Summer camps and camp fires have always been a common setting for gory ghost stories, told by the young and old. In efforts to outdo each other, people often take turns trying to scare those poor folks who feel shivers up their backs, despite themselves. Western Massachusetts is home to many a ghost story, as the home of the famed Camp Windigo.
Camp Windigo is located in the Windsor State National Forest. Although just a mess of decayed old buildings now, it used to be the site of a beloved Summer camp for young boys and girls which operated until the 1980s. It was founded in 1942 by two physical education professors from Smith College. The seventy five acres of farmland that the camp was founded on were perfect for the agricultural focus of the camp. Up to thirty young people would spend July and August learning farming and education.
Throughout the summer, campers took turns tending to sheep, bantams, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, ducks, hens, rabbits, dogs, and cats. They also took care of the local pond, blueberry field and apple orchard. When they were not caring for animals or baking fresh goods, they were hiking and exploring the local area. Many people still tell fond stories of their time spent at Camp Windigo. Unfortunately, six young girls and one camp counselor will never tell stories again- whether fond or those of ghosts.
In the 1970s, the camp was bought from the Smith professors by the Latter Day Saints. Mormon boys and girls had similar opportunities to learn agricultural skills on the vast farmland. The Mormon group owned the land until the mid 80s when the camp and area was eventually closed. The land was deeded to the State and made a part of Windsor State Forest. Due to ongoing issues and complaints, the Department of Recreation began taking steps to tear down the remnants of Camp Windigo in 2010.
The Camp likely started off on a bad foot when opting to take the Algonquin namesake. In the Native language, Windigo describes a supernatural phenomenon, often described as a cannibal creature. The legend of the morbid creature is used commonly as a source of fear in the dark tales told by the tribe. That dark tale was only made worse by the deaths of six young girls and their camp counselor.
Many visitors credit the camp’s seven grisly deaths as the cause for the current state of the Camp. Unfortunately, while many campers take their fond memories back to their families and ultimately even later send their kids in the hopes they share a similar experience, the dark past of the Camp is one they would likely prefer to forget.
One bright morning, upon discovering that a counselor and her group were missing and assuming they were still fast asleep, campers and helpers set out to wake them. Instead of tired campers, they found the body of the counselor, hanging from the roof of the main building. Shortly after, they found the bodies of three of the young campers hanging from the roof of the barn on the property and three more drowned in the tub. After taking six lives, the deranged counselor had also taken her own.
Even though the camp was shut down, visitors still explore the remnants of what was once a friendly childhood place. Unfortunate visitors have been greeted by orbs, shadows, disembodied voices crying, and child sized handprints appearing on nearby doors and windows. They report seeing the apparition of a man in coveralls and young girls in summer dresses. While the man often appears in the basement, the girls often appear, seeming to be returning to their respective camp rooms.
Likely agreeing with the State’s proposed tear down, people express feeling an ominous or dark presence in the basement. They report doors opening and closing or hearing knocking nearby, even when no one else is present. Those wandering outside report hearing a dog quickly approaching, or hearing horses hooves beating on the ground, even though there have been no animals on the grounds in decades. Electronics are said to malfunction and lights are said to be turned on and off, despite the lack of electricity flowing to any of the facilities.
While summer camp may be a place of friendship, learning, and fond memories for some, those unfortunate enough to have participated in Camp Windigo are probably looking to tell a different story.