Browning Mountain: Living Horror at Indiana’s Stonehenge

By: Laura Dzubay

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in my life exploring abandoned places. Not too much time, but a nice, healthy amount. I’m from Bloomington, Indiana, and late in high school, my friends started introducing me to abandoned spots around town: an observatory, a waterslide by the lake, a fire tower, a water treatment plant. These spots were all frequently visited — the fire tower was a common lookout point, and the observatory appeared in practically every other amateur photo shoot that got turned in at my high school — and, as a result, they never felt dead to me. Birds flew in and out of the wide, punched-out windows of the water treatment plant, and the water slide gained graffiti every day, graffiti that told of late nights out, of friendship sagas and love stories.

That’s why the scariest place where I’m from is none of these places. It’s just a clearing in the woods.

If you weren’t looking for it, Browning Mountain would blend right into the surrounding slopes of forest. There is no graffiti on Browning Mountain. There are no high schoolers wandering around with cameras, posing next to trees. But it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary until you start getting truly close to it.

The only time I’ve ever been to Browning Mountain, I was going with a group of staff members from my summer camp, but we weren’t spending the night. We were hiking through it during the daytime, stopping at the top to get lunch. As we got closer, our group grew quiet. Any speakers that had been playing music switched off, and our chatter died away.

In the silence, I became aware of the woods around me: as we gained elevation, the trees seemed to bend in toward the ground. They were still big, but they furled in on themselves and twisted, their trunks even seemed to darken.

When it finally registered with me that they looked unusual, I still couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, so I said all I could think of to say. “The trees,” I said, to no one in particular. “Look at the trees.”

I repeated myself because at first I thought nobody had heard, and then somebody shushed me — which scared me, actually, more than the trees had.

It might be useful at this point to explain the connotations of Browning Mountain within camp. It had been the subject of rumors for years. The most common legend was that cults gathered there on full moon nights, even to this day, to make sacrifices. I didn’t believe this, because I didn’t see how they wouldn’t get caught and arrested if everybody knew they were doing it. But I’d never been to Browning Mountain, and people who had would bristle whenever others seemed to doubt them. Camp organized trips there occasionally — strictly for older campers — and I knew senior staff members who’d been scared to the point of never returning. Everyone who went claimed to hear voices and footsteps around them in the night. I knew one guy who said he’d had to sleep on Browning Mountain in a hammock once, and he’d lain awake all night long with his pocketknife clutched to his chest.

Eventually we reached the top, and I saw the main attraction. It was what has often been called “Indiana’s Stonehenge”: a series of limestone slabs arranged in a circle. The story goes that the rocks, impossibly heavy, would have to have been carried up the hill from very far away, years earlier, by unknown people and for some unknown but definite purpose. It was this obscurity that frightened me the most: the idea that someone had had a goal in mind when they’d brought these here and set them up in this way, and the fact that I didn’t know whether or not this goal had been met.

This place didn’t feel dead, but in a much different way from the observatory and the water slide. It felt alive in a way I didn’t want to touch. It made me think of the nighttime in horror stories — how the evil spirits always back off when the sun comes out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there. As we pulled out our sandwich supplies in the clearing, some of my friends sat down on the rocks while they started to eat. I didn’t — I couldn’t have said why, but for some reason I was thinking about the gnarled woods all around us and The Blair Witch Project, when the guy moves a pile of stones and then disappears the next day without a trace. I sat down at the trunk of the tree instead and ate my lunch, glad, for once, not to be staying in this haunting place any longer than I had to.


Unsettled In: The Road to the Creepiest Campsite Ever

ez.jpgBy: Ellie Zak

My girlfriend and I spent the entire summer on a road trip, where we would visit the most popular national park destinations as well as the most desolate hidden jewels of our country. But not all of these jewels turned out to be shiny and beautiful, and there was one place in particular that I would rather just put in my past.

We had been driving around in circles for hours trying to locate a free campsite that seemed not to exist. We were starving, as our campfire permit only allowed us to build a fire in designated areas, and our meal we had planned for that night was inedible until we could heat it. Finally, we decided to stay at a paid campsite we knew was located just 10 miles away. The sun had already set, but this was not by any means the worst road we had driven on, so we went for it.

