A little background before I get started…

My grandfather owned a Christmas tree farm in a mid-sized Midwestern town. Growing up it was a visiting grandkid’s dream. We would explore the farm on the 3-wheeler (which led to some scary moments itself) and work the farm in the winter when we up there visiting. It was on a right on the traintracks as well, which kind of separated the town from the country, so it felt like it was really rural. The traintracks were another thing! We loved to walk up and down them, to flatten pennies and wave to the conductors. To this day when I hear a train whistle in the distance I get a nostalgic feeling for my grandfather’s farm.

The house at night, however, was a different story. It always terrified me. It was pretty secluded, set far back off of the road. Rural darkness for me is a different type of darkness, the feeling of the unknown conjures up the feelings of eyes watching me. I could never bring myself to look out the windows at night for fear of what (or who) I might see. I always felt like people were looking into the windows, watching me from the obscurity of night. It did not help, of course, when my mom told us a story from when she was younger about a crazy person that knocked on the door at night while she was alone. The house was too isolated for a knock on the door to ever be a good thing.

That brings us to one summer when I was a preteen (I can’t remember how old I was…10, 12 maybe?) and we were spending a couple of weeks with my grandparents. My cousin and I decided to drive the 3-wheeler to the train tracks and explore. There was really nothing along the tracks but woods and other farms. We had been walking down them for a little while when we noticed what seemed like an abandoned house (a shack really) set back in the woods. My cousin said that we should go check it out, so we left the tracks and walked through the trees, maybe 50, 100 yards.

We got to the house and it was exactly what we thought it was, an abandoned shotgun shack; 3 steps to the front door, a short hallway to the back door/porch, and a room on each side of the hall. I didn’t feel comfortable stepping into the shack, but my cousin was older than me and I didn’t want to seem like a wuss (I’m sure he was probably terrified too.) We stepped into the house and the floor creaked so loudly and it felt like the floorboards were going to cave in. As soon as we entered he front door my cousin stepped into the room to the left and I went into the right. It was super creepy. There was still some old wooden furniture, but everything looked like it was going to fall apart.

That’s when I noticed it.

I looked down on the wood table and saw a “Curious George” book. I thought it was weird and reached down and touched it, it didn’t seem like it should have been there. I got a super creepy feeling, like there was an evil presence, and I knew we shouldn’t be there. I looked through the doorway, back across the hall at my cousin, who was standing in his doorway with the same freaked our face as me.

Just as I was about to say “We should get out of here” we heard it, someone stepping on to the creaking wood of the back porch. My cousin looked at me with the widest eyes and mouthed “RUN!” So that’s what we did.

We ran as hard and fast as we could, through the woods, down the tracks and onto the 3 wheeler. We hauled ass, much faster than our grandpa would allow us to go. I still remember hitting the stumps of the Christmas trees that had long been cut down, nearly flying off as we rode over every one of them. I held on for dear life because my god, what was going to happen to me if I fell off?

We never looked back, both out of fear of who we might see and out of necessity for survival. But I can guarantee someone chased us for a little while. My cousin and I didn’t talk about it and we didn’t tell anyone about it. We were young, we were afraid to get in trouble and also, what did we even see?

That same feeling I had always had of being watched intensified. Whoever that was in that cabin knew where we were. We avoided that side of the farm completely and went to bed early every night. While we never talked about it again, sometimes my cousin would give me this knowing look like, “Please tell me you are as scared as I am right now.”

My grandparents moved shortly after that, and, quite frankly, I forgot about it. The farm was out of sight, out of mind, and it’s been 20+ years. Occasionally something would remind me of it, but my cousin passed away and he was the only person that knew about it, so there wasn’t anyone I could share it with.

Flash forward to Thanksgiving a few years ago when my family were talking about the farm and the good times we had there. Someone mentioned how scary it was at night and my mom told the story about the stranger knocking on the door.

I began to tell my family this story; what had happened that summer over 20 years ago. As I told it the images became so vivid. I could see the shack perfectly. I could see myself walk into that room. I could see the “Curious George” book…and that’s when I realized something for the first time.

In that old abandoned house, set 100 yards off of the train tracks in the middle the woods, who’s floorboards creaked and who’s walls seemed like they were going to fall down, there was a children’s book. It wasn’t just a “Curious George” book, but it was a BRAND NEW CURIOUS GEORGE BOOK.

When I remembered/realized this for the first time, the story took a whole new, even more sinister turn. I don’t know what it means, and I never will. I have no idea what my cousin saw in his room that freaked him out as much as what I saw, and I’ll never know, which I’m very okay with. I do know that the fear I felt of being watched was real and I shudder to think about what would have happened had we been a little slower that day.