Ted Sanford ran his hand along the top of the low rock wall dividing his parent’s property from their neighbors. The wall, probably a hundred or more years old, built with cobblestones, was cool to the touch. It was nearly 5:00 PM, and in this part of the country, nightfall on October evenings came early. His overnight bag, already packed, Ted hoped he had not forgotten anything.
Greg Hanson, his best friend, was probably telling his planned sleepover story to his parents about now. The first phase of their plan accomplished earlier in the afternoon involved staging their bikes on the other side of the wall at the property’s back. The boy’s whole scheme involved spending the night at Look-Out-Point on Silver Lake. Today being Halloween, neither boy expected any pushback on the sleepover idea but knew that traveling to Silver Lake at night would hit a substantial roadblock.
A year older at 13, Greg was held back in sixth grade, struggled in school, and became a bit of a rabble-rouser. Ted, more academically inclined, liked Greg’s adventurous side even though he didn’t feel it always wise to go along. Taking a page from a daring Alcatraz escape in the sixties when Frank Morris fashioned a replica of his face and head to fool the guards, the boys planned to use pillows and other objects to mimic their sleeping forms to benefit Ted’s parents. The boys escape route out Ted’s bedroom window, and down a sturdy trellis seemed foolproof.
About a two-mile hike from Ted’s home, Silver Lake was a sizeable back-country lake with dozens of bays, inlets, and islands. Look-Out-Point, a narrow strip of land jutting into the lake, with an elevation of 30 feet or so above the water, had a grand view of the lake’s most expansive area of open water. The spit of land, mostly rock, and trees sloped toward the water and narrowed to only a few feet in width at its endpoint.
Like everyone else who lived in the area, the boys had heard the tale about a scorned bride perishing in the lake in the late 1800s. According to the story, she fled a local church in her wedding dress and later was spotted in a small rowboat on Silver Lake by a fisherman. She was rowing across the open water in the direction of Shank Island, one of the largest in the lake. A vicious storm came up with no warning and produced over six-foot-high waves, according to eyewitnesses. The townspeople never saw the woman or boat again.
Over the years, there had been reports of people hearing oars hitting the side of a wooden boat with nothing visible on the water. Other people reported seeing a single occupant dressed in white drifting 50 feet or so from the shoreline. Usually, the sightings occurred after a mist had formed on the water in the early morning hours. Look-Out-Point is one of several locations with reported sightings.
“Hey, Blandford,” Greg called as he hopped the fence into the backyard. Blandford, the nickname for Ted, stemmed from his reluctance to engage in dangerous or exciting activities.
“Hey Hamson,” Ted fired back. Ignoring the retort, Greg inquired if everything was in place.
Ted ticked them off, “supplies, check, bikes, check, sleepover story, check, items for stuffing under covers, check.”
“Oh, speaking of supplies, I have a surprise for you when we get to the lake,” Greg said.
“You got something in your ears? I just told you when we get to the lake,” Greg said, rolling his eyes.
“Alright, alright, let’s go to my room and check our supplies.”
Earlier, Ted found the tent he had used for camping with the scouts and stuffed it inside a pillowcase to bring to his room. The two spent the next hour going through provisions and considering that everything needed to be carried on their bikes and, on foot, for the last leg.
By 7:00 PM, most of the trick & treaters had finished for the evening, and Ted’s parents retired to the living room to watch TV. Deciding it was time to leave, the two boys crept out Ted’s window, across a short expanse of the roof and down the trellis on the side of the house.
A few minutes later, after making adjustments to their gear, the boys peddled the two neighborhood blocks to reach the dirt road leading to the lake. The cloudless night caused the temperature to drop rapidly after a hot day for the time of year. The pair made good time on the dirt road, and within 20 minutes, had covered the two miles to the wooded trail leading to Look-Out-Point. The path, narrow and rocky, did not easily accommodate bikes, and the boys had previously planned to stash their bikes and go in on foot. Ted using his flashlight, guided the pair along the narrow path.
