Black Eyed Kid Encounter at Sleeping Bear Dunes
Date: August 2010
Location: Empire, MI
Iím a 26 years old, male. I work at a small private college in Michigan. While I keep an open mind, I donít believe in ghosts, aliens, bigfoot, and am not even too sure about God. The way I see it, if I havenít encountered it first hand or seen documented, verifiable proof then I keep a healthy amount of skepticism. There is one thing I do believe in now that I never did before, I didnít even know about it before, black freaking eye kids.
As I said earlier, I love(ed) to hike and camp. I just loved the solitude, peace, and serenity the outdoors provided me. My life is not overly stressful, chaotic, or dramatic, but every once in a while a man needs to get away from it all. Being alone in the wilderness gave me the opportunity to clear my head, be introspective, consider the facts of life. I loved the beauty of the natural world, and I try to appreciate the small and big things, from the smallest clover to the biggest mountain. Beauty is all around us. In a way, In late August of 2010, I set out for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore located along Lake Michigan. I had schedule five days off of work, and I planned on making the most of it. Sleeping Bear is one of my favorite parks in lower Michigan. I know it to be a great place for some solitude, and having usually been abandoned by sun worshipers by mid August I knew Iíd have most of the park to myself. So, I wasnít surprised when I arrived the fist day, found my usually parking spot, a sand parking lot just yards from the lake, and didnít see another person.
As I sat on the hood of my car, overlooking the beach and the lake, I remember breathing deeply and saying aloud thank God for solitude. I ate lunch, walked down the beach and put my bare feet into the water. Cold. Very cold. It didnít matter to me though, because I didnít come to swim. I came to hike, and to camp. I came to, as was my tradition, sit by a warm fire on a cool night, sipping on my flask of whiskey, enjoying the sounds of the forest. However, this peaceful tradition didnít happen. The proper procedure when camping at a state or national park, if youíve never been, is to check in at a ranger station. There you pay your fees, obtain your backcountry pass, if youíre going to be camping in the backcountry as I always do, and give the rangers your information: license plate number, make and model of your car, etc. After my quick stop off at the beach to eat my lunch, I headed to the nearby, a 15 or so minute drive, and get my affairs in order.
The Platte River Ranger Station is manned until mid October, I think, so it was open and I didnít have to travel to the main station a Ĺ hours drive north. I park in the stationís parking lot, and walk into the office. The ranger and I spoke for a little and he asks me for my license plate number. I knew he was going to ask, but I still forgot to write it down before I went in, so I walk back out toward my car, and I see two kids sitting at a bench just in front of where Iím parked. They werenít there when I parked, and I didnít notice them when I walked in to the station, but at this point in time Iím still on cloud nine. Iím happy to be on vacation, so I take no real notice. I walk to the back of my car, jot down the license plate number and walk back to office. I take care of business in the office and step out and walk to the connecting bathroom. The backcountry area Iím staying at, White Pine, has a pit toilet, think Port-a-John, but just with a deep hole in the ground, but Iíd like to use a real bathroom while I can. I go into the restroom and go into the empty stall.
As Iím taking care of my business, I hear the bathroom door open. I hear whispered voices. Itís a small bathroom, but I canít make out what the voices are saying. I can tell theyíre kidís voices though, and I figure itís the kids I saw near my car earlier. No biggie, right? I finish up, and open the stall door. Sure enough, there are the two kids standing outside the stall. I remember saying, itís all yours. As I walked to the sink. The kids just stood there. When you think about it now, in reading, the situation seems a little spooky, but at the time, and if you were in the situation yourself Iíd bet that you wouldnít be the slightest bit worried and neither was I. I was my hands, and glance in the mirror, only to notice the kids are looking right at me. This is the first time, but certainly not the last time, on this trip that my spine tingles with fear. The kids have completely black eyes. No whites to their eyes at all. Like I said, this is a pretty small bathroom and they were not more than 3' away. At first I canít do or say anything. I am literally frozen with fear. The water runs over my hands, but I canít feel it. Iím so deep inside my head at this moment that all I can hear are my thoughts, which were something like Ahhhhhh!. All joking aside, I was petrified.
