I got an urban legend to tell y’all. It’s an old ghost story my family has been passing down for generations. Now, I just called it an urban legend, but it’s totally a true story. Nothing can be verified indefinitely, that’s what makes it a legend, but there are some clues that were left that indicate this actually happened, which I’ll mention at the end. Here we go.
This story starts off in Nevada, and that’s all I’m going to say about location. We don’t exactly know what year, but it was some time during the 1880’s, maybe late 70’s. Anyway, the locale of this little tale is a small valley town, I wouldn’t say more than about 20-25 people lived there at the time. I have not been able to verify this town’s existence, but honestly I can’t imagine how many lost valley towns there were way out west in the early days. But according to the legend, this town was buried on purpose.
It starts on the night of a meteor shower. Now back then they didn’t really know what they were since they didn’t have the news or the weather channel, but apparently it was going on long enough that two guys, Smokey and Billy, went up on the roof of the general store to keep watching it after everyone else had gotten bored. They’re up there wondering how far away these shooting stars are when they see one that was apparently so close that they could visibly see it in the sky above them. As in, they could make out its outline and see the tail and everything. In fact, one flew by so close they could actually feel the rush of wind as it blew by. They even witnessed it crash into the mountains with a huge explosion. It must have been a very small meteorite since it didn’t cause any massive shock waves or leave any lasting impact (that the general populace knows about anyway).
The explosive boom brought the whole town outside. It was your typical western town: one main road with various buildings etc, and everyone is out in the road with their torches talking about what happened, who saw it, is it God almighty himself come down from heaven, etc.
Smokey and Billy tell everyone what they saw and that one of the shooting stars might have crashed or otherwise landed in the nearby mountains, it looked like it had landed on a well known to them mountain lake up near a small peak. Now these mountains are miles way, it would take about half the day on horseback to get to the base of these mountains, but that is exactly what they decide they are doing. Smokey and Billy are joined by their friends Jack and Angely, and the Sheriff was going to. He was a real hard nosed sheriff by how the story’s been told. No nonsense, straight as an arrow, probably had an awesome mustache.
So these guys are all excited about their little adventure when the town Doc has to go and almost ruin everything. Doc was obviously the smartest guy in town, and if you can picture a Doc from any western show or movie you’ve ever seen who seems to know everything, it’s this guy. Anyway, he’s telling them they need to be careful because this thing came from space and could have some kind of harmful effects on humans, like toxic space fumes or spores or something. He also mentioned it was doubtful that they find the actual crash site. It might look like it landed on <hidden> Peak, but it could be much higher and inaccessible. The group doesn’t pay any attention and Smokey says they’ll bring Doc back a piece of the shrapnel.
So the next day they gather their crap and head out. They’re all armed of course, they’re cowboys after all. Besides, this was Indian country. Anyway, it only takes about half the day to get to the mountain base where the trails start. They might have actually been there sooner but they didn’t ride hard. They enjoyed the open prairie, BS’ing with each other. They weren’t too cautious either, not a single sign of any Indians.
So they reach the mountain base and start heading up the trails. They could still ride their horses about half way up the mountain before they had to go out on foot. These trails had been walked before so there was a makeshift horse rail at the trail head that someone made at some point in time where it got to treacherous for horses. The trail got steep but this particular area was pretty heavily wooded as well so even if the trail wasn’t as steep as it was there’s no way the horses could make it through the woods. Since they didn’t want to leave their horses alone for too long, they decided to camp here for the night. They set up a camp fire and did the usual bullcrap people did. Told some stories, ate food, then hit the sack.
They woke up early the next morning and set out on the hard part of the trail. It was hard work getting up this trail but boy was it worth it to reach this lake they were headed to. Anyway, as they got closer and closer Smokey (I think it was him) apparently looked up at one point and noticed the trees were getting shorter and the sun seemed to be getting brighter.
“You guys, look up. Look at some of these trees, the gall damn tops have been sheared off.”
This gets the guys all excited as they stop and look up to take it in. Jack especially is all giddy about how close they must be getting. Angely is the furthest back and apparently calls out “Whoever gets there first find a good rock to take back to the Doc, that son of a bitch,” jokingly.
