I don’t mean to spook anyone with this story, especially at this time of year, but it’s something I need to write about. I also don’t want to enter into the ad nauseam discussion about Halloween. You know, whether it’s okay for Christians to celebrate such a pagan holiday, or if it’s not because of the obvious references to witches, demons, and Elm Street horrors that scare the bejesus out of us and are anticipated with such delicious relish every October, like hot dogs slowly roasted over an open fire.

So, let me cut to the chase: celebrating Halloween is okay. Even though it may be totally un-PC knowing and sympathizing with the feelings of diabetics who cannot partake in the sweet fun, like Washington Redskin fans who can no longer take pride in tribal — I mean team-spirited enthusiasm.

But, on one waning-crescent moon night something very scary happened.

It was June 21st, in the early morning hours of the summer solstice. My wife and I were camping near Ricketts Glen State Park. A 13,000 acre national and natural landmark in Pennsylvania, known for its twenty-four waterfalls and breathtaking mountainous hiking trails; a wonderful, forest filled with lore of Native-American tribes: Iroquoian-speaking peoples like the Susquehannock, who were a matriarchal society that honored and worshiped the female because of her life-giving capabilities. We didn’t know it, my wife and me, but our lives were about to be intertwined with mother earth and with spirits diabolical beyond description.

It all started innocently enough. We had booked our camping site a few weeks ahead of time as we usually do. We were looking forward to a great camping experience. I had checked out the state park’s website and was anticipating fishing for large-mouth bass, perch, and maybe some trout in nearby creeks. My wife was just looking for some down-time. She had been working so hard at her job. All she needed was a glass of wine and a good book, reading on the shore of the lake while I would bait and cast, catch and release. You know what I’m talking about, when you dream to get away, you just want to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, stretch out a little, and let the tension work itself out of your body. It’s just you and nature doing wonderful things together.

And, everything was going according to plan. We took in all the sights, especially the waterfalls, where we saw people doing yoga, communing with nature’s god and meditating. Reaching perfect bliss while paying homage to the trees and the water that cascaded down and over the brown-crimson shale, perhaps like the Iroquoian tribesmen centuries ago.

And while nature is a sure sign of God’s providence, His undeniable footprint on this earth, it is not worthy of homage. This belongs only to God and God alone. Nature is not, no matter how beautiful the vista of falling waters, Crayola-colored canyons, majestic mountains, or the simple serenity and tall-awesomeness of Pennsylvania pines to be worshiped. Only the creator is worthy of worship, not His creation, not His creatures.

Enter the Witches of Ricketts Glen

We were fast asleep in our hybrid camper: our “Shamrock” that sported hard sides, a nice, little slide-out, and drop-down bunks like a pop-up trailer has – perfect outdoor Murphy beds with heated mattresses. It’s, as my daughter used to call a warm quilt on a cold night: comfy-and-a-cozy.

Anyway we were zombies in our sleeping bags when, at three o’clock in the morning I heard this loud scream. It was the type of noise that jerks your head upright even though you were in a sound sleep.

Then, another scream, but this time more piercing and prolonged. Okay, I said to myself, my wife is still out cold and there’s no need to panic. Maybe it will go away. After all we’re camping in the middle of the woods and strange sounds happen all the time. But, then other stuff happened.

I knew that the camper next door had three occupants: a man and a woman somewhere in their thirties and a young man, perhaps twenty-years-old. Yet the din now emanating and echoing around my “Shamrock” seemed to be coming from a hundred voices. I got up, without disturbing my wife and took a peek outside the window. I saw the two men dancing – no, not quite dancing, but stomping on their campfire. Yes, that’s right. They were in the fire pouncing up and down, yelling something unintelligible with their hands raised. They must be drunk, I thought. It’s three in the morning. They’ll stop soon and crash.

They didn’t. The fire got brighter. The men took turns banging their way into and out their camper. The woman screamed and four-letter-words barked and howled like a pack of wolves before my very door. But, the voices and guttural groaning were not of this world. I couldn’t and didn’t want to see it, yet I was also concerned if some kind of rape was going on. Was the woman being ravished without her consent? Were these weirdoes committing a sexual crime? And, if so, should I now, as I felt in every sinew of my body go into action to stop an atrocity?

That’s when my wife woke up.

“What the hell is going on?”

“Hell on earth,” I said, with a bit of sarcasm, but also with a nervous tremor in my voice.

My wife joined me sitting at the window. She was shaking.

“I think their part of some kind of cult,” I said, trying not to reveal the distress building inside of me. “Honey, I thought those guys were raping that woman, but by the sound of it, I’d say she was in on the whole thing. I think it’s an orgy or something.”

“You’re not going out there,” she stated flatly, in that tone of voice only a husband of thirty-three years can understand.

But then my John Wayne kicked in. “Oh yes I am. Where’s my baseball bat?”

“You haven’t used one in twenty years.”

“And, I don’t have a gun,” I lamented.

“What would you with that?”

“I’d scare the hell out of them like their scaring the hell out of us. For God’s sake, honey, we just can’t sit here all night listening to this.”

She wouldn’t let me go out and confront them, especially after we heard the sacrifice. I don’t know what kind of animal it was, but I heard one of them say “if it has to die, let it be merciful.” Strange, I didn’t know witches or Satanists cared about mercy.

By that time my wits were at an end. I was no longer scared. I was downright pissed off.

No, I’m not a violent person. I would never hurt a fly – well, unless it was in my camper and then I would swat away. But this whole thing just made me sick.

There were times in my own life where I wish somebody would have slapped a cold hand across my face. You know, when you’re doing something so wrong that only a two-by-four across the head can make you wake up and smell the coffee. When you’re totally out of control yet just don’t know it. But, these people were beyond the pale. They needed more than a good kick in the butt –they needed prayer and lots of them. I got out the only weapon I had, and the best one there is, my rosary.

After about two hours, things started to quiet down.

The only comment I heard from the camper next to us when the sun finally, thankfully, welcomed a new morning, and when their ritual was finally over was “I never felt such power as I did last night.”

Power? Listen pal, I’ve got power, too. So, I took the bottle of holy water I always keep in my truck and spritzed and sprinkled it all over my campsite, sending of few drops airborne over to my neighbor’s trailer as well.

I’m not an expert on the occult. I don’t want to be. I’m a sailor and I want as wide a berth as possible from those who practice black magic, witchcraft, and satanic rituals. Those who have fallen into the evil disorder of the universe are to be prayed for and not sympathized with or legitimized as our military has done.

On this Halloween, pray that you and your loved ones have that same safe berth. Far away from the demons and the poor souls who conjure them up from the depths of hell in order to experience the “powers” of the underworld.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with Halloween. But there is definitely something wrong, sinful, scary, and ugly with communicating with the dark side. Why can’t common sense, or what used to be common decency, separate us from the evil powers that are so prevalent in our world and dominate our mass media. Is it because of mere curiosity? Or does the “power” or success one gains by communing with demons act like a drug, so that one’s soul is enslaved, forever dependent and chained to the wiles of the wicked. And at what a price!

In any event, if you plan to go camping this Halloween weekend, pay attention to the trailer or tent next to you. And, for God’s sake, make sure to bring along some holy water.

Happy Halloween.

The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.