Episode 14: "The Wild and Solitary" – The Sheridan Tapes
CONTENT WARNING: Disturbing elements, mentions of gun violence, bodily harm, discussion of suicidal ideation
Tape 2-5-123-1-7: At an abandoned Girl Scout camp in New York, Anna Sheridan hunts a creature she encountered early in her career… A creature she believed to be dead nearly 12 years ago.
Starring Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Alejandra Cejudo as the Creature, and Trevor Van Winkle as Sam Bailey, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written and produced by Trevor Van Winkle, and made possible by our supporters at patreon.com/homesteadcorner
For more information and additional content, visit thesheridantapes.com
CONTENT WARNINGS: Disturbing elements, mentions of gun violence, bodily harm, discussion of suicidal ideation
[The sound of waves lapping on a shore]
[Running footsteps approach, then stop and walk around]
[Pick up a wooden object]
[Disturbing, sharp cackle echoes on the tape]
[Cassette player motor whirs, stops]
[Cassette player noise]
[Keyboard keys clacking]
[Hum of an office fan]
Good. Okay, that looks about right. May have to move a few of the pins around, but — I think I have everything up on the board. Santa Lucia. The mirror house. Langlois, the waxworks, “the Wild Hunt.” Doctor Park. Miss Sol. Her sister, the Echo, and Amy Sterling. Donner Pass, the Royal Albert Hall… and Miss Sheridan, right in the middle of it all. It wasn’t easy to put everything together, and getting the tapes in any kind of sensible order was even worse, but if I’m ever going to get the shape of this thing, I need a wider perspective on it.
Well that, and I also wanted something to distract me from how… piss-poor that call with Maria Sol was. God. I know I’m not the most sociable guy in the world, but I’m pretty sure I knew how to not scare off a witness before, you know. I mean, fairly sure I mean. At least as sure as I can be of anything before the accident.
[He picks up another tape from the pile]
In any case, I think I have a solid enough outline to risk adding another tape to the mix. And when it’s either that or go home — yeah, I’ll stay here, thanks.
[He feeds it into the player]
So, this is tape number 2-5-123-1-7, Detective Sam Bailey, Oslow County Police Department, etc etc. Recording on April 17th 2019 at —
[He slips the tape into the player]
[Hiss of static, then fades]
[The sounds of a woodland night]
[A knife is drawn]
[Anna draws a deep breath, then draws air through her teeth]
[The knife slices her palm]
[Blood drips on the floor]
[Anna rips a cloth bandage and begins to wrap her hand]
Okay. That should do the trick… I hope.
[Mechanical keypad presses, followed by electronic beeping]
[Mechanical switch flicked]
[Footsteps across wooden floor, out into leaves and gravel]
[Van door opens, then slams shut]
Okay — the cage is ready, the baby monitor…
[She flicks another switch]
…is working, and the scanner…is also working, but not picking up anything yet. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Jesus, that hurts. I cut way too deep: Drew just nicked his hand, and that was enough to bring the monster here. Though it took about an hour to actually show up. We could be here for a while, but it was definitely the blood that attracted it last time.
I mean I think it was the blood, otherwise I set this all up and sliced my hand open for no good reason.
Well, if this is going to take a while, then maybe I should just start from the beginning. I don’t have a tape from my last visit, and that was before I even started using the old digital recorder. I have a few journal pages about it somewhere, but — well, I’ve got time. Might as well use it.
Beechwood State Park sits right on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in New York, near Sodus Bay. Back in the 20s, the Girl Scouts bought the land and built Camp Beechwood, running hundreds of camps between 1929 and the late 90’s. It was pretty standard stuff for a summer camp: mess hall, cabins, a full swimming pool — which doesn’t really make much sense since it was already on the lake but — anyways. It was a nice place, as far as I can tell, and not even remotely haunted.
But fond memories and merit badges don’t pay the bills, and the camp closed just before it saw the turn of the century. The town purchased the land a few years later, hoping to build a state park, but… again, the money came up short, and it was more or less abandoned for good.
I’ve always had a thing for abandoned places, so, in early 2005, I came here with a group of ghost hunters I met at one of the Anathema signings in Rochester. As soon as they told me about this place, I knew I had to see it, even if it did throw Anthony’s precious timetable off. And boy was it the right choice.