The trek through the woods, only a quarter of a mile in length, seemed to take longer and was more strenuous than the two-mile ride. Finally arriving at the site, they spent a few minutes in silence as the woods gave way to a splendid view of Silver Lake under a starry sky. Using the flashlight to pitch the tent, they then worked to gather wood for a fire. Finding wood in the dark proved challenging, and it took another thirty minutes before they had enough for a decent fire.
Building a fire created a cozy warmth for their campsite, and finally, with time to relax. Greg, grabbing his supplies, said, “check this out.” Ted watched as he pulled two tall cans of Budweiser from his stores along with a fresh, unopened pack of camel no-filter cigarettes.
“Holy crap,” Ted said, clearly impressed, “how d you get the smokes?”
“Stole ’em from the drugstore.”
Ted, unsure if he was kidding, decided not to pursue it but understood the difficulty of obtaining smokes at their age. The Budweiser was the only beer Greg’s dad drank, and he knew Greg had sneaked the cans from his supply.
Popping the tops and firing up a couple of smokes, they stared out at the night sky, lost in the splendor of the moment.
“Hey Blandford, you don’t believe all those stories about a ghost bride drifting around on the lake, do you?” In reality, Ted did tend to believe in the supernatural, but with the way Greg posed the question, he only managed a “yeah right.”
“Well, since this is Halloween and all, I say we bust that myth tonight,” Greg said before blowing a long stream of smoke into the night air.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with Halloween,” Ted said.
“Don’t matter if she floats around at night, and this is a spot where people have seen her; we should see her, right?” Ted wasn’t sure about the soundness of that logic but said “right,” anyway.
The boys finished their beers and smoked three more cigarettes while the fire burned down to embers. The chill of the night air drove them into their tent and eventually to sleep.
Ted, suddenly waking up, had a dire need to pee, and not wanting to leave his sleeping bag’s warmth, lay there for a few minutes wondering what time it was. He had a slight memory of hearing a noise in the direction of the point that may have woken him up.
Unable to wait any longer, Ted unzipped his sleeping bag enough to crawl outside the tent. Mist rising over the water covered its surface, settling into the depression of the lake between the shorelines. Ted venturing 20 feet or so down the path toward the point, stopped to relieve himself. The sound he thought he had heard earlier came again from somewhere nearer to the endpoint. It was a hollow sound like something hitting wood.
Ted felt goosebumps raised on his arms as he stood still to listen. The sound came again, this time a series of bumps. With the stars out, the path had just enough illumination to navigate. Looking back up the incline toward the tent, Ted felt he could go a little further along the trail. After carefully walking another 50 feet down the path, he was closer to the water and found himself within the mist drifting ashore.
The sound ever closer, Joel strained to see through the dark. The land’s width here less than 20 feet had a four to six-foot drop to the water. Slowly he crept another 20 feet until the earth became nearly even with the water. The mist coming in close intervals looked liked wispy curtains of moisture, and the bumping sound is just to his right. Staring in that direction, he could make out the outline of the bow of a small boat. Too scared to turn away, he crept closer until he could look down and see inside the rowboat; it was empty. He tried to reason that a fisherman had tied it to the rocky shore, but the story of the bride screamed in his mind.
Feeling a light brush on the back of his arm, Ted jerked his head sideways to see part of a dirty lace dress ragged and torn along its bottom. Ted lurching forward, nearly lost his balance on the edge of the rocks. Looking back, he saw the veiled figure standing motionless facing him. Ted, backing up to the edge of the shoreline, prayed it would not come toward him. The mist’s curtains continued flowing in from the lake, and as each one moved between the trees, parts of the apparition drifted away until it completely dissipated into the mist. Still mortified by what he had witnessed, Ted finally found the courage to move from the edge of the rocks. Taking a few steps into the wooded area, he looked back just in time to see the lone figure sitting in the boat as it faded into the mist.