Judgment Land

***This is a personalized short horror story for a fellow podcaster of mine, Trey. He answered my four questions and this is the story I wrote based on his answers. If you would like a personalized story of your own, either for yourself or a friend or family member as a gift, email me Cynthia@TrueHauntings.com and I’ll send you some price options and the four questions. Enjoy the story!


“I’m surprised you chose this lake for our campfire.” Samantha said as she finally spoke after several quiet moments of listening to the boats go by on Lake Winney. It wasn’t necessarily the most romantic or isolated location in town.

“I thought a fire overlooking the lake would be nice. Don’t you like it?” Trey answered, looking a little concerned that she wasn’t enjoying their date.

“It is a great idea but it feels a little crowded, with all the boats and people walking the trails and all. What about Grim Point Woods? I heard there’s a beautiful pond in the center of that little forest.” Samantha said, hoping he didn’t take offense to her suggestion.

“How much do you know about that area?” Trey asked, already suspecting the answer would be slim to nothing. No local would ever want to go in those woods, especially after sunset.

“Not much. A girl at the grocery store was telling me about a pond in those woods when I told her we were coming here. She said it was less popular so it might be a better date option.” Samantha answered.

“Locals don’t go in those woods. Too many deaths in there. I don’t want to sound like a crazy person on our second date but I figured you didn’t know the history of Grim Point Woods or why it’s called that, being new in town.” Trey spoke while looking into their fire pit. He was telling the truth about the forest but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t also hoping to spook his date into sitting closer and maybe getting some under-the-blanket snuggling. Second base would be a nice second date, he thought.

“What do you mean?” she asked with intrigue written all over her face.

“I don’t know. It’s not much of a date night topic of conversation. I don’t want to freak you out.” Trey teased. He knew he had her full attention now.

“Are you kidding?! We’re sitting in front of a camp fire at a lake at night. This is as good as time as we’re gonna get for a spooky story. Let’s hear it. Why is it called Grim Point Woods and why don’t locals go there?” Samantha couldn’t stand the suspense. She did love a good ghost story, after all.

“Okay, but don’t hold this against me as a bad date story. You made me talk about it. Remember that.” Trey knew how to tell a good scary story and loved that there was a real life one in his own town. It was definitely one of his favorite subjects to talk about. Trey paused to gather his thoughts and began speaking just as another boat slowly motored past.

“Grim Point Woods is actually only called that by locals here in town. That’s how I know that girl was trying to trick you into going into those woods. If she knows that name, she also knows why it’s called that.” Trey said.

“The actual name of that small forest is Chatsmer Forest, so named for one of the families that first settled in this town. I’m sure you’ve seen some streets with that name or even some stores in the downtown area by now. What you don’t know is that Katherine Chatsmer was found dead in those woods. And she wasn’t the first or the last.” Trey continued as Samantha listened intently.

“The natives in this area simply called that little patch of woods Judgment Land. I can’t remember how to say it in Cherokee but I bet some of the older locals would know. The legend is that at sunset, a creature comes out of the pond and wanders through that forest aimlessly. If it happens upon a human, it judges their inner soul in a matter of moments. If it finds them to be mostly good and kind, it walks right past them and continues to wander only in that forest until sunrise, when it enters the pond again to wait for nightfall.” Trey recalled his story as Samantha sat on the very edge of the log they were both sitting on.

“If, however, it finds that you are mostly bad or evil, it will cast your mind into your worst nightmare. You’ll roam the forest day and night until you die, all while consumed by your worst fears. No one will even hear you scream. It’s like that forest is a holder for those judged to be evil. That’s what they think happened to Katherine Chatsmer. She wasn’t a kind woman at all. Her greatest desire was wealth and she would stop at nothing to get it. That’s how her family came to settle here. They heard about the wealth of a tribe nearby and hoped to exploit them. Her family did end up doing that but she didn’t live long enough to see that happen.” Trey paused to take a drink from his flask of whiskey. He offered it to Samantha and she drank a generous shot from it, too.

