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You’re listening to The Storage Papers. Episode 1: Baby Cries
There’s something inside us that compels us to respond when we hear a baby crying. A wide range of feelings may affect us when we hear it, from sympathy to anxiety, and even frustration and helplessness- especially if you’re a parent who can’t seem to figure out how to get the crying to stop. Crying is the universal queue for infants to communicate they have a need, a need which they themselves are unable to fulfill. The only thing we all know initially is that some kind of action must be taken. As I read the following account, try to imagine how you would respond given the same circumstances.
Witness statement from Jim Thorpe Saturday, February 7, 2009 9:18 p.m.
Earlier this evening, I went out for my routine jog. I’ve been training for a marathon, and Saturdays are always my long mileage days. I had planned on getting 11 miles in, and I like to run on this stretch of bicycle trail by the lake for my long runs. There’s plenty of tree cover for shade, and around evening time, there doesn’t seem to be too many other people around. It’s… peaceful. They had also just paved the trail, so I could make decent time as opposed to running on gravel and dirt and adding a bit of my favorite music really helps the old stress management.
Anyways, I was about 5 miles in on the trail. I know this because I could see the mile marker just ahead. I was planning on passing it and running for another 4 minutes before turning around. I’ve been trying to keep an 8-minute mile pace during my training. But just before I reached the 5-mile marker, I thought I heard something like a moan or a scream coming from the woods opposite the lake. So I decided to stop and pull my ear buds out. It was oddly quiet. I don’t always run with my headphones in, but I’d been listening to some music for motivation on that particular day. Normally I hear birds chirping, crickets, or frogs nearby, but not this time. The only thing I heard was a slight breeze through the trees.
I waited about 10 or 15 seconds, looking in the direction I thought I heard the noise from, and didn’t see or hear anything until I was about to put my earbuds back in. That’s when I heard it. Two distinct cries from a baby. It was the kind of cry you hear when the baby needs a diaper change. I remember when my kids were babies, my wife and I could distinguish what they needed by the types of cries. The cry you hear when a baby is hungry is different than when the baby needs a diaper change. This sounded like the cry our kids made when they were hungry.
If I had to estimate how far away I thought the cry was, I’d say no more than a hundred feet from the trail I was on. So of course, I head in the direction of the crying. Once I got to the point where I thought the baby could have been, or maybe slightly past that point, I noticed a thick fog rolling in that came up to my knees. Cloud cover also made it feel darker under the trees. Listening intently, it was still really quiet. I could hear my own footsteps when I walked and rustled the leaves or had broken twigs, but I still didn’t hear any animal or insect sounds. I looked in every direction and couldn’t seem to find any evidence of a baby, and it had only cried briefly.
I shouted, “hello” and waited. Then about another 10 seconds went by and I heard the baby cry again. Two cries, and then it stopped. I don’t know if you’ve been around many crying babies, but when mine used to cry, they would only stop crying when they got what they wanted. They don’t care if it’s daytime or nighttime, whether you’re sleeping or awake. I just thought the two cries seemed odd. Two cries, then absolute silence.
To add to that, the cries seemed like they were about the same volume as the first time I heard them. I thought for sure they’d be louder since I was closer in the direction I heard them from. In fact, I’m not sure I had gotten any closer to them. It was almost like someone was carrying a baby while traveling away from me. I continued deeper into the trees, and tried to make vocal contact. I called out again, and hoping perhaps an adult was with the baby, I yelled things like “are you hurt” and “do you need help?”
Eventually I got far enough into the trees that I lost sight of the bike trail I had been jogging on. The fog had completely rolled in by now, and it was so thick that I couldn’t even see my feet. I was fairly sure that I was walking in mud too. I started walking slower because I didn’t want to turn my ankle on something I couldn’t see. I stopped again and yelled “can anybody hear me”?
Then there went the cries again, just two of them, only this time they were a little closer and in a slightly different direction. There was one thicket of trees that were tightly bunched together about 30 feet away from me. I hadn’t noticed it until I heard the cries and looked in that direction. I thought to myself, “if a baby is lying on the ground in this fog, I’m never going to see it” so I headed toward the thicket slowly, making sure to drag my feet.
As I approached the thicket, I noticed what appeared to be the entrance to a small cave. I could see the rounded ceiling of the cave entrance just above the fog. It was only about 4 feet wide, and it would probably fit a full-grown person who was willing to get on all fours to go in. I moved toward the cave, thinking that was going to be the most likely place that someone would have found shelter for whatever reason they would have needed it.
I was still cautious about my footing as I slowly approached the thicket of trees outside of the cave entrance. I tried talking to see if I could prompt another cry or maybe a response from another person. Once I started going under the thick canopy, I noticed a foul odor. It was like a dense smell of urine, wet dog, and skunk all combined, and it overwhelmed my senses to the point where I thought I was going to be sick. I had to stop right there for a moment to pinch my nose because of the stench, and I decided to call out again again, a little quieter this time.
Almost immediately, the baby cried again, and it couldn’t have been more than 10 or 15 feet away. I un-pinched my nose and began shuffling toward the cave entrance. As I moved forward I was trying to peer into the cave, but there was just darkness. I felt a cold breeze coming from the cave, and even thought I heard some scuffling beyond the mouth. I couldn’t see anything, and I figured I was probably close to the baby, so I continued on until my foot bumped something soft. I looked down toward my feet and still couldn’t see them through the fog, plus it was actually getting darker the closer I got to the mouth of the cave. I reached down to try to feel what my foot had bumped into. It felt like skin, but it was cold and clammy.
