Summer Camp and it’s Monsters
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Summer Camp and it’s Monsters

“Thump-Drag” used to scare the hell out of me.

At 12 years of age, the stirrings of hormonal shifts tossing my voice towards increasingly unlikely octaves, my every glance in the mirror a furtive look for peach fuzz or an Adam’s apple…something that might declare the burgeoning manhood that I was sure was just around the corner, I must admit that the mere mention of “Thump-Drag” made me wet my pants.

And here’s the thing:

I knew it wasn’t true.

I knew right when the counselors told me about him – about how Thump-Drag lived in the lake next to the cabin and used to be a “circus freak” but escaped and never quite forgave the normal folks for laughing so callously at his deformities and thus emerged from the water on moonless nights to tear upper-middle class kids at Camp Thunderbird from limb to gangly limb – well, I knew it just couldn’t be true.

Using the concrete logic of a pleasantly scared, acne covered near adolescent kid, embracing the hard work of nearly a half-decade of careful contemplation regarding comics and old fashion horror flicks, I reasoned that if Thump-Drag’s only abnormalities were a horrifically ugly face and one badly malformed leg (hence his name – he walked with a “THUMP”, a pause, and then a long “DRAAAG” as he pulled that malformed appendage through the pine needles of the North woods) then he could not really live in the lake.

Things in lakes have gills and big glassy eyes. There just hadn’t been enough time for Thump-Drag to evolve into a water dwelling humanoid with the same efficacy with which someone like Tolkien’s Sméagol had achieved by virtue of the nefarious Ring.

So, Thump-Drag couldn’t be. He “weren’t nothin’ special,” to quote one of the cooks at Camp Thunderbird, and until they told me he had some supernatural traits I just wasn’t buying it.

Except for this fact: There is nothing, short of maybe your first slow dance, that is better when you’re 12 years old than being scared out of your wits with 10 good friends in a drafty cabin surrounded by conifers.

So I bought the story of Thump-Drag just enough to be frightened.

And on those nights when the heavens broke loose and a good old fashioned thunderstorm saw fit to gush down all over the cabins of Camp Thunderbird, and our counselors all just happened to have a meeting to attend and therefore needed to leave us alone in the cabins, and then there just happened to be the sound of Thump-Drag himself shuffling around the cabins, grunting and growling and sniffing the air like a bear or maybe a hyena, and we campers sat in our bunks with our covers pulled tight, laughing at the sheer joy of being with each other and knowing that we could safely afford to be terrified….well, I guess I got into it.

At those moments, Thump-Drag lived. He was out there, and it was after all pretty cool to have Davie in the bunk below and Stuart at the other side of the cabin and Kyle sitting on his bed, carving some green Ivory soap with his Swiss army knife, even though we really weren’t technically supposed to have knives but now that the counselors were gone and there was a monster on the loose it seemed fair to guess that camp rules were open for utilitarian interpretation.

Remember this as you pack your kids off to Maine or New Hampshire: It is a well established fact that every summer camp must have its ghoul.

There’s a witch in a cave, or a troll in the pines, or maybe some kind of half-man, half-weasel running around the woods, the subject of some horrible government experiment gone terribly awry and now ignored by the very people who created him and thus angry and hungry and lonely and really not good to run into on a moonless night in the forest.

Ask your kids, or your friend’s kids, or, if you’re lucky, search the deep recesses of your own delighted summer-camp terror, and you’ll be treated to some of the very best horror you can find. Forget the movies! These camp stories will be told with agitated, ecstatic, twittering glee.

Because camp monsters are totally awesome

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