MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
A ghostly figure walked up the stone road, her abnormally pale face flushed with a heavy mauve as red streaks dripped from her nose. Despite her appearance, the ghoulish figure wore a life jacket over tattered clothes and carried a clipboard. She walked up to the group of people gathered in the parking lot, and crossed off names on her list as she surveyed the future victims of an upcoming bone-chilling experience.
Beneath the makeup was Gabrielle Higgins, a recreation assistant with Marine Corps Community Services’ Outdoor Adventures, who, along with other staff members, organized the Haunted Kayaking event. It was during the Fall Kayaking Tours, a series of scenic kayaking trips far removed from the frights of Halloween, that she came up with the idea. Higgins and Marybeth LeMaire, a recreation specialist with Outdoor Adventures, posed the question, “How creepy would this be at night?” And with the Halloween themed event, they began to take action.
Higgins researched ghost stories, pulling from a rich collection of haunts.
With some selected stories, they gathered materials, spooky sounds and props and began mapping their course. With some rehearsals and a full roster with a waiting list, they were ready.
The participants of Haunted Kayaking gathered around in the parking lot and joked.
“What if they’re using SEALS in training?” one said with a chuckle. Conversations were light discussing previous kayaking trips. However, the conversation slowly turned to what they feared.
“What if somebody comes out of the water?” a participant asked, as an image of a dripping figure slowly rising from the water seemed to materialize in the back of one’s mind.
“No, I got a guarantee no one would be coming out of the water,” assured another participant, who had discussed the event with the staff when she bought her ticket.
Higgins made an announcement, her voice serious, looking as if she was drained of life and emotion. She asked the participants to follow her down to the kayaks.
Haunted Kayaking had begun.
Haunted Kayaking is an interactive ghost story adventure meant for beginner to experienced kayakers. As participants paddled through the creek, the sky darkened and the kayakers began to hear strange noises as pieces of the story were told as kayakers navigated the trail seeing strange lights and mysterious things in the darkness.
“Haunted Kayaking is a fun experience to get out there in the water and try kayaking if you haven’t tried it before and get scared along the way,” said Higgins. “It’s a pre-Halloween adventure to go on to get a little frightened, and hang out with and meet some people you didn’t know before.”
It’s for people who are easily scared, and for people who laugh in the face of scary things, added Higgins. It’s for everybody,
While it is still in the early stages of its development, participants can still find fear and adventure with Haunted Kayaking.
There are plans to make it an annual event, using different ghost stories, and adding new stunts so that participants can have different experiences year to year.
“You get to see the creek a bit and the wildlife,” said Elene Heltebran, a participant of the event. “It’s fun and it’s worth it.”
If someone finds themselves in Haunted Kayaking, and something should come up while paddling through the night in the chilly waters of Scales Creek, how would they know whether it is a part of Haunted Kayaking? When they see a figure slinking by in the trees, or see a rock skip across the creek without a person there to toss it, they should not be too quick to dismiss it. After all, the area is full of ghost stories.