I want to warn you all about this new phenomenon that you’ll see popping up in the next couple of weeks, and all through October, right up until Halloween.
You may have seen it in the news; your dad might’ve read it in the paper and shook his head; your mom might’ve been gossiping about it with the neighbor as they walked their dogs; your friends probably shared it on every social media platform.
What is it? It’s real life horror camps. They go by generic names: Camp Fear, Fear Camp, Camp Blood, and so forth – they’re not very original. However, to a horror nut like myself, this is the kind of stuff that I live for.
When I was younger, my parents would put me in sleep away camps – it was great. I made new friends, learned life lessons, got my first kiss from Matthieu Switzer there, and overall always had the desire to go back every year. Once school ended in June, I was counting down the days until I could go back to camp.
Naturally, I pursued the easy job of being a camp counselor once I was of age. I am now on my third year of doing this, and not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty damn good at it. One night, I was doing the regular evening bunk check when I first heard of ‘real life horror experience camps’.
Campers were not allowed to have their phones on them; we kept them secured in a safe, and if their parents need to reach them, they can do so through us. The last thing we needed was some kid playing Pokemon Go near the dock falling into the lake for some rare water Pokemon and ends up drowning because they can’t swim.
Luckily for us, we were allowed to have our phones on us. Not that it’s any use – service here is awful, we rely on walkie-talkies to communicate with one another, just like all other camps.
I was sitting in the camp den when my phone had gone off, three times in a row – I’d never been this popular in my life. I looked down at my phone and smiled, it was my boyfriend, Ian.
‘Phoebs, check this out! Literally right beside us!”
“Sign up! You’ve got the experience, and I could go as a participant.”
I opened the link, curious. A blank white page opened up, a blurb outlining the job:
“LOOKING FOR: ACTORS AND EXPIRIENCED CAMP COUNSELLORS!
PARTS UNKNOWN, MI – Two decades after half a dozen missing counselors were found brutally murdered at Camp Nightgale, the camp is reopening to the public!
Legend goes that when the parents dropped off their children for camp, they were told to come back immediately. They found themselves looking at one lone survivor screaming bloody murder, yelling about torture and murder. The only evidence was Polaroid pictures of the attacks hanging on every cabin door. The campers were dead, six counselors murdered, and six more counselors unaccounted for, missing ‘til this day.
Nicknamed Camp Nightmare after the incident, the groundskeepers have decided to revive the camp for its 20-year anniversary, allowing campers to return. Locals still claim that the killer(s) still out on the loose, and the missing counselors will come back ‘home’ – some will warn others, some will seek revenge to harm anyone that crosses their path.
Note: This is a fictional camp. Participants will be dropped off in the middle of a 40-acre patch of woods at an undisclosed location where they will survive a real-life horror movie.
It was safe to say, I was intrigued. I had sent in my application, and within three days I received a call back saying that they were going to be going through the ropes and training us during the first week of August.
I took an early leave at my current camp, and packed my bags to meet with the rest of the people at the ‘undisclosed’ location, which in fact, was easily accessible by car.
The job itself was simple; as the ‘dead counselors’, we would babysit the participants all through the 12 hours of this “real-life” horror experience. There were 3 tiers: ‘Easy’ – where your cabin is your safe zone, and you are allowed to venture into the woods.
‘Medium’ – once again, your cabin is your safe zone, but you may be touched by the ‘killer(s)’, and they can also bang on the windows and doors terrorizing you in your cabin (but they cannot come in).
‘Hard’ – you’re not safe anywhere. You will not get much sleep; you will be touched, grabbed and even dragged out. Nothing was off limits on this level.
Loud noises, fog machines, realistic props, power tools, and everything else you could imagine seeing on set of an Eli Roth movie would be used to accelerate fear in the participants. It was up to us as counsellors to (1) dress like the 6 murdered counselors, and (2) provide medical assistance and let them out when they have had enough.
As you can see, a month long planning was well needed, but we are also planning to have an ‘early bird special’ for horror movie producers, directors, and A-list celebrities during the end of August, and up until the end of the first week of September.
My first night here was easy; we learned everyone’s names, played some games – it was like I was back at camp as a child. We learned our roles, our lines, and most importantly, the legend details of Camp Nightgale.
I was put into a cabin with three other girls: Claire (‘missing counselor’), Lisa (‘dead counselor’), and Rachel (‘medic’). We exchanged stories of what we would think will happen, which celebrities would come by, and most importantly, what types of people would be able to last the full 12 hours in the ‘hard’ tier.
“I think those horror geeks will choose the medium tier – they’re smart enough to know the rules of horror.” Claire said.