Or the wrong one. Depends on your perspective, I suppose.
We arrived at the camp around midnight and got to grips with the layout as best we could in the dark. It was mostly just thick forest growing in and around the old buildings all the way up to the water’s edge, making it impossible to see anything else. There weren’t many good sight lines outside and this was before I had my scanner.
So we decided to shelter in the mess hall and set up some temperature gauges around the perimeter. Then we picked the best corner and lined it with folding cots, though I doubt any of us would have slept very well in that place. There were four of us in the crew — Drew, the engineer who built the kit, Leslie, the self-appointed leader, and Adam, an astrophysics student whose job, as far as I can tell, was designated DJ. I recognized most of what he played on the drive over from the Friday the 13th soundtrack, which definitely set the mood… If maybe a little too well.
But we all just laughed when we heard it and proudly announced that we’d be more than a match for any movie monsters we found there.
Anyway, we set up a schedule of watches for the night, but it turns out we really shouldn’t have bothered. About halfway through setting up camp, Adam tripped on a bit of debris from the collapsed roof and nicked his finger on an old nail. It wasn’t a bad cut, and we cleaned and dressed it pretty competently for a bunch of amateur paranormalists barely old enough to drink. We didn’t think much of it, and we went straight back to setting up camp until about 20 minutes later, when we heard the rumble of thunder roll through the trees.
That definitely got our attention. There wasn’t supposed to be any rain that night, but the weather can change pretty suddenly over the lake — at least, that’s what Adam told us with what sounded a lot like faked confidence.
We kept working, but the thunder kept getting closer and closer, and within about ten more minutes the rain came pouring down through the broken roof. None of us were very happy about that of course, but we didn’t want to give up either; so we moved the cots and equipment to what few dry spots we could find in the dilapidated building and kept going. But then the electric lanterns we brought with us started to flicker and die, as did the temperature gauges. Thankfully we had enough good sense between us to admit that we might be dealing with something a bit out of our depth.
We decided to call it a night and started hauling our kit back out to Leslie’s van. There was a lot to pack up, especially for four people, and we had to take multiple trips to get it all.
It was on the way back into the mess hall on my third trip that I first saw it, looming out of the darkness when the lightning flashed across the sky.
At first, I thought it was a person in a long, black jacket or raincoat. All I could really see was a round, pale face with a slightly pointed chin and the vaguest silhouette of a body below it. There was something strange about its face, but I only saw it for a second before the sky went dark again. By the time I managed to get my flashlight out and point it where I’d seen the figure, it was gone.
I thought about telling the rest of the crew, but — well, I figured that even if there was something there and I hadn’t just imagined it, telling them would only cause panic, and we were already moving as fast as we could with the storm. So I ran back into the mess hall, gathered up as much of our equipment as I could, then hustled it back to the van. By then, most of it was loaded: I saw Drew packing away the last cot when I was inside, and Leslie and Adam were already done with their last load and back in the van, shivering and trying to get the heater working. I joined them as soon as I stowed what I was carrying, glancing back at where I thought I saw the figure before I climbed in. Another bolt of lightning lit up the camp, but there was no one there.
After about five minutes of waiting, it was obvious that Drew was taking way too long to get back. By then, we’d mostly dried off and didn’t really want to go back out into the cold and wet, but I volunteered to check on him anyways. At that point I still hadn’t mentioned what I’d seen: back then, I’d only had a handful of actual encounters, and I still had some doubts about whether or not I’d actually seen anything or just imagined it. I didn’t want them to dismiss me as crazy for seeing things in the woods at night.
The rain was falling even heavier when I got out of the van, and the ground around the mess hall had been reduced to slippery mud that I had to slosh through to get to the door. I called Drew’s name as soon as I was inside, but there was no answer. There was also no light.
