Hal­loween should not go by with­out telling the story of Gil­bert

The Calvert Recorder - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

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

evil spir­its.

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.

Happy Hal­loween.

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