When I first moved to the small, rural town of Gorham, Maine, I had little idea of what the town was like. I had heard it was a pretty place, not all that popular, but the people who lived there had been bred and raised there, going nowhere else, for decades. It was one of those types of towns where everyone knew everyone.
I had decided to move here a little less than ten years ago. Now, I’m counted as a regular amongst the group. But there were still secrets I hadn’t been told. There are secrets you don’t go prodding at in a group of such closeness and security; such as the ones about the past. Oh, yes, the past is a popular topic, when gas was 50 cents a gallon or when you could get your milk delivered to you. But the past I speak of is a past that no one in this small town wants to be reminded of.
Legends, are something that are often passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. Daughter to cousins and cousins to strangers met at parties. Disturbing stories get around, but none of them can be true. As the game Telephone goes, a word passed around so much that by the time it gets to the end, it’s completely different than from what it started as.
The reason why I’m writing all this, and the reason why I’m even telling this story, is because it has no ending. I’m confused to no end about what happened, and I’m hoping someone, somewhere, can make sense of this irrational, child’s tale, rumour sparking nonsense. It’s been on my mind since it happened, even though it was back in 2008. I suppose I ought to explain.
The twenty-third of September, 2008. My house is on the border between Windham and Gorham, near the river. Buried in the woods, just slightly. One frightfully boring afternoon, I had been told by a girlfriend that there were some walking paths into the deeper parts of the woods. Intrigued, I asked her if she could show me, and she came over not an hour later. We trekked out into the woods, snapping some beautiful photos of the reddening leaves and a few scattering deer. It was a beautiful walk, until we reached a part where the floor of the forest dipped very deeply.
We tried to get down into it, but it was like trying to scale a wall, downwards. We stood at the top and looked down over the hill for a while, trying to see if there was anything worth the stumble down. We walked around the edges of it, finding that it was like a little ravine. As we moved on, we began to notice something different about the ground. It had more rocks than other parts of the forest.
I looked ahead, taking my eyes off my footing for a moment to see a small cave in the ravine. Water trickled out of it, made a small river, and went about ten or twenty feet before the small amount of water just disappeared. I looked back at my friend, whom I’ll just call Andrea for now, with a look of glee. I pointed to the cave and said,
“We need to get down there.” She nodded, and took lead, walking to a dip in the ravine that seemed to be less steep than the other parts. We staggered down it, reaching the cave within moments. Andrea took a seat on what looked like petrified wood, and took a drink of her water, while I investigated this amazing find.
I stood in front of it to find that it was shorter than me, but fairly wide. About elbow to elbow, and up to my collar bone. The light that shined in showed that it wasn’t very big inside, it dipped in and became very tight. But the most unique thing about this ‘cave’ is that it was made out of stacked, and plastered stones.
I snapped a few shots of it, feeling very excited. My kids would love to see this. I was thinking as I took a step in, ducking my head down. Disappointment caught on, though. We were hours into the woods and I had no flashlight. A frown came upon my face, but still, I took photos of the interior. It was wet, dripping and cold. A shiver raced down my spine, a slight blow of cold air came from the cave, like a soft, tired exhale, and an even softer noise followed.
Over the dripping of the water, I could hear a small, short hiss. It was just a second, and the sound was near silent, but I heard it.
I backed away from the cave, taking a final photo before turning to Andrea. She smiled at me and said something about farmers making tunnels that went under old roads to irrigate unwanted water to another place. She said it would explain all the loose stones up above us.
I nodded in response, trying to look interested. But I wanted to get into the cave. I couldn’t explain it, but I wanted to find the end of it, and just admire and probably be the first person to ever go in there. It was thrilling, but it was getting very dark very quickly. Excited as hell, I turned to Andrea and said we should come back tomorrow. She responded that she had a counseling appointment in Portland, but, I could go myself if I wanted. I said I would, and we left the cave, hiking home.