It was only when one of the kids, a brown haired boy that I would guess was around 12 took a step toward me that my fight or flight instincts took over control from my fear. I turned off the water, why I bothered I donít know, habit I guess, and moved a step back from the kids and toward the door. Seemingly sensing my fear the boy didnít take another step toward me. Instead he stopped, on retrospect I can guess he was trying to keep from frightening me too much, didnít work kid!
Can you help us? Thatís what the boy said when one of us finally spoke.
For a moment I did want to help. I consider myself a pretty nice guy. Iíd go out of my way to help pregnant women carry groceries to their car. Iíd rescue cats from trees if the situation arose, and for a while I thought that is why I wanted to help those creepy kids. I thought, my sheer decency was what made me, despite my better judgment, and despite my fear want to help them. Only since I began researching the BEKís do I realize that I didnít want to help those kids, but whatever, magical, mystical voo-doo, power they have made me want to help them. I canít tell you with any certainty how long I stood motionless thinking about helping those kids, but it seemed like an eternity. Finally, like a physical shaking of my brain.
I said No, Not right now. I gotta goĒ And then I left the bathroom.
I remember in that two seconds my back was turned on those kids to me leaving the bathroom I felt certain I was going to die. I thought as soon as my back was turned they were going to tear me to shreds. It was with knee buckling relief that I left the bathroom and walked out into the midday sun. I walked the 15 or so feet to my car, on noodle like legs, too afraid to look behind me. I fumbled for my keys and unlocked my door, sat down, closed the door and locked it. Only then, in the safety of my locked car, did I feel safe enough to look back toward the bathroom. Damned if the little bastards werenít standing just outside the bathroom staring at me with the big, black soul sucking eyes.
I want to take moment to explain a little bit more about myself. Iím not a big man, but Iím not small either. Iím 6', with shoes on I always say, and am around 185#. What Iím saying is I can take a couple 12 year olds in a fight (I assume, having never actually fought any since I was twelve myself). In my hiking, Iíve encountered odd people before. Iíve turned a bend in a trail only to startle a huge grizzly bear. Iíve been lost, once, and ran out of water, once, and I even had a tree fall in the middle of my campsite during a gale swept night in Tennessee, as I was drifting off to sleep! However, not a single event in my life scared me nearly as much as those kids.
So, there I am, in my car, staring at those kids, and them staring at me. I canít take my stare away from them, and they start for my car. Startled to my senses, I turn the key, throw it in reverse, and get the hell out of there. I drive off, not daring to look in the rearview mirror. I know that if I do look back that Iíll see those black eyes looking back at me. I turn onto the main road and head the short drive north to my camp site. It wasnít until I was parked in the sand lot, at the head of the White Pine trail that my brain started functioning again. The drive home would only take 3 hours. I could make it home in time for dinner, but for some reason I talked myself out of it. Sitting in my car, in the sun, on the beach has a way of taking away all bad feelings.
I just talked away my better judgment. I wonít be doing that again. Itís around 3:00 p.m., and I know that the sun will start to set in around 3 or 4 hours, so I know I should head toward my camping spot. Itís not a very long walk from the parking lot to the White Pine backcountry campground, but it will take around 45 minutes, leaving me just a couple hours to set up camp, gather fire wood, cook dinner and eat before nightfall. I get my pack out of my backseat and take off down the trail.
Now, there are two ways to access the White Pine campground from where I was parked. I could either head through the woods, or I could walk along the beach. The wooded trail is quicker, and shorter, and the beach trail is harder on the legs and lungs. However, considering what I just went through I decided to go along the beach. It was the more open, brighter, kinder trail. To reach the campsite from the beach trail, you have to turn away from the lake and go about Ĺ a mile into the woods. Reaching my campsite, I find it, unfortunately, completely empty. Usually this would be a happy thing to me, but this time I wished for all my might for a little company. I pick a site hidden fairly well from the trail, feeling that I didnít need anyone walking along to spot my tent.
