Beware the Night

“I will tell you now about the Loup Garou!” said our guide and instructor. I was part of a camp that taught kids to use canoes and then scattered us throughout the Quebec Provincial forests. We were sitting in campfire circle, the fire at the center of the ring sending up embers like ascending fireflies. The woods around us was dark and imposing, and seemed to lean in on us and our little circle of crackling light. “The mighty loup garou,” he whispered gruffly, “is the greatest of wolves. A huge beast, it is easily six feet tall and has fangs like a sabertooth.” We were all fully mesmerized.

“No one knows where from came the mighty loup garou. But it has been here forever and will be here forever. These are his woods. In these woods you must honor the loup garou or you will perish. You honor the loup garou by honoring the rules of the forest!” With a click, he turned on a flashlight and held it up so it illuminated his chisled features and he snarled loudly “FEAR THE LOUP GAROU!” 

With that he shut off the flashlight and dashed off into the darkness howling, apparently, at the quarter moon above. We sat in our group, virtual strangers who’d met just a few days prior, and looked at one another. One of the kids started to sing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt but cut off when another kids slapped him on the back of the head. We sat in relative silence for about ten minutes and then something went thud in the bushes nearby. No one paid it much mind, it didn’t sound very threatening. A minute later, another thud, sounding a lot like a thrown rock, hit the ground nearby and someone started growling in the bushes. I say it that way because the person was actually saying the word growl as they made a growl noise. 

This caused all of us kids to immediately start laughing, Quite suddenly, a large shape jumped from behind the brush and yelled growl at us and ran at us with their arms raised. They came into the fire light and it was obviously someone in some sort of suit made of fur. They looked kind of like a giant squirrel. But it was yelling growl and running at us. One of the kids grabbed a stick from the fire and swung it at the giant furry thing, who yelled “Hey!” and stopped short. 

“That’s no way to treat the mighty loup garou.” said our guide and counselor. “You could hurt someone with fire like that.”

“Well,” said a skinny kid, “the mighty loogaroo was attacking. Lucky someone didn’t pull a knife.” This grew murmurs of assent from the crowd of children.

“I was trying to give you all a moment of camping lore. A story to take with you in life.” said the counselor.

“We got a story alright.” said a fat kid.

There was a time in our lives as kids that the spookiness of a Loup Garou or the disembodied hand, or some other camp style stories had their effect. Our adrenaline would flow and we would titter in delectable fear. It always began with snipe hunts. We would be issued pillow cases and flashlights and sent into the trees in the night to hunt for snipe. Of course, there is no such thing as snipe and so the whole think is just a punk for little kids. Past that stage comes the era when the scary mental images created by the stories would have their effect. Sadly, that time is then followed by cynicism. We have experienced the fallacies of snipe and monsters, and of Santa and the Easter Bunny as well, and we –as the Who might sing; We Won’t Get Fooled Again. 

Of course, when the time came for me to have children of my own, I sent them forth, pre-programmed with a desire to catch a snipe and warned that there were things in the woors that were dark and foreboding. They went off to camps that continued the tradition of humiliating children with snipe hunts and then scaring them in following years almost to the point of incontinence. Then came the sad year, as I heard them talking about “what lame story” they would get exposed to and I was carried back to listening to the fat and skinny kids reacting to the surprise attack of the loup garou. I knew that when they returned home, they wwould have moved to a new stage. A new paradigm. They were starting their assention to adulthood.