This story takes place in 1980, in the area known as Bacon Woods. Back then, we camped in a different location than we did later, upstream of the Mill Hollow park, about two miles or so, on the riverbank.
There were four of us, Dave, Fernando, Frankie, and myself, hauling our gear for the weekend excursion. We set up camp, building a lean-to and a fire, and made dinner. By the time we'd finished and cleaned up, it was getting on toward dusk.
We four sat there on stumps, smoking cigarettes, enjoying the peace and quiet. Although there was a road fairly close to where we were, it was a faint murmur in the distance, outdone by the sound of the Vermilion River flowing past on its way to Lake Erie. The birds and insects provided a natural orchestral soundtrack to our evening.
There was a sandbar about twenty yards from where we sat, stretching downstream for about fifteen yards. Another fifteen or so yards past that was a bend in the river. I was facing downstream, watching the shadows deepen on the moving water.
Just as it reached full dark, I saw a group of lights round the bend, heading toward the sandbar. It was a flatboat, being towed upstream, looking much as they did in the Ohio History books we'd all studied in junior high, four men, each carrying a lantern, each grasping a rope with the other hand, the ropes trailing over their shoulders to the boat, pressing forward in the knee-deep water. There was a light on a pole on the boat itself. The men were clearly visible in the lanterns' light, and I could hear their voices, although I couldn't make out what they were saying.
As they approached the sandbar, I noticed something odd... The lanterns cast no reflection on the water! Just as I turned to Dave, to ask him if he'd noticed this, the boat and its crew vanished, the lights extinguishing simultaneously as if by a awitch.
We broke out our flashlights, walked down to the bank, and shone them on the water, and the sandbar; there was nothing in sight.
The four of us sat around the fire, in agreement about what we'd seen, except for one-Fernando. He swore, and did for years after, that he saw and heard nothing, to the point of belligerence. However, from where I sat, I could see him, staring in the same place we all were, and I still remember the look of shock on his face when the boat disappeared.
Were I to see him today, no doubt he'd say the same thing... If there was one thing Fernando hated to admit to, it was fear.