I unpack and set up my ultra light one person tent, put down my sleeping pad, and unroll my 0į rated mummy bag. Taking my walking stick, a sawed off hockey stick, and a folding knife with me, I head into the forest to gather fire wood. I pile up a good sized pile, three times larger than I think Iíll need, and proceed to light a fire. I cook my food, and eat, all the while watching the sun set through the trees. What is normally a beautiful, warming sight to me, now only brings dread. I do not want to be out here I suddenly realize. I finish eating quickly and decide to gather even more firewood. I do not want to run out in the middle of the night. As the darkness descends upon the woods and my campsite, I get the fire going, and riffle through my pack looking for my flask. This was a situation that called for a little liquid courage. I hit it hard. In the woods the sun sets at first slower then you think and then near the end it just kind of falls out of the sky, and is gone in a blink. So it did that night.
Sitting next to the fire, I decide to move my tent closer to me, so I grab my flash light, and move my tent until it is right behind the small bench next to the fire ring. I like having the tent behind me, protecting my back as I saw it. Iím glad I decided to gather more firewood because Iím burning through it quickly keeping the fire as high as I am. Even though it is early Autumn and the temperature was probably in the 40ís I was hot sitting so close to such a big fire.
Part of getting away from it all for me, is to leave my phone in the car. In civilization I donít use a watch. I just look at my cell. However, this night I wish I had my cell on me, not to call someone there is no service, but to check the time. I wanted it to be late. I wanted the night to fly by, and give me the security of morning. I finished the whiskey, and wished that I had brought the bottle with me from the car. The spirits had done their job though, and I was a bit calmer. Also, praise be to god, I was feeling sleepy too. Though the rules say, donít go to bed with your fire burning, I sure was not going to sleep with out the fire. I got in my tent, leaving the flap open, with just the bug flap closed, so I could see the fire, and tried to sleep. I donít know how long I lay there before sleep found me, but I did eventually drift off. Thankfully, I canít remember having any dreams. I woke to a dead fire, and the early dusk light coming in. I have to say I was slightly surprised to be alive.
As dawn turned in to day I felt more and more foolish for the fear I felt yesterday. Being a usually calm, cool, and collected guy I couldnít explain the intense dread and fear I felt when I saw those kids, but I did my best to ignore it, and I explained away their eyes pretty easily. I told myself the kids were camping at the Platte River campground, same location as the ranger station I registered at. They had some colored contact lenses and were playing a joke. Simple. Possible, even probably considering the alternative. I ate breakfast and then made a, upon hindsight, horrible decision. I decided to stay another night. After breakfast, I gathered firewood, so that I wouldnít have to gather any when I got back for the evening. My pile of wood at a towering height, I hiked back to my car, along the wooded trail (I was feeling awfully, stupidly brave that morning).
I arrived at my car, and decided to go to the Dune Climb. The Dune Climb is a trail that begins at a towering dune and ends 1 Ĺ miles away at Lake Michigan. This hike was uneventful, but beautiful providing me even more determination not to let myself be scared off by some stupid kids with contact lenses. I got back to my car from the round trip hike right around 1:00 p.m. I got out my small camp stove and cooked some soup. Finished with lunch, I decided that next I would take the scenic drive, I forget the name of the road, that is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Itís a winding drive with several scenic and educational pull offs. Itís relaxing and beautiful. I finished with that around 3:00 p.m., and I decided I would head to Traverse City, just a 45 minute drive away, and do a little shopping and grab an early dinner at a nice steak house. This is not something I normally do while camping but after the previous nights events, I decided to treat myself.
I went to this steak house just outside of Traverse around 4:30 p.m., figuring a quick dinner, an 45 minute drive and an hour walk would get me to my camp at just about dusk. But thatís not what happened. The restaurant was packed! I got a table fairly quickly but the service was very slow. In the end I didnít get out of the restaurant until dusk. Cursing myself it began to rain as I drove back to the trail head parking lot. By the time I was at the lot and parked it was full blown nighttime. Sitting in the parking lot, listening to the wind, and the rain I was pretty damn scared again. I think that if nearly all of my gear wasnít still at the campsite then I would have just drove home and said screw it. However, I couldnít abandon several hundred dollars worth of camping equipment because I was scared. Iím not a wimp.
I gear up: flashlight, pocket knife, water bottle, headlamp, and walking stick. Again I had two options, through the woods or along the beach. The storm clouds blocked out most of the star and moon light so I would have been kidding myself to think that the beach would have been better lit, but it was still more open, and provided me with a better feeling, so I took the beach path. The path is only a mile and a half long along the beach and then another Ĺ mile into the woods to the campsite. I figured, if I hustled, I could be at my campsite in just over Ĺ an hour.
