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Please enjoy this short story that tells the tale of how the characters first encountered the Mythos.
Some went on a lark. Some went to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Hudson Valley. Others came to witness the strange sightings that have plagued the area since before white men arrived on the continent. But all who survived the events at Saranac Lake will forever have those memories burned into their minds.
The Hudson Valley has long been considered a crucible of paranormal activity. Even the Mohawk did not know who created the strange standing stones and bizarre petroglyphs scattered through the region. Early settlers told stories of a sea serpent swimming the banks of the Hudson River. America’s first great wordsmith, Washington Irving, chose the Hudson Valley as the setting for his famous ghost story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, inspired by the plethora of tales told by the locals of haunting spirits. Later still, the area birthed strange religions and became the home for the spiritualist movement. Throughout the known history of the region, hundreds have reported lights in the sky, which continue to the current day.
It was those UFO sightings that motivated the locals to cash in on Lake Saranac’s colorful history. The nearby campground offered “UFO Weekends” at which enthusiasts could spend a vacation on the wooded islands in hopes of having their own encounters. Perhaps the entrepreneurs who concocted this scheme regret tempting fate, for the horrors that befell the campers the weekend of June 13th, 2010, have marked the area as cursed, and it is now shunned by all who know the tale.
Local papers ran the story for weeks, and it even made the back pages of some national outlets. But the most detailed account comes from an article published in the Fortean Times, penned by one of the campers themselves.
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The True Tale of Saranac Lake
By Michael Kolbe
Fortean Times, Issue 302, June 2013
Many readers of this publication know of the history of UFO sightings in the Hudson Valley, NY, particularly in the area of Saranac Lake. A few may even know of the grisly events that took place there in the summer of 2010 and wonder if they are connected. I am now ready to reveal to the world that what happened at that campground has everything to do with the paranormal, and it has left me scarred for life.
My interest in the paranormal began in my youth, and I have made many friends that share my obsession. During my college days at the University of Chicago I participated in several ghost hunts, séances, and for a time acted as president of the campus UFO club. The bonds I made during that time carried onward into my adult life. And though we are now separated across the country (and some by their untimely demise), we keep in contact as best we can, and gather at least once a year to renew our bonds. At least we did before the summer of 2010.
In January of that year I had made the short drive from Rockford, IL, to Chicago on business, and used that opportunity to have drinks with my friend John. John knew of my interest in the Hudson Valley, and had discovered that Saranac Lake campground offered a “UFO Package” where groups of campers could spend the weekend and take guided tours with local UFO experts. Although the expense would strain my budget, I agreed that this should be the place for our group’s annual gathering, and we made plans to that effect.
The eight of us arrived in Albany on the morning of June 10th, rented some camping gear, and drove two-and-a-half hours north, enjoying the lush scenery. Shortly after arriving at the campground, we pitched our tents, and during the chaos of setup a park ranger from nearby High Peaks approached us. The ranger, hands in his pockets, gave a friendly greeting and explained that several patients had escaped from a nearby asylum. He assured us that none of the patients had a history of violence, and since the asylum was some twenty miles away and we were on an island only accessible by boat, we really had nothing to worry about. It was just his duty to inform us and ask that we report any strangers we encountered. Since we were camping with at least three dozen others, that seemed a difficult task, but we promised him just the same to send word if anyone seemed out of place.
As evening came, we gathered at a central fire to hear accounts of the strange happenings in the area from one of the experts employed by the organizers. I was amazed that he managed to put on a power point slideshow in our rough surroundings. He recounted not only his personal encounters with UFOs, accompanied by many convincing photos, but he also told us the stories of the locals spanning back hundreds of years. He informed us of the numerous cryptid sightings on the island itself, which included a serpent spotted in the lake, and large, spider-like creatures seen in the woods. To my future remorse, I admit that the presentation engendered an enhanced eagerness to have my own sighting. We were not to be disappointed.