“They found her in Grim Point Woods with both eyes gouged out by her own hands and her head repeatedly smashed against the tree she was found under. The examiner’s report says she took her own life by smashing her head until she lost consciousness and died.” Trey finished his sentence just as Samantha couldn’t hold her questions back any longer.

“How many people have died in that forest and did they all die the same way?” Samantha blurted out. She reached for another drink from Trey’s flask as he answered.

“I think there have been close to 50 deaths in Grim Point Woods since records started being kept. They are all a little different. The rumor is that the cause of death greatly depends on what that person’s greatest fears are and how they respond to them. A hunter once died in there but he was armed so he simply shot himself. The assumption is that when he couldn’t find his way out and also couldn’t take the visions anymore, he pulled out his gun and ended it the only way he knew how in that moment.” Trey capped his flask while Samantha sat digesting his latest statement.

“How did a hunter get lost in such a small area. Those woods aren’t very big, I thought.” Samantha asked her latest question while pulling out her smart phone to search for the acreage of Grim Point Woods.

“You’re right about that much. That forest is only about 10 acres with the pond right in the middle. But, once this creature puts you in that trance, you supposedly lose all sense of direction and wonder in circles perpetually. Until you die, anyway.” Trey finished this latest bit of information as Samantha scooted closer to him on the log. Her body was right up next to his now. Trey took the opportunity to put his arm around her waste, as if to comfort her. However, he was quite surprised by her next comment.

“We should go there!” She said excitedly. Trey stared at her blankly for a moment and then said “Really?”

“Yeah. Why not? It sounds like a cool adventure. Unless you’re scared, I guess.” Samantha teased. Trey was really into her and thought she was probably the prettiest girl in town. He certainly didn’t want to look weak in front of her.

After a moment of strong consideration on how to get out of doing this, he finally answered. “I guess we can. But we shouldn’t stay long and we definitely shouldn’t go to the pond.” He was already regretting the decision to go to Grim Point Woods. Guys can be so stupid sometimes.

“Yay! This is so exciting! I was a bit bored at first but this is turning out to be an amazing date!” Samantha yelled in her most giddy, school girl voice. Trey was starting to wonder if she really was 22 years old like she’d claimed. As much as he hated to admit it, her admitting that this was turning into an amazing date was all the motivation he needed to see this ridiculous idea to completion, Lord help him.

He figured he hadn’t had enough swigs from his flask to disqualify him from driving but his date definitely had. They loaded into his car after putting out the fire. All he kept thinking about was how stupid this was. Who in their right mind would go to a place with so many deaths on record just to impress a girl? Still, the excited look on her face was breathtaking. He felt a deep desire to keep it that way.

The car ride to Grim Point Woods was spent listening to Samantha go on and on about what an adventure this was and how she loved the idea of haunted woods. Trey tried to remind her that the woods weren’t haunted so much as they were cursed but she would have none of that. She said curses only work if you believe they work. And she didn’t.

Grim Point Woods wasn’t exactly a destination spot in town so there was no parking area and the paths weren’t kept up by the city. The only paths in these woods were the ones made by teenagers daring each other to go into the woods during the day. Even teenagers weren’t dumb enough to go there at night.

Trey found a wide spot on the side of the darkened road near a decently sized path into the woods and parked. For a moment, his thoughts went to police finding his abandoned car a few days later but he quickly shook that thought out of his mind. This was only going to be a quick little visit, he told himself. Just a few minutes and then he’d drag her out of there if he had to.

Samantha was the first one to exit the car and head straight onto the path. Trey had to call to her so she’d wait for him. How could she want to enter alone like that? Was she secretly some kind of ghost hunter or something? Even they have certain rules they follow, though. She seemed to be completely unaffected by the story he’d told her. He wasn’t sure if she was brave or reckless. At least she had blonde hair. Easier to spot in the moonlight if they got separated. Another one of his weird, morbid thoughts while entering such a supposedly dangerous place. He attempted to shake that one off, too.