It was pitch black when we stepped out of the woods, and Andrea raced to her Ford Explorer, jumping in it with slight wave and very rushed, loud goodbye, had to get home in time for her show, and drove off. I stood there in the driveway a moment, hand still up, waving her goodbye, but fingers no longer moving. I was a bit shocked by her suddenness, but I didn’t hold onto the memory long.
The walk home was uneventful, just to say, and I only note that Andrea said nothing, and looked anxious the entire time.
When I got home, I uploaded the photos onto my laptop, looking at them all with glee and interest. My favourites were of the cave and all it’s beauty. I flipped through the photos until I decided I should head to bed if I wanted to get out there early.
As my computer was shutting down, I thought about what Andrea had said about the farmers making caves for water, and somehow I believed that was what it was for. But, it seemed like it held a higher purpose. Like it was for something much more important than just some water and stones. I wanted it to be an amazing hideaway, where a murder had been committed and someone’s bones still lay there, waiting to be discovered. Goosebumps popped up on my arms and legs and I ran for the phone. Someone had to come with me, if not Andrea, then someone else. I had to share what I was going to find, and make sure everyone believed me.
I phoned my other friend, my daughter’s best friend’s mother, and asked if she wanted to go hiking. She gave permission to have her name here, so, Carol, asked where we were going to go. I told her the old paths behind my house. There was a long pause before she quietly replied with a ‘sure’ and said she’d be over tomorrow at 9 AM.
As I lay in bed, staring at my ceiling fan, something reminded me that Andrea had been out of counseling for two years. Contemplating this remembrance, I turned to my side, looking to the doorway. I remember seeing my bag where I had set it down, but it was on it’s side. I figured I knocked it over while closing the door. Not much after that, I fell asleep. My sleep was dreamless.
Carol arrived a bit late, 9:27, but she said her youngest son, Aaron, had the flu and she had to wait for her husband to get home to watch him while she was gone. We set out for the cave at 10:39, and the trip, was once again, uneventful. When we reached our destination, Carol said she wasn’t feeling good, and was going to stay on the top of the ravine. I went down, though, venturing to the entrance of the cave. I had checked and double checked to make sure I brought my camera and flashlight that morning, whilst waiting for Carol to show.
Before I got down and dirty, I shrugged my backpack off and brought my headlamp, flashlight and camera out of it. My cellphone was already in my pocket, though I doubted I would need it. Carol would hear me if I yelled. I was sure of it.
I stuck my head into the cave, listening carefully. I heard nothing but droplets dripping into puddles and a small rush of water. I turned my flashlight on, aiming it into the cave. The first view of the cave made my jaw drop. It was tiny. Very tiny. But I could see very far back, noticing that it either ended, or took a sharp right. I took my first few steps into the cave, ducking down as I began to crawl.
My hands were on slick, dirty rocks, and the angle at which I had to crawl made my bones feel like crumpled paper. It was like being crouched on my feet, but my legs spread apart so I didn’t get my boots into the water. I found loose stones and some mounds of dirt to maneuver my way into the cave. It was very uncomfortable and slow progressing, but I managed to get to a dip in the cave before I had to pause. I decided to turn off my flashlight and hook up my headlamp, since I did a lot of hand grabbing instead of flashlight aiming. At this point, I could turn around and see Carol outside, and the trees. I was maybe eight or nine feet into the cave.
I took a few photos of the plastered stone, slung my camera back around my neck, then tried to duck under the dip in the rock, finding that I would have to go prone to get under it. I sat there a moment, hands partially under the dip and my head near the same place. I wondered if it was worth getting soaked for. The floor was wet, water trickling under me. I thought about it for a moment, then remembered I was wearing a windbreaker. I tugged it off, setting it where I would have to crawl and quickly went under. I held my flashlight and camera in front of me, trying to find a place to set them so I could move without being held down by them. There was a small crevice in the rock, and I shoved my flashlight in that, and hung my camera around the hilt of the light.
