Our Spooky Tales: A Night in Wild Valley Cottage
October is one of our favorite months of the year. These are our favorite scary stories to share with each other when sitting around a campfire or when traveling together for work.
This year’s final Spooky Tale comes to us from Melissa Swanepoel, FarBridge’s COO. This story is a bit longer than our previous installments, but it’s well worth the read.
This recent tale takes place earlier this year during a visit to the Pacific Northwest where Melissa stayed in a vacation home rental that seemed quaint… until strange noises came in the wee hours of the morning.
Very recently I went to visit my brother and sister in law, who live in the Pacific Northwest. While the majority of the visit was to take place on and about Vashon Island, we decided that a quick two-day-trip to the Hoh Rainforest and surrounding region would be a fantastic addition to the trip.
Local friends advised my brother that while you could slingshot the journey in one day, it would be far better to book lodgings for the night, somewhere close to Olympic National Park. Local towns include the Forks, WA — which Twilight made (in)famous — but we elected to stay in another nearby town called Beaver. We eventually settled on a cottage that was very reasonably priced, and from the photos looked charming, cozy, and relatively small.
It was a long drive from Seattle to truly Western Washington State. We stopped a few times along the route to eat, stretch legs, and bemoan the general lack of cell service, and then enjoyed hiking inside of Hoh Rainforest, where overgrown moss made trees appear almost unearthly in form.
After a few hours of hiking in absolutely perfect summer weather, we made our way back to the car, and continued on our drive to our rental, only stopping briefly in the town of Forks for some food, as Beaver was so small that it had no options for meals or groceries that we could find.
By the time we made it to our lodgings for the night, it was the tipping point of dusk: inside the woods, and wherever shadows from the mountains fell, night was already pooling, pushing out the last vestiges of daylight. Luckily the rental property was situated in a clearing very close to the main road, and so, in the last light of the day, we got a good look at it from the outside.
Right away, we were surprised as to the size of it — instead of the small space we had envisioned, it was more like an entire house situated back and separate from the rest of the sprawling property. Next to it, a farmhouse-chic sign marked it as our destination: Wild Valley Cottage.
Inside, the house was spacious, an almost entirely open floor plan highlighting the tall ceiling and large single-pane windows, and the whole effect was one of charm and delight. “So much space!” we said to ourselves. This structure had started its life as a schoolhouse over a century ago and had lived a couple of different lives since then, before it was purchased and refinished as a rental property. The original un-insulated windows, the hardwood floors, and the full-body slant of the building remained, at least. But the land and woods remained untouched.
“This better not be haunted,” my sister-in-law joked, and we all shared a bit of laugh, all of us more skeptical than not when it came to things like hauntings… at least in the daylight.
In the well-appointed little kitchen, we cobbled together dinner in between conversations and planning and exhaustion. It was decided that I would take the back room, closest to the woods, and my brother and sister-in-law would have the front room with the view of the mountains.
We had planned to get to bed early so we could do a couple of extra little trips the bright and early the next morning, but somehow it was well past 2 AM. Exhausted, we parted ways for the night, and hoped to see each other not-too-late in the morning. The house settled into the night, with only the nearby road offering noise from occasional logging trucks punctuating an otherwise total blanket of silence.
Except, as soon as I had laid my head down on its pillow, had closed my aching eyes and begun to relax — a sort of tapping broke the silence.
I lay there, eyes still closed, but still now, listening — an insect, maybe? A branch against the wall? But no, there weren’t even crickets singing, and the cottage didn’t have any trees or bushes growing within tapping range.
After a long listen with no additional noises, I put it out of my mind once more, and had nearly managed to fall asleep when –
There, again, this time louder, and more clearly: not a tapping noise, but a click-click noise, as if something was pushing against the window. This time I got out of bed, grabbed my phone and walked to the window, yanking back the curtain to reveal –
Nothing. Just the expected, empty darkness one would want outside a strange house in the remote woods. Pressing my phone’s light up against the window glass yielded nothing — I was at a loss for what could be causing the sound.
But as I stepped back, I noticed another curtain I had not fully seen before. When I first walked in the room, I assumed both sets of curtains on the same wall must be part of the window dressing, but now as I stood by the window, I could see that the window only needed the span of one curtain to cover it fully. And the curtain beside it extended down to the floor.
I reached out and gently pulled the curtain back to find a door.
Opening the curtain fully, I could see that the door was likely not part of the renovations, although care had been taken to put in some trim and seal to make it as airtight as possible in an old structure like this. It had a small window, hence the curtain, though why the property developers had chosen to cover the entire door was a mystery.
I reached out a hand, tested the single deadbolt: locked. I tried the door knob, gave it a good rattle: secured — and not the source of the click-click sound I had heard earlier.
Perturbed at the presence of an unexpected door to the outside in the room I was to sleep in, but bone-tired, I decided the door and its lock seemed sturdy enough. After I pulled the curtains all back into place, I scooted my travel bag in front of the door. It would not be able to swing inward, and if someone barged in, they would be bound to make a racket, perhaps even trip.
Back in bed, determined to sleep, I tried to clear my mind of worry, had mostly succeeded when –
Louder again this time, and yes, definitely coming from the door. It still didn’t sound like anything was touching the doorknob or deadbolt — but now, with more instances of the sound to consider, I realised it sounded like something was pushing against the door from the outside, causing either the hinges or the deadbolt and catch plate to click, metal-on-metal.
I lay back after a long listen, and decided, with an exhausted blend of logic and wanting, that nothing bad could be at play here and because I was simply too tired to handle any of that, thank you very much. And besides, better to face whatever might happen with at least a couple of winks of sleep, than none.
I wish I could say that my sleep after that decision was restful, but I was awoken another handful of times by the click-click — never quite exactly the same, and not following any predictable intervals.
Morning came too soon, and it seemed no one in the house had slept much or well — the front room had received the bulk of the logging truck noise, and a full blast of sun far too early to be polite. I shared my story about the door and the clicking more as a complaint than a concern, grumpy and tired but morning-facing and ready to get back on the road.
About an hour before our scheduled check out, we realised that we did not have this rental’s “must do at check out” chores, and so while we waited for our host to text us back, I did some poking around the house and found a binder.
Hoping it might contain the checklist, I opened it, and instead was greeted by an overview of the property’s history, a welcome letter from the host, and some official property survey documents. The binder also contained the National Historic Register for the property and buildings — and a couple of news stories.
I paged through the articles, and read just enough to learn that the house and the land held more than a simple schoolhouse and yard.
Just behind the schoolhouse, in the woods, lie a series of unmarked graves that have earned the name “Tragedy Graveyard.” According to these articles, a total of 13 men and one woman lie buried there, many of whom were the victims of murder or took their own lives. And while all of the graves are unadorned, five of the persons are still unknown, and have never been identified.
While these graves don’t conclusively explain the click-click of the doorway that kept waking me up all night, learning of their nearby existence still had a chilling effect on me.
Melissa runs operations and marketing at FarBridge, bringing years of film production, live broadcast television, and product development experience to bear. Melissa also chairs the VR Austin Jam, an annual event that brings together developers, brands, and enthusiasts to create and collaborate on all new experiences. She is passionate about storytelling, interactive media, and the people behind it all. Melissa can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.