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Valley of Shadows

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“Is there no sign of life as we gaze at the waters... into the strangers’ eyes?” - The Alan Parsons Project

Last year, not long after the “Clagstone Meadows” development controversy began, an RJ reader and resident of southern Bonner County contacted me via the phone to relate a family story that goes back nearly a century. I have agreed not to use their real name in order to preserve their privacy.

The tale reminds me somewhat of the story my father told me many Christmas Eves ago, which I related in the October ‘08 River Journal (“You Might be Surprised by What You Find in the Woods”), about his experience as a young man in the forest service in 1937. 

I do not know if there is a connection, but this story allegedly takes place shortly before the outbreak of World War I, just as Dad’s tale took place just before the outbreak of World War II.

I have fished in the Kelso-Granite Lakes, catching nice, pan-sized trout. Nothing to write home about, but a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Nothing really struck me as unusual our out of the ordinary in this remote section of southern Bonner County.

My source, though, relates a different picture of the area nearly a century ago. His ancestor had settled in the area during McKinley’s administration. (We used to have the original homestead deed to my family’s house from that time.)

They trapped beaver, hunted, had a small farm, fished, and generally did what it took to survive. 

The unusual part comes in when my source’s great-great grandfather was in a small boat on Kelso, fishing. It had been a fairly productive day and he had a nice catch of brook trout. (These were the days before the state stocked the lakes.)

It was late September in 1913 and the man decided he had enough that he could smoke and sell at market for the hotels in Spokane the next day. The sun had just set and he rowed towards shore.

About twenty feet away the man suddenly stopped to nurse what was likely a pulled muscle. As he sat there rubbing his shoulder, he glanced over the side into about six or seven feet of water. There, lying on the bottom of the lake, is what appeared to be a body.

Ignoring his pulled muscle, the man rowed to shore with the intent of contacting the sheriff from one of the new phones a neighbor had. Heaving his fish into the back of the wagon, he jumped into the seat and slapped the reins.

Okay, this is where my source gets somewhat uncertain. Understand, this story  is 100 years old.

It is near dark as he arrives at the neighbor with the phone. Knocking, he is met by the neighbor carrying a shotgun and a wary expression. Recognizing his visitor, he invites the fisherman inside and quickly closes the door.

Asking what’s going on, the neighbor hesitantly tells my source’s ancestor that he has seen something in the woods that day while out doing chores around his small ranch. What kind of things? The fisherman thinks the man is imagining something as he has been alone several days while his wife has gone into Spokane to be with a sick relative.

The ranch owner replies that he’s seen small human forms in the trees at the edge of his cleared property. Just silhouettes mostly, slightly smaller than the average-sized man. 

My source’s great-great grandfather remembering what he thought he had seen in the lake, became a little spooked himself. He tried the phone, but they only heard a faint static coming from the old-style receiver.

The property owner invited his guest to spend the night.

Early the next morning, they decided to rustle up some breakfast on the wood stove and, if unable to get through on the telephone, to head into Careywood and try calling again from the store.

The final part of the story is short on details, but apparently my source’s twice great-grandfather headed out to the woodpile a few feet from the back door, where he caught a brief, but startling, glimpse of a small, human-sized figure covered in short copper- or rust-colored hair.

He thought he was seeing a small apeman that the settlers had told stories about for the last 30 years, since homesteading had begun in the region, along with tales heard from Indians. But that theory apparently came into doubt when the figure abruptly turned and looked right at him. The face was bare, rough-textured skin, but the eyes were the oddest, like halves of small balls or large, red-colored marbles.

The creature seemed unconcerned, but none-the-less moved so fast into the nearby trees and brush that the witness all but thought it had merely vanished. 

My source said that his ancestor and the rancher still couldn’t raise anyone on the phone and rode into Careywood where they stopped at the old store and called the sheriff.

Apparently, no body was found in the lake and there were no signs or more sightings of the red-furred humanoid.

I hope Journal readers will continue to enjoy the obscure tales from the back roads of North Idaho as I come across them, interspersed with reports of more familiar ghostly stories, but from a different perspective, such as last month’s story about the Bernd Building.

As for the Granite/Kelso Lake issue concerning the Clagstone Meadows proposal, let us hope that the county commissioners exercise wisdom in their decision concerning the development. Taking into consideration the failed Idaho Club development at the golf course near the Pack River and the less-than-stellar retail performance of Dover Bay, one wonders if there is really a need for an even larger such project.

Until next month.

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

Tagged as:

ghosts, extraterrestrials, 1913, Kelso-Granite Lakes

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