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Garden Of The Gods


It was the summer of 1984, and we had decided to take the newly acquired (used) Nimrod camper out. If you're unfamiliar, it's pretty much a pop-up tent that folds flat into a wee trailer, so that you can tow it behind your car. Our destination was at the Southern tip of Illinois - the Shawnee National forest, to be more exact the area called the Garden of the Gods, in Herod.

It's a spectacular place, and very rustic, as in there are no 'hook ups' for water or power. They did have restrooms of sorts, scattered about the various camping locations. A low cement building whose interior reminded me of an outhouse, I learned later these are called 'vault toilets'. I've heard that in some areas they have cabins you can rent, but the forest is so huge we neither saw them, or even evidence of other people when we pulled into the area we had been assigned to, almost at the rim of a very deep valley.

My son, Josh, was only 2 1/2 at the time and insisted he wanted to help Daddy set up the camper, while I gathered firewood, and set up the rest of our site. (Say it with me - oooh, lawn chairs!)

I wasn't gone long. Firewood in a forest is easy to find, my husband was still setting up the camper. Well fidgeting with getting the door in right. "Where's Josh?" I immediately asked not seeing him in plain sight.

My then husband, half turning said, "He's right -" and froze looking at empty space. We both started calling his name and searching the area.

He was gone. No where to be seen, and I strained my ears for any muffled cry or anything.

I studied the ground for hints of his trail, clues to which direction he may have wondered off in. My now ex, thought I was crazy, kneeling down in the spot he'd last seen my boy and slowly turning in a circle. But, I was making myself Josh-sized, and trying to see things as he had. Straining my eyes for bent grass, a partial print, any thing to say 'this way'. Inwardly, I was both praying, and summoning up every scrap of knowledge I had ever learned about tracking, while in my head I heard the words of the old man at the registration cabin saying, "Watch out for bears and coyotes. There's some snakes too," on repeat. Josh was only a baby - he'd think they'd behave like his cartoon characters and be friendly... I felt his dad's hand on my shoulder and I hissed, "You go back to the registration area. You go back and tell them, our boy's lost. They'll get us help. I'll keep looking." He opened his mouth, to protest I think, then turned to get in the pickup truck. He knew, city boy that he was, this was more my world then his, and I stood a better chance.

Still kneeling, I forced myself to breath deep, to find that inner core of strength, and open myself. I found myself getting up and wandering to the opposite side of the camper and staring down into the valley, where large boulders jutted up out of the ground, and trunks of trees towered up. Some mere saplings, others the size of a dinning room table in diameter. Below me, eagles circled and soared. The glory of this beauty nearly lost to me as I scanned for a small figure. From my peripheral vision on my left I saw something move on the ridge. I spun in that direction and saw nothing for a moment. I dropped to my knee - there! In the distance in the shadows of the trees, a dark child size shadow ran. "Josh!" I called, it paused looking at me, I think, then ran behind a larger tree, lost from view. I was up in a flash running towards where I had seen him.

Logically, at some depth of my mind, I knew though toddlers can move like greased lightening, this was not my boy I was chasing down. This dark shadow was always a head of me, just far enough I'd see him but not details, but it obviously wanted to be seen, and followed. I heard a man's voice,"Leave a trail. Won't do any good to get lost yourself." I responded by purposely breaking twigs, and snapping long stemmed flowers as I passed. A blind tracker could follow me. I talked to the air,"Help me find my boy!" Tears were threatening to flow, but now was not the time. Again, just ahead and to the right, I saw the shadow boy, and again I was running. The voice would yell, "trail marker!" and I'd snap something on the fly. I was not quietly stalking, heck I was no longer even tracking. I forced myself to stop panic searching. I forced myself to stop, right where I was, and become still. Not just outer still, but inwardly. Panicking like this was not the answer. Blindly chasing shadows, was not the answer. This was not the way to find my boy.

I closed my eyes and focused. Imagery slowly emerged,, from behind my closed eyes. I saw a kind of tunnel with my child inside. I frowned. That made no sense.