Now the peak where they were headed was kind of an oasis. There was a medium to large sized lake completely surrounded by the mountains and trees. There was only the one trail that led to this lake in the mountains. There’d probably be some kind of resort there nowadays if it was still accessible. Anyway, the meteor had indeed crashed exactly where they though: right into the middle of this resort-like lake. Each one of the guys stopped dead in their tracks upon entering the clearing and seeing the destruction. They all mumble some kind of surprised expression.
“Jesus H Christ driving a horse-drawn buggy,” Smokey murmurs.
“I guess we won’t be coming up here anymore,” the Sheriff says.
There was rubble littering the area from the impact. I mean this place was trashed. Completely destroyed, and the lake itself was finished, as one of the guys apparently stated. There’s pieces of rock everywhere, there’s trees destroyed and tipped over, there’s broken trees still smoking from small fires that put themselves out. But what was most interesting is what was in the lake itself. From what they recount, there was this large piece of metal sticking out of the lake, with a couple smaller pieces near the top sticking out either side. A couple guys started moving closer to the lake and the Sheriff got all mad and safety oriented.
“Everyone be careful now God damnit,” the Sheriff says. “Watch out for sharp rocks, don’t pick up anything misshaped too much. Rocks can be sharp as knives.”
They moved up to the shoreline and everyone notices the large “thing” sticking out of the water. Someone, Billy we’ll say, asks what it could be (they don’t know it’s metallic at this point).
Angely was a blacksmith so he mentioned “it looks like some kind of metal.” He picked up a nearby stone and threw it at it. It hits the object with a ping. “It’s definitely metallic.”
Jack is leaning over trying to look into the water. He blurts out “holy shit you guys, I can see something further down in the water it’s connected to.” They all peer into the lake where he is pointing and sure enough, the metal shaft was connected to an even larger object deeper down. It was too deep though and the water was murky from all the dirt and rubble the crash had caused, all they could make out was a silhouette.
Billy is way too curious about this, he’s like “let’s swim down there, I bet we can get a better look before we have to come up for air.” There’s a couple murmurs of agreement and a couple of the guys start loosening some of the clothes like they’re going to dive in.
The Sheriff gets all pissed off again, it’s a good thing he was there though. “Wait…just a God damned minute.” He pauses and surveys the water. “Nobody go in the water. Look at all these fish that are belly-up.” Nobody had noticed with all the excitement of the destruction and the mysterious metal shaft. There’s dead fish floating in the water. A lot of them, mostly concentrated near the shaft.
Jack is surprised, “what in the hell?” While everybody is focused on the fish he notices the water is messed up too. “Look at the water, it’s like, something’s in it.”
They all looked a little closer and sure enough, the water looked “weird.” There was like a discoloration to it, in all the excitement they hadn’t noticed it even though they were just looking in the water trying to see what was down there.
Now with the advent of technology, the description of the water has changed a little bit. I think the easiest way for me to describe how it looked is if you think about water and oil mixing. You kind of get like a rainbow hue, only this wasn’t as strong.
They’re all kind of farting around on the shore when Billy sees a turtle in the sand a few feet away crawling around near the waterline. “Look at this turtle, it’s alive.” He bent down to pick it up. It was a smaller turtle, about the size of a softball.
“Don’t touch it,” the Sheriff says gruffly. It’s too late. Billy picks it up and finds it has a coating of whatever was in the water.
Smokey gets all pissed off this time. “God damnit, now! Look, you got that shit all over your hands!”
Billy was holding the turtle in his left hand while he uses his right to make fists and run his fingers over the thin substance. Apparently it had a silvery hue to it out of the water. He describes the feeling to the other guys, saying “It feels slippery. It doesn’t burn or hurt at all.”
Angely doesn’t like this either, he yells at Billy too. “DON’T touch your God damn mouth. In fact, just put the God damn turtle down and wipe your hands. Doc says don’t touch your eyes or mouth if you get shit on your hands until you wash it off. Anybody got any blasted soap?”
Smokey says he does but didn’t have time to get it out of his bag.
