The Cabin In The Woods
I never thought I’d share this story. My younger sister and I made a pact never to speak of it. Somehow we always thought we’d get into trouble, even though it happened almost sixty years ago. But in the end, I did the right thing, I was compelled to by the ghost of an Indian who died over a century ago.
From the time my sister and I were about seven or eight, our parents would rent a small beach house on the Bay off Three Mile Harbor-Road, in East Hampton. My dad kept an old fishing boat there to use during the month of August. When not out on the boat waiting for a fish to bite, my sister and I would wander about collecting shells along the beach and exploring abandoned boat houses and barns that seemed to be everywhere. One day we spotted a weathered barn that was filled with fishing gear and lobster traps. Off in a dark corner there was a long wooden box that looked like a coffin but was filled with old leather books. One of them was called, “The Super-Natural”, dated 1850. It opened with a chapter called, The Past is Entombed in The Present, written by a long forgotten scientist named, Joseph-Rhodes Buchanan. It was his belief that every object touched by man has its whole history recorded or imprinted on it. He claimed that the human mind has a natural ability to tune into subtle energies and play back everything that has happened to that object in the past. Buchanan, named his discovery, Psychometry.
Nowhere did that concept seem to play out more than in East Hampton. I’d always felt it the moment you turned left off Montauk Highway. Some nameless something enveloped you and a subtle alternate reality seemed to play out as if on a video tape loop. It was like tuning into two different radio stations at the same time.
On our way to our house, we always parked the car and walked around the lake and graveyard on Main Street. I remember the hyper-alive state would kick in as we passed each ancient grave stone. I could feel an energy rising up from the ground, but we never paused long enough to make anything of it, but I’d swear I heard a lot of dead folk chattering away about this and that.
Summers in the Hampton’s during the fifties were a lot different than they are now. There were no crowds, but the town was crawling with writers, theater people, and artists. The most famous was Jackson-Pollock, who was frantically hurling paint on twenty foot canvases in his old barn just up the road from us. He was running out of time. He would soon drive his green Oldsmobile head on into a tree at ninety miles an hour, killing himself and a female passenger.
The high point of each summer was our dad would take us sailing around Gardiner’s Island, where we were told there was an ancient castle crowning its center. One summer we set out as a heavy fog rolled in off the Sound. In the distance the forbidden Island loomed, its steep cliffs almost lost amid swirling vapors. As we got closer, my dad cut the engine and we drifted into the shallow cove where no trespassing signs were posted. We climbed up the steep ridge where ancient trees thrust knotty roots through open gullies, and sea grass sprouted from jagged boulders. When we got to the top, the air began to clear and we stood silent taking in the breathtaking beauty of that forbidden sanctuary where nothing had changed in a thousand years. There were herds of deer and wild turkeys grazing in the distance. A magnificent bald eagle perched silently in a giant tree where I got the distinct feeling that someone had once been hanged.
We hadn’t been there very long when we heard the sound of a horse galloping in our direction. We turned and followed our dad as we ran back to the boat, where we drifted back out to sea.
The Cabin In The Woods
Late one afternoon, there were storm clouds in the sky, but after our Island adventure, we were antsy to go exploring the nearby woods. About a half a mile from our beach house, we veered off down an overgrown road, and hadn’t been walking very long when we spotted an old timbered cabin in a thicket of pines. The front door was open. We heard a rumble of thunder and it began to rain, so we ducked into the building. It looked as though an artist may have lived there once, but now it appeared that a family of raccoons had taken over. There was a huge stone fireplace and a bear rug, where a pair of vacant glass eyes stared out at us. Lying on the fur was an old silver Indian belt with a small turquoise stone in the center of eight oval medallions. “This is interesting”, my sister said picking it up. “We’d better get back, the rain stopped.” Without giving it any further thought we took the belt with us, and never mentioned it to our parents. The summer soon ended.
The Indian Ghost
As we got older, our visits to the Hampton’s became less frequent, we both went away to college, each taking the divided up silver ovals with us. About ten years had passed and I was now living on my own. I kept the silver pieces on the mental on the fireplace in my room, but noticed that whenever I picked one up, I felt a subtle shock that often caused me to drop it. One night I dreamt I was standing in a clearing by a large oak tree, and an old American Indian appeared before me, and through a kind of telepathy said: “You must return the silver belt at once to its rightful owner. It was a gift from me to a special child who was like a daughter to me.” I bolted out of bed, my heart racing, cause I knew it was not just a dream. It was very real. I quickly scrambled around the house to find a box, then sat down and wrote a long letter to the East Hampton Police Dept. telling them everything. I gave then the location of the cabin that was a short distance from our former beach house. I knew they would find a way to get it back to its original owner. I mailed the package that morning, but did not sign my name on the letter or give my address. That afternoon I wrote my sister a letter telling her about the dream, and mailed it off to France where she was studying to be an artist. All I could do was wait for her to return the remaining pieces.
Several days later I was in the kitchen baking a cake when the phone rang. It was the East Hampton Police Dept. I sank to the floor, and the room began to spin. “How did you get my name?” I croaked.
“Well this is probably the weirdest story I’ve heard in all my twenty years with the department but that cabin you found in the woods belonged to an old woman recluse, one of the Gardiners of Gardiner’s Island. We gave her your package, and the next day she called us back, sounded very overwhelmed, and said that an Indian chief she knew as a girl appeared to her, and gave her your name. But here’s the crazy part, the Indian’s been dead for almost seventy years.” The officer then asked: “Can you tell us when you’ll have the other half of the silver belt?”
“It’s on its way.” I said, not recognizing my own voice.
A week later the remaining silver pieces and belt were returned by my sister, and I forwarded them to the East Hampton Police. I never heard from them again. In trying to make sense of it all, I often thought about Buchanan’s words in the old book that we found, “The past is entombed in the present”, perhaps it is.
I still drive out to the Hampton’s from time to time, and stop at the grave yard and lake on Main Street, but in all the times I’ve returned to Three Mile Harbor Road, I’ve never been able to find the cabin in the woods.