Something whacked me in the shoulder, not hard but enough to make me jerk my head, with my eyes flying open in that direction. Perhaps two yards away, closer than ever before was that dark child. A bit more than shadow, but still very vague, as in I couldn't make out details such as clothing or facial features. Older than two, but quite young. This time instead of darting off, he waved me to come. I snapped another twig and followed, because I felt I should. He stayed just a bit ahead, and from time to time his form would twist, as if looking back to be sure I followed.

I lost him somewhere, or perhaps he just vanished. I sat down on a large fallen log and looked back the way I'd came. "Oh, Baby, where are you?" My voice a coarse whisper from all the calling I'd been doing. To the forest spirits I cried, "What the hell was the point of this? I don't understand!" My voice broke, and lowering my head, I began to cry, out of fear for my boy and frustration. I felt a small hand on my thigh and heard,"Why cry?" Turning my head, I saw my son, miraculously standing there! I snatched him into my arms before he could evaporate, for I was sorely afraid he was just a trick of my mind. But he was real! He was my boy! How I laughed to hear him say, "You squooshing me!"

"Where you been, Pumpkin? I've looked everywhere for you."

"There," he pointed at the log. I was baffled.

"I didn't see you?"

He giggled, "Inside. My friend woke me up. He says you here."

"Inside where? Can you show me?" He gives me that look that only small children give well, it asks if you're an idiot because to them it's so obvious. Taking me by the end, he led me to the end of the log I'd been sitting on, and pointed. Squatting down, I see it's hollow inside, and I recall my vision of a 'tunnel'. "I playing wit' my friend and got tired. He said safe there."

I nod,"Yes safer there than in the open." In my head I added "Where bears or coyotes could get you easier." Out loud, I say, "We should get back to Daddy. He's looking for you too. Why'd you go off like that?"

We followed my 'blind man's" trail back with my son telling me his adventure. From what I gathered, he'd gotten bored helping Daddy, because he wasn't allowed to do anything, and he got tired of digging in the dirt. So he started looking around. When he was on the other side of the camper looking down at the birds and stuff, this boy came up and told him it wasn't safe to play there, and led him over to the trees. The boy's name was Chaska. After awhile Josh became very tired, and he and his friend curled up in the log for a nap. Then I was there.

Of course no one else believed his story, they thought it was all imagination, with the exception of the old man for the reception area. He looked at me, the sage way, some old country folks have, and said, "Chaska, Sioux for first born son." Of course, I never told my side of the story. Let them think I'm a star tracker.

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Comments about this paranormal experience

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

Anne28 (1 stories) (4 posts)
5 months ago (2019-05-24)
I love all of your stories:) with that kind of "gift", I hope that you will be able to help more people.:) God bless!
Bee_Beans (6 stories) (41 posts)
2 years ago (2018-01-17)
Straight into favourites! I'm so glad that you found your son. Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare. Thank goodness for Chaska.

Mona777 (2 stories) (20 posts)
2 years ago (2017-11-01)

Thank you for your reply and you're Welcome! 😊
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-11-01)
Mona, thank you very much.:blush:
Hmmm...it says I need at least 50 characters to post, but that's all I really had to say, is thank you.
Mona777 (2 stories) (20 posts)
2 years ago (2017-11-01)
Hi valkricry,

I love all of your accounts, they are so detailed and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us 😊
sushantkar (16 stories) (523 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-19)
Hello Val, No Dewali is not like New year but we celebrate it with lots of firecrackers and sweet.
Diwali is called the Festival of Lights and is celebrated to honor Rama-chandra, the seventh avatar (incarnation of the god Vishnu). It is believed that on this day Rama returned to his people after 14 years of exile during which he fought and won a battle against the demons and the demon king, Ravana.
Hence happy Dewali again.

Regards. ❀
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-19)
Thank you, Sushant. Is your Diwali like our New Year? We wish each other much the same then. May those wishes also hold true for you.
sushantkar (16 stories) (523 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-18)
Hello Val, truly your experience had fascinated me. It was good to see that everything gets well at the end. Your narrative had made it so real.
It is festive time is India.
I wish you and your family and all the YGS members a prousporus, sweet and happy DIWALI (Festival of lights).

valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-15)
Aaru, yes, I've been back several times. The forest is HUGE with much to explore. Back in 94 or 95, I took both kids camping there. Josh was 12, almost 13, and his sister was going on 7. Nothing really odd happened though.