Drew had kept one of the lanterns with him, so there should have been some illumination, but the empty cafeteria was pitch black and silent. I had my headlamp on, but it didn’t show much besides the ground at my feet. I pulled out my flashlight and switched it on. It was one of those old plastic monstrosities — you know, the ones that cost 5 dollars and need 10 dollars of D batteries to even work? Still, it should have lit that room up like a searchlight when I switched it on. Instead, the light died about five feet away from me in what looked like a cloud of thick, black fog. It showed just enough of the room for me to see Drew, laid out on the broken concrete floor of the mess hall. He was unconscious and pale as a sheet, but I could see his chest rising and falling ever so slightly. He was alive — at least for the moment. But what drew my eye first was the huge figure hunched over him.
Like before, I could only really see its face, which I then realized was actually a mask, carved out of some kind of pale wood. I couldn’t see anything behind it, and either it was wearing a dark hood or the hair on its head was long and black as the cloak it wore. If it was even a cloak — where my flashlight still worked, I could see the faintest edge between its body and the dark behind it, but further down it became indistinct and hazy, until it seemed to become one with the darkness around it, billowing into shadows like smoke. It noticed me almost as soon as I turned on the light, though I’m not sure how. Its head snapped from Drew to me almost as soon as the light hit it, and I realized what was so strange about its face. The mask it wore was solid and simple, largely blank except for a few patterns I didn’t recognize and the image of two long, spindly hands carved in such a way that they seemed to be covering its eyes.
The strangest thing, though? I could feel it looking at me. You know that faint prickle on the back of your neck when you know you’re being watched? Well when the thing turned towards me, I felt that sensation more acutely than I’d ever felt it before, despite the fact that it clearly couldn’t see me through its mask — at least, if it was even vaguely human.
I did the only thing I could think of in the moment: I chucked the heavy plastic flashlight at its head and ran. I heard it bounce off the thing’s mask, and it growled as it moved away from Drew’s unconscious body, just like I hoped it would.
I still had my headlamp on so I could see where I was going, but even so I slipped and almost fell when I crossed the threshold of the mess hall and found myself back out in the mud. I got back to my feet and kept running… not back towards the van, but towards the lake. I don’t quite know why: I’d like to think that I didn’t want to risk Leslie and Adam’s safety, but it was probably just sheer panic.
So I ran: through the thick trees and underbrush, over the roots that tried to reach out and trip me up, past the old lean-to’s and cabins until I reached the shore of the lake. The storm was still raging overhead, and every time the lightning struck it cast a ragged reflection in the wind-tossed waters below.
I turned to face the tree-line, keeping my back to the lake to make sure this thing couldn’t sneak up on me. There was a heavy looking piece of driftwood nearby, so I picked it up and held it in both hands like a baseball bat. It was hardly a weapon, but I figured it was better than nothing.
The creature emerged a few seconds later. It didn’t break through the foliage like I did; it rolled through it, like a heavy fog with the wind behind it. When the lightning flashed again, I could see that it was only really solid from the shoulders up. Where its feet should have been, there was just a cloud of shadows that spread out from the place that it stood.
The rest of its cloak was made of the same substance, just held more tightly together to make a vaguely humanoid form. Only its mask seemed to be really there: that terrible, blind mask that saw me clearly even through the dark and pouring rain.
I knew I was outmatched. Of course I did.
Even with all I know now, I still would be. This was no harmless spirit of a sad old widow, or even a vicious poltergeist that I could escape by running away. This was a supernatural predator, a hunter — and even now, with all I’ve seen, I’m still pretty much at the bottom of the food chain. Even so, I gripped the branch tighter and wiped the rain out of my eyes. If I even had a shot at hurting this thing, I knew I’d only have one.
It paused at the edge of the beach, completely still except for the billowing of its cloak where it met the shadows. It seemed to be studying me, considering what to do — and then something about its body language shifted. I’m not sure what it was, but I think that if it could smile in amusement under that mask, it did.
Then it started walking towards me. It was a slow, patient walk, one that made me feel sure that it was toying with me. My heart was hammering, but I raised the branch, set my feet, and was about to swing when I heard the sound of a car’s horn blaring from just beyond the trees. The creature heard it too and turned to look. The moment it did I stepped up and swung hard at the back of its head. The branch connected with a heavy crunch, snapping in half where it struck home. The creature stumbled forward, letting out the first sound I ever heard it make: a cry of pain. Before I could react, the horn blared again, closer this time, and I saw a pair of headlights flashing through the trees. Realizing what was about to happen, I dove out of the way just as Leslie drove the van through the gap between the trees, engine roaring. The creature looked up, and in the headlights I saw that its mask had been cracked slightly where I hit it.
