From the bedroom window of a small cabin, I observed a shade of light blue in the Eastern sky. I eased the window open, and almost immediately, I heard what I had traveled down here for—a tom turkey gobbling in the thin line of pines behind the cabin. Another tom responded, then another. This hunt may be easier than I imagined. I might have slipped on my camouflage clothes right then and there, but my permit didn’t allow me to hunt until the next day. So, I watched the birds come off the roost with a pair of binoculars while sipping on a cup of coffee. Once the birds landed on the dirt field beyond the thin line of trees, I could barely make them out.
Later that day, my hunting partner, our guide and I decided to walk to where I had seen the turkeys. We followed the tracks until they disappeared in a thick swamp on the backside of the field. We stood there, talking. I scanned the field one more time. That’s when I noticed dust devils close to the ground. They looked like puffs of dust kicked up by someone walking. There were several devils, and strangely, they were in a fairly even line, extending out thirty feet, and were moving towards the swamp. As I watched, my eyes began to see more than dust.
I began to see boots. I could almost see through them, but they were there. Then I saw shackles. All of the boots were shackled together in a line. I yelled to my hunting partner and the guide who were standing behind me. “Look at that. Do you see it?” And as I spoke, the boots included legs, joined to bodies and some now had heads. The first three to materialize were black men. They were in the lead, shuffling along, leading the pack. Two white men were next in line. Actually, one of those two might have been a short-haired, rough-looking woman. I immediately associated them with a prisoner chain gang. The first two men moved along without notice of anything around them, but the man in the center appeared to glance my way as he passed.
I ran up to him and waved my hand in front of his eyes. I thought I caught a smirk. The next one in line reached out his hand as if to give me a high five. I quickly raised my hand, but it just passed through his. I glanced back to get my partner and the guide’s reaction. They stood there, mouths open. The five men chained together were ghosts; there was no question about it. But, what were they doing there. Then, the last prisoner to pass, whispered “Come get us.” The words had been muffled by the shuffling of feet, but I know what I heard and it sent a chill down deep into my being.
Then, as fast as they appeared, the ones in the lead began to disappear to only legs. Then the middle of the group began to disappear, still marching on, and headed for the swamp. Soon all five were completely gone, and with it, my breath. I could not believe what I had just seen.
I wanted answers. Who were they? Had they been marched into the swamp and murdered many years before? Did he really ask me to come get them? I hunted the rest of the weekend without incident…without seeing them, and I’ve never gone back. But I dream about them fellas every now and then. In my dream, I am walking in the dark swamp and I find them lying there, dead; the shackles still on their boots.