I squirmed, feeling my back grind against the ceiling, skin being torn up through my shirt. But the little struggle was over in seconds, and I was able to sit up on the other side. I paused a moment, turned, set a random stone on my windbreaker so I would have a way to crawl back through when I returned. I took my camera and flashlight, looking towards the way I just came. I could barely see the light coming from under the dip, and the darkness seemed to swallow me up if I looked away. I turned my headlamp to the shadows and started my awkward crouch-crawl again, but at a higher level than before. More anxious than excited now, I headed on.
By now, I had been in the cave for ten or fifteen minutes, and was about fourteen feet into the cave. The further I went, the more silent it became. The sound of birds were silenced, the ambiance of the forest gone. All I could hear was trickling water, my labored breathing and the shifting of stone and sand beneath my feet. It was a thick silence whenever I stopped to catch my breath. A warm, gross, thick silence that made everything feel heavy.
The cave smelled dank, if I haven’t mentioned. Like rotting leaves and rust. If rust even has a smell. But I feel like it’s the only thing I can compare the metallic smell to. It wasn’t blood, I knew that, it was too pungent to be blood. The smell made my nose burn, but it smelled good, in a really stupid way. You know those smells that you know smell terrible, but you want to smell more.
At about twenty seven feet in, I found that the cave was getting a bit taller, but less wide. I had to really squeeze my way through at some points and worm my way around tight spots. My back soon became sore, and throbbing with a tiny, sharp pain from all the scrapes and cuts from the stones. My hands and knees were covered with slime and dirt, but I didn’t let it bother me. I was getting close to the turn in the cave, and anxiety was soon beaten by excitement.
Though, this wasn’t a good thing. Excitement wired me up, and I tried to move faster towards the turn, and I slipped a lot more than I did before. I always caught myself, but there were a few close calls where I almost smashed my face into solid rock. The cave widened so I could nearly stand up. It seemed to be about as big as the entrance, maybe a bit thinner.
Thirty five feet in, and the turn was in front of me. I place my hand on the corner, and looked around it. The cave got much bigger, and I was glad to get to stand up. I saw nothing other than a small pool of water, and a steady stream coming from the roof. Which was about five feet tall. The cave looked to be about seven or eight feet across, piles of stones were stacked in the corners, as if left by the people who were working on the caves. I doubted it though. I raised my camera to take a few photos when I heard the hissing. Except it was much closer and louder than when I heard it outside the cave.
It sounded like it was right behind me, which obviously scared the life out of me, and I dropped my camera to my chest, and the straps came loose, whipping around to face the trickling water. With a loud splash, the camera hit the pool of water and sunk god-knows how far. I stood in silence for a moment, looking hard at the other side of the room. I glanced around after a moment, my headlamp snapping one way, and then the other before I realized that I had dropped the camera.
I dove to my knees, thrusting my hand into the water without thinking. I went in almost up to my shoulder, but I couldn’t feel the bottom. I pulled out, looking close to the water with my headlamp, trying to see the bottom. But there was nothing. My eyes met my own in the water, and I sighed. The noise didn’t echo, it just stayed right by my lips. Nothing in this cave echoed. Nothing.
Just as I was about to turn away, I saw a black shape behind my left shoulder. My heart dropped and I quickly turned, sitting on my rear. Nothing was there but a hulking tower of rocks which I had tried to take photos of. I chuckled nervously, standing up, wiping my hands off and turning to the pool again. I bit my lip, glad that I had left my professional
Canon camera at home, bringing my digital instead. But it was still sixty dollars, lost to the bottom of a probably-endless-pool. But there was nothing to be done, so I turned to the way I had came, looking at the cave with developing anxieties.
I was unsure about going any further, after what had ensued. Forty feet in, I was having serious doubts about turning and going back. Especially that hissing. As I stood and thought, I wondered if the hissing was some sort of snake or bat. It wasn’t out of the question, but if there was some sort of snake in here, it was near harmless. Bats, not as common in Maine as in other places, but just the same. Harmless. So, I adjusted my headlamp and turned to the path I hadn’t walked yet.