Leslie hit the brakes as soon as she broke the tree-line, but the van was still going at least 25 when it hit the already stunned creature with a sickening thud and launched it backwards into the lake. Adam threw open the back door and yelled for me to get inside, and as soon as I was in, Leslie threw the van in reverse and backed off the beach as quickly as she could. A few times it seemed like we might get stuck in the mud, but she powered through and we were out of the camp and speeding out of town within five minutes.
Drew was laid out in the back seat, but he’d regained consciousness and seemed to be doing a little better. He didn’t talk the whole way back to Rochester, though. Come to think of it, none of us did. Even Adam seemed to be at a loss for words for the first time. By the time they dropped me off at my hotel, we’d all formed a silent pact to never mention that night again.
[The sound of rain falling softly on the roof]
I didn’t even want to think about it, especially after the accident happened later that year. So for a while, I tried to forget it ever happened, and when I did remember I reassured myself with the thought that whatever I’d encountered was probably dead — I definitely felt bones breaking when I hit it with that branch. But I still kept an eye on the place, and in 2010 I saw a news article that a bunch of campers had gone missing in the park on the same night an unexpectedly vicious thunderstorm appeared over Lake Ontario. Their bodies washed ashore a week later, their faces still locked in expressions of abject terror.
That definitely got my attention, but I couldn’t be sure it was really the creature that killed them: they could have just gone out swimming and been washed out by an undercurrent. And… to be honest, I really didn’t want to go back there. I may chase things like this normally, but whatever I encountered that night is in a league of its own.
I tried to forget about it all over again. I did a pretty good job until, in 2015, I saw a new post on one of the cryptid message boards I follow labeled “Beechwood Monster.” It was from a poacher who’d been hunting near the camp when he found one of his snares triggered and bloody, but empty. Figuring another animal had stolen his catch, he searched the area for a few minutes before stumbling upon what he described as a huge black beast on two legs, with a pale white face and no visible eyes. The creature noticed him as soon as he saw it, and the poacher, terrified, emptied his rifle into its chest. The creature fell, and the poacher claimed he couldn’t feel its pulse. He tried to run back to his car and get a camera, but by the time he returned the body was gone, and he was only able to get a picture of the massive bloodstain where it fell.
He thought it was a Bigfoot of course, but I knew what it was… As well as how foolish it was of me to assume it was dead, or even that it could die. I may have been younger then, but I should have known better.
[Scanner beeping starts]
So here I am — two years after I first read the post, because that’s how long it took me to get everything I needed together.
I’m sure as hell not going to get caught unprepared and unaware this time, that’s for damn sure…
[On the baby monitor, a distortion begins to rise]
[Scanner beeps faster and faster]
[Loud buzzer goes off]
[Heavy metal door slams shut, rattling as it locks down]
[Something hitting the sides of the cage]
[Van door opens]
[Wet footsteps, the sound of rain]
[Rain fades as she enters mess hall, replaced by pounding noise]
I wouldn’t bother if I were you: ISPHA built that thing to test solid-fuel rockets. Unless you’ve got a nuke in your back pocket, you’re not getting out.
[The Creature growls]
[Tape distortion picks up]
And don’t bother trying to call down lightning on us either. Even if I don’t know how you’re connected to that storm outside, I think you’ll find the faraday mesh inside your cage means you’re cut off.
[The Creature growls again]
Can you communicate? You clearly understand me, but can you speak?
[Raspy and disturbing]
When I — wish to.
Do you know who I am?
One of the hunted, no doubt.
My name is Anna. You… I guess you hunted me about twelve years ago. Do you remember me?
Your face has — something of the familiar to it, yes.
Who are you?
Who may not be the right question.
What are you, then?
Do you mean to kill me?
Do you intend to bring about my destruction, hunter? A simple enough question.
I… well, that, um… depends.
Do you have the means? Have you prepared for such an endeavor?