Billy yells out suddenly, probably scaring the ever-loving shit out of everybody. “OW! This son of a bitch turtle just bit me!” The turtle had bitten the part of his hand between his thumb and index finger, the soft “webbing” some people call it.
Concerned and annoyed, Angely says “I don’t know why you’d pick it up, there’s snappers in these parts you know.”
Smokey disagrees. “That ain’t no damn snapper, way too small.”
By this point Billy had thrown the turtle down in the sand. “Shit, it drew blood,” he says showing his hand to everybody. Now, personally, I was always skeptical of the turtle bite part since turtles don’t have teeth, but apparently if a normal river turtle bites hard enough its beak could be capable to drawing blood.
They all looking at the hand and Jack mentions what a pissed off little turtle it must have been.
The Sheriff is the only one looking at the turtle laying in the sand. “That turtle looks like shit,” he says gruffly. “Look at ‘em.”
Everyone gathers around where the turtle is. It was on its back writhing around in the sand for a few seconds before it corrected itself. It did not look like a normal turtle anymore. Apparently the look of the turtle has changed over the years depending on who’s telling the story, but either way I guess its normal green and brown hues where gone. It was like a grayish color almost, an ugly looking gray.
Smokey makes a conjecture about the way the turtle looks. “It looks…like it’s dead.”
Billy gets all pissed off, “well, it’s obviously not.” He holds up his hand again. He wasn’t bleeding bad so to speak, but there was enough to see that turtle got him good.
Angely gets all bent out of shape about cleaning the wound again, saying “we have GOT to get that shit washed off quick. Get water from a canteen and get that soap over here.”
They patched Billy up and spent the next couple hours looking around. They gathered some rocks, looked at (and climbed) destroyed trees, and tried to get a look at whatever was in the water from every possible angle without getting too close. More turtles were popping up on the beach and the guys were kicking them back in. Also a few water fowls or birds of some kind had flown over the area and made their way towards the water, but none of them landed. I guess they stopped dead in their tracks a couple feet above the water, flapped their wings and hovered in place, then flew off. Like they somehow knew or sensed the water was bad news. Somebody makes a comment about it, and Smokey chides Billy by saying the birds were smarter than he was since they knew the water was garbage.
They decide it’s time to go so they stand around discussing their plan of action. They decide to try and get home that day and get Billy to the Doc. They’ll be going downhill this time and they’ll ride a lot harder home than they did on the way in. The Sheriff isn’t so sure though. “Hmm, clouds rolling in. Don’t look like rain, but there won’t be any moon. We’re not going to make it home. Let’s get back to the horses and camp there.”
They gather their stuff and start down. They actually did make pretty good time at first, but then Billy starts to lag. Eventually he stops and bends over to catch his breath. Smokey asks if he’s ok.
Billy shakes his head, saying “I don’t know. I forgot where I was going for a second there, now I can’t catch my breath.” Yeah, you probably can guess where this is headed. Anyway, on account of Billy’s new found lethargy they didn’t make great time back to the horses. It took almost double what it should have going down the hill.
So they get back to the horses and Angely says Billy looks like hell. “That bastard turtle, it had to have had some kind of disease and now Billy is infected.” He still thinks they should make a run for home that night.
“We’re not gonna make it down these wooded hills in the dark,” the Sheriff reiterates. “And if we did, we need to cross the plains home, we’d never see an Indian attack coming if they’re out there.” Jack and Smokey both agree, so they set up camp again and make a fire.
The night comes and sure enough it’s pitch black without the moon. They’re all kind of hanging out sitting around the fire and Billy just keeps putting on more clothes. It wasn’t especially cold out that night, but even then Billy was sweating up a storm. I mean he was apparently pure sweat on his face, like someone had dumped a bucket of water on him.
“He ain’t gonna last the God damn night,” Angely said, pointing his stick with a hot dog (or sausage or whatever they had back then) on it at Billy. “I’m tellin’ ya, we should’a tried to get him home.” There was mumbling and murmurs from the rest of the guys on what they should have done.