As they stepped onto the damp path, the smell of stagnant water weighed the air down like a wet blanket. Every breath felt heavy and forced. The ground was uneven and littered with tree roots with the occasional rock sticking out. He had hoped more of the moonlight would make it through the trees but they proved to be an effective shield, blocking probably 75% of the light. He wished he had a flashlight but all he had was his smart phone. Pulling it out and turning on the light feature, he saw he was down to 48% power. Plenty enough to take a few steps in, satisfy Samantha’s curiosity, and get the heck out.

“This is just amazing.” Samantha exclaimed as they took their first steps into the dimly lit forest. “If there was going to be a forest haunted by an enchanted judge, this would definitely be it!”

Trey quietly followed behind her while keeping his senses sharp. He had no idea if the rumors were true but he did know the deaths were true. Now, he was actually entering this place and the overwhelming feeling of something supernatural was everywhere. The normal nighttime sounds one would expect to hear in a gloomy forest didn’t seem to be present. The silence was palpable. Every branch that brushed his arm felt like a warning to turn around. Samantha’s pace had quickened and he worried that they would make it to the pond before he could slow her down.

“Okay, you’ve seen the spooky, haunted forest. We should really turn around now.” Trey said in the most authoritative voice he could muster.

“Oh, I don’t think so. I need to see this pond, don’t you? You seem to love talking about it. I think it’s high time that you laid eyes on it, too!” Samantha didn’t miss a step as she spoke, leading the way with enthusiasm. He began to notice a bit of mischief in her voice that concerned him. He carried on, though, because he couldn’t just leave her in there alone. Even if it was her idea and she refused to listen to reason.

The trail they followed wandered through the trees in such a way that they couldn’t always see the path just a few feet ahead of them. Trees began to all look the same and an odd sound rang through the silence every now and then. The snapping of a twig underfoot. Trey’s level of discomfort grew with every snap. Samantha’s eyes seemed to grow brighter at the thought of having an encounter with the paranormal, no matter the risk.

“Do you hear that?” Trey asked in a hushed voice.

“What, the snapping sound? I’m more interested in the fact that the ground is getting more and more damp. Didn’t you notice? I think we might be getting close to the pond.” Samantha definitely had a more deviant tone to her voice.

Trey was just about to demand that they turn back when a low, humming rose up from the trees around them. Like the monotone singing of a talented bass, the sound seemed to rise up from the forest all around them. Just as the pond came into view through the trees, the humming became undeniable. Trey feared Samantha wouldn’t hear his next words.

“We’ve got to go. This isn’t right.” Trey said as Samantha turned and withdrew something from her purse simultaneously. A knife. But why? Suddenly, the whole world made no sense whatsoever. For a moment, his head spun and he lost his balance while trying to process it all.

“I’m sure your confused.” She began. “It’s understandable. It’s not usually the female who lures the male out to a secluded location to murder them during a date. The plot twist is delicious, isn’t it?” Samantha didn’t even try to rush him. She stepped slowly toward him and matched his steps as he backed away. Trey put his phone away, feeling sure he would need both hands free very shortly.

All this time, he’d been worried about a mysterious creature in a supposedly cursed forest. They do always say it’s the quiet ones who will get ya. As Trey stepped carefully away from Samantha, she continued forward while maintaining his speed and continued to monologue.

“Men are disgusting pigs. One less of them isn’t going to hurt the world. One less of them would be a relief, honestly.” Samantha wanted Trey to know exactly why he was going to die in these woods. She wanted all her victims to understand that they deserved this. “I’ve taken so much abuse in my short life. All from stupid, pathetic men like you. I was nothing but a play thing to them. Entertainment when they were bored. Cast aside just as quickly as the Sunday paper on Monday morning. I won’t be cast aside again, I assure you. For the past two years, I’ve been doing the casting and it feels so good. I guess now I see why you idiots do it so much.”