Lilwolf, thank you for reading and commenting!
Lilwolf (8 stories) (66 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-14)
Whew, this story had me on edge, I'm so glad you're little boy ended up being ok. I would be scared senseless if my little girl got away from me in the woods.

You are awesome for staying calm enough to look for him and think logically. It's interesting that Chaska found you and led You to him and I'm glad that he helped keep your son safe by leading him to the log.

Thanks for sharing
Aaru275 (4 stories) (55 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-14)
Nice story. Glad to know that nothing happened to your son. Have you ever been to that place again?
Jubeele (18 stories) (773 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-12)
Thanks Val for the invite! This is going to be our special Halloween treat. I'm going to bring my husband along to chase off any evil demon bats...! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜†
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
Hahaha - I must have been over excited. That should read,"Martin has graciously granted me permission to do this (Thanks, Martin!) "
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
Martin has graciously granted me to do this (Thanks, Martin!)
There are whispers in the tiny town of Widowsdance that evil has a name and the paranormal a home.
They call it Trespauze Manor.
More than one foolish soul has taken a dare to spend time in the creepy, old Victorian, only to be forever lost in its twists and turns, or driven mad.
To my knowledge no one has ever made it through all twenty rooms. But, perhaps you are made of sterner stuff.
Dim the lights, turn up your sound, and knock on the door to gain entrance...

If you survive the Manor, you might look at one of the other adventures we offer up as well. Muhahahaha!
Happy Halloween, everybody!
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
BGP,yes! The terror is very real at that moment. Oh, I so feel for you, going out and having your daughter 'missing'! Of course, there's also that moment, when reunited, you're conflicted on whether to hug them to death, or punish them for scaring you! Lol
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
hmbeck, well, thank you kindly. I'm glad you enjoy them.

Aisyah, hopefully you will never know that sheer moment of fear/panic. Needless to say, that was the last time I left Josh with his dad on the camping trip. I believe it was almost 5 or 6 years before I could leave Josh under his care without suffering some form of anxiety, even at home.
babygoatpuller (4 stories) (432 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
OMG Val! I know the terror that strikes you the second you realize your child is gone. I had the same terror strike me when I went out to check on my daughter in the yard one morning and she was nowhere in sight. I screamed and ran like hell looking for her. It started pouring down rain and as I turned to go back to the house to call the sheriff's, I heard her yell "MOMMY". What was probably only 5 or 10 minutes seemed like an eternity.

I cannot imagine how many eternity's you must have gone through looking for your son. The fear eats a little bit of your soul with every passing minute.

You certainly had some powerful back-up with both of you in keeping him safe and you, and I hesitate to use this word, sane.

Instant fav! ❀
aisyah1987 (2 stories) (31 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
OH GOSH I have 4 kids and I CANNOT imagine anything like this happening to me...

May the Gods bless you and family always, dear... ❀
hmbeck09 (11 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-11)
Another story I have favorited by you! I love reading about your experiences! 😊 😊
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-09)
True, Rook, I was not gone long, I'd say maybe 20 -30 minutes, gathering the wood. Who knows how soon after I left he wandered off?
To play unwatched at the backside of the camper was unsafe because of the drop off into the valley. Not a gentle slope at all, (you're looking DOWN at the tops of trees!) and you know how graceful toddlers are. Perhaps he was getting too close to the edge? I'm going to say (never actually measured it, and you know how memory can be) we were maybe 3 or 4 feet from the rim, so safe but... Then too, given the factor of snakes in the area (my one real phobia) perhaps one was nearby? All I can do is guess.
Between my return and actually finding him, it seemed like an eternally long time. Reality wise it was around 2 hours, maybe a bit less. Just felt like forever. With the excitement of the trip down (Josh didn't nap much in the truck), the fresh air/altitude, I guess it just tuckered the little guy out.
rookdygin (24 stories) (4437 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-09)
Insta Fav. Thank you for sharing this one Val.

