Eerie Sounds from the Swamp
Skooter Bates glided smoothly along the waterway in his thirty foot pirogue. He knew the area well. Locals considered him the best navigator of the swamp. That is how he got the nickname Skooter, for he scooted along smoothly and quickly to get to where he wanted to go. Skooter made his canoe-like pirogue from a single log, using scrapers made of shell and stones. This was an old method that worked well for the early inhabitants of Louisiana and he saw no reason to use the modern fiberglass boats. He made the pirogue long enough to make a pick up and delivery trip worth his time. He transported goods back and forth between parishes.
It was an unusually hot day in the bayou. Skooter was tired, it was his third and last trip of the day. He had a load of fresh craw-fish to deliver back to Bayou Corne where he lived. When he saw a group of spoonbills he stopped to watch them, they were swinging their bills from side to side, foraging for small fish or crustaceans. This always fascinated Skooter and he stopped the pirogue to watch them.
As he gazed at the wading birds he noticed a sudden quick movement in the darkness of trees beyond. Then he heard some eerie sounds he and others had heard before, like hissing, creaks, moans and a low rumbling. Bubbles started coming up from the water and there was an odor that irritated his nostrils. Skooter stared, trying to see what was back there. There were more eerie sounds again. It sounded like a weak human voice or a hiss. He pushed the pirogue close to the shore to get a better look.
About a week later a search party heard some eerie sounds where they found the pirogue tangled up in the tall grasses. The pole was anchored in deep mud at an angle to indicate Skooter tried to back away from the shore. Skooter Bates was never seen again by anyone.
Almost two years later, in the early summer, residents of Bayou Corne began to notice some unusual things. People were still jumpy over the disappearance of Scooter, so were cautious about going too far from home, kids were never out of sight of parents. These mystery of Skooter and eerie sounds put them on edge. At times the ground would shake and bubbles would rise from the water. The eerie sounds were heard by more and more folks. Geologists conducted a survey and noted an increase in seismic activity, but could not point to an exact source or cause. The local government sent in experts, who suspected a natural gas pipeline leak, but that assumption proved false. As the symptoms worsened towards the end of July and residents reported unpleasant smells throughout the town, an evacuation order was issued by the governor.
All residents packed up and moved out – all except Amos and his two grandchildren, Gareth and Juney. Amos was Skooter’s brother. “Skooter and I were born in this ol’ cabin. My grandparents, parents, wife and daughter all died here. I never had any reason to go elsewhere and I ain’t planning on to now,” he stood his ground and glared at Sheriff Pickering. George Pickering put his hands on hips and glared back. It was the third time he had come to convince Amos to evacuate. “Amos, I have known you all my life and know you won’t budge on this. But, your grandchildren have the right to leave and should.”
Gareth took Juney’s hand and said, “We ain’t leaving our Grandpa!” Juney nodded in agreement. Pickering turned away, then swung back in anger. “You all puttin’ yourself in danger,” he pointed out to the swamp. “We don’t know what’s out there and what killled Skooter. Whatever it is, it’s gettin’ worse. I could arrest all three of you and drag you out in handcuffs!”
“But you won’t,” Amos said quietly and steady, in an almost threatening voice. Pickering looked at the Colt 45 on Amos’ hip, stared at his old friend a few more seconds then left. He knew he was in a losing battle.
Amos had kept Scooter’s pirogue and gave it to Gareth. “Someone has to take over the work Scooter did and it might’s well be you,” Amos had told him. Gareth was just seventeen, but a good navigator of the waterways. It did not take him long to get used to and maneuver the longer boat. When the strange happenings got worse, Amos, Gareth and Juney made a solemn vow to stay together at all times and took to carrying their guns with them.
As the only residents living in the area now, the Bates family had no one to supply goods to except for themselves. They missed their friends and the gatherings in town. To keep in touch with other people and renew supplies they took the pirogue down river to Pierre Part, sometimes as far as Bayou Geneve where they would spend a few days. It was on a Thursday in late August they had to stock up and fill the pantry and Juney wanted to purchase fabric to make new clothes for all of them. Old, worn out garments were stored in her trunk for quilt scraps. Juney was very creative and frugal. She never wasted anything.
