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Watson's Place

The murky water rippled as our black canoe made its way through the winding creeks. Dad sat in back of the boat, and I sat at the bow among all our camping gear. On all sides, mangroves, with their long, fingerlike roots, reached out as if trying to grab us.

For ten days, my Dad and I paddled the remote swamps of the Everglades. It was a special trip that I still remember even today, five years later. I remember that all we ate was junk food under Dad’s permissive conditions. A permanent stain of concentrated cherry Kool-aid was tattooed to my upper lip, and dusty sugar powder stuck to my fingers after eating a donut for breakfast. I remember that while Dad did all the canoeing, I sat reading Old Yeller with our green camping bags as my pillows. I remember the time that we saw the raccoon in the daytime, and when a roseate spoonbill flew over our heads. But the time that I recall most clearly was the night we spent at Watson’s Place, a campsite that was thought to be haunted, for someone was murdered there by a man named Watson.

Around noon, we paddled into the dock that bordered the camp clearing. Two men were there, clearly packing up and getting ready to depart. The look on their faces told us that they were afraid of the campsite. You could tell they certainly didn’t want to stay there for another night.

However, I didn’t mind. At first I was thrilled to be staying at a place that was haunted.

“Do you think we’ll see a ghost?” I asked Dad in an excited whisper. He laughed cheerfully.

“Who knows? We just might.”

The first wave of apprehension arrived when a kind but evidently crazy man came to rest at the campsite for the night too. He mumbled to himself often, and sipped whiskey straight from a small bottle. He was all alone, just him and his canoe. Who would travel the Everglades alone?

Things started getting creepier as darkness crept in. I could see wariness growing in Dad’s eyes, and when he slipped a knife under his pillow before going to sleep “just in case”, I was no longer excited to potentially see a ghost. I tried to go to sleep without thinking about anything, and I snuggled closer to Dad to be as safe as possible.

In the morning, we left, and carried on our journey through the Everglades. However, even now, Dad tells me there was something eerie about that place, something a bit evil. Whenever he tells this story, I laugh at first. But he doesn’t laugh, and after awhile I understand that he isn’t trying to pull another prank. He really means it. There are just some places where you can feel evil, he says. And Watson’s Place was one of them.



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