Halloween should not go by without telling the story of Gilbert
It’s the spookiest time of the year, and Halloween isn’t complete without a few ghost stories to scare the kids.
I thought I’d share a story about Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville that I heard for the first time when I was about 8 years old. I don’t know who to credit for coming up with this story in the first place, but I’d like to thank them for providing years of entertainment.
It’s a story that’s stuck with me throughout my life.
When I was a child, if someone left the patio door open, we’d blame it on Gilbert. When my dad asked, “Who left the milk out on the counter?” my sister and I would gleefully reply, “Gilbert!” He was our family’s personal ghost and kindly took the blame for any mishaps that happened at our house.
Just one warning before you read this story to your kids. You will be asked from here on out, at every single campfire and on any road trip that lasts longer than 20 minutes, to retell the story again and again. So, commit it to memory and feel free to embellish it and make it your own, as I have done over the years.
Share it with your kids tonight, and then one day soon, take them to the park to fish for some of the 550 brown and rainbow trout that were released there last Thursday. But keep an eye out for Gilbert. I hear he haunts the place.
Many years ago, a humble cabin was built on the shores of a creek that flowed into a small lake.
A family lived in this cabin. They lived off the land, growing their food and hunting and trapping animals in the surrounding forest. They didn’t have much, but they had each other.
In this family were two children, Hannah and Gilbert.
One spring, the entire family was stricken with yellow fever. They all became sick and the parents died.
Hannah and Gilbert recovered, but they were now orphans and on their own. They stayed with another family while their grandmother was summoned to come and care for them. It took several weeks for the letter to reach her, and by the time she finally arrived, it was already fall.
Hannah and Gilbert were glad to be back home in their cabin, but they were still sad and missed their parents very much.
Since they had no money, kind neighbors donated enough food to sustain them through the winter. Hannah helped her grandmother with the cooking and cleaning, while Gilbert tried his hand at trapping animals the way his father had taught him. It was a simple but pleasant way of life.
As the days got shorter
and the nights colder, the children and their grandmother spent the evenings huddled by the fire to stay warm.
Late one evening, a fierce wind began to howl through the trees, down the hill and over the cabin. It shook the roof and rattled the door. And under the screaming wind, a haunting whisper could be heard, murmuring what sounded like “Gilbert.”
Gilbert looked out the window. He could see a dim light in the distance. Someone must be lost. Gilbert put on his heavy coat and strode to the door.
His grandmother’s figure blocked the doorway. She pushed him back and said, “Get ahold of yourself, boy. That light is not a visitor. Who would be outside in the dead of night in this cold? Those are demons, come to prey on you, poor orphan.”
She told Hannah and Gilbert that as long as they stayed inside their cabin, they’d be safe. “But never go outside,” she warned. “You’ll be safe only in here.”
Every night the demons returned. Their whispers became agonizing moans. “Gil-bert” the voices would wail, and the shrieks would reach such a frenzied pitch that it terrified even the grandmother who said prayers to stave off the
Gilbert tried as hard as he could to resist their beckons. He stuffed cotton in his ears and buried his head under his pillow. The demons returned night after night, screeching his name and clawing at the door. “Gil-bert! Gil-bert!” Their keening and wailing nearly drove him mad, and his grandmother and sister had to lash him to his bed to keep him safe.
Then, as suddenly as they began, the night visits stopped. The family was no longer terrorized by demons. Life returned to normal.
On a warm summer night, Gilbert was awakened by a light knock at the door. He quickly pulled on his trousers and put his feet
in his shoes. Outside, a woman’s voice sweetly intoned, “Gilbert?” It was his mother.
Moments later, Hannah awoke to a breeze on her toes. The cabin’s door was wide open and Gilbert’s bed was empty. She ran to the door in time to see a faint light ascending a hill in the distance. Gilbert was under the demons’ spell.
Hannah screamed to her brother, “Run! Gilbert! Run!” Her screaming woke their grandmother, and both women stood in the doorway, their panicked shouts echoing all around the countryside, “Run! Gilbert! Run!”
Their voices broke his trance. Gilbert looked to his side and saw not his mother, but a gruesome
spectre come to take him away. He began to run as fast as his legs could take him.
“Gilbert! Run!” his sister shouted. Gilbert crashed down the hill, speeding blindly through the darkness. He reached the edge of the lake and struggled to get away, but he could feel something pulling at his feet.
He thrashed with all his might, but the weeds growing along the edge of the pond had entangled him and were pulling him under. As his face slipped beneath the water, the last words he heard were, “Run, Gilbert, Run.”
Fishermen have said that on dark, summer nights, the ghost of young Gilbert can sometimes be seen running along the shores of the lake, trying to find his way back home.