

“Go away. I’m not afraid of you,” I yelled into the silence. I’d once shouted the same bold words to a hungry black bear wandering through my campsite. I hoped my false courage worked equally well on angry spirits.

All went quiet. Perhaps the ghost sensed I wasn’t afraid and decided to move on.

A few seconds later, I felt the energy pulsing beneath me, as if it was trying to lift my body off the damp basement floor. Then there was a soft push from below. That just creeped me right out!

I flicked on my lantern. It flickered for a moment and went dark. Strange. I turned on my back-up flashlight. With the confidence of a little light I screamed back, “Go away. I’m really not afraid of you!”

The supernatural energy fizzled and faded away completely.

Looking back, I believe it was in my head. As I imagined something outside my tent, my anxiety level had grown. My heart pounded. Fear got the best of me. This is exactly what happens when we think every noisy little field mouse scurrying beyond the tent is a marauding moose.

The next morning I felt empowered. I had battled my fear and survived. More than that, I proved to myself there was nothing to fear except fear itself. This is exactly what first-time campers need to feel the moment they crawl out of the sleeping bag to watch their first sunrise cast light on a dark and not-so-scary forest.

They will feel good about themselves and good about camping. Good enough, I hope, to take on countless more nights outside.

Kevin Callan spends a minimum of 60 nights outside each year. He is not a big fan of the movie Poltergeist. 

Screen_Shot_2015-07-07_at_2.59.13_PM.pngThis article first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Canoeroots Magazine. For more great content, click here and subscribe to Canoeroot’s print and digital editions, or click here to read the current issue.

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