I turn on my headlamp and move off down the beach. The wind is hitting pretty hard, and it pretty cold, but Iím prepared. My coat has a nice rain shell and Iím not getting too wet. Hiking in the dark is not smart in the best of circumstances. In this area there are cougars and bear, both rare, but the real danger is getting lost, or stumbling over something and injuring yourself. However, I wasnít too worried about any of that. The animals are so rare in that area itíd take very bad luck to get bothered by them, and the beach was clear of most debris that I might trip on. What had me worried was a creeping sensation of paranoia.
As I walked the sensation of paranoia and dread grew. I stopped every 10' or so to look around, lighting the tall grass, next to the beach and before the woods, with my headlamp. I opened my jaw and listened, you can hear better with your mouth slightly open, but I saw nothing and heard nothing. Iíd walk another 10' and just know that someone was watching me. It was hard to hear anything over the lapping waves of the lake and the howling wind of the storm, but I swear I heard voices in the tall grass. Iíd been walking probably Ĺ an hour and I knew I would be meeting off with the trail leading into the woods, and to my campsite any second now, but then my world fell apart.
Having one of my strongest moments of feeling watched I turned around, facing the direction I came, and there they were.
The boy who spoke to me earlier couldnít have been more than 5' away, and the other boy, the quiet boy, was standing slightly behind him. Each of the boys stood motionless. Staring. Just staring. At this moment, Iím not sure I have the ability to put my terror into words. The best way I can describe it is to say I felt like I was dying. I felt like I was in the hospital and the doctor just told me I had moments to live.
The talkative boy moved toward me. The only light on the beach came from my headlamp. Neither kid had any sort of flashlight. My LED beam flashed across their faces, reflecting grotesquely in their large dark eyes.
I couldnít speak. I couldnít move. I could barely breathe. The boy moved closer. The quiet boy stepped to the side, almost like he was slowly circling behind me, and that broke the spell.
Iím not ****** helping you, I said.
Weíre lost. We canít find our campsite.
Is this a game, I asked, even though I knew it wasnít.
Take us with you. Please. Weíll die out here. Weíre afraid.
I call bullshit on that one. Theyíre scared, I thought to myself? Iím scared. Youíre the one with the creepy eyes, the vacant hollow voices. Youíre the ones with the fish eye stare. The quiet boy moved a little more. He was now standing beside me, just a couple feet away. The talkative boy was still in front of me, blocking the way I had come, blocking the path back to my car. Then things got even weirder.
Okay, you can come with me, I said.
I donít even remember thinking the words. They just came out. The talkative boy smiled and he reached to take my hand. The fight or flight response hit me so hard it was like a physical punch to the stomach. I recoiled at the sight of this little monster trying to take my hand. Before I even realize it, Iím running down the beach. Iím sprinting away from the little bastards, and my car as fast as I can. I donítí look behind me. I donít know if theyíre following me or not, and I donít want to know. All I know is that I need to run faster. Iím in decent shape, but given any normal circumstance I would never have been able to run so quickly for so long on a beach.
My head lamp bouncing up and down, I see the off shoot trail leading from the beach into the woods. Without much thought, if any, I take the trail and head into the woods. My senses finally returning to me, I jump off the trail and move a little ways into the woods. I turn off my head lamp, and lie down among some tall grass. I watch the trail waiting to see the kids following. I waited, in the rain, and cold for god knows how long. A couple hours at least. No kids.
The cold was slowly creeping in. I wasnít sure if I was shivering because of the adrenaline, the fear, or the cold, but I do know I was starting to freeze. I had to leave my concealment and make way to shelter. I had two options. The tent and sleeping bag, or the car.
The car meant safety. It meant home. However, it also meant that I would have to walk a mile and a half, in the dark with god knows who or what waiting for me. The tent meant warmth, and shelter from the elements. It meant exposure to the kids. If the kids knew where I was hiking, and when, then theyíd know where I was camping. Right? It was an impossible decision. It was a choice of the lesser of two evils. I chose the tent. I just couldnít force myself to go back along the wooded trail, and I sure wasnít going back along the beach. I crossed my fingers and prayed that the little bastards didnít know where my tent was. I got up, found the trail, and sprinted the Ĺ mile to the campground. As I ran a thought occurred. Maybe someone will have hiked in during the way. Maybe Iíll have company.