Funny though, your son made it sound like he played with his friend for quite a long while, and yet you yourself stated that it couldn't have been that long as fire wood is easy to find in the Forest. Makes one wonder.

Something else, not to alarm you after all these years, but what was not safe about where your son was playing? Why did 'Chaska' feel the need to lead him to someplace safe? Just wondering.


Jubeele (18 stories) (773 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-06)
Of course, the Shawnee National Forest! Duh <smacks herself on forehead>. Ooo, I want to go there too. I'll need to get hold of a "star tracker" first though...
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-06)
Jubeele, awww - you have me blushing...
Of course you may email me (it's on my profile). On your initial email be sure to put it's "Jubeele from YGS" or similar in the subject line, as it will probably go to my junk file first, and that will help flag it out.
There is a Garden of the Gods in Colorado, but mine is in Illinois. Just as gorgeous!😊
Jubeele (18 stories) (773 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-06)
Val, I've read "Can you hear me Now? Disembodied Voices"; once started, I couldn't stop. I've just spent most of today reading ALL of your accounts. It was an emotional roller-coaster. By turns, I was frightened, comforted, angered and charmed. I smiled, chuckled and at times laughed out loud. I cried about your mother and Josh, and then cried some more when I realized your loved ones are still very much with you. I must've used up half a box of tissues in the process.

I'm going to read them again and reflect on what you've taught us through your stories. They were humbling, moving and thoroughly inspiring. I'd like to email you some time (if that isn't being too intrusive?). Thanks so much for gifting us.

P.s. I checked up "Garden of the Gods". It's an awesomely beautiful place. We did a flyover with Monument Valley and Grand Canyon, but never made it to Colorado Springs. This is another place I want to visit someday. ❀
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-05)
The old man may have been having one over on the 'city slickers' about the bears. In the 50 odd years I've lived in IL., I think I may have seen like two bears, and the one was an escapee from a local zoo. Lol. But then again, if there had been any reports of even seeing one (no matter how mistaken that person was) he might of felt the need to warn, just in case. (At least he didn't add in lions, and tigers. Oh my! 😊)
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-05)
I agree, reading them from a book is just not the same as hearing them. I often wonder if that's because they were handed down orally.
valkricry (45 stories) (3049 posts) mod
2 years ago (2017-10-05)
The voice I heard is one that has been with me for ages. I've an account called "Can you hear me Now? Disembodied Voices" that talks about it. Generally if it's something I need to do NOW, it's him I hear, although on occasion I do hear others. (Do you know how good it feels to be able to say that, without fear of someone thinking I'm quite daft?)
I don't know if Chaska was Josh's spirit guide, as he never mentioned him at any other time. That is to say, apparently he didn't follow us home or anything, and as he grew Josh never mentioned him.
Sarah1882 (1 stories) (4 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-05)
This is a great read! I'm actually from Southern Illinois myself and have been to Garden of the God's and it's absolutely breathtaking isn't it!? I have heard many stories of the caves there being haunted, but unfortunately I have never seen or heard anything there. I was wondering though, when the old man at the registration cabin told you to watch for bears, coyotes, and snakes was he being serious or joking? I have definitely never seen or heard of any bears around here, but I also haven't been there in years so I may be mistaken haha! We have tons of coyotes and snakes though, especially where I live! Thanks for sharing your story, I loved it! 😊 😊
roylynx (guest)
2 years ago (2017-10-04)
Valkricry, That's really cool! I was also very fortunate to have a grandmother from a tribe (TapirapΓ©), it is such a pitty sometimes to hear news like "the last person of an American (Southern or Northern) tribe has passed away... Really! Though we might find many of those tribal stories in a novel or a book, it is always good, BETTER! To hear them from a person who knows the background well.

Jubeele (18 stories) (773 posts)
2 years ago (2017-10-04)
Val, your story held me with bated breath from start to finish!

It was interesting there were two entities helping you - the shadow boy and the spirit using a man's voice. Or were they one and the same? Could "Chaska" be the spirit guide for Josh? Whatever he was, I'm so glad there was a forest guardian there to help you watch over him.

I just had to grin when you said: "Let them think I'm a star tracker"... 😁

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