As we drove, smaller dirt roads jutted off from us, and it seemed that almost every one of them had a warning. It was too dark to read the signs specifically, but we saw something about death, something about falling into a ravine, and definitely something about drowning. We were desperate though, so this wasn’t enough to stop us. We soon came upon a small town that consisted of just a handful of buildings, and though we saw cars parked and the porch lights of the bar on, we didn’t see a single person. Since it was late, we shook it off, assuming people were just inside, and continued toward our campsite. But I couldn’t shake the fact that surfaced in my mind at that moment: in all the time we had spent looking for the free campsite before, we had not passed a single car.

We finally saw the sign with the name of the site, but the relief that surfaced only lasted a minute or two before the fog set in. It came in quickly, thick as low-rolling clouds, surrounding our car and obscuring our view enough to slow us down to a crawl. Only through the occasional breaks in the fog could we see more than ten feet ahead of us. As we came upon the sites at last, we noticed that no one else was there. There were at least a dozen campsites, but not a single other camper. This was the first time we had ever been to a paid campsite that was empty, but even more unsettling was the fact that it took us five campsites to finally locate one that wasn’t reserved. Five out of six empty campsites were paid for, and it was getting late, but no one was in them.

It had been a very long time since either of us had seen another person, and my girlfriend said it was as though every other person in the world had disappeared, and we were the only ones left. Throughout our whole trip, we had been to more middle-of-nowhere places than we could count, but we had not yet experienced this degree of solitude.

As soon as we got out of the car, we realized the campsite was completely overrun with bugs, which in my mind helped explain the lack of people, so in truth it provided more of a reassurance than anything else. As we walked around to gather firewood, we noticed fresh wood at each of the fire pits in the surrounding sites and, in a moment of desperation, took it for ourselves. Once the fire was going, the bugs cleared away, and with food in our belly soon afterward, it seemed we were ready to put our uneasy feelings aside and get a good night of sleep. We worked together to pitch the tent when we saw headlights in the distance. They were gone as soon as we saw them, and as much as we listened, we couldn’t hear anything. No one was there. This happened at least two or three more times before we decided to put out the fire and sleep before we died of fright out there in the open.

Each of the things we had experienced that night had a perfectly reasonable explanation behind them. But something about all of them happening together makes me really wonder what was going on there, and if it might have been something that the logical mind can’t quite explain.

A Different Kind of Horror


hiBy: Jaclyn Peraino

A lot of horror centers on fiction or fantasy; the existence of ghosts, monsters, and supernatural phenomena can be refuted. The horror of the human body and its natural cycles, however, are unavoidable and undeniably true. If you’re ever wondering what kinds of nasty (or exciting) things happen to your body after death, I suggest you pick up Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. This non-fiction story is sure to give you chills while providing you with some fascinating facts about the many, many uses of human corpses. Did you know that when you donate your body to science you might be used as practice for something as trivial as face lifts? Or that many companies use actual human bodies in car test crashes? Not dummies, actual dead humans. Test crashes have allowed companies to learn exactly how much impact the body can take on a crash and have led to the advancements of the safety precautions in the vehicles we have become accustomed to. There’s even a college in Tennessee (University of Tennessee) that has a yard dedicated to letting dead bodies decay. Not so surprisingly, it smells terrible. These bodies are left to decay naturally to learn about what happens to just about every part of the body. This can be helpful in forensics when time of death needs to be calculated. This site has some corpses left in water, others buried in bags, and some in clothes. Scientists will go out and run chemical analysis on various parts of the bodies. And, of course, they’re usually wearing heavy-duty boots left only at the lab to avoid smelling like rotting flesh when they return home for dinner. Those are just two of twelve intriguing topics covered in her novel. Other topics include crucifixion, cannibalism, decapitation, and head transplants.

