Mystery At The Bonfire

Goblins and great pumpkins. Trick-or-treat and haunted houses. Bats flying about and witches on broomsticks. Halloween is always a good time for an old-fashioned ghost story.

Not that I believe in ghosts. My encounters with the unexplained are due more to an over-active imagination. Such as the time I thought I saw a werewolf. Or when my cousin and I convinced ourselves a ghost was after us. Once I was even on the lookout for a headless horseman in the woods near our home.

However, I had one strange occurrence several years ago that I can’t explain. Nor can anyone who was present that October night.

In the 1980s, our family held a special event each October. It began as an outdoor chili supper and we invited close friends and neighbors. Later, it expanded to include an art exhibit. My brother and some of his college classmates would display their latest works.

One of the highlights of these events was a Saturday night bonfire. In late summer, we began to gather tree limbs and scrap lumber into a big pile. By October, the mound was the right size for a nice fire.

One year, a few days before Halloween, we gathered in our pasture for the bonfire. About fifteen adults were present. We stood around the fire IMG_0313in groups of two or three.

The winds were still and the moonless night sky glistened with stars. Traffic was sparse on our country road in those days. The only sounds came from the crackling of the fire and soft-spoken conversations.

We had been outdoors an hour or so when it happened.

A noise. A strange noise. An inexplicable noise. It lasted twenty seconds at most.

Conversations ceased. Then, almost in unison, everyone asked, “WHAT WAS THAT?”

“It sounded like a dragonfly flew next to my ear.”

“Maybe a UFO,” another person joked.

“Or the trill of a nighthawk.”

I remained silent, but the best description I could come up with was the sound an airplane makes when the pilot lowers its landing gear.

No one could agree on the source of the sound. A single dragonfly can’t buzz fifteen people’s ears at the same time. We didn’t see any strange objects in the sky. Most discredited the nighthawk theory. And for me to hear the landing gear sound,  would require me to be inside a plane.

After a few minutes of speculation, most continued their conversations. One person took the opportunity to go inside the house on the pretense of checking on his son. He didn’t return.

Times change. Life gets busy. Year passed without us hosting the annual event until a few years ago when my brother and his friends revised the art show. This past weekend, people gathered for the event.

These days, we eat dinner in a restaurant rather than having a cookout. Fire pits have replaced the large bonfires. But in the course of the weekend, we discussed the mysterious sound heard long ago.

As years pass, people often tend to embellish stories such as these. Not so with this one. Those of us who were there still stand by our story. We heard a strange sound. No one could identify it. We can’t pinpoint the origin. Although we can’t agree on an exact description, it’s safe to say it wasn’t our imagination.

Perhaps we’ll never know what was behind the mystery at the bonfire, but one thing is certain. It makes a good story to tell while standing around a bonfire at Halloween.