Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
How well do you trust the exits and turnoffs that dot your local interstate highway? I tell this story to make you reconsider taking such detours.
While driving through heavy rain on the Ohio turnpike last year, I caught sight of a plain looking sign during an upward battle with my eyelids to stay open. The word ‘sleep’ was in the title. After what seemed to be just a few moments later, another brown sign, even rustier than before came into view; ‘Sleepy Trove rest stop, one mile ahead,’ it read. As I passed this second sign, I felt an intense numbing feeling drape over my whole body. I was tired and I couldn’t deny it to myself any longer. I swerved and succeeded in pulling off at the exit. For a minute or more as I followed the dimly lit turnoff, the rain continued to pour down and I told myself I made the right decision. Looking back now I tell myself that I would have turned off even if the rest stop name hadn’t comprised the word sleep in the title, but I’m not convinced of that because not so subliminal advertising works well when you’re tired.
I had been driving home from college for a weekend break. For I knew I needed a lazy weekend getaway and I was looking very much forward to my Mom’s cooking and crashing in my old bedroom. But I couldn’t help that my thoughts, or rather my dreams about my bed seemed to lead me to make my last second decision to pull off the road and follow the strange brown colored sign to the Sleepy Trove rest stop.
Immediately I wished I hadn’t.
Instead of the usual turnpike service plaza, there was only a block of restrooms, lit solely by my headlights as I parked in front. Mine was the only car to grace the cement structure, which was not too surprising because it was after midnight and maybe the more seasoned travelers had known the lack of Starbucks and McDonald’s at Sleepy Trove. The absence of restaurant logos upon the rest stop sign should have been a warning but as I say; I was tired. At first I was relieved to be alone but despite feeling somewhat safe, I locked my door before reclining my seat.
With my vehicle engine off and the rain easing, I could now listen to a paranormal radio talkback show that seemed to be the only strong signal all night; besides my circadian rhythm telling me to pass out that is. The guest on the radio program was talking about missing people all over the U.S and how there were clusters of disappearances near national parks. I turned it off, not because I was getting scared or anything but because the guest’s final conclusion was that the perpetrator was in fact Bigfoot. Which he annoyingly called Sasquatch to lend undue scientific sounding weight to his premise.
As the rain dwindled away, the unmistakable heaviness in my bladder became harder and harder to ignore. That beer I shared at my buddy Dave’s before I left was no doubt the culprit. The thing was I didn’t even like using those pretty bathrooms at Macy’s, let alone this rundown, no doubt spider-infested trucker’s dump. But since the rain had stopped and nobody else was around at that moment, I convinced myself that it was the best time to go. Unlocking my door, I dashed over to the Men’s entrance. Luckily, a single bulb hanging down from the cobwebbed ceiling lit the cubed, windowless room. There was an empty energy drink bottle in the single sink, a discarded hooded raincoat in the corner and what I hoped was just rainwater soaking the yellow tiled floor. As I made use of the stained stainless steel urinal, the heavy downpour of rain began again like applauding angels. The roof was bombarded with water and the sound reverberated throughout the bathroom. Even through the rain, I still couldn’t mistake the sound of my car’s engine starting up. I zipped up and bolted to the entrance, almost slipping over, ok I did slip over, but I stumbled up just in time to see my taillights speed away back towards the interstate before vanishing in the watery curtain of the blasted storm.
I stepped back into the restroom, checking my pockets and realizing that I had indeed left my keys in the ignition. Someone must have been waiting in anticipation for me to finally get out of my car. Someone who had obviously got his courage from the energy drink in the sink. I cursed the Bigfoot man on the radio in anger for causing me to leave the keys in the ignition to listen to his dribble. But soon relief washed over as I pulled out my cell phone. I would call the police and they could head the thief off with a roadblock and bring my car right back. But I was back cursing Doctor Sasquatch as soon as I saw there was no reception in the urine soaked hellhole.
It was then as I was moving about the restroom trying to find a signal that I first saw it. Well, I had of course noticed it earlier. The industrial blue hooded rain jacket plopped in the corner had been there all along, but now out of the corner of my eye it shuffled ever so slightly. I stepped away, afraid there was a rat or something inside. Staring at the half sitting up jacket, I realized something about it unnerved me. It was sprinkled with water but was against the far wall where rain couldn’t have possibly reached it. There was also something else that caused me to shiver; a rusty old chain was attached to the tiled wall and metal links trailed up the jacket’s sleeve. At that point I noticed I had moved all the way to the door.
Eerily, I stared at the strange looking jacket as the bashing deluge upon the roof almost deafened my ears and with that my mind began panicking again. My heart felt like it was about to leap out of my chest. Having my back already drenched from the downpour, I made the decision to get away and try to find a signal on my phone and to also think clearly away from the noisy ceiling.
