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Valley of Shadows

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Photo by Gamal Abdalla Photo by Gamal Abdalla

The loud, silent voices

“... of any living voice but one so far that I hear it only as a bar...” 

-Edwin Arlington Robinson

Have you ever heard voices from someone not there? If you do, you might think that you have a mental problem—and you just might—but could it be something else? Sometimes it may be a crow cawing outside; sometimes it is the neighbors talking and the way they sound at certain times can be transmitted through walls. But other times, when you’re alone, could the voices be something else?

Once, about 25 years ago when I was looking after my elderly parents, I had managed to get out of the house for a few hours and hang out at a friend’s place. I got in that night about 1 am. My mother was in bed; my Dad, whose back bothered him often, slept on one of our couches, which was firmer. That night he was asleep on one of them.

In the bathroom, I was brushing my teeth when I was sure that I heard my father right outside the closed door say my familiar name: “Larry?” Thinking he had to relieve himself I replied in a low voice, “Yeah. I’ll be right out.”

Hurrying to finish, I rinsed and went to the door. No Dad. I peeked out into the living room and heard Dad’s snore coming out of the dark. Was I coming down with a mental disorder? I have had one or two similar experiences over the last 20 years, one of them where I live now when I thought I heard my brother’s voice.

The last time was just over ten years ago and the voice I heard sounded like one of my then friends, who often visited. I thought for a moment that I had left the door unlocked and that he had just let himself in.

This leads me to two brothers, one of whom I am still friends with, and their experience at an old 1930s era cabin on Reeder Bay on Priest Lake. The two stayed there off and on a couple of summers when they were logging, instead of making a nightly trip back to Priest River or Sandpoint.

It was in the mid 1980s. I remember staying there two times, in August and again in late September ‘85 as my friends were winding things up for the year.

We sat there, drinking a batch of their homemade elderberry wine (no, we weren’t hammered) and watching the beginning of the second season of “The Cosby Show” on the cabin’s 80s vintage, 15-inch color TV.

The nights were beginning to get cooler, and warmth usually just came from the small wood stove. I sat there in my new leather jacket, listening to and joining in the brothers’ mostly good natured levity.

The older brother finally went to bed but the younger one and I sat there for a while, talking.

Turning the TV off we listened to the wind and sound of the lake lapping against the shore a hundred yards away. I was about ready to go to bed when my younger friend spoke up about something that had happened at the beginning of the season when they first opened up the old place in late April.

I sat there sipping my wine, smelling the stale dankness of the place and listened as my friend related the following.

They hadn’t done much that first week except to get their equipment ready and moved to the log site that their father had bid on and won the previous fall. The area they would log could have been done in a matter of weeks, a month or so tops for a larger operation, but a small father and sons business would take all summer. The father was still hauling logs from another job and had a couple more to get to. He would primarily be doing most of this work, though he would help out with felling when he could. 

By the end of that first week, they were down to dregs in the food department. Two young working guys, 18 and 21, went through the groceries fast. The younger was more of a mechanic and volunteered to stay the weekend when his brother went back to Sandpoint for more supplies and to take care of some other business.

Now my years of friendship with them both and my continued friendship with the younger man continues to this day. I can attest that the latter was more down to earth and common sensed than his older brother. That is why the story seems valid to me.

The older brother took off early Saturday morning and would return either Sunday evening before dark or as early as possible Monday morning.

Alone, my younger friend worked mostly on the skidder, an older 60s model, most of Saturday. By 5:30 he decided it was in as good condition as he could get it and went inside to wash up and see what was left of the grub before hitting the hay.

After a can of Dinty More stew and some two-day-old biscuits from Thursday’s breakfast he went out on the small porch for a few minutes. The area was deserted. The seasonal people wouldn’t be coming up for another week or two and the place felt like a ghost town.

Turning to go back in, he heard, plain as day, what he thought was his brother’s voice from around some brush on the road side of the cabin. Maybe his brother had come back when he had been eating. Stepping the several yards to the area, there was no one in sight. He was sure he had heard his brother’s usual smart... uh, name for him: “Hey, F---face.”

Not knowing what to think, my friend headed into bed, locked the doors and rolled up in his sleeping bag on the old mattress of one of the two twin beds. (Neither bothered with linens.)

Waking up later, he glanced at his battery-powered alarm clock. What had woken him at 2 am? Mouth dry, he got up for a drink of water in the small bathroom when from the kitchen area came (similar to when I thought I had heard my father): “Hey, you about through in there?” Again, in what sounded just like his brother’s voice.

Now I knew both of my parents were in the house and thought my experience was one of them, but remember, my buddy was in an old cabin, by himself, practically in the middle of nowhere. 

The hairs on his neck standing up, he rushed out, hit the old light switch near the front door and looked around. No brother, no nothing. Well, let’s say my friend is not shy around guns and he went for his rifle leaning in the corner by his bed. Turning on all the lights, he examined the interior of the cabin. Nothing. Going outside he circled the place, shining his powerful flashlight into the trees and along the sides of the cabin. Nothing. No sign of anyone having been around, just the sound of the wind, the waves on Priest Lake, and crickets.

His brother got back late Sunday afternoon but my friend mentioned nothing, knowing his brother would be without mercy in the teasing department. As far as I know, I am the only one he’s told.

They stayed at the cabin one more summer, but had no further experiences and I have no idea what the source of his mystery voice—or of mine—was. A phantom voice which is able to mimic people we know.

If a reader has had a similar experience or would like to share another mystery from the back roads of the valley of shadows, feel free to email me at fury_larry(at)yahoo.com.

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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:

Priest River, auditory hallucination, unseen voices

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