At this point, Billy kind of stands up, steps away from the fire, then lays himself on the ground. Apparently it looked like he just fell, but he had laid his blanket out on the ground like he was going to bed so nobody really knew what to think.
“Night,” Smokey says without turning away from the fire.
The guys stay by the fire but after only a few minutes Billy starts moving on the ground. He rolls back and forth for a few seconds then full on starts convulsing,
“Jesus H,” Smokey yells throwing his sausage down. The rest of the guys all huddled around Billy. None of them even knew what a seizure was so they didn’t know what to do.
“Help him for Christ’s sake!” Jack yells.
“Hold him down!” the Sheriff hollers. “He’s gonna hit his head.” (FYI, never try to hold down or prevent movement from someone seizing, but like I said, they didn’t know what was going on).
After what seemed like an hour (it was really only a couple minutes) Billy stops seizing, lets out this raspy groan which probably let all the air out of lungs, then stops moving.
“Billy!” Angely slaps his face.
“Jesus Christ,” Smokey says. “He’s stone cold.” He was holding his Billy’s non-bitten hand.
After a minute or two of trying to wake Billy up, the Sheriff speaks up.
“He’s dead.” Nobody can believe it.
“He didn’t look good,” Jack stammers.
“He looks like that damn turtle,” Angely says gravely. I guess Billy was looking pale. Not so much gray I guess. But over the years of telling this tale and each generation making their own conjectures, I like to say that Billy looked like the life had left him before he even died. But you’re not supposed to look that color as soon as you die is the thing. It takes time for life to fade out of someone’s body after they die.
The Sheriff lets out a long sigh. “Alright, listen up. He was fine this morning, that turtle bit him, and now he’s dead. Nobody touch the body, if you did wash your hands right damn now. Wrap him up in the blanket and slide him away from where we’ll be sleeping. We need to get his body to the Doc for an autopsy.”
They cleaned up dinner before messing with Billy’s body. They found a nice spot under a tree away from the camp to stash the body. Smokey and the Sheriff were the ones to move him. They each grab a tuft of blanket, parts which hadn’t touched Billy, and slide him over to the tree.
“Poor son of a bitch,” Smokey said as they stood over him. They turned around but didn’t walk away yet.
“Any next of kin you know of?” the Sheriff asks.
Before Smokey could answer, there was a growl behind them. I guess it was guttural, savage. Like feral even. Then another one.
I guess Smokey and the Sheriff stopped talking as soon as they heard the growl and kind of stood there looking at each other without saying anything for a couple seconds. After the second growl they slowly continue turning around to find Billy sitting up. They’re kind of just standing there looking baffled not sure what to think for a second before Billy snarls or growls and then lunges forward. He moves fast, He’s on his feet in a second.
“What the…” is all Smokey can get out before the Sheriff let’s out a pissed off, painful howl.
“FUUU!” is all the Sheriff can muster, probably trying to say “fuck” is my guess. Billy’s got the Sheriff’s left hand in his mouth. He’s got it by the fatty part on the outside of his hand, below the pinky. Sheriff had gotten his hand up, otherwise Billy might have gotten his neck straight away.
“JESUS H CHRIST…YOU GUYS…FUCK!” Smokey is yelling as he tries to get Billy off the Sheriff by hitting his head with his hand.
Jack and Angely come rushing over.
“Holy Christ!” Angely shouts. Him and Jack also start hitting Billy.
“He ain’t dead?!” Jack is yelling.
Billy lets go of the Sheriff at this point and Sheriff staggers away from the area holding his hand. The other three guys are standing there looking at Billy in shock. He’s chin and lower jaw are soaked and dripping in red blood, his skin has absolutely no color whatsoever, and the look in his eyes is so wild it’s like the thousand yard stare from the devil himself.
Billy rushed at the other three guys at this point with a raspy growl and they scatter in different directions.
“Don’t let em bite you!” Smokey yells.
It almost sounds kind of funny. Billy is running after anything that moves and Smokey, Jack, and Angely are running all over the camp to avoid him. Each guy let’s out a screech whenever they see Billy is locked on to them. The horses don’t like it either. Amid all the commotion they’re rearing up and bucking and lucky for them by the time Billy notices them and starts going after them they’ve broken off the horse rail and are on their way down the trail.