I was able to grip my hand around it and decided to lift whatever it was above the fog so I could take a look at it. I quickly recognized it as an adult female’s arm. I had it gripped around the forearm, and saw the hand rise out of the fog first. The arm was ice cold, wet, and dirty with a few scrapes on it around the elbow. It had a womens’ GPS watch on similar to the one I wear, but smaller with a pink band, and it didn’t appear to be on. I also noticed there was pink fingernail polish and a small tattoo of a ladybug on the inner wrist.
That’s when I began to panic. I’m not used to being around dead bodies, and I began to get light-headed. Then I started thinking about some poor mother had died out here with her baby nearby, and I wondered how many days they had been out here alone. The baby had to be starving.
I was about to call out again when some motion drew my attention from deep in the cave. It sounded like an animal charging me, and there was a low grunting noise that accompanied each stride. As I looked toward the cave to focus my eyes, I saw two dim yellow eyes reflecting light back at me, bouncing up and down with each grunt I heard. I froze for a moment until the creature neared the entrance of the cave where some of the daylight outlined its shape.
It looked…human almost. What I witnessed was what looked like an adult female, hunched over on all fours. I say female because it looked like there were pendulous breasts on its chest. The head was bald, and the skin was a pale white – nearly as pale as the arm I had just dropped back down into the fog. It moved with such speed, I don’t think I could have moved that quickly on all fours. The appendages were out of proportion to the rest of the body, and the knees looked like they bent the opposite direction, but aside from that it looked human.
It was probably only 10 feet from me when I finally built the nerve to turn around and sprint back toward the trail. I looked over my shoulder once to see it emerge from the mouth of the small cave. It was now in the faint light, and I could make out some additional details. It looked… old. I could make out two stained teeth about the size of my cell phone, and the ears appeared to be pointy. I have no idea what this thing was. I ran with all the speed I could muster up until I found the bike trail, and turned to head back toward the trailhead where my car was parked, and it was easier to run faster knowing I wasn’t going to turn my ankle.
About a hundred yards later, the fog cleared up, and I couldn’t hear anything behind me, so I decided one more time to turn my head around. There by the edge of the trail, it seemed to have stopped. It never stood up fully, but it did raise itself up to what looked like a squatting position. Now that I knew I could outrun this thing, I stopped for a moment. Though its head was facing me, its eyes appeared to be closed. I was under the impression that it was being guided by sounds I was making. And then I watched as the sound of a baby crying came from the creature’s direction.
As if trying to pick up my trail, it started slowly making its way toward me with a slow, awkward gate. I tried to slow my breathing to go quiet, and that’s when it slowed down again and turned its head. The pointed ears were sticking straight up until I took a step away from it and a twig broke. That’s when it tucked its ears back and started lunging toward me again. I just ran as fast as I could back to the trailhead, this time without looking back. I can honestly say that if I weren’t in better shape, that thing would have been able to catch me. I didn’t even think about pulling my phone out until I was safely in my car. That’s when I called you. Our first conversation occurred as I was leaving the parking lot by the trailhead.
I’m certain there’s no baby out there, but I did find that woman’s body. Looking back on the whole experience now, I’m convinced I was being lured out there. That thing has learned how to mimic the sound of baby cries, and I just wonder if the body I found had been lured there just as I was. I’ll tell you one thing for certain, I will never be jogging that trail again.
Additionally, there was an attached hand-written note paper-clipped to the initial report.
I took a small crew of 4 deputies around 11:00 p.m., calling in a couple of people who had that night off. We considered this high-priority due to the potential of an abandoned baby being involved. Mr. Thorpe’s description of the location was accurate. We were able to see muddy footprints, assuming they were Mr. Thorpe’s, entering the paved portion of the trail close to the 5-mile marker. We followed his shoe prints until we found an additional set of prints. What looked like human hand prints with claw-like impressions at the fingertips were facing the trail. In addition, footprints from bare feet accompanied each set of the handprints.
The footprints had 5 toes, splayed out wider at the toe end, but the foot was a lot longer and narrower than the average human foot. All four deputies observed these prints, but none could think of what kind of animal or person they could potentially belong to.
We found the thicket of trees and the cave entrance by following these prints. It was dark, and there was no fog when we arrived. We did not find any evidence of a body and no prints were found inside the cave, however, we did find a women’s watch with a pink wristband about 12 feet inside the mouth of the cave. There was no battery power, but we sent it down to the guys in tech, who will attempt to charge it, and let us know what they find.
On a personal note, I’ve only been with this department for about two years. One of the more seasoned deputies that had been out with the search party cautioned us about the amount of detail to include in our official reports, so we made the appropriate amendments. These details, we believed, would make people question the validity of the story, and might hinder any search efforts if brought forward as-is. I believe Mr. Thorpe was telling the truth, and the evidence we found substantiates his claims, so I am documenting this unofficially in case I ever need to refer back to this. Mr. Thorpe has no arrest record, and not so much as a parking ticket we know about. He pays his taxes, appears to be a good husband and father, and has a prominent job at a local business. I can’t provide a motive for deception, and he genuinely seemed frightened.
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