I first considered heading for the road and trying to flag down a car or truck but knew they wouldn’t see me on the rain swept road. Instead I circled around the back of the restroom block, using my phone as a light source and constantly checking the bars for reception. I futilely texted a quick message to my friend Dave; ‘STUCK AT SLEEPY TROVE REST STOP ON TURNPIKE. COME HELP!!’
I was so fixated at seeing a signal icon that my feet almost stepped into a lake that was down a slight hill from the restroom. Looking across the rather large lake I could see what looked like little houses, lit up against the night’s darkness. After my eyes adjusted, I made out the houses were on an island and that they were not houses at all. The lights were coming from one facility. It was a collection of huts and cabins circled by a veranda, very much like a campground. As there was still no activity on my phone, I followed the lake for a few minutes until coming to an ancient, half sunken, missing planked wharf. There was one corrugated iron sign that when illuminated by my phone read; ‘SLEEPY TROVE BOYSCOUT CAMP.’
I immediately glanced back over to the set of cabins across the lake but could see no sign of them anymore. I assumed trees or some other mass were blocking the lights from that position. Walking back the way I had come to recapture the previous view of the faraway campground, I quickly realized that all the lights must have been turned off. Had they seen me or was it only a coincidence? Maybe the lights had been on a timer or the storm had knocked the power out.
As the rain soaked me to the bone, I worried about damaging my phone and I hurried back to the restroom block. This time I went into the Ladies side and to my disappointed it was no nicer than the Men’s. I then made a silent prayer to use and enjoy the Macy’s bathroom if I ever got out of this place.
As I clenched paper towels over my phone to dry it, I thought I saw one reception bar fleet across the top of the screen. I clicked on the connectivity option and was surprised to find a WiFi connection. Tapping it so quickly that I almost splintered my screen, I joined the free WiFi of ‘SLEEPY TROVE BOYSCOUT CAMP.’
The name unnerved me as by the looks of that wharf, surely no boy scouts had been over to that little island since the dawn of the internet. The signal strength was weak but my phone’s search engine popped right up. I had never been more curious and since none of my friends, family or Dave would be on facebook this early, I typed in ‘SLEEPY TROVE BOYSCOUT CAMP.’ And words like Abandoned, Haunted, Trespass, Disappearances, Cults, Cryptids, and Urban Exploration littered webpage descriptions. Because clicking on links failed to load, I gathered most information from the search results. Sleepy Trove Camp had apparently closed in 1982 after several boys had been violently ‘disassembled’ by an unidentified hostile force. Their ghosts and the unidentified hostile force are said to badly haunt the area. Right as I read that bit of chilling information, the shared wall with the Men’s room that I had previous been in began banging. The source of the commotion originated from a rusty square panel, about ankle height. Realizing that it was the backing to the chain that was attached to the jacket made me shudder. Someone or something was yanking on that chain like a game of tug of war. A blood freezing scream then echoed from the neighboring restroom before the banging ended abruptly. I heard someone running outside and when the heavy footsteps sounded like they were far enough away I ventured out of the safe Ladies room and headed back to the Men’s, guided only by the light of my trusty phone.
I remember passing by a newly arrived car before heading into the bathroom as my perceptions became a deafening, warpy blur.
As I stepped into the Men’s bathroom again, fear and the worst sense of dread rushed over me as I laid eyes on a very dead figure slumped against the urinal. The grotesque twisted body was that of my friend Dave. It turned out he had received my text after all. His face was contorted in an agonizing explosion of frozen terror. Blood now covered the urine soaked tiles and the jacket from the corner was now lying discarded by the door, covered in blood and large chunks of brown dirty hair. The chain had been ripped out of the wall as well. Whoever or whatever had been trapped there had been awoken and was now free.
The next thing I clearly remember is hearing my screams mixed with the sound of Dave’s car horn as my fist beat the steering wheel.
I’ve done little research since that horrifying night. My car was found just one stop down the turnpike. Traces of similar filthy brown hair were discovered on the driver’s seat. The police said they were adult, whereas the hair from the restroom was from a child, both most likely that of a primate. I let my parents handle liaison with the police after that.
I don’t know what lights I saw over at Sleepy Trove Boy Scout Camp that night, but I often imagine they live there and travel to the structures and facilities that dot the mainland to find their victims.
Trespassing on the Boy Scout Camp Island can bring with it a thousand dollar fine, but I wouldn’t even go back if they paid me that much. It’s not like I could return anyway; the Sleepy Trove exit is gone and the restroom block has been torn down. Try searching for it online or, heaven’s forbid, on the turnpike itself and you won’t find any trace of it. But I fear as we move further and further away from them, they will continue to encroach more and more upon us.
Credit To – ShaunMcKinnon