The next tunnel wasn’t as wide as the cave, but was still just as tall. If not taller. The walls were smoother and made more out of a lighter stone than the rest of the cave. Just as I was about to step into this tunnel, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I fumbled for it, taking it out and shoving it to my ear. Carol was on the other end, a bit distorted.
“Hey, you’ve been gone for like an hour! What are you doing?”
“I’m not that far in, it was hard to get this far, but I must be in like forty or forty five feet.” I stepped further into the tunnel, looking deeper.
“I think I’m going to go past the the cave and see what’s above it.”
“Alright. I’ll keep going here.” I said, pausing to listen to what she was saying.
“Be careful, Camden. That cave could get confusing. Or worse.”
“Worse?” “Collapse.” The word struck me. I hadn’t even thought about it.
“I’ll be careful about loose stones and curvy paths.” I said with a slight chuckle. Carol didn’t laugh back, but instead, sighed.
“I’ll see you soon.” Click. I pulled the phone from my ear, stared at it, then stuck it in my pocket again. I pushed onward, stepping over a few bigger rocks that had seemed to have fallen from the ceiling a long time ago. After another thirty minutes of uneventful, straight tunnel, I found myself in another one of those rooms with stones stacked around me. There was no water this time, but instead, a strange patch of gravel near the top right corner. It was squarish, but sorta rounded. On top of it, was a rusted, ancient shovel, driven into the gravel. I can’t really say shovel. It was more like, a piece of metal with very rotted, very broken wood holding a handle on the top.
Around the shovel head was what looked like an old, plaid hat. It looked even older and more beat up than the shovel, a few holes in it, dirt and grime slicked across the entire surface. It had a hole where the shovel went through, as if it had been set on the shovel handle, but eventually rotted to the point where it couldn’t hold its own weight up, and had fallen.
I stared at it for a long time, really hoping it wasn’t what I thought it was. I turned from it quickly and hurried to the next tunnel, squeezing in and leaving the suggested grave behind without any second thoughts. The shovel must’ve been eighty six feet into the cave.
Traveling down the next tunnel was harder than the last, since it seemed that the walls were either incomplete or damaged. There were a lot more piles of rocks and dirt, and even some remnants of tools. I was becoming more and more confused, more and more anxious about what was going on. Andrea had said the tunnel was complete. And had been for at least two hundred years.
The way things were beginning to look was like whomever had been working down here, had left very quickly and very suddenly. The hissing suddenly came to mind, and the shadow behind my reflection. Instead of being excited, I became scared. There was something very much off about this place, and I was hating every second of it. But going back now would render me a scared little girl that had no stomach for adventure to Carol and others. So, I pushed on down the corridor, wondering how long it would be before I came upon the next room. If there was a complete one.
Before I could reach the hundred foot mark, I swore I could hear a shuffling, partially muffled by my footsteps. I stopped walking, turned and listened hard. There wasn’t a sound. My light pushed into the room that I had come out of, which was a small hole in the distance. I took a step, and stopped. The shuffling started, then stopped. My stomach leaped and I turned, breaking into a run.
I ran blindly, leaping over rocks and anything in my way. I dropped my flashlight in a stumble, and didn’t pause to grab it. But, soon, I became very tired, and I slowed to a job, turning my head over my shoulder to see the shadows moving behind me. My heart leapt in my chest and I raced into the next chamber, slamming my back against the wall, my headlamp quivering as I stared at the tunnel. Air pumped into my lungs so quickly that my throat began to burn. My ears had popped somewhere along the way, and they burned more than my throat.
I clenched my stomach, tears pricking my eyes. I was scared. Very, very, very scared. Even when my daughter didn’t come home from 2nd grade that once, I wasn’t this scared. There was something in this cave with me, and I couldn’t get out. I was trapped. I felt a lump rising in my throat and I let myself cry, sinking to the floor. I cried hard and heavily, hyperventilating and coughing. I let out many wails of anguish, sometimes slapping the floor or kicking a loose stone.
After my fit, I decided to try and call Carol, to see if she could get me out somehow. Maybe find an end to the tunnel. The phone was still in my pocket, thankfully, and I dialed her number quickly. It rang four, long times before she picked up.