At the age of fifteen she took care of her family and their home as well as her mother had done. Juney was also psychic, a seer, like her grandmother had been. She never paid much attention to this gift till recently, when life was now in possible danger. When Amos said they should leave for Pierre Part, she balked about it. She did not want to go, but knew there was no choice. They needed too many things and the men would refuse to leave her alone, besides, she would want to be with her brother and grandpa if any of them were in danger. Since early morn she felt it was going to be a bad day, she felt it in her bones. The chickens would not come out of their hut and the hounds were nervous, whining and restless. Juney left the cabin door open for them. When Amos said they were ready to leave, Juney walked to the pirogue. She felt some minor shaking in the ground.
Juney sat in front of the pirogue, Amos in the middle, and Gareth stood in the back navigating with the long pole. Even though it was a lovely day, Juney still felt all was not right. She was getting more nervous yet alert as they glided along. Amos held up his hand and motioned for Gareth to move close to the shore and stop. Juney started shaking. In her mind she saw a deep black hole and fumes coming up from it.
“This is where Scooter disappeared,” Amos said quietly. He had not shown the kids this spot before and could not force himself to stop here again, but he felt the need today. He wanted some answers, some peace. The questions had been plaguing him for so long. What happened to Scooter? Where was he? If he was dead, and he must be, why was his body never found? Amos stared into the thick woods as if he could find the answers there.
“He is here Grandpa,” Juney was in a daze. Amos recognized the state of Juney when she turned around to face him. She looked like his mother did when she was seeing something no one else could see. Very quietly Amos asked, “Where is he Juney?”
Juney tilted her head, trying to focus with more clarity. Her eyes were misty. “He is below us, far far down, trapped in a black hole. White, something white buried him,” she became frightened and spoke urgently now. “Moving, it is moving, opening, pulling down.” She turned quickly and looked back into the woods.
Trees were moving and shaking. Eerie sounds were heard and getting louder. Amos and Gareth saw the same thing, only it was real, not a vision of the mind. “Go Gareth! Get us out of here!” Amos yelled. Gareth backed them away from the shore and quickly moved down stream. Eerie sounds, loud hissing and rustling sounds of trees falling, ground shaking and a low rumbling followed them like a demon in pursuit.
The water was churning rapidly and a black film was swirling in it. Amos and Juney stared in horror as the land and trees started sinking. Gareth looked back only once then kept pushing with the pole to get as far away as he could and as fast as he could. He did not stop till they got to Pierre Part a few miles away and ran the pirogue ashore. Juney jumped out and slid the rope loop on a post. They all ran to the sheriff’s office and told him what they saw and heard.
Sheriff Wilson called George Pickering to warn him what was happening. Pickering called the governor’s hot line. Not more than an hour later, two army helicopters with geologists aboard were circling the area. Where once there was a thick woodland, there was only churning water with a lot of sediment in it and an unpleasant smell rising. The water had swallowed down about a square mile of land. Geologists knew they were looking down at a massive sink hole filled with murky swamp water.
Amos and the kids stayed in Pierre Part for three months when the evacuation order was lifted before they could return home. Amos finally knew what happened to his brother. The swamp Scooter so loved took his life and gave him a watery grave. Amos had found some closure, a little peace, yet the sorrow was renewed and deep.
Note from Author:
This story is a work of fiction based on the incident at Bayou Corne, Louisiana. The eerie sounds are what I think the shaking of land and trees would make, the hissing sound would be petroleum fumes escaping into air. The salt dome cavern was used to store petroleum.
The Bayou Corne Sinkhole was created from a collapsed underground salt dome cavern operated by Texas Brine Company and owned by Occidental Petroleum. The sinkhole, located in northern Assumption Parish, Louisiana, was discovered on August 3, 2012, and 350 nearby residents were advised to evacuate.
Bayous such as Bayou Corne were largely settled by the Acadians in the late 1700s, who were attracted to the locations for its economic potential as an alligator and craw-fish nesting site. Beneath much of the state of Louisiana, including these bayous, are salt domes, gigantic deposits left during the formation of the North American continent. These domes vary wildly in scale and depth, some as much as 35,000 feet below the surface and as large as Mount Everest. With such depths and dimensions, these domes are under thousands of pounds per square inch of pressure.
For more information on these salt dome caverns, visit Bayou Corne Sinkhole on Wikipedia.
© 2018 Phyllis Doyle Burns