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The Spectral Flatboat


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.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, alandhopewell, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Javelina (4 stories) (3749 posts)
12 years ago (2012-01-04)
Fot the record, I happen to like this experience most of all. And we actually got a two-fer because you added another in the comment section.
But this one put me right there, the smells, sounds and sights you described are surreal.
And I still love it.

Jav 😊
TruthInDarkness (4 stories) (259 posts)
12 years ago (2011-08-13)
You have great stories! I hope you have lots more because I quite enjoy reading them. Thanks for sharing.
alandhopewell (28 stories) (145 posts)
12 years ago (2011-08-02)
I've got more than those from that area; if the story took place outside, it probably occurred in the Bacon Woods / Gore Orphanage area.

Yes, it's an EXTREMELY strange area, with a history going back to before the white man.
DARKNESS (3 stories) (2022 posts)
12 years ago (2011-08-02)
alandhopewell: The two accounts you have shared, the story and the one in your comments are both from the same area am I correct? As already mentioned it does seem to be a residual occurence, although the your second occurence with the guys having a beer and all that, is far from being residual! What a strange area I would assume a lot of things like this would be experienced there! Must have a lot of history. I enjoyed your story.

Thank you for sharing.

Javelina (4 stories) (3749 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-30)
Now that's hella cool! To think they looked so closely related to our own time with their clothing and listening to Ted Nugent.

Thanks for the double treat!

alandhopewell (28 stories) (145 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-30)
One of the unique aspects to that area was the, for lack of a better term, "fluidity" of time, as evidenced by this not-quite-a-ghost-story...

When we camped at that end of the river, we got drinking water from a spring that was at the top of a ridge; we'd take empty gallon jugs, and fill them once we got there. There was a path running up the ridge, which extended off into "shelves" of varying sizes on both sides.

One afternoon, Dave and I were each carrying three jugs on straps, trudging up the path toward the spring. As we came abreast one of the larger ledges, we noticed it was inhabited...

There were two lawn chairs there, on either side of a firepit, which had a nice little fire going. There was an ice chest, filled with ice and cans of beer; next to that was a boom box, belting out Ted Nugent, as I recall. In each chair was a guy, about our ages, t-shirted, with shades, shorts, and cross-trainers, kicked back, sucking down brew, and greeting us. We returned the hello, thinking to perhaps stop back after we'd gotten the water.

We were at the top of the ridge less than ten minutes, filling the jugs, and we started back down, to an unsettling suprise...

The ledge was empty, save for the firepit, which was cold, and bone-dry.
JamesRobiscoe (419 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-29)
Alandhopewell--My gosh, man, you have had a good many sightings! This silent spooky little tale reminds me of a painting by someone like George Catlin. Real Americana. Thanks for recounting it for us.
cosmogal926 (9 stories) (1223 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-29)
Another great post! I really enjoy your stories 😁 How exciting to have witnessed a little replay of history. 😊
Javelina (4 stories) (3749 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-29)
Absolutely beautiful...
You practically had me down at the waters edge looking for those men and their flatboat. Thank you for this one.
I could smell the fire and hear the water lapping on the shore.
Just what the Doctor ordered. 😊

Curiously-Scared (1 stories) (5 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-29)
Nice! I really appreciate your ability to put the reader right there with you. I agree that it was most likely a residual haunting, like a moment in time that plays over and over again. Very interesting experience, I would be super excited to witness something SO amazing!
I think denying it must be a 'guy' thing, lol. Although my only experience pales in comparison to most I've read on this site, it was enough to scare me speechless; and I seriously can't wait to share my story here (it feels like they may never approve it) AND I tell nearly everyone who will listen!

Its like a gift almost, to have experienced something paranormal- it makes me feel special or something, lol.

Thanks again for sharing!
zzsgranny (18 stories) (3329 posts) mod
12 years ago (2011-07-28)
Alan: Another great story!...You definately have a couple of gifts, one for writing, and another for seeing and sensing spirits... Faves bound!...

Thank you for posting! ❤
DeviousAngel (11 stories) (1910 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-28)
What a great story! You have a gift for writing things in a way that makes the reader feel like they were really there. I think what you saw was a residual haunting. It is kind of funny sometimes, how sometimes people fear the paranormal to the point of denial when they experience it.
JustCurious (2 stories) (434 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-28)
Nice account about the boat... There is one thing though. I don't know what it is but I'm getting like a slight gut feeling that there may be more than meets the eye to this story. Like maybe there was something else that happened other then just the boat...

geetha50 (15 stories) (986 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-28)
I have to agree with bacchaegrl on this one. Wow! Just imagine, what it would take to experience something like that? I have a friend like Fernando, who would see something shocking or scary like the rest of us but for the life of him, he wouldn't admit to it.
LouSlips (10 stories) (979 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-28)
I agree with the desert chick on this one, nice account...

bacchaegrl (506 posts)
12 years ago (2011-07-28)
Nice story! As always, very well written. That sounds like a treat to witness an historical shadow pass your way. I would be scared too, at first. I bet you held on to memory, though, with a certain pride; knowing that you were shown a tidbit of history. Right in front of you, very clearly. Sounds amazing.

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