After the talk we split up into groups and explored the island. I went to the shore with a few of the others from my group, set up a chair, and settled in, thinking that even if I didn’t spot a UFO, I would at least enjoy the awe inspiring dance of the Milky Way in that cloudless sky. Around 1:00 AM, after several hours of good company, and I admit, several bowls of exceptional Blue Mountain, we were treated to an encounter that made all our previous sightings pale in comparison.
In the midst of our revels, six, large, glowing balls zipped across the sky. We all leapt to our feet, scarcely believing what we had witnessed. A minute later, the objects came back! Almost as if putting on a display for our amusement, they made zig-zag patterns across the sky, circling back and around. We took pictures and video as best we could, but their rapid and erratic movement made them difficult to track. The few images that were of quality accompany this article. Then the orbs began to change colors in rhythmic patterns, and I believe they were attempting to communicate with us or their fellows. After about ten minutes, one of the orbs let out a burst of energy, and hundreds of small orbs descended. The small orbs skipped across the surface of the lake like flat rocks, and then disappeared below the water. It was as if I watched a light show put on by Pink Floyd. By the time we looked up again, the original UFOs were gone, and we sat in near silence for over an hour, absorbing what we had witnessed.
Then we returned to the main fire, and spoke excitedly about what we had seen. We sat until dawn, speculating on the possible meaning behind the encounter. None of our wildest theories came close to what happened later that weekend.
The next day we awoke late, missing the guided tour and further presentations. This bothered us little, as we now had our own encounter to brag about. After some tentative forays around the island during the day, we encountered one of the rock carvings that have been of local interest for centuries. While none of us had any better theories than have already been put forth on what the symbols could mean, I did note their similarity to the Peruvian Nazca Lines.
Some wanted to seek out new adventures, but most of our contingent agreed that if the UFOs returned over the lake, we should be there to witness them. So we once again set up on the beach after dinner, this time with an increased atmosphere of anticipation and celebration. As the 1:00 AM mark passed with no further encounters, our band’s investigation devolved into revelry. Judge us as you will, but our membership has always been libertine in nature. The wife of my friend Marcus, Phyllis Meral, flirted with me the entire evening. We have had liaisons on previous trips, always with Marcus’s gracious approval. So when it became less and less likely that we would be treated with another light show, Phyllis took me by the hand and led me stumbling back to my tent, the both of us once again under the influence of strong cannabis.
We took a circuitous route, partially to increase our excitement, also because the unfamiliar surroundings and lack of light made us lose our way several times. While in the woods, barely within hearing range of our fellows, we both spotted movement out in the black. At first, I thought the trees themselves were moving, but soon realized that the long, pole-like forms moved in sequence. I passed my weak flashlight over the area, and stood stunned in utter disbelief. It must have been over twenty feet tall. The things I had mistaken for moving trees were appendages. I don’t know if this was one of the “spider-like” creatures we were warned of, for it did have multiple legs, perhaps eight, or maybe twelve, impossible to know from our vantage point. But for me it resembled not a spider, for the legs were covered in fur, with each tipped by a cloven hoof. My gaze followed the rubbery legs upward and I saw them attached to a huge, dark form, of which I could see no detail except a multitude of red, glowing eyes. At least I took them as eyes. One would expect such a massive creature to shake the earth with its footsteps, but it seemed to almost glide, completely soundless.
Looking back now, I believe that our inebriation and raging libidos were the only things that saved us from sheer terror. It stayed in range of our vision for only a moment, and thankfully, we never took in the creature in its entirety. After it left, we stared at each other without words, and carefully made our way to my tent. I think our minds were broken at that point, and so we fell into base, animal instinct, tearing off our clothes and rutting with abandon until exhaustion.
In the cold light of morning our encounter took on the characteristics of a fever dream. Still, we told the others what we had seen, playing down some of the more fantastic aspects. The others were still in a festive mood, which helped alleviate our own misgivings. Our band formed a search party to look for signs of the creature, but a strong summer storm forced us to return to the main camp empty handed.