As she finished speaking, she quickened her pace toward him. He was preparing himself to turn and make a run for it when something to his right caught his eye. It wasn’t just a black shadow. It was blacker than any of the darkness around them, and this forest was plenty black. It was the shape of a man wearing a hat and a long coat, with longer arms than one would expect and was very tall. Maybe nine or ten feet. There were no defining features, only darkness that felt like it would swallow you up if you got too close. It didn’t even weave to avoid the trees in its path. It just walked right through them like a phantom.

No sooner had Trey realized what this thing must be, it was on him and placed its elongated hand on his shoulder. In that moment, Trey felt as if this being had walked right into him. Every emotion he’d ever felt, played in his mind like a record on high volume. The people he loved, the things he’d done. Oh God, all the things he’d ever done flashed in rapid fire as if he had died and was meeting his maker. He dropped to his knees as the dark figure took its hand back and walked straight toward Samantha.

What does this mean, Trey thought? Did he pass the judgment of this thing? Is he mostly good? Samantha had been looking on in amazement during Trey’s encounter and gasped as he fell to his knees.

“You passed, you lucky son of a gun!” she yelled, half serious and half joking. However, the realization that the black figure was approaching her next hit hard and fast on her face. The smile melted off of her face faster than Trey had ever witnessed anyone before. She knew she wouldn’t pass its test of good and evil. She turned to run but it was right next to her in a moment, as if it had skipped the ten feet between them and simply appeared beside her. It wasn’t just wandering through the woods as all. It had pursued them, but for how long? Did it know they were present the moment they entered Grim Point Woods?

Now facing away from Trey, Samantha’s body seemed to wince in pain as the thing laid its bony hand on the shoulder he had once thought was so graceful. She yelled out, probably seeing and hearing all the same things Trey had, but he was sure hers were much darker. The black figure’s fingers suddenly dug into Samantha’s shoulder as if it was insuring she wouldn’t get away. Trey somehow felt that was an unnecessary effort on its part. Samantha didn’t look like she could move a muscle if she wanted to.

After the brief squeeze this thing had given to Samantha’s shoulder, it lifted its hand from her and vanished just as she dropped to the ground as he had just moments before. Trey approached her carefully, not sure if she still wanted to end him or if she needed help. Even though she had just been bent on killing him, he still intended to help her if he could. It would seem the phantom had judged him appropriately.

Trey softly called Samantha’s name as he stepped closer to her, hoping not to startle her if she was in some terrifying nightmare induced coma. This proved to be a wise decision because she whipped around and swung the knife in his general direction, although it was immediately apparent that she couldn’t see him specifically. Her eyes were the most grotesque, milky white and wide as saucers. The look of sheer terror inhabited every inch of her face and she screamed as she swung the knife back and forth.

“Get away from me! Don’t touch me!” Samantha yelled. “I killed you once! I’ll do it again, I swear!”

“Samantha. Can you hear me?” Trey calmly asked, trying to deescalate the situation. “You’re in a nightmare. It isn’t real.”

“Touch me again and die.” was all Samantha said in response and Trey knew he needed to get help. This was far beyond what he could handle. But, then again, who could handle this? The police? Paramedics? Maybe a priest.

Trey followed the path back through the woods. Approaching the treeline felt like freedom. It felt like maybe that didn’t really just happen. That is, until he caught a glimpse of the black figure striding through the trees to his left. A cold thought settled in his brain just then. How on earth would he explain this if they didn’t find her alive? He was the last person to see her alive. Samantha was right. It was always the guy who secreted the girl away to murder her, right? Maybe, if she intended to kill him, she hadn’t told anyone she’d be with him. Wait. What was he considering? Was he considering leaving her there and hoping for the best?

