The day was overcast and cool, and the low clouds flung out by the remains of a tropical storm clung to mountains brooding over a lake where the stout Ohoopee staff photographer and his five-year-old boy fished for bluegill and trout.
A cage of crickets and tub of night crawlers purchased at the bait store, though they provided a moment of anguished anxiety for the boy, proved to be too tempting to the fish of Lake Winfield Scott. Our Ohoopee photographer deployed a fat night crawler on a number ten hook to land the first fish of the day, a handsome bluegill. Meanwhile, the boy used a bobber/cricket rig to bring in his first fish, another bluegill. A celebration of shark fruit snacks followed, setting the precedent for a snack after each caught fish. The boy was quite impressed to find out that his older cousin had caught his first fish at this lake (the photographer thinks) but was disappointed to discover that not only were there no mermaids in the lake but also that mermaids are pretend. After this, the stout one brought in a long stringer of sticks and seaweed while the boy finished the day with five fish and corresponding snacks.
Note the perfect lip hook. The fish was released unharmed.
The day of fishing ended as soon as the boy showed the signs of FBS (full bladder syndrome) and boredom (he began to take his line out of the water to let his crickets "rest"). A National Forest Service outhouse was located conveniently nearby. The boy’s issues with using the bathroom have been previously recorded here, here, and here. He has matured quite a bit since then and demonstrated his new courage at the outhouse. The outhouse, a small, hexagonal building, consists of a crude plastic toilet over a hole in the ground opposite the door and appeared to have been last cleaned the last time a CCC work crew came through. He remarked, “Its kinda creepy in here” and did what he had to do.
After a tour of the campgrounds, including a visit to historic site #27, where his cousin, uncle, father, and mother had all camped, the two struck out on a hike around the lake. It was about this time that our photographer noted that the park had emptied out. He thought it very strange that what had been a lake busy with anglers was suddenly desolate at mid-afternoon. Two lone souls drifted in a bass boat in the middle of the lake. The campsites were set up with tents but no one seemed to inhabit them. A light mist alighted on the fading mountain laurel as the two walked around the lake. Opposite the beach, our photographer, professional instincts noting a prime photo spot, snapped a few quick black and whites of the boy and the lake. At 4:06pm, he took a shocking pair of photos. Using the same settings and taken only moments apart, the photos are not only eerily different, but the second contains a detail both chilling and disturbing. Those of weak constitutions should not continue and should probably click somewhere like this.
Here is what our photographer found when he uploaded the photos to his computer that evening. The first photo has been cropped to remove the boy, though one can still see his sleeve at the left side of the picture. The picture shows a normal view across a normal lake on a cloudy day. The second picture, taken seconds later and not altered in any way, shows a horrifically changed landscape. Indeed, our photographer thought that someone had somehow played a prank on him by inserting a photograph of Camp Crystal Lake into his photo files. Once he realized that he had in fact taken both pictures, he began to look at both of them a little closer.
Picture 2003 (cropped; sleeve of boy visible on left side):
Picture 2004 (unaltered):
Close up of 2003 (note the white rocks on the shore):
Close up of 2004 (note to the right of the white rocks):
Negative of close-up 2003 (the white rocks are now black):
Negative of close-up of 2004 (the white rocks are black and so is something else):
The unseasonably cold weather, the unexplained darkening of the photo, the empty park, the strange apparition recorded on photo 2004: what can explain them all? Did Hurricane Alberto bring with it more than wind and rain or is the park permanently stricken with an unknown malady of the spirit? Are these former Indian lands still stalked by restless braves? Has the spirit of Winfield Scott returned to the park named in his honor to ensure that it is used in a way that honors him? The questions shall probably go forever unanswered. The editors of TOLN warns its readers to beware on the cold shores of Lake Winfield Scott.
Update: Since this story was posted, the Ohoopee photographer responsible for the story has sustained serious burns over his upper back and shoulders. Some say it was too long in the sun at the pool, but others say that the spirit world prefers to be left alone and those that seek to reveal its secrets can expect similar punishments.