Please Be a Black Bear….

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This is the first time I have ever shared this story.. or well I should say a series of experiences that happened to me between the years of 2004-2005 in Bessemer and the area near Ironwood Michigan. To start, at the time I was 13 and in middle school, a pretty normal girl all things considered. My mother after a lot of thought finally let me go to a summer camp. I was really excited since it was a horse camp and was taught by a very famous equestrian couple. It would also be my first time away from my home and family by myself.

The camp was organized pretty simply. We were brought to the camp every morning for barn chores, rode, ate lunch, rode again, and then were brought back “home” to sleep. The Farm itself was normal and very modern, nothing spooky happened there… the chalets where we stayed on the other hand… well… lets just say I’m not going back any time soon…

For reference, the chalets were part of the Blackjack Mountain ski resort that the camp rented for the week during June when the camp ran. They were older style wooden buildings consisting of a split level design. The ground floor with a bedroom or two and an upstairs area with living room, kitchen, balcony overlooking the mountainside, and loft bedroom. Both years, my bedroom was the ground level room to the right of the entryway with an exterior window. This came to be important later…

My first.. feeling… something was off came the 3rd or 4th day into my week in 2004. I was sitting on the balcony reading when I got that eerie sensation of being watched. I put my book down and looked around. The other campers and one of their moms were all inside watching tv.. none of them were even paying attention to me. The balcony overlooked a field that stretched about 600 feet to the wood line. The wood then slunk closer and ended about 20 feet from the side of the chalet where my room was located. I stared at the pine trees for anything moving but couldn’t find the source of my unease. Unnerved, I retreaded inside and forgot about it, until that night..

I had gone to the neighboring chalet to sit in the sauna with the other girls. The buildings were only 15 or so feet apart so even though it was dark, I wasn’t scared to move between them and had felt very safe the first few nights. This night though, I don’t think I ever ran as fast as I did from their stairs to ours. The empty road and the little drive in front of our chalets just felt so spooky..I shuddered and curled up in bed, waiting for my bunk mate to arrive. I ended up falling asleep but woke up to an odd sound coming from the wall…. a scratching…. like something was running down the wooden siding. Like a branch…. or fingers. I stayed as still as I could. Trying to listen and also trying to see if the other girl was there. She was though she was completely asleep in her bed across the way. I listened to the sound for what felt like an eternity before I heard what could be described as a deep grunt and then it all stopped. I thought something passed by my window but I couldn’t be certain as the curtains were tightly drawn and the orange glow from the street light near the trail head outside had remained undisrupted through the thin fabric. That next morning we found our garbage had been rummaged through and the lock bars meant to keep bears our had been removed… The mom from the other cabin said she must have forgotten to lock them.. but they looked too cleanly removed, and there were no marks that would indicate a bear clawing and chewing at the cans. I didn’t leave my cabin except to go to the farm after that…. the woods just didn’t feel safe.

Nothing happened again of note until I returned for my second and last year of the camp in 2005….

I had almost forgotten about my prior year’s unease. I was getting ready to head to high school and was convinced I had spooked myself with a little too wild imagination. The woods still made me nervous, but mostly because I didn’t want to run into any bears if the girls and I went on a walk. I took the same bedroom location and the was in the same style building as the prior year, This set of two chalets only being one set further up the mountain than the last. The meadow was the same, but we had a different view of it and the woods were just as close to my wall.

The first night one of the other campers said at breakfast she had heard something outside the neighboring building. It sounded like “talking” and asked if any of us had been outside last night. None of us had.

The next morning, the garbage was messed with and there was a lingering foul odor… sort of akin to a wet dog and a bit of skunk with an earthiness like something rotten. We all were spooked but we kept on distracting ourselves with activities at the farm. The second to last night of my stay was the one however that stayed locked in my memory.

That night, I was alone in my room. The curtains were drawn though there was about a 2-3 inch gap between them that ran down the middle of the window. Through it you could see the orange glow of the street light and the leaves of the nearest tree. It was late so I turned off the light to sleep, being the only one on the ground floor this time around I had no roommate to wait for. I set my alarm and settled in for the night. All was quiet until around 0300…

I woke up and felt that same wave of unease that had haunted me the prior year. I stayed stock still in my bed.. my hands moving to slowly bring my covers up to cover my chin as I stayed silent. Trying to figure out why I had woken up. That’s when I heard it. The same sound of something or someone touching the wall. Running paw or hand over the wood. I pulled my covers up over my nose and kept my eyes trained on the stripe of orange that ran through my window. At first, it seemed the sound went away and nothing more was to come of it.. but then, the orange light of the lamp was covered… and all but the very top of the window was inky dark… the area that let light pass showed that whatever was blocking the light from the window was hairy…thick and coarse hair though it looked longer than what should have been on any bear I’d ever heard of or seen on tv.

I heard a grunt and felt my heart stop. There was a moment I thought whatever it was was staring right at me… I waited… thinking of the worst.. imagining it bashing through my window to eat me and also a mantra that would seem foolish to anyone else.. “please be a black bear…. please be a black bear….”. It turned and walked off towards to direction of the steps to the front door and the garbage cans. As it turned and left the light.. I could have sworn I saw the light reflect off an area of skin on it’s head. I don’t think it had any hair on its face.. and though I never saw its face, I hope I never get the chance to.

The next morning, the garbage was once again rummaged through and the smell was back. It faded by the time my brother and mother arrived to the chalets, having arrived a day early for pick up so we could fly home together after spending the night. I told them about the things I’d seen and my mom wrote it off as me being over imaginative.. that was until my brother called from the side of the building where my window was. Now.. I had never gone to the side of this particular chalet and I assumed like the others that the ground floor windows were about 2 feet from the ground. However.. I was very wrong it seems. The top of the window was almost 9 feet from the ground as the wall was against a low natural ditch. The bottom of the widow was almost a foot over my 9 year old brother’s head! There were also wide areas of flattened earth like large soft feet had left tracks moving past to the garbage. I refused to sleep in that room that night and slept in the loft instead with my family as several of the girls had already gone home.

As a final note to end on… the next day, we had to drive to town to get last minute supplies before heading back to the farm to turn in our chalet keys. As we drove along the road all of us.. me, my brother, and my mother all smelled a horrid stench. It smelled like roadkill and garbage and pure death. My mother jokingly asked if that was the smell… I said it was similar to the stench that had been around the cabins…. We calked it up to possibly being a moose or deer that had been hit by a car however and died near the road. However… as we returned down the same road, not 30 minutes later.. the smell was completely gone…

My mother joked again that it must have been a sasquatch… and while I laughed I also firmly began to believe. To this day,even in my relatively urban Illinois home, I still shy away from windows at night that don’t have curtains fully drawn.. and I keep expecting to once again see not only a hairy outline, but a face staring back at me….

So.. If you are on Blackjack Mountain in Bessemer Michigan… be careful.. and take your trash to the dumpsters away from the chalets.. because you never know who might be wanting to stop by for a quick and easy bite late at night….

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