“Camden? Where are you? I came back to the cave entrance an hour ago!” She said through the phone, but I just started blabbering about what was going on. She was silent through the entire novel of a story, and she said quietly at the end of it,
“I know.” I fell deathly silent. The only noise was my soft breathing, which had calmed down quite a bit. “I shouldn’t have let you go in there, Camden. I shouldn’t have.” Carol’s voice began to crack. “Back when the tunnel was first being built, it was for what Andrea said it was for. Water irrigation. But something went terribly, terribly wrong.”
“Carol...” I started, worry rising quickly in my chest as she went on, trying to convince myself this wasn’t real.
“One of the men was killed. Nobody ever found out how, but they found him stripped naked, hands and feet cut off and head missing. They buried what was left of him down there and continued digging. They uncovered something ungodly down there, Camden. But it’s always just been a story! Something to keep kids away from the tunnels! It was just a rumour and nobody believed it when they got older. Oh god, Camden, oh god. It’s in there with you and I let you go down there!” She began to cry heavily over the phone, and I just stared at the floor. It explained everything. The supposed grave, the incomplete caverns and forgotten tools.
“It’s okay, Carol. Calm down. I’ll be fine. There has to be another way out of here, right?” I said, trying to sound positive. I heard her hum an affirmative, and I sighed.
“Alright. So, I’ll just get to the end and get out. It’s going to be alright. Don’t worry about me. I’ll call if I need anything.”
“Okay... Please stay safe...” And she hung up. I closed the phone and put it back in my pocket, sucking in the information as I leaned forward and turned to the new tunnel. My heart was pounding and my stomach was tight as a knot, and my head was whirring as I began a steady pace into the next tunnel. I must’ve been at least a hundred and fifty feet in at that point.
I went through about several more caverns before I reached a sudden, jagged wall. I looked at it in disbelief for a long time, wondering if I had somehow gone down another path without noticing. But, I couldn’t have, since it was leading the water all to one place. Just to be sure, I turned to go back, my light hitting a figure in the shadows. My foot froze mid-step and I just stared at the figure. It looked human, but was hunched over, and had odd hands with fingers that split in half to be other fingers. Its chest was large, but its waist was smaller than my own hand. It was looking right at me with a very strange, animal-like face. That was all I could see before the familiar hissing sounded, and it disappeared.
It didn’t run off, it didn’t jump from the light, it just blinked out of existence. I stared at where it was for at least five minutes in absolute fear before I murmured to myself, my tongue like sandpaper,
“What the hell was that...?” I licked my lips, letting out a very shaky sigh, my stomach doing trapeze flips. And not in a good way. But I took a step forward, making my way back the way I came, hopefully finding a second tunnel. Soon, I found a fork, and I turned to the other side of it, walking down it at a faster pace than before. I kept picturing the creature that had been standing in the dark, watching me. I hadn’t seen its eyes and I wondered if they were red or black or some other evil colour as I sped up my pace. I wondered if it had sharp teeth or dull ones. How many teeth it had, just to keep my mind occupied as I broke into a light jog. I could hear the shuffling behind me.
Was it a person? Was is a monster? Was it even real? Was I just being delusional? I began to cry again as I started to run. I pushed the thoughts away as I heard the hiss, but it broke into an inhuman screech of rage. I began to sob loudly, screaming out whenever I nearly tripped or stumbled. I found myself running so fast that I could barely tell the difference between floor and walls, the colours melding together as I picked up speed. Its loud footsteps got closer and closer, the thuds making me wish more and more for a miracle.
And that’s why I’m alive today. A miracle.
I saw a light.
It was faint, but there was a light. My heart began to race, and I felt that need to cover my rear and get away from the darkness. I was sprinting towards the light, inspecting the source to find it was a tunnel that went slightly upwards.