Trey was now sitting in his car, sorting through his thoughts as quickly as he could manage to do so. He knew she didn’t have much time. He knew she needed help. Ultimately, he peeled out of the grass and back onto the road, speeding toward the police station just a few miles up the road. He had to do the right thing, if for no other reason than his guilt would eat him alive if he didn’t. It would be his own perpetual nightmare to live through.

Pulling up to the police station so late at night felt eerie, like he was in a suspense film and a detective would be waiting in the parking lot for whatever information Trey could pass on. In reality, this was a small town. There was no one in sight and only a few cars in the parking lot. Trey practically burst into the station and immediately began to ramble and stammer to the officer on duty. He hadn’t realized how frantic he felt until he tried to speak.

“Sir, calm down. I’m gonna need you to take a deep breath.” the officer said. Officer Davis picked up his radio in preparation for calling in backup, or so Trey imagined as he gathered himself.

“I was on a date and the girl, Samantha Smith, wanted to go to Grim Point Woods. She’s new in town. I told her we shouldn’t but she insisted so I took her.”

Trey was interrupted by Officer Davis yelling “How far in did you get? Is she still there?” Despite what Trey had just witnessed, he was still surprised by the officer not even wanting to know what happened to her. He only wanted to know where in the forest they were? It was as if he already knew what the emergency was and only wanted to assess if it was too late or not.

“She lured me in. We got to the pond and she pulled a knife on me. She said she was going to kill me but then this thing appeared!” Trey’s eyes were wide but so were the officer’s. He knew. Trey could’ve stopped talking if he wanted to. That officer was fully aware of the situation now. What a strange sensation, to have such an outrageous story believed immediately. “It touched my shoulder and…” Trey trailed off while the officer’s stare shifted to the window overlooking the parking lot.

“Did it touch her shoulder, too?” was all Officer Davis asked.

“Yes.” Trey answered.

“This is what I need you to do. Go home. Tell no one what happened. Do you work tomorrow?” the officer asked.

Trey was confused but answered, “No.”

“Good. Meet us at 9am sharp tomorrow, by the path you both went down tonight. Do not go on the path. We only want you to show us where you entered and be present to identify her if we should find her. Do you understand?” Officer Davis looked very sternly at Trey as he agreed to follow the officer’s directions.

“Don’t go doing anything stupid tonight, like leaving town or trying to find her yourself. You go home. You meet us at 9am tomorrow. Got it?” Officer Davis asked again.

“Yes. I understand.” Trey replied. “I swear, I tried to tell her not to go in there!”

“I know, son.” the officer said as he ushered Trey to the door. “Get some rest.”

The whole ride home was filled with Trey reliving every moment of that night over and over. Did that really happen? Was he going to wake up in the morning only to find it was all the strangest dream?

After tossing and turning all night long, Trey wearily pulled himself out of bed at 7:30am because there was no sense in pretending to sleep any longer. After turning the 8am alarm off, Trey climbed in the shower to try and feel like a normal human being for a moment. After sitting at his kitchen table for a few minutes, staring into space, Trey decided to visit the site by Lake Winney, just to prove to himself that the previous evening actually happened at all.

Pulling up in the parking lot, a short walk later and Trey was staring at the now extinguished fire pit he and Samantha had made the night before. His mind still fought to convince him that he was safe and the previous evening was merely a figment of his overactive imagination. He knew better. Trey stared at the half burned wood, remembering that they had put the fire out before the wood was spent because his date wanted to go to Grim Point Woods. Oh, how he wished he could go back in time and drive her back to their meeting place instead. Insist that they cut their evening short. Pretend he was sick. Whatever it took, he should’ve called it off. Sure, she was a dangerous person but he didn’t want to be connected to her in this way. And he never wanted anyone to get hurt.