The guys gather by the fire to catch their breath when Billy turns around and starts running back at them.
There’s a sudden BOOM that most likely cause all three men to crap their pants. Billy stops.
BOOM, BOOM BOOM BOOM, BOOM. The last one puts Billy on his back. Sheriff comes walking out of the shadows with his gun drawn in front him.
Sheriff reloads as the other guys got their own guns out of their sleeping bags.
“He dead?” Jack asks.
“Of course he’s dead,” Angely returns.
“Yeah, well we thought that before,” Jack reiterates.
Just as everyone calms down, Billy starts to move again.
“This is impossible!” Smokey said as Billy stands up.
“Hit him again,” Sheriff hollers. They all blast him and Billy goes down again. Sheriff doesn’t empty this time though. He walks over to Billy and just stands over him for a few seconds. Sure enough, Billy sits up again and Sheriff blows his head off. Everybody is quiet for what feels like a year.
“That did it,” Smokey says finally. They all gather around Billy’s body.
“Doc isn’t gonna believe this,” Jack says.
“He’ll have to,” Sheriff says. “Four men telling him the same story and once he gets a look at that body there shouldn’t be any doubt. If anything, the autopsy will show him something made Billy sick.”
Smokey is looking grim once he realizes something. “Uh,” he starts. “I’m not saying we need to shoot anybody, but…”
“I already thought of that,” Sheriff says. He was standing over the fire now, running his hand over it and wincing every few passes. He was cauterizing his bite, that’s pretty hardcore. “I’m bit. That sick turtle bit Billy and he turned in to some kind of demon, now Billy bit me.”
“What do we do?” Angely asks.
“The weather hasn’t changed, still way to dark to risk all our lives trying to get me to the Doc tonight,” Sheriff says. “So here’s what we’re going to do.” He bends down and picks up some rope out of his gear. “Smokey, you tie some pretty mean knots. Tie me to that tree there and if I end up like Billy my growling and rasping should wake you all up and I won’t be able to bite anybody.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep,” Smokey says.
“You have to get some,” Sheriff says. “First light we have to be gone.”
So the guys bag Billy up again in his sleeping bag and pull him away from the camp.“ Angely lets out a long sigh, "we’re gonna have to drag his ass all the way back home.”
“That’s why we have to leave as soon as the sun starts rising,” Sheriff says as he sits down next to his tree. It was a smaller tree, small enough to wrap the rope around Sheriff’s torso and around the tree trunk a couple times and knot it off. Smokey asks if it’s too tight and Sheriff says it’s just tight enough. If things go to shit, Sheriff doesn’t want himself to be able to wiggle free.
Everybody says their goodnights and try to fall asleep.
It’s hard to say if anyone actually got much sleep, but Smokey is up first. He jolts awake nervously and finds the sun is on its way up. The clouds have cleared out so he wakes everybody else up. They all kind of panic as they look over at the Sheriff, he’s sitting there, still tied up, with his head slumped down on his chest.
“He dead?” Jack asks.
Sheriff’s raises his head and looks at the guys. “I ain’t dead yet.”
“How do you feel,” Smokey asks him.
“My hand hurts like hell,” Sheriff returns.
“It’s been hours,” Angely says. “By this time Billy was looking like hell, you look…you still have color.”
“Maybe it didn’t transfer from Billy,” Jack offers.
Sheriff tells them they don’t have time for them to figure it out now, that’s the Doc’s job.
So they gather their crap up and head down the trail, dragging Billy behind them tied up in his sleeping bag. They have a stroke of luck here, something they sorely need. Dragging Billy downhill made it easier, but when they get down the trail they find Sheriff’s horse just hanging out a couple hundred feet out into the prairie, drinking from a small ditch. He whistles and it comes running and they strap Billy over him. They head for home as fast as they can and get there in late afternoon.
Alrighty, so I’m rambling on here. I’m gonna cut it here and resume with Part 2 in couple days, or sooner if y’all are interested.