When I was a kid, I was obsessed with a few specific unsolved crimes. I don’t know why or honestly how I learned about such things since the majority of my childhood was pre-Internet. Maybe it was the constant Unsolved Mysteries viewings.
I was particularly fascinated by the Keddie Cabin Murders. In April 1981, five months before I was born, a mother, her teenage son, and his friend were beaten to death in California in a gruesome and horrific scene. The remains of the teenage daughter were discovered at a nearby campsite a few years later. I always wondered how something so tragic and violent happened without an arrest. How many people could’ve been passing through that little nook of the world that night? How could this travesty go unpunished?
Fast forward thirty-five years and four months to August, 2016 when adult Nicole and her boyfriend decide to take a quick trip to the Smoky Mountains and the small town of Saluda, North Carolina. Asheville and the surrounding areas are spectacular, but for someone whose first exposure to the mountains was the tale of the Keddie Cabin Murders, they can also be nightmare fuel.
Chris and I had been to Cabin Fever before and loved it. We went on a weekend in February when it was so cold we huddled together and ate hunks of red meat for survival. Living in Myrtle Beach, late summer is the time of year when I’m so sick of tourists I find myself screaming during errands to the grocery store, so it seemed like the perfect time to go back. And it was. No danger of freezing to death and a glorious break from the coastal humidity.
The cabin we were assigned was spacious, much more room than two people could possibly need for one night, and the rain pattering against the tin roof was soothing. Tucked far away from the mobs of beachgoers, the break from civilization was medicinal. Happily, I relaxed into a well-used recliner and leafed through the guest book, chronicling four years of visitors to Ma and Pa’s Cabin.
Page 3 was the first mention of the Chupacabra.
The gist of the multitude of entries was something dwelled in the cave at the top of the mountain; at the mouth of the stream babbling brookishly outside the cabin lived a monster. They heard it at night, rummaging around the porches, trying to nose its way inside. To do what? Eat everybody, I suppose.
According to the journal, a few enterprising guests tried to ensnare the Chupacabra, setting up motion-sensor cameras and leaving bait. The Chupacabra was obviously wily, for all they caught was a raccoon. Then the next day, the poor raccoon was found, gored by the Beast of the Woods.
I don’t want you to think I was under the slightest impression the Chupacabra was real or it had anything to do with the Keddie Cabin Murders so long ago (it is and . . . well, that’s crazy). No, it was just that there were spiders hanging around, big ones, and too many to usher outside on a dustpan. The spiders didn’t bug me, they were lackadaisical in the heat, but it gave the cabin a primeval aura. I could imagine something a trifle otherworldly in the ethereal morning fog, something passive unless provoked, something ancient and secret, but not too secret. There were a buttload of journal entries claiming taciturn contact.
Getting into the spirit of possibly getting slaughtered by animals like those who committed the Keddie Cabin Murders or by a wholly different kind of animal, I surveyed the cabin for a method of defense. That’s when I realized the decorators of our rustic cabin must have known of the dangers of remote mountain living. For upon the walls, always within easy reach, was close quarter weaponry.
A gigantic wrench.
A few advertisements regaling the deliciousness of Moon Pies in case you wanted to take the long approach and overcome your pursuer with diabetes.
Even the door lock was merely a rusty nail shoved through the handle.
These are not normal wall hangings. The only explanation is they were put there out of necessity.
The Chupacabra did come around 7:15 in the morning, creating such a ruckus it woke me with a start. Chris said he heard it but claimed it was ice melting in the sink, causing the dirty skillet to resettle. That’s a pretty reasonable and convenient explanation for what was obviously the Chupacabra.
It doesn’t really matter what it was. Man or beast, I was ready for the attack. I scouted all the best weapons. I read the extensive narrative history of the Chupacabra provided by the prior residents. I’d been so long obsessed with the Keddie Cabin Murders, I was ready to spring out bedroom door leading to the porch if I heard the slightest creak of the floorboards.
Except I was so tired from recent insomnia that I fell asleep before 10, and it definitely would’ve taken more than a murderous horde of bandits or a curious Chupacabra to wake me.
Addendum: If you ever do want to stay in a cabin in the Great Smoky wilderness but close enough to Asheville for an easy trip, go to Cabin Fever in Saluda. Eric and Dana are wonderful, they have an awesome cat, the cabins and the scenery are amazing, and it’s incredibly peaceful. Don’t let mythical beasts keep you away. We will definitely be back.