The rain forced us to retreat to our shelters. I lay on my air mattress for hours, half-heartedly reading a book and waiting for the storm to abate. All that time I suffered flash backs of my encounter with the creature in the woods, and felt my sanity dripping from my mind as the drops of rain seeped through my tent, threatening to soak everything I had. I forced myself to dine on my emergency rations of protein bars and peanut butter, hoping that going through the motions would center me, but the food only sat in my stomach like a lead ball, adding nausea to the mix.
In my isolation I heard strange voices, but assured myself it was just others moving about outside, though only desperation would move anyone to venture out in the storm. Then my own desperation came in the form of the need to urinate. Working up the courage, I peeked out into the darkness. Sheets of rain continued to fall and wind buffeted my flimsy tent. I convinced myself that I only needed to take a few steps out into the woods to do the deed, then hurry back. I would be soaked, but at least my bladder would stop complaining.
While completing my business, I heard the voices again, emanating from deeper in the forest. I could understand none of the words, but the sounds had the characteristics of chanting. I was ready to flee back to my bed when the screams came. Although I hesitated for more than a moment, my higher nature prevailed, and I rushed out into the darkness to see if I could aid whomever wailed in distress.
Slipping in the mud and tripping on tree branches, I hurled myself forward as best I could, until I came upon a familiar clearing. Standing in the circle were several strangers, their faces twisted in feral visages, belting out their guttural chant. Lying on the carved stone we had all visited earlier, was Phyllis. She too, appeared naked, rain running off her pale skin. A long, undulating tentacle came out from between her legs, and her face held equal parts terror and ecstasy. Unbidden, my gaze followed the tentacle up, and I saw the creature again, looming above the proceedings. The appendage appeared to pump some unholy substance into my dear friend’s opening. The strangers paid me no heed, even though I know I had been screaming. They just continued to goad the creature on with their primal calls.
I fled, sheer terror taking me back to the last place I felt remotely safe. I have no memory of that trek back to my tent, and I vaguely recall shivering so hard I thought I would crush my bones. Yet I refused to remove my sopping clothes as if they could afford me some protection. My last coherent thought was that I must be in shock, so I wrapped myself in towels and blankets before the sweet blackness of unconsciousness overtook me. To this day I regret not taking action. I should have raised the alarm, but terror beyond reason prevented any plan beyond hiding like a rabbit in a hole.
I awoke to the sounds of others calling for aid. Eager to be among familiar faces, I unwrapped myself and fumbled out into the day. Light had come and the rain had stopped, but the sky remained a leaden gray. With legs of stone I trudged back toward the clearing. The voices grew clearer, with much weeping and screams of shock. John stopped me before I could reach the scene of the crime and bid me turn back. Authorities were already on their way.
The rest of the day became a blur. We packed our gear in silence, and paddled across the lake to civilization. I tried to tell Marcus and the others what I saw but couldn’t find the words. We were all numb from what we had experienced. The campground put us all up in a nearby hotel, and we stayed in the Hudson Valley three more days being questioned by police.
One night as we ate dinner, just our own group, minus Marcus, and of course, Phyllis. John recounted what he saw, being the first of our friends on the scene. He had been alerted by the cries of other campers, who had braved the mud to see the stone for themselves. The body of Phyllis lay there, disemboweled, almost in twain. Much of the blood had been washed away by the rain, but red-tinged pools of water remained. In a shaking voice, John told us of strange carvings he saw on the nearby trees, obviously freshly made. Made of sterner stuff than all of us, John had the presence of mind to write down some of what he saw. Many of them were unidentifiable, crude pictograms, but a few were made of Roman letters. The words themselves held no meaning to us, but still had a chilling effect on our minds. Written in block letters were what appeared to be alien names—RASHWAN, DA-HU, AGI-AGA, KOT-GN, TZAKI, KA-AYE, MUNGLOF.
At the end of the three days we made our goodbyes, promising to keep in touch as often as we could. I couldn’t even bring myself to go to Phyllis’s funeral. I have spoken to none of my old friends since the incident, afraid it would bring back the horror I had witnessed. But I fear the time is coming when we must speak again.