“No, I think they’ll go for the hard tier, they want to live through what they watch in movies, this would be a wet dream for them.” I said, chuckling.
“All I know is that after every shift, I will never take a shower for granted – ever again. I’m still peeling off some of that tester SFX make up!” Lisa said, peeling what looked like her own bloody skin off her arm.
“I just hope I only have to deal with people having panic attacks, and not shitting their pants in fear. I did not go to med school for that,” Rachel said making a face.
The rain had begun to pour down now, an ominous atmosphere over our cabin. We knew everything around us was fictional, but everything was slowly coming together so realistically. Sometimes you would find yourself screaming in the middle of the night in the washroom because you thought your own silhouette was someone else.
A flash of light outside – lightning.
Somewhere, a scream.
Followed by laughs.
We all rolled our eyes – this seemed to be a regular occurrence here, people scaring others.
I had drifted off into a deep sleep (thanks allergy medication!), undisturbed the whole night; I would even say I slept like the dead, but I feel like that would be speaking ill.
I remember having a vivid dream that night that left me feeling uneasy from the moment I woke up. It was raining, there was lightning that was oddly illuminated from under our cabin door and not through our windows. It was as if someone was taking pictures – and as suddenly as the rain started, it stopped, along with the lightning.
When I woke up, Claire wasn’t in her bed. I didn’t think much of it, figured that she might’ve had to go prep early.
I asked around, but nobody had seen Claire.
“I guess someone is taking their role seriously,” someone said off to the side.
At dinnertime there was still no sign of Claire. I was beginning to get worried.
Lisa, Rachel and I walked back together to the cabin, skipping out on the small campfire session people were throwing that night.
The closer we got to our cabin, the sense of unease that loomed over me was more present.
“Hey, what’s –“, Lisa said, running up to the cabin door.
I remember letting out an audible gasp when I saw was Lisa was holding in her hand: a series of Polaroid pictures of Claire – presumably dead. Her throat was slashed open, her eyes staring straight into the viewfinder; pale blue and glazed over.
I turned on the walkie-talkies we were given, “we need a groundskeeper to Cabin 9 please,” I radio’d in, my heart starting to speed up.
I reached for the doorknob, turning it. I was expecting to find Claire’s body there; maybe something out of a horror movie – the walls painted with blood, Claire sitting there with her guts spilling out of her torso, the killer standing over her smiling; but there was nothing.
“Maybe they’re just trying to scare us? Doing a test run or something?” Lisa said, trying to calm Rachel and I down.
I can’t explain it, but that uneasy feeling I had after my dream last night? I’m really starting to doubt it was a dream. The ‘local legend’ said that the killer(s) took pictures of their deceased victims via Polaroid pictures and hung them up on the cabins like this one.
The program’s director and groundskeeper both mentioned seeing Claire coming out of one of the men’s cabins around four in the morning. Apparently we didn’t have anything to worry about, just a classic case of a ‘camp slut’.
We had gone to bed that evening without seeing Claire.
Two days had gone by, and I thought I saw flashes of Claire from my peripheral vision, or heard her laugh, but it seemed to just be my imagination acting up.
Nobody else seemed to give a shit.
Rachel, Lisa and I ended up getting a new roommate: Vanessa. She would take over Claire’s role, and when we asked if she was told anything, Vanessa had said that Claire had given them a letter in the middle of the night saying she quit and got picked up by her brother.
“You don’t find it odd?” I remember asking.
Vanessa shrugged. “I’m sure this whole thing can be draining for people. They literally threw me in the fire today and I have no idea if I can handle it!”
The next couple of nights went by smoothly, Camp Nightmare was starting to feel like home for me.
That was until last night.
Last night around two in the morning, Vanessa stepped out of the cabin to use the washroom.
Her screams woke everyone up.
When we had rushed out, we saw Claire. Just like the Polaroid pictures, her throat was slashed open, and her white shirt was now stained in dark red. She stared at us with her vacant eyes as her dead body hung from the tree, swaying in the wind.
The camp programmers had tried to cover it up saying it was a prop dummy designed to scare us, and that it just bore a very similar resemblance to Claire.
The body was taken down within the hour; no one was allowed to get close to the body, let alone sneak any photos.
I got out of there as fast as I could; I went home. I know what I saw. I knew there was a reason to be legitimately scared.
You know what I think? These places are a real life murderers wet dream; here, you could easily get away with murder. These places feed off publicity and want to make money quick, they will cover up deaths, and they won’t shut it down.
Camp Nightmare is set to open to the public on September 4th. Please don’t go. I went to the police, but they took it with a grain of salt. They told me that while this Camp is open, they will be expecting many prank calls, and that there was little that will be done about it.