Ghost stories are made for telling around campfires

I think of my old friend Bill Brohm each Halloween, because he once told me what has become my favorite campfire ghost story. Halloween’s a great time to share that tale.

One of my dad’s buddies used to go camping with us each summer, and he usually made it for our elk hunt every fall. Bill was a darn good guy, but sitting around the campfire one night, he told me a story that curled my hair.

Bill had been going up to the Waterdog Lake area for decades before I ever saw it. One night, after we’d finished our dinner and washed the dishes, we sat outside the tent and Bill told us about his first trip to that part of the country.

On his way in, he got a bit turned around up there in the hills. He usually had an excellent sense of direction, but that day, as it was starting to get dark, he realized he wasn’t where he thought he should be. He picked his way up several game trails, but each time, he knew he was just getting farther and farther from where he wanted to go, so he came back to the same place time after time.

Finally, he figured it’d be better just to camp there for the night. He pitched his tent and threw his sleeping bag inside, and then he crawled in to get some sleep. Just as he was starting to drift off, a voice from outside the tent said, “Hey, mister, how ‘bout a little help here?”

He figured it was one of those dreams that come on you just as you start to fall asleep, but it still freaked him out a little. But he’d walked a long way with a heavy pack that day, so he finally fell asleep anyway. The next morning, when he was breaking camp, he noticed a patch of ground where the grass was matted down. In the center of the depression was a chunk of elk antler, about three inches long.

When he got back to town, Bill said he overheard two guys talking about a hunter who had died up there twenty years earlier. The man had shot an elk and walked up to take care of the meat. But the elk wasn’t dead, and it nailed the guy with its antlers as it got up and ran away. They found the hunter with a three-inch chunk of antler in his heart.

After Bill told us that tale, I laughed it off as a silly ghost story. But as I was drifting off to sleep that night, I was pretty sure I heard a voice from outside the tent say, “Hey, kid, how ‘bout a little help here?”