The Bog People of Franktown is written by Chris Nottingham, a Franktown resident. This is a companion piece to the Haunted Trails of Franktown event scheduled for October 27th. The haunted trail is based on the legend of the Bog People, which is captured wonderfully by Chris Nottingham.
No one knows when they originated, but from the time of the colonies until the late 1800’s Bayside Rd. was first a stagecoach road, then traveled by freight wagon carrying cargo from Cape Charles north, and no one traveled the road at night through Franktown for fear of the “bog people”.
The legend began as a whisper, people hearing cries of help in the woods, their names being called, disappearances. It was said that dark magic took place in the bog. The stories became tales passed down from grandparent to parent, to children and only the bravest or most foolhardy of men would transport the precious cargo late in the evening for fear of being caught out after dark.
On a crisp fall afternoon, the owner of one of the cargo ships and his family arrived in port and after signing his manifest decided to stay at the Crystal Palace and set off with his wife and child on the Bayside cargo trail. He received several warnings from the local dock workers about traveling at night, but the man was educated and not one to be scared off by fairy tails and boogeymen.
It was dusk when the family came to the edge of the bog, and despite his best efforts, the father couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. He shook the reins in an effort to make the horses move faster and get through the area before darkness overtook them.
As they entered the bog, the horses became more and more on edge, shaking their heads, their ears and eyes darting back and forth, their neighs silent as if they hoped to move through undetected by whatever was spooking them.
As the air chilled a fog began rolling out of the trees of the bog, thick and smelling of decay and stagnation. The horses, eerily silent before suddenly began rearing up and lunging forward trying to break free of the wagon that slowed them down. In the chaos, the wagon tipped back and forth violently. The fog came closer and closer as the horses fought to get away. They leaped forward as if being whipped by an unseen crop and jolted the wagon as they sped down the trail.
They arrived after darkness had fallen at the Crystal Palace and it was then that the man looked and realized his son was not with them in the wagon.
Horror and anguish swept over him. With panic in his voice, he told his wife to get out so he could go back and find his son.
Knowing how long it took with the wagon, the man yelled for a saddled horse to be brought to him immediately. A horse was brought, and the man galloped off into the night to find his son.
The next morning a rider-less horse was found grazing in the garden at Crystal Palace, the man and his son were never seen again…
The widowed, now wealthy woman searched all across Franktown, Nassawadox, and points north and south for brave men to search for her husband and son. A party was soon gathered and they set out on foot armed with lanterns, rifles, and shotguns.
They had all heard the stories about the bog, and the widows story, and were terrified. They had no idea of what they were walking into.
Twelve men left that day, but only one returned. The overwhelming horror he witnessed caused him to spend the rest of his days in an asylum, repeating his story and his warning to any who would listen. This is his story.
The 12 men departed on foot with lanterns, guns, and purpose wanting to reach the edge of the bog well before dark but try as they might they were unable to reach the bog until dusk. Not knowing what awaited them, and even though the fate of a father and son lay in the balance, they elected to wait until the following morning to enter, telling themselves that to go at night might cause twisted ankles and poked eyes, they would see better in the light of dawn. One man yelled out for the lost boy and his father, but the others quickly hushed him up. They all had a bad feeling as they set up camp. A campfire was quickly started, but only a small one, since none would go close to the trees to fetch any real wood. After a meal of hard bread and cheese, they settled in to await the dawn.
(The madman always paused at this part of the story, as if needing to force himself to continue with the tale. )
He was jostled awake and sat up as another told him to stay alert and pack up his things. He looked over at the bogy forest and immediately noticed why the others were startled. There was a thick fog beginning to creep out of the trees, and if you were quiet you could hear what sounded like voices amongst the trees. Every once in a while you would hear a name being called, pleading for them to come and rescue them, to help them escape. The men packed what they could quickly carry and began moving away from the bog as quickly as they could, but the fog was faster.
As they moved the fog wrapped around them, blinding them and turning them around. The voices were becoming increasingly loud, pleading for them to come to rescue them, almost mockingly now.
Suddenly silence, not a single sound was heard until a blood-curdling scream broke the quiet. A scream of absolute terror, one of pain and fear. The sound of death.
Then the others began yelling for each other, the sound of fear evident in their voices as one by one their screams were heard in the fog.
(The madman would hide under his bed, or crouch down in the corner and cover his head with his arms at this point as if reliving the story in his mind.)
Then silence again, deafening silence after the screams of the dying. The cracking of twigs, the rustling of leaves, as footsteps came closer to the crouched man who trembled in fear. His breath sounded like bellows in his ears. He wanted to hide, but there was nowhere to go in this fog. Then a voice called to him, telling him to open his eyes and witness what had occurred. An old voice, like the rubbing of bark or the sound of granite. “Look boy!” it whispered, and he cracked one eye open only to see an old woman standing there, her face the color of marsh mud and her clothing moldy and fungus-covered. “Look at what fate has befallen your people!” she gestured to the trees of the forest and he could see that some had fresh blood smeared on them, some had body parts scattered among the branches, and there stood his companions, missing limbs, bodies blackened and bruised, their eyes white and milky.
With a gesture from the old lady, they began shuffling back into the trees. “Remember what you have seen here boy! Tell them, tell them all! This is MY home, and I shall curse any and all who dare to set foot in it! A thousand generations shall come and go, and this curse shall remain! TELL THEM!”
and without another word the old lady faded back amongst the trees of the bog, leaving the young man shaking and sobbing to spend the rest of the night curled up under a bush.
At first light the young man summoned up the courage to run from the bog and not stop until he reached Nassawadox and found the constable. He told them his story, and the message he was to deliver, then the young man dropped to the ground and was taken to the hospital where he slowly began to deteriorate mentally, spending the rest of his days on the fifth floor of the hospital.