This story is about a summer night in July of 1991 that has changed my view of both the paranormal and my life .....forever...
I awoke before the sun on that July morning feeling both anticipation and excitement. It was the day of our annual fishing trip. My brother Matthew and I had made it a running tradition for five years now. Now I am not an early morning person but today was different, there were fish to be caught and the early bird catches the worm...and the fish. I reluctantly rolled out of bed and lumbered downstairs for my coffee buzz to jumpstart the day. Half way into my second cup the phone rang, it was Matthew, he said he was running late but would be here within the hour. Oh well, I thought, that would give me time to load up the rest of the equipment and gas up the truck. Matthew arrived just in time to help me hitch up the john boat. The only thing left to do was to load up the coolers with ice and a two day supply of sandwiches and beer (as any good fisherman will tell you, you've got to have beer on hand to catch fish). We made one last check around the truck and we were off. The drive was filled with memories and tales of trips past and excitement and hope for the one ahead. We arrived at Chesley's tackle shop right as the sun was peeking up over the horizon. Chesley's was about two miles up from the lake. It was a charming old place that had been in the Chesley family for five generations. It was always a regular stop for us, it had the best live bait this side of the Mississippi, and an old plank wood floor that creaked under your feet. On any given day you could see the old locals perched on the porch playing checkers and tellin' fish tales, and today was no exception. We went inside and carefully selected our live bait and with this our fishing trip was officially under way. We drove up around the lake and searched for a good spot to launch the boat, it was a small john boat so it didn't take much time.
Able lake, as it was called, was known for it's good fishing, good camping,.......and Ryan Harding. Ryan Harding was a twelve year old deaf boy who was camping with his family in the summer of 1984. On the second evening of their camping trip Ryan told his mother he was taking Max for a walk, Max was the Harding's chocolate lab, they brought him every year. Hours later, sometime after dark, Max returned to the camp site without Ryan. Max was barking in a repetitive pattern as if to signal something was wrong. Ryan's mother called the police and a search party was assembled. The police feared the worst had happened. Ryan was presumed drowned. Despite a twelve hour search of surrounding areas and a dragging of the lake Ryan's body was never found, the case still remains open today.
Local fisherman folklore has it that on a quite night, when the lake is still, you can here the voice of a small boy crying out for his mother in the distance. Some fisherman have reported witnessing the pale figure of a small boy aimlessly wandering the shore of the lake just to come upon him and have him disappear.
This didn't concern me and my brother in the least. As far as we were concerned it was just a bunch of local coots spinning folklore. Besides we had fishing to do. We were finally on the water taking in the air and the scenery, and baiting our hooks. Matthew always started with his "lucky lure", he does this every year despite spending 30 dollars on fresh bait. I baited my hook, cast my line and cracked the first beer of the day...this is what it was all about, I thought to myself. Just then Matthew hooked a heavy one "This is a fighter", he shouted. I fumbled for the net, the fish surfaced and I made a grab for it. It was a fighter alright, citation Bass, at least nine pounds. The big fish hopped around in the cooler, as my line stood dead still. Maybe there was some truth to this "lucky lure" thing after all. Well four hours and six fish later, we were getting hungry. I went in the food cooler to get some grub. "Looks like there is one hell of a storm brewin'", Matt said. I looked up, and to my dismay, saw he was right. To the west I could see the unmistakable deep black thunder heads of a summer thunderstorm."We better head in", we both said at the same time. Within fifteen minutes it was right over us! Large pelts of warm rain drove down on us. There were bright flashes of lightning striking close to the lake, to close for my liking, deafening claps of thunder roared above us. "Bring up your pole" I shouted, "let's get to shore!". Matthew shouted something about a bite on the line and went for the net. "You're crazy!" I yelled," I'm heading in!" I proceeded to point the boat to shore. Just then Matthew bent over the side to net his fish, "Let it go man there's no time, I'm not getting struck by lightning for some lake bass!" Just as he was bringing the fish up his foot slipped of the rim of the boat and he toppled over board. I panicked. I hadn't mentioned this before but Matthew can't swim, I know what your thinking, why be out on the water?. Well we never thought about it, we had had many trips without any accidents, and we always packed life preservers, of course we never wore them though.
I quickly grabbed for a preserver and threw it in the water, but there was no sign of him. The rain was coming down harder now and visibility was next to none. I took off my hiking boots and dove in! I frantically dove deeper and waved my arms around in the murky water to try and get a hold of him. I came back up for air and out of the corner of my eye, I could barley make out through the rain, someone lying on the shore fifty yards away. It was my brother! I yelled his name and he acknowledged me with the raise of his hand. A sigh of relief coursed through my body. I quickly made my way to the boat and went to shore. "Are you o.k.?!" I asked. He muttered something. He was still pretty shaken up. I asked him " How the hell did you get to shore, you can't swim!?" He had no response.
Later that evening after I had set up camp and Matthew got a change of dry clothes, I started cleaning the fish for supper. Matthew was acting very strange and distant. There was total quiet. Matthew went over and sat down next to the fire, he had an empty look in his eyes. As the orange light from the fire danced on his face he broke his silence..."If I tell you something do you promise not to think I'm crazy?" "Yeah" I said. Then he proceeded to tell me..."When I was under the water I thought I was as good as drowned, I blacked out, just when I thought it was over, now this is where it gets strange, I felt a grip on my ankles". "What do you mean a grip?" I asked......." A human grip, like hands around my ankles, pulling me under water and towards the shore, the next thing I knew I heard you calling my name and I was lying on the shore, look man, I know it sounds crazy but you know I can't swim." With this said we both fell quite and stared into the fire, deep in our own thoughts. How else can you explain those events it would have been impossible for him to swim fifty yards to shore much less under water.
That night as I lay awake staring at the stars I wondered....was there truth to the folklore of Lake Able? Was that pale figure of a young boy wandering the shore of the lake really the lost soul of Ryan Harding? Was his spirit stuck in purgatory, forever roaming the lake that took his life so suddenly? Maybe his spirit sensed death at my brothers door and was compelled to save Matthew from the fate he experienced.
It's been years since the ordeal. We don't speak of it often. We still take our trip every year. In the years that followed we didn't hear much in the way of Ryan Harding or any sightings I would like to think that he won his ticket out of purgatory with the good deed of saving my brothers life, and has gone over to the other side. We will never know for sure ........but it is a nice thought.