This book has received wide recognition including a New York Times Best Seller, Barnes & Noble’s 2003 “Discover Great New Writers” pick, and Entertainment Weekly’s “Best Books of 2003.” The author has the perfect sense of humor to write on this topic. She’s sensitive but witty. It’s comical but filled with things you never thought you needed to know before: how much pressure for a bone to break, how the gut of a corpse expands due to gastric bacteria, how people in ancient times felt about death and preservation. The breadth of coverage and the language used make this book a great read for anyone, even people who don’t have a science background or people who thought they had no interest in learning about corpses. Trust me, you won’t regret reading this book. Plus, you’ll be filled with a multitude of fun corpse facts to share at your next family gathering

“Somewhere in the North Woods’ Darkness, a Creature Walks Upright…”

By: Logan Hansen

Though Joseph Guerra beat me to sharing the Legend of the Dogman on this blog by a solid year, I can still share the story about the night some years ago when I may have actually seen the beast with my own eyes.

For reference, as the legend goes, the Dogman only appears every seventh year of each decade, and the famous song that details the history of its sightings reveals it was first spotted in June 1887 by a group of loggers in Wexford County. It’s unclear whether the Dogman, described as standing seven-feet-four-inches tall, is a singular beast or a group of wolf-like creatures that have, throughout history, roamed the dark woods of Northern Michigan. However, whether there is one Dogman or several, it’s clear you don’t want to run into this thing.

That’s exactly what I might have done, though, when I was younger. Three separate incidents that could be related come to mind, all from when I was no more than 10 years old, but probably younger. I don’t remember in which order they occurred, or, honestly, if they all happened around the same time or not, but allow the imagination free reign here.

The first involves the woods behind my parents’ property in Manistee County. Being young and adventurous and imaginative and all of those lovely things, my brother and I would oftentimes journey into these woods and make up games to play. It just so happened that one time we came across a skull. We figured out it was a deer’s, and, upon continuing to walk through the woods, we discovered more of its skeletal frame, scattered about in various places. It was like something ripped it apart and flung the remains every which way. We had no idea what might have done this to the deer, but, as you can imagine, we were both a little creeped out about it.

The second incident I know occurred during the fall because school had just started up recently and we were supposed to be in bed early. At night, we would hear this terrifying moaning sort of noise, and nobody could figure out where it was coming from. We searched the house, looking for all possible sources — like an electronic toy, for example — but came up empty. That was really a lost cause anyway — it didn’t sound like any noise a toy would make. One night, the sounds ceased, and then a day or two later, my neighbor from across the road revealed to my parents that he’d found an injured fawn laying in the woods behind his house. It had been abandoned due to its inability to move and therefore had been sitting there making that god-awful noise and scaring the crap out of us. How had it been hurt? We didn’t know.

Last is what I believe to be my actual sighting of Michigan’s Dogman. I want to say it was summer because I was up late watching cartoons in the living room. I fell asleep at some point and then woke up at like 1 a.m., I’d say. The TV provided the room’s only light and looking outside the window into the backyard, I could see it was completely dark; the moon wasn’t out that night. I sat up on the couch and felt compelled to walk over by the front door on the opposite side of the room. My neighbors had a motion-sensor spotlight beside their house, and as I looked out the window, I could see clearly standing under that light was some thing that was very tall and appeared to be very hairy. I could only make out its silhouette as it was probably like 60-70 yards away from me, but it was there and it was something.

Maybe I never actually woke up that night. Maybe I dreamt the whole thing. But what I know for sure is that I can still see that image in my head as vividly as if I’d just seen it yesterday. And I have no way of explaining what it was that was standing there that night, but the Dogman seems as plausible as anything, right?

Underwater Monsters

By: Mika LaVaque-Manty (friend of The Course of Horror)

I’m grateful to my friend Gina for inviting me to contribute — she knows horror is not my genre. The last horror movie I saw was The Shining, back in 1983, and I still have nightmares. (1983 was kind of a horror-themed year for me. I also saw Iron Maiden live that year. My ears are still ringing.)

Fortunately, there’s horror-lite for the squeamish among us, and sometimes in unusual places. Think, for a moment, of Island Lake State Recreation area. You may know it: a lovely park about thirty minutes north of Ann Arbor, full of trails for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking; the picturesque Huron river winding in its leisurely way on its way south to Ann Arbor; Spring Mill Pond with its nice sandy beach for those perfect summer swims.

Ah, but in Spring Mill Pond lurks a monster! I hope you’ll never swim in it — nay, swim anywhere — without wondering what’s in the deep. Don’t think fresh water and small lakes will keep you safe! Continue reading

It’s Bad Mojo to Talk about It, and Even Worse if You See It

By: Hannah Katshir (Horror alum, Fall 2014)

The story of Goatman was one that I stumbled upon out of the blue on day, and something that I didn’t forget very soon after because of the unsettling feeling it leaves with the reader–making it a perfect addition to this class.