I think so. I… I don’t know.
What do you mean, pity? What are you?
I suppose — there’s no harm in telling this one, is there? You know enough to suppose that I am a hunter of blood. True?
Well — I guess. You attacked us after Drew cut his hand, and you stole the animal off the poachers line when it bled.
I stole no animal! The fool came to find and kill me and cut himself on his own blade by accident.
He was… hunting you? Then how did you escape? Why would he leave you alone if he meant to kill you…
Trust not all stories told, hunter — trust none but your own.
So if he shot to kill… Then how did you escape?
I did not.
How are you alive, then?
Yet again, that is the wrong question. Ask instead what became of the blow to my head, of the air leaving my lungs as I struggled in the lake beyond?
You did die that night.
And many nights before and since. I have burned, drowned, bled, choked, hanged, and died of age so many times that to count them would outnumber the years of your life. And yet, I stand here living. How?
Never was there a word for it, but that is close enough. Yes: recurrence.
How is that possible?
For one born of blood and flesh and bone already decaying? It is not.
For one pressed through the gossamer of your world and given life and breath and fear? Simple as thought.
Pressed through — from where? By who?
Questions I have asked for eons with no answer. I may be more or less than human, but my mind and memory are as yours: meant for less than a hundred years, and not eternity.
But you know you came from somewhere… else.
No more than you know you came from your mother. All that I know is this world.
So how do you…
The mind that made mine, to which I am a bare function, a base desire to hunt: It presses me back into physical form every time death might grant me some measure of release. Whether I am of this world or another, I only know that in all my searching, I have not found that mind anywhere on Earth.
Do you believe now that you can kill me?
You… want to die?
I want an end. I have chased the scent of blood all my lives, and never once has it brought me any peace. Only here am I free from the hunt — and even that has been taken away from me.
No, you cannot kill me. Nothing can.
What if I told you I… knew a way?
There is a place where things… disappear. Where they’re… removed from the world. Pulled out of time and deleted. Forever.
There is no such place.
There is. I know that there is. I lost a very dear friend to it a long, long time ago.
A well. At the back of a field at a school in Iowa. It’s…
[Thunder crashes loudly]
[The tape begins playing again]
Okay — took a while to fix the damaged wiring, but it looks like this thing’s working again. Score one for the little recorder that could.
Anna pauses, trying to remember where it cut off.
I suppose you heard that whole… conversation, just not what happened afterwards. Turns out the Faraday cage wasn’t as foolproof as I thought. Either they were toying with me or the mesh slowed them down a bit, but eventually they were able to bring down a bolt of lightning right in the middle of the Mess Hall. I guess they got what they needed from me and didn’t feel like chatting.
I woke up the next morning with a splitting headache. The door to the cage was wide open — it was an electronic lock, and it short circuited when the lightning hit.
The creature was gone, of course, and I couldn’t find any footprints in the mud outside besides my own. I called Ren and told him that I was done with the cage, and the ISPHA guys came and removed it later that day. It’s been about a week since then, but thankfully he hasn’t asked me about the bloodstain on the floor. I’ve stuck around for a few more days just to be sure, but I haven’t seen or heard anything to indicate that the creature is still here. As far as I can tell, they’re gone for good.
The way I see it, there are three possibilities. One, they’re still out there in the woods and laying low for the time being. Two, they’ve left the camp for greener pastures and better hunting grounds. Or three: somewhere in Iowa, there’s a monster staring down an old abandoned well, looking for oblivion.
[Clack and clatter as tape ejects]
I wish I could stay with this tape a little longer. I wish I could do more than just make notes and put it up on the board. But there’s nothing about Sheridan’s disappearance on here, except another mention of Doctor Park and ISPHA. Moving a piece of testing equipment like that halfway across the country doesn’t sound like something you’d do for a casual acquaintance.
I don’t know if any of the rest of it is true. That could have just been another edit by Maria Sol. It was certainly theatrical enough.
And even though I was only able to do a little bit of digging, I can’t find any mentions of a monster at Beechwood State Park or any drownings in Lake Ontario that match her description… Except for maybe one old article that showed up in the search results, but just led to a broken link. Guess the page was deleted at some point.