There was no life at the campground. When I arrived at the campground, I made a wide circle of it, looking both for other campers and for the little devils. I saw nothing and no one. I made my way, as quietly as possible, to my tent. I unzipped the fly, and crawled in. I thought briefly about a fire, but decided that would be more of a signal to the kids then deterrence. My clothes were sopping wet and I was still very cold. I had to take them off. My pack is leaning against a tree about 15' from my tent. Inside are clean, dry clothes, sealed tightly in a wet bag. However, now that Iím inside the tent Iím sure not going back out. The tent gave me some sense of security even though it wasnít in any way secure. Now naked, I crawl inside my mummy bag. Iíd like to say how much I hate that itís called a mummy bag. After a few moments I warm up, but the shivering takes another 1/3 hour or so to subside. As Iím lying there, Iím wishing so much that I had that bottle of whiskey in my car.
The rain plays against the leaves of the trees, and the wind creaks the branches. Under the best of circumstances this is a night where a personís mind can get away from them. For me, it was utter terror. My imagination made every creak, every howl of the wind into something sinister. As the hours passed, and my adrenaline faded I felt immensely tired. I wanted so badly just to fall asleep. In sleep I wouldnít know I was being gutted like a salmon. Iíd either wake up, or I wouldnít.
I thought it was a nightmare at first. When I heard the voice, say, something, I thought I was dreaming. But then sleep cleared from my head and I realized I was awake. It was still night, and the storm was still biting.
Help us, an unmistakable voice said.
I couldnít help it. It was a gut reaction. I screamed. I lay naked, my mummy bag zipped up to my chin. I was completely helpless. I felt like a newborn baby, my fate completely held in the hands of others.
Please let us in.
No, I screeched, and then again, no!
Itís so cold. Please let us in, Mister.
I stopped replying and could only sob. Like a heartbroken teenage girl. Like a woman who just learned her sister died. I sobbed. I was so uncontrollably scared that I think it helped me not pay attention to the kids demands. At least not fully.
Let us in.
I tugged the pull string on the hood of my mummy bag until I was completely enveloped. I just kept repeating, not daring to listen to the kids, the word ďno.Ē No, no, no ,no, no, no, no. I waited for death. I knew it was coming. Any second and Iíd be ripped to shreds. The kid kept saying something, but I wasnít listening. I wouldnít listen.
I knew how overwhelming their hypnotic power was. I did everything I could not to listen. I kept chanting my mantra. Kept howling my noís. I donít know when I fell asleep, but the next thing I know I startle awake. The sun is shining, and Iím alive. I donít know how, but Iím alive. I look around my small tent and I donít see anything amiss on the inside. It takes me several minutes to gather the courage necessary to unzip the tent fly, but finally I do. I peek my head out, but see no one. Naked, I run to my pack, and grab my clothes in the dry bag. I toss some clothes on and race back to the tent. I tear it down in a matter of moments. I pack my sleeping back, and pad and tent onto my pack, and take off down the trail. I decide one more time to take the beach trail. In the sun, and warmth of the morning itís an entirely different trail. The only moment Iím given pause is when I come across a duck with what seems to be itís heart torn out. I took a photo with a disposable camera in my pack, and move on.
I arrive at my car and find it secure. I get in and drive home. Itís been almost two entire moths since this happened, but I still remember it all like it was yesterday. I havenít gone camping since, and I donítí know if Iíll ever feel safe hiking again. Maybe Iíll go camping again sometime in the future, but Iím bringing a friend. No more going it alone.
I, thankfully, havenít seen any more black eye kids. I donít want to posit on what they are. I donít want to think about whether they are demons, or monsters, aliens, or hybrids. I was interested at first. I did some research because I wanted to know if I was crazy. I donít care what you think they are. I donít care why they are. I just wanted to know that I wasnít the only one who has had this experience. Iím not, and Iím thankful for that.