Anansi’s Goatman Story was originally posted on 4chan, a popular internet sharing site, but was eventually taken down–however, not before it was relocated onto the Creepypasta Wiki. It is told from the perspective of a 16 year old black male form Chicago, who is visiting his cousins in Alabama and going out on his first camping trip. He narrates the story as if it’s a few years down the line and he is speaking directly to the reader.

Most of the characters in the story are not very familiar with each other in the beginning, which helps to make the story even more frightening. This story was especially frightening to me because Goatman is such an enigma. He can shape shift, so no one can be sure of what he looks like, he comes with a hideous smell–with no explanation given–and above all, he has many opportunities to harm the campers, but never does. The scariest part of this is how realistic it becomes. The tone with which the narrator talks, and the way the story ends leave it up to interpretation, and make it seem as though it actually could have happened. Goatman always escapes, and he inserts himself into their group without anyone noticing time and time again. He seems like he is just lurking around and waiting for something bigger to happen. That constant threat of something bigger is always one that makes me shake.

I recommended this story not only because of how benignly scary I found it to be, but because of the dynamic between the black narrator and the white characters in the story. It is a great story to link the ever-present, mysterious, stalking terrors to real life horror. This story is brought to life through the narration, unfamiliarity of the characters, and the total mystery surround what the Goatman really is…or if this is the Goatman at all. Campers be warned, you may want to stay out of the woods for a while.

Spider Bite

By: Ashley Parker

Last week I participated in a photo shoot at a local cemetery for an affiliated organization. Sardonically, my photo scenes were labeled “Horror” as I was photographed sitting on a tombstone, caressing a granite angel and lying on an overgrown grave. I was completely terrified.

“Touch the grave! Hug it! Yeah, climb on it just like that,” coached the photographer and my giggling associates.

My mind fluctuated between taking a daring venture into the realm of the supernatural and the moral responsibility of engaging in an activity that was disrespectful and bordering on the illegal. However, to create a creepy ambiance, our executive board and photographer insisted that the setting for the flash shots stir up eerie visions and shocking thoughts Because I selected to journey into the frightening arena of horror, my actions came back to bite me, literally.

During the shoot, I suddenly felt a tingling sensation on my arm that I presumed was just an itch so I rubbed the irritation through my clothing and continued to pose and taunt the dead. The crawling tickle continued. As I was changing my clothes for the next scene, I discovered the truth behind that “small itch.” Underneath my dress and on a mass of swollen flesh were five oozing pimples. Bewildered, I quickly glanced back and forth and all around to discover the source of this repulsive intrusion. Unconsciously, I scratched the ugly malformation and a painful explosion erupted in my arm. With throbbing soreness and panic escalating, I questioned whether I had goaded evil spirits into retaliation. I was no longer the self confident model and was quickly descending into the blackness of terror. When my friends saw my distress, they quickly gathered round to lend their support and disavowed the presence of the occult. Nervously laughing, they said, “That’s a spider bite!” Attempting to convince themselves, they kept repeating, “Yep, that’s a spider bite!” Trembling with fear, I completely freaked out. Had the spiders assaulted my body as I lay on Mr. Morley’s grave or had they mysteriously infiltrated my being under the guidance of evil spirits? Not only are spiders paramount on my list of fears, I guiltily knew I was being paid back for being insolent to the dead. Swallowed up in terrifying misery, I immediately called my mother.

exxs“Mom, something weird has bitten me and I think something horrifying is happening to me.”

Even after Mom applied a cream to the bitten area, I still could not shake the unnerving sense of the mystic in my life. Restlessly sleeping, I tossed and turned and visualized spiders laying eggs inside me and eventually possessing me. I began to fantasize myself as a bizarre Spider Woman shrouded with clinging spiders like those pictured on the left.

Today, my arm looks like the figure below and the spider bites are diminishing. However, it is still early in the healing process, and the possibility of remaining spider eggs in my body and the potential for me evolving into Spider Woman still loom on my scary horizon.