The events in this story took place many years ago, during the summer of 1984, when I was fourteen. I did, and still do live in central Massachusetts.
One evening in July or August, I was hanging around with three friends who lived in the same general area of town. None of us were old enough to drive yet, so we would generally travel on foot for our nighttime carousing.
At around dusk on this particular night, we were walking and talking on our way from the playground of a local elementary school to the house of one of our group. We decided to cut through a swampy forested area to take advantage of a shortcut. As we entered the woods from the end of a cul-de-sac, the fading daylight and overhead foliage made it completely dark before we were very far in. We didn't have a flashlight, but we did have a disposable butane lighter. The lighter was out of fuel however, so we picked our way through the thick underbrush by the flashes of light created by striking the lighter's flint. It was not very effective, but it did enable us to avoid the major obstacles.
The going was slow, and before we had gone very far we reached a shallow stream that ran through a ditch. Both banks were very overgrown with thick bushes and thorns. We found a narrow log that bridged the stream and proceeded to cross it one at a time. We were very familiar with the area, since it was a prime place for kids to hang out and play and build forts. Although it was very overgrown, we knew there was a dirt path on the other side of the stream that led to a paved footpath through the area. One at a time we crossed the log and waited on the path. I was third to cross, and as I carefully made my way over the log, I heard one of my friends say, in a terrified voice, "There's someone standing there!" I stepped out onto the path and looked around. The two who had crossed before me were standing to my left. I looked to the right, and not more than six feet away stood a silent lone figure. It was very dark, and I wasn't able to see any features at all. Just a shape in the darkness that was darker than the surrounding night. I could clearly see the outline of the brim of a hat. It was round, like a felt or straw hat. The figure stood in the middle of the narrow path, not speaking, not walking toward us or acting surprised or afraid. Just standing there in the dark.
As we stood there in shock, which couldn't have been for longer than two or three seconds, the figure shifted slightly. There was something odd about it, as if it had changed shape slightly rather than having moved, the way you would expect. Just the presence of this figure was very startling to us, since the dirt path was very overgrown, and not a place that people visited since there were other ways through the area that were much easier to traverse. It certainly is not a place where you would go by yourself at night without a flashlight.
After a few seconds our shock turned to hysterical panic and the three of us who had made it to the path turn and ran shrieking and stumbling through the bushes in the direction of the paved path. Of course, we left our poor friend behind as he was making his way across the stream. We ran the hundred or so yards to the paved path and sat panting under a streetlight. The fourth guy caught up with us shortly. He hadn't seen a thing. He just blindly ran without looking. As we sat there babbling excitedly, we compared notes.
The three of us who had seen it described the same exact thing: a single dark figure with the outline of a hat brim. Without my having said anything, one of the other guys said "You know, as I was looking at it, it didn't exactly move, it kind of...changed!" I couldn't believe that he had the same exact impression of it as I had.
That was the last summer that we all hung around together, and I eventually lost touch with all three of the other guys who were there that night.
Last year, I got reacquainted with the friend who had initially spotted the figure. While we were talking one day I brought up the incident, and we talked about it for the first time since it happened. Neither of us had ever heard any other similar stories about the area, although the swamp did have a sort of creepy reputation. (Mostly due, I'm sure, to the fact that it was a popular place for kids to hang out and drink and smoke.) We reminisced about how scared we were that night.
As an epilogue to the story, several years ago a small area on the edge of the swamp was filled in and developed. A friend of mine bought a house built in what had been a vacant field on the very edge of the swamp, about 30 yards from where my friends and I sat and caught our breath that night after our scare. Although my friend's house is relatively new, there have been many occurrences that lead me to believe that his house may be haunted. Many times during the night he is awakened by the sound of the doorbell. At first, thinking that it was kids playing "ding- dong-ditch", he would go to the door and look around outside. There is never a sign of anyone in the area. Now he ignores it and goes back to sleep. There are also sounds of doors slamming and footsteps walking around, although he lives alone. He refuses to acknowledge the existence of anything ghostly and just pretends it isn't happening. Whatever you need to do to help you sleep at night! Personally, I wonder if we may have our little haunted swamp, right in the middle of Massachusetts.
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