Scary Stories Skeleton Lake

Scary stories can send a shiver down your spine. The scariest of ghost stories come from some basis in truth. The skeleton in “Skeleton Lake” could reveal a story quite different than the one told by its teller.


The loneliness of our moose camp on Skeleton Lake in the Quebec backwoods, five days by trail and canoe from civilization, and perhaps the name, contributed a little to the sensation of eeriness that made itself felt in the camp circle when once the sun was down.

All names have their meaning and are usually pretty recently acquired, while the majority is self-explanatory. Skeleton Lake was a name full of suggestion, and though none of us knew the origin, we all were all conscious of a certain atmosphere that haunted its shores and islands; we should probably have pitched our tents elsewhere. Although, this is where the moose tracks lay.

Our little camp consisted of the professor, his wife, a woman who was a splendid shot, and myself. We had a guide apiece, and hunted daily in pairs from before sunrise until dark.

It was our last evening in the woods, and the professor was lying in my tent, discussing the dangers of hunting alone in couples.

There was the abrupt stopping of our conversation, and then the running of quick little steps over the pine needles, and the confusion of men’s voices; and the next instant the professor’s wife was at the tent door, hatless, her face white, her hunting pants bagging at the wrong places, a rifle in her hand, and her words running into one another anyhow.

“Quick, Harry! It’s Rushton. I was asleep and it woke me. Something’s happened. You must deal with it!”

In a second we were outside the tent with our rifles.

“My God!” I heard the professor exclaim, as if he had first made the discovery. “It is Rushton!”

I can see that group to this day, like good photograph, standing half-way between the fire and the darkness, a slight mist rising from the lake, the frosty stars, and our men, in silence, dragging Rushton across the rocks towards the camp fire.

The story was bound to come, and come it did. It was smothered in words melodramatic and poetic words that lie just on the edge of frenzy. Of course, he kept asking us each in turn, scanning our faces with those restless, frightened eyes of his, “What would you have done?” “What else could I do?” and “Was that my fault?” But that was nothing. He told his story boldly, forcing his conclusions upon us, and these questions I have mentioned were used to emphasize any special point.

The story itself, as I have said, was ordinary. Jake and himself, in a nine-foot canoe, had upset in the middle of a lake, and had held hands across the upturned craft for several hours, eventually cutting holes in her ribs to stick their arms through and grasp hands in case the numbness of the cold water should overcome them. They were miles from shore, and the wind was drifting them down upon a little island. But when they got within a few hundred yards of the island they would drift past it.

It was then the quarrel began. Jake was for leaving the canoe and swimming. Rushton believed in waiting till they actually had passed the island and were sheltered from the wind. Then they could make the island easily by swimming, canoe and all. But Jake refused to give in, and after a short struggle, got free from the canoe and disappeared.

Rushton held on and proved his theory, after being in the water over five hours. He described to us how he crawled up on to the shore, and fainted at once, with his feet lying half in the water. He explained how the canoe had drifted away and his extraordinary luck in finding it caught again at the end of the island by a cedar branch. He told us that the little ax was caught when the canoe turned over, and how the little bottle in his pocket holding the emergency matches was whole and dry. He made a blazing fire and searched the island from end to end; calling Jake in the darkness, but getting no answer, until finally he lost his nerve completely and returned to lie down by the fire waiting for the daylight to come.

He replaced the lost paddles, and after one more useless search for his lost friend, he got into the canoe, and crossed over to the mainland. He knew roughly the position of our camping place, and after paddling day and night, without food or shelter, he reached us two days later.

This, more or less, was the story. We knew that every word was literally true, and at the same time went to the building of a hideous and extraordinary lie.

Three days later Hank and Silver Fizz, our guides, followed with stumbling footsteps the old Indian trail that leads from Beaver Creek to the southwards. A hammock was slung between them, and it weighed heavily. Yet neither of the men complained, and the speech between them was almost nothing. Their thoughts were on the terrible secret of the woods which formed the shifting mass that lay in the swinging hammock and tugged so severely at their shoulders.

They had found “it” in four feet of water not more than a couple of yards from the lee shore of the island. And in the back of the head was a long, terrible wound which no man could possibly have inflicted upon himself.