I threw my hands out as I came close to the entrance, and I flung myself at it. My chest hit the opening and I began to scramble up. Whatever was behind me wasn’t far behind, because I could hear it growling and hissing with frustration. I whimpered and sobbed, climbing madly up the hole, seeing fading sunlight above me. A smile came onto my face, but it quickly went away, turning to a wince of pain. My hands were cut and bleeding from the rocks, the knees of my pants shredded and blood seeping from them. But I was going to get out of this.
Just as I threw my hand out onto the ground, a hand wrapped around my foot. I let out a scream, the sound echoing through the forest. Bird scattered. I turned to look down, shaking my leg. There it was, giant, bright red eyes glaring up at me; its teeth bared and gray tongue lolling from its mouth. It had pale, hairless skin that sagged and looked like the skin of an elderly person, but a dark gray and slick with an unknown liquid.
It hissed at me, snapping its jaws. I took my other foot and kicked it directly in the face, watching it writhe and snarl, but not let go. I clawed at the ground above me, feeling myself being dragged down, back in to the tunnels. A rock was knocked loose, and I dropped my hand in time to catch it. I looked down at the creature, which was still looking right at me with its huge eyes, filled with hunger.
I lifted the rock above my head and slammed it down on the creature. It let go of my leg and roared that not-animal, not-human roar and tumbled back into the cave. I could hear its head smash against the floor, and a rumbling sound come from that sickening crack. Rocks down below began to fall, and I hauled myself out of the cave, quickly turning on my ass to see the the creature trying to get out. I shook my head and watched a stone fall right in front of it.
The rumbling continued for a few more minutes before everything fell silent. I must have sat there for hours. Just staring at the partially exposed hole. My heart was still racing, and my leg felt like it was on fire. I looked down at it after I broke out of my daze, seeing that the monster had penetrated my skin and had dug its claws into me. I hadn’t even noticed in my panic.
There were nine bloody lines in my calf from the monster’s strange fingers. I leaned back and just let myself hit the ground, laying out in the middle of the woods, the sun going down and my leg bleeding badly. But I just lay there, forgetting about everything for a moment. In a state of complete and utter shock, I didn’t move an inch.
A noise snapped me out of my shock. A soft, rustling noise. I sat up and looked around. I then realized it was my phone, vibrating in my pocket. I took it out slowly, getting blood onto the screen as I accepted the call, and pressed the speaker to my ear.
“Camden?! Camden! I’ve been calling you over and over since the cave collapsed! I was sure you were dead, oh God, Camden.” Carol yelled through the line, and I cringed, coughing.
“No. I’m fine. I’m outside a tunnel. I just barely made it out.” I paused, then said, “Its still in there.” Carol didn’t respond. There was a silence before I added,
“I’m bleeding. Some cuts on my hands and legs.” I heard her sigh, and she said she’d start looking for me and to not move an inch. She hung up first, as she always did, and I stood, limping over to a tree, sitting down in front of it and leaning against it.
It was a half hour before Carol found me and helped me home. She took me to the hospital and we said I had a run in with some hungry feral dogs. I was tested for rabies, found negative and was stitched up and sent home.
That was all five years ago. Today, Carol, Andrea and I are still friends, my leg has some thick scars, and I moved to the other side of the river. I was told by locals after my accident, about the story. As Carol had said, there was a group of farmers who needed to irrigate some water, and made a tunnel. They dug it first, had a few cave ins, but lined the walls with stone and plastered it together with some old-age tar. About half way through the digging, they uncovered something buried deep within their tunnels. It was a chest that they opened, thinking there was some ancient treasure, but found nothing in it but a piece of very old paper. They attempted to read it and brought to life something that lived, dormant there for probably a very long time.
They had no idea until that man was found without his head and extremities. They continued to dig until they realized they were being hunted by it. So, they dug the shaft that I had escaped from, and never returned. Its said that there was seven workers, and only four survived.
To this day, I have told no one about my incident except Andrea and Carol. I’ll upload the photos I have to this page, and hopefully I can find out more about whatever it is.
If anyone knows anything about this creature, I’ll pay good money for any valuable information.
Thank you so much for reading.
As promised, all the photos from the trip.