Nestled on the banks of the Scioto River, surrounded by a deep forest, and on the edge of the southern Ohio town of Portsmouth, sits a small hollow known as Highland Bend. I called this hollow home for most of my life and it is because of this place that I developed my interest in the supernatural, for it wasn’t just one old house, street, or part of the forest that was haunted, but the hollow as a whole.
Much like Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, Highland Bend had its share of ghostly legends, and I could share with you several that I experienced myself, but I will share one that stands out in my mind as the scariest and most profound.
Ms. Smith lived several houses down from my family with her teen son David in an old mobile home. Truth be told, the home should have been condemned. David, was fifteen and had Downs Syndrome, and would often get into mischief.
It was a Halloween night and Ms. Smith was hysterical because David had wandered off and had been missing for several hours. After going to several of our neighbors’ homes asking if they had seen him, they finally joined the search for David. My friends and I decided that we would help.
I was seventeen at this time, and I knew the hollow pretty well. As the evening progressed, everyone became more concerned about David’s safety, especially since it was nearing midnight.
The jack o’ lanterns with their glowing jagged faces took on an ominous air instead of the whimsical and protective nature I had always attributed to them. Even the costumes the other kids in our neighborhood wore made me nervous.
As two of my friends and I walked past a path which led into the woods and eventually down to the banks of Scioto River, it occurred to me that David may have gone to the river.
I discussed this with my friends and we agreed that we needed to check. However, my friends, who were much younger than I, were too afraid to go into the woods. I, on the other hand, was not.
I headed down the dark twisted path that led down to the river, my flashlight guiding my way. A wind howled through the twisted branches over my head, rustling autumn leaves across the path.
It was that wind that I had grown accustomed to living in Highland Bend, especially on Halloween night. This strange wind had howled through the trees in our little hollow every Halloween, even on the most clearest of days. The wind seemed to herald the arrival of Halloween, and of the spirits that haunted the hollow, and the ancient night.
As I continued farther down the path and deeper into the woods, I heard David’s voice. I picked up my pace knowing that he was very close to the river. As I got closer I realized that David was having a conversation with someone or something.
“No…I can’t do that. My Mom would get really mad at me,” David said.
I finally got to the shore and found David sitting on the edge of the water alone. David was staring straight ahead into the dark river. I slowly walked up to him as he continued to talk to something. His plastic Superman costume was covered in dirt and fresh mud. David clutched his trick or treat bag tight to his chest.
“No, I can’t. It will make my Mom really mad.” David insisted.
I had a strange feeling come over me which caused the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
“David, come on let’s go home,” I said as I walked up behind David.
David continued to stare ahead, his eyes never leaving the river. As I was about to reach out and touch David’s shoulder I heard something that made my heart nearly stop. First it was the sound of something moving in the water and then an eerie hollow voice. The voice was clearly coming from the river. The voice was hoarse, muffled, yet loud enough for me to hear it. Whatever the owner of the voice was saying was nearly unintelligible, yet I could make out “Come in”.
I called to David again, yet he continued to stare aimlessly into the darkness, carrying on the conversation with whatever it was that was calling to him.
“No, I don’t want to come into the water,” David pleaded.
I reached out and grabbed David’s shoulder and shouted “David!”
David suddenly jerked. His eyes blinked and stared around as if he had just woken from a deep sleep. David stared up at me, wide eyed, and seemed to slowly realize who I was.
“Bennie…where’s my Mom?” David asked.
“Come on, I’ll take you to her. But we need to go now!” I said urging him to come with me.
As David got to his feet, the thing in the water spoke again. David turned and stared back at the water. “This is my friend Bennie…”
David turned to me. “My friend wants me to come into the water to play with him.”
I immediately grabbed David’s hand. “David you can’t go into the water. It’s not safe. Lets go home!” I pulled David with me.
The voice from the water spoke again. Its tone had changed from pleading to angered urgency. David turned his head back toward the river as the voice continued to speak.
I pulled David behind me and faced the river. I yelled, “Shut UP! Whatever you are! Shut Up!
The voice grew silent and I hurried David up the path. As we walked quickly up the path and out of the woods, both David and I were silent, until just before exiting the woods.
“Bennie, why was it bad that my friend wanted me to come into the water with him.”
“Whatever that was David wasn’t your friend, it would have hurt you.” I explained.
David stopped for a moment. The expression on this face told me that he was pondering what I had just told him. “He seemed nice, but he scared me. His eyes scared me.” David told me.
“You saw his eyes? What did they look like?” I asked.
David stared back into the woods and then to me. “They were just white like the chalk my teacher uses.”
A shiver went down my spine. As David and I walked out of the woods his mother came rushing up to him and hugged him close. I stared back into the woods knowing that whatever was in the water coaxing David to join it, was tired of being alone.
The wind howled through the hollow, and as we all walked to our homes. I wondered if it was watching us.
Bennie lives in Lexington, KY with his partner Matthew and their silky terrier Prissy. Bennie is currently pursuing his masters degree through Union Institute & University in Literature and Writing. Bennie hopes to teach literature and creative writing at the college level. Bennie is also working on his first novel.
You can keep up with Bennie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bennie.blevins.18