Trey pulled up to the forest path they’d used the night before. He knew it was the correct path because of the deep gashes in the muddy dirt from him frantically spinning out as he fled. Trey immediately looked up through the trees, thinking he might catch a glimpse of Samantha, wandering aimlessly. Swinging her knife at anything that moved. The officer that knocked on his passenger window nearly scared him to death. No need for a killer girlfriend or mysterious phantom.

“Trey Williams?” the officer asked.

“Yes. That’s me.” Trey answered

“Is this the path you two used last night?” the officer gestured toward the path.

“Yes.” was all Trey said in return. His mind was spinning at the thought of them finding Samantha with white eyes and swinging her knife all around.

“Stay in your vehicle. We will let you know if we need you and when you can leave.” This new officer was a man of few words. He and the other three officers entered the forest and began calling Samantha’s name and flashing everything with their flashlights. It all felt surreal. Trey wondered why they didn’t want him to help them search. This whole thing felt very strange.

About an hour later, the same officer Trey spoke to earlier emerged and walked straight toward Trey. “We need you to identify her, please.” he said somberly.

Trey couldn’t believe this was happening. He stepped out of his car and stood beside Officer Connor. They both stood in silence while the other three officers brought a body bag out of the woods. Trey wanted to run. He didn’t want to be here and he certainly didn’t want to be doing this. Identifying a body. This can’t be real life.

“Is this Samantha Smith?” Officer Connor asked after unzipping the bag. Just her head and shoulders were exposed but it was definitely her. Except, her face was so contorted. It looked as if she’d been in mid scream when she died.

“Why is her face like that?” Trey asked.

Zipping the body bag back up, Officer Connor said, “Take her away boys.” to the other officers. “Listen, son. This is a bad situation. No doubt about it. It’s a shame you had to witness what you did but you’re one of a limited number of people now. You actually witnessed Grim Point Woods do what it does. We can’t stop it. We just try to limit exposure as best we can and let nature take it’s course when people go in here. If a bad person stumbles into these woods, maybe that was meant to be. Ya know what I mean?”

Trey stared at the officer. “So what do I do now?” was all Trey could think to ask.

“Nothing. Never mention her again. To anyone. Don’t tell anyone you’ve ever been in these woods. Move on with the knowledge that you’re a good person. If you feel like you need someone to talk to about this, we have dedicated therapists just for these cases. Say the word and I’ll put you in touch with them.” Office Connor finished.

Trey mumbled an “Okay, thanks.” and turned to face his car. Officer Connor could see the trauma in Trey’s eyes and handed him a business card for the therapist without saying a word, then turned and walked back toward his cruiser.

“What about Samantha? How will you explain it?” Trey called to the officer.

“Just another suicide in these woods, I recon.” the officer said without missing a beat. “And by the way, that’s not her real name. The FBI has been looking for her for a while.” Officer Connor left Trey with his jaw dropped as he cranked his cruiser and pulled onto the main road. So she really was a serial killer? What was that supposed to mean? Trey stumbled into his car and turned the key in the ignition.

So, technically, that phantom saved him from being another victim of a seasoned murderer? It took Trey several weeks to get back into the normal flow of his life but things never felt the same. The therapist was actually quite helpful and believed every aspect of his story, no doubt because they’d heard it all before.

So, there is apparently a select few in this town who know the whole truth about Grim Point Woods. They cover it all up and continue to let the woods sort out the good people from the bad people. This is a thing that lives in Trey’s head now. How many people does he pass on the street every day, or in the grocery store, who have been judged like he has? Do they have the same faint look in their eyes as he does. A vision that haunts them every day? Did the girl at the grocery store lead Samantha, or whatever her name was, to go there because she knew Samantha would be judged as bad? How many people in this town are doing that? Is it his super power now? To send people to an early judgment? Would that make Trey a good person or a bad person, knowing he may be sending someone to their death?

The only response the therapist would give to these questions was, if Trey did start suggesting Grim Point Woods to people, he should never, ever go there himself. Ever again. Trey figured there was an answer in that statement and never spoke of Grim Point Woods again.


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