Science fiction

A Night At The Lake

Those who have known me for many years are familiar with my passions for nighttime activities, fine-quality film cameras, and analog tape recorders. So, an evening that combines spending time on a lake, at night, with an analog recorder to capture the keening of nighttime insects, and a fine film camera to capture the glow of the distant city lights is as close to a perfect day as possible.

And so it was I found myself at a small, secluded lake outside Lee's Summit, Missouri, nearly midnight, July 7th, 1984. The lake belonged to a friend, and was a favorite place of mine to visit. A private getaway, without having to travel to an exotic location.

The still night was made more pleasant by the refreshing 70-ish degree Fahrenheit temperature.

The solitude of the lake was ironic in the presence of the loud chorus of insects and frogs, punctuated by occasional cries of unseen nocturnal fauna. A distant aircraft thrummed, adding an oddly harmonious undertone that gradually faded away.

The moon lent its cool glow to the lake. Gentle waves shimmered in a relaxing motion. The nearby trees were starkly outlined in sharp relief.

A lunchbox-sized Uher 4200 Report Stereo analog tape recorder, fed by a unique JVC binaural microphone, freed of the necessity of AC power by its battery pack, was capturing the acoustic ambience. A small folding table held the recorder, while, several feet away, a mannequin head atop a crudely-made wooden stand held the microphone six feet above the ground, far enough to avoid the noise of the camera.

In no particular hurry, my back to the lake, I prepared to mount a Pentax MX 35mm film camera on a well-worn, but still-rock-solid, Tiltall tripod. My plan was to photograph the patterns of light that gave that particular night's sky a melancholy beauty.

Suddenly, silence erupted. As if an invisible finger had flipped a switch, every insect, every frog, every creature of the night stopped. Startled, I turned toward the lake, with a sense of dread, and froze.

I strained to hear. Anything.

The silence was so complete that I began to question whether I had gone deaf. As I continued to concentrate, I was relieved to hear, to just barely hear, the electric hum of the recorder's motor.

I relaxed.

The moment I began to turn back toward the tripod the night was pierced by two, glowing, red spots above the middle of the lake.

Two glowing red eyes.

Two close, glowing red eyes.

Two close, glowing red eyes that were moving toward me. Rapidly.

Instinct shouted down reason. I threw the camera into the car. My next memory is of the car leaving a trail of dust, the lake far behind.

I stopped. The recorder, the microphone and the tripod were back at the lake. I'd abandoned them all without a second thought. So now the choice. Return for my equipment or continue my flight? Was it worth the risk? By now, they're gone anyway, right? Or smashed and worthless, right? No point in it, right?

Drat.

Okay, I just can't throw away expensive equipment. And I had to know what really happened.

So, I went to a friend's house nearby and related the events of the lake. He agreed, with some cajoling, to return with me to retrieve my equipment. His face bore eloquent rebukes for my overactive imagination. Glowing red eyes indeed.

The presence of my equipment still intact brought relief and astonishment to me and another of "those looks" from my friend. Three hours had elapsed, yet everything was as I left it. The lake was as noisy as ever. It was the most normal scene you could imagine. Yet, the normality was almost unnerving.

I packed the microphone away, then folded the tripod into its case. Lastly, I picked up the recorder by its handle and switched off its power. The motor sighed and fell quiet. The level meter flicked briefly as the audio amplifier let out a parting thump. Oddly, it didn't feel right. Something was amiss. Setting the recorder down on the back seat of the car, I saw that the tape was missing. That was on its own, because, other than the missing tape, nothing seemed to have been disturbed. Yet the tape recorder was considerably lighter than it should've been.

I turned the recorder over, and remove the bottom to access the battery compartment. There was no battery. There was no battery yet the recorder had been running when I picked it up and switched it off. How? After replacing the bottom cover, I turn the recorder right side up and switched it on. But it didn't turn on. How could it, it didn't have a battery? But it had been working when I first picked it up.

Somehow, I didn't want to know. I just wanted out of there. As quickly as I could leave. I dropped my friend off at his house, and bid him goodbye, profusely thanking him for his assistance.

Over the next several days, I pondered the strange events at that lake. I never again visited the lake. I still have the recorder, and it has never worked without a battery since that strange night on the lake with two glowing red eyes.

And so, dear reader, concludes my tale of high strangeness. Ponder this Halloween those inexplicable occurrences, those things that can't happen yet do. Ponder what lies beyond the unexplained.

But relax. In the end, it's all just a ghost story.

Isn't it?