Thursday, April 17, 2014
I Aint Afraid of No Ghosts, but I Am Afraid of Hillbilly Home Invasion
My mother is a primary school teacher in a rural town in Australia. About ten years ago she was offered the Principal position at a tiny mountain school an hour from where we lived.
The mountain town was kind of a long running joke for us townies, just mentioning it would cause any local to start humming the 'Dueling Banjos' theme from Deliverance. The population was under 40 people- most of them had the same last name and were pretty well known for 'keeping it in the family'. However, being promoted from teacher to principal was a big deal for mum, so we decided that we'd all live at the old school house during the week and come back to civilization on the weekends.
When we arrived I was shocked at just how small the town was. One street surrounded by thick scrub and bushland, delapidated houses tucked away out of sight from the main road. No street lights. No shops. The school was tiny, about 14 kids in total (all related to each other in some way). Some of the students had that 'Innsmouth look' that only comes with generations of kissing cousins, but overall they were generally nice and well behaved little kids, and mum enjoyed her new job.
I had just finished high school and was waiting for University to start, so I spent most of my days alone in the school house reading or cooking while my siblings were at school and my parents were at work. However, as the weeks progressed I found myself spending more and more time at the school helping mum, because I couldn't stand being alone there.
With no TV reception and only an old walkman and some shitty cassette tapes to fill the silence, I found myself fluctuating between bored or paranoid most of the time. There was always a lot of sudden and random 'old house noise' that didn't sound like it was the house at all. Scratching, shuffling sounds at odd intervals that frequently sounded like footsteps or voices. I tried to pass it off as paranoia for as long as I could, but shit finally hit the fan one day when I stopped my tape mid-song, and distinctly heard a man's voice quietly whispering random numbers from the front verandah. "40. 40. 9. 40. 17...". I ain't afraid of no ghosts, but I am afraid of hillbilly home invasion so I took off to the school and reported it to my mother who of course didn't believe me. Then to my father who also didn't believe me.
My sister did though. She said she hadn't slept well since she was awoken nights before by the sound of a tree branch scraping on her bedroom window, where there was no tree. She said she thought she had seen a man standing in the backyard late one night too, but when she mustered the courage to look again he was gone. Pretty soon we were the first teenage sisters to ever insist that they should start sharing a room. My parents thought we were being ridiculous.
However one evening after dinner we were visited by two of the local men, who told them something that changed their mind. After asking if we'd had any 'trouble' at the house they proceeded to tell us that everyone else in town had been experiencing 'trouble' now for over a month.
Apparently men dressed in makeshift camouflage gear had been seen wandering along the main street at night. It had come to the town's attention because, while the town was used to strangers in hunting gear, these guys were covered in leaves and grass and sticks. No one knew who they were - not locals - there were at least ten different guys, always traveling alone, always in the same weird 'clothing'. At first the locals were having a laugh about it, it certainly wasn't common to see people dressed as walking bushes outside of a Warner Bros cartoon- even in hunting season. It was all very absurd and funny- at least until these guys started coming on to private property.
One lady woke up to hear something moving under her house, shining a flashlight up through the floorboards. Another man came home to find a camouflaged man crouched on his roof. One man had heard muttering from his back porch only to go out and discover that someone had unchained his (very large and intimidating) hunting dogs from their run and tied them to his back doorknob and drawn a large X in red chalk on the door. Pretty much every local had been terrorized by one of these guys in the night, and some of them in the day. The local guys warned my dad to keep things locked up and to be vigilant.
Over the course of the next month similar events occurred, my mother even saw one of them men on the edge of the school grounds during the day and called the police. The sightings were frequent, as were the chalk X's. One of the locals even saw a man in the strange camouflage gear standing on his front lawn whimpering like an animal in the early hours of the morning. The local guy threatened him while his wife called the Police, but the man silently stood his ground smiling at them in the dark. The local man eventually lost his cool and beat the heck out of this creeper, who stood there smiling through the entire beating, then walked calmly back into the bush, still smiling and bleeding before the Police arrived.
Unfortunately there isn't a cool ending to this story. The school closed not long after due to Government funding cuts, and my mother got a new job closer to home which meant we left pretty swiftly. We moved back home after spending only 5 months up in mountain country, and no one was too sorry about that. I often wonder who these guys were to be out in the middle of nowhere, and what they were doing exactly?