Leave Your Flashlights at Home

📅 Published on December 13, 2017

“Leave Your Flashlights at Home”

Written by Jeff Hartin
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by Otis Jiry and Steve Taylor

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: Scary Stories Told in the Dark – Podcast (Standard Edition) | 🔑 Podcast (Premium Edition) | YouTube (feat. Otis Jiry) ✦ Otis Jiry's Horror Storytime – YouTube (feat. Otis Jiry) ✦ Chilling Tales for Dark NightsYouTube (feat. Steve Taylor)


Rating: 6.31/10. From 13 votes.
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I’ve been a national park ranger for close to two decades. Protocols have changed a lot in that time. I write this just to try to keep people safe for the next time you venture to the big outdoors.

Let me tell you about the last park I worked. I can’t be too specific about the location for my job’s sake. Anyway we had clusters of campsites that we rotated annually. The idea was to prevent one group from getting overused and worn down, let nature regrow a little bit. The winter had just passed, and our big summer season was a few months away. I’m sent out to check the suitability of the campsites to decide which ones need time to recover, and which ones we can open up.

Winters here are cold. Not too many people camp during the winter aside from rugged masochists and Boy Scout troops lead by people who believe they are rugged masochists. I didn’t expect to find much out of the ordinary. The first site was clear and ready to go. As I’m trekking to the next site, I see what looks like some debris and junk down a ways in a river valley. Looks like some jackasses set up an unauthorized camp down there. Usually when that happens, they leave garbage and smoldering fires. This is going to be a pain to clear up.

I approach, seeing the telltale wreckage of what must have been one hell of a party. Crap scattered everywhere, the skeletons of tents still raised up. And blood. I stop, and time stops with me. Pools of blood are spread out along the ground, next to signs of something heavy being dragged into the brush.

I pull my radio off my belt and pause. I then pull my Glock 22 out of my holster and rack one round. I’m a certified law enforcement officer, but I haven’t had to use my gun in a long time. I quickly look around for any movement, then get on my radio and call in for backup.

While I wait, I listen. Silence. Silence in nature isn’t good. Prey get quiet when they sense a predator. I hope all the birds are being still on my account.

I edge forward slowly, looking for anyone or anything. A shredded plastic cooler. A tent that has been annihilated, with more blood splashed on the walls and inside. People died here. I know it. You can’t lose that much blood and just walk off. But no people. Shreds of clothes, and a little viscera drawing all the damned flies here, but no people.

I’ve seen bears rummage through camps and destroy anything that looked edible. There are wild hogs here that cut trails through the deep brush and are even more dangerous than the bears. But this isn’t either of them. The devastation here, it’s just too much. Some scourge of God came through here and just ripped everything to pieces.

Finally backup arrives, and I’m sent to report to HQ. They even brought medics out here. I don’t know why, there’s no one here to save. One of the new recruits vomits at the scene. I’m glad to get the hell out of here.

I get back and HQ is abuzz. Only four people work here, but calls are ringing, printers printing and the air feels electrified. The manager sees me and signals me to his office.

He’s pale, ashen looking with bloodshot eyes. I sit down by his desk, and he goes to the door and locks it. I’ve never seen him lock that door. He asks me what I saw. I tell him, uninterrupted. He looks even paler afterward, and his hands tremble a bit. There’s a very long pause, and I expect more questions. He doesn’t ask any. I leave, then hear the door lock behind me. After a few minutes I hear him call someone up, and a long low conversation ensues.

I never see him again.

Word comes down from on high. We’re assigned a new manager, one who excels at what he calls “crises”. His first order of business: a controlled burn of the unauthorized camp and the sites closest to it. I’m not arguing, I watch the smoke rise in the distance and pray that’s the end of it.

New orders, relocate the existing campsites closer to HQ. Before we do that, we stake out a few trail cameras at the new locations just to make sure it’s not in the middle of a nesting ground. We put up a few cameras pointed at the hog trails through the brush for good measure.

A couple of days pass, and we go out to collect the footage. The new manager takes it all and starts studying it in his office. A couple hours into reviewing, he freaks out. Starts screaming and yelling. Gets on the phone calling up the line spitting more obscenities. He spends the rest of the day and that night in the office, calling up specialists and planners.

Next morning I show up for a meeting. Manager doesn’t look like he slept. Massive changes afoot. He lays out our new plans, including massively bright lampposts circling the park border as well as floodlights around the ranger station. Campsites need to be moved even closer in. Clear lines of sight from the light, if possible.

I butt in, telling him that defeats the point of going camping, if you’re just going on a short walk through the grass then setting up so close you can see the parking lot.

He tells me to shut up, that it’s just the start.

The park now closes at sundown, sharp. Also, we’re now required to have a long gun on our person at all times.

Now it isn’t uncommon for rangers to carry an AR-15 or a Remington 870 shotgun going out in the deep woods. There are wild and rabid animals out there. The real concern are massive pot growers. These aren’t your chill neighbor who hides a few plants behind the tomatoes. They run the spectrum from large scale suppliers who like their privacy and dislike law enforcement to anti-government crazies who think we have no right over them, the true patriots.

Both groups have a few common points: they tend to be well-armed, they do not like lawmen, and they won’t shy away from taking a potshot at some dumb poor ranger who finds himself in their fields. Keep in mind Eliot Ness, Mr. “I fought Al Capone and won” got scared off busting up Appalachian moonshiners because they constantly sniped at him in the foothills. They shoot to kill. Those are the reasons we keep the big guns around. Not routine patrols.

I drew the short straw and got the overnight shift. Manager tells me more changes to protocol will be listed when I return.

Overnights used to be easy. Monitor the radios, bust up the parties if needed, check for poachers if they’re operating nearby, make sure the forest doesn’t burn down. I clock in and per instructions, go to the gun cage.

My, things have changed.

Our shotguns have new rifled barrels, so they can handle the solid slugs we’ve been issued. That’s the kind of firepower you want to take down a charging bear, God forbid you ever need it. The AR-15s have been stepped up too. The old 15 round magazines have been replaced by 30 round ones. Someone even snuck us in hollow point rounds. Makes no damn sense. Shooting in the woods you need full metal jacket ammo so the rounds don’t go wild when they touch a twig. Hollow points just exist to do more tissue damage. This is ridiculous. This is overkill. We’re not a war zone. We don’t need this firepower.

Next to the radio, there are new instructions. Now we’re not allowed to directly respond to emergency calls. We can reply, figure out what the issue is then we report to a new phone number I don’t recognize. Time passes slowly tonight, I’m not even allowed to leave the building until sunup.

A few uneventful nights pass. The new floodlights and lampposts are frying my eyes. It’s so bright out there a blind man could see.

A week later some kids roll into the lot. They grab their backpacks and start hiking up the ridge. I know what they’re up to, no one has booked a campsite that night. Cheap young ones going on a camp out that will be a raging party. I wait for the sun to go down, confirming they’re not out for a day hike. I call my manager to report. He instructs me to call the new number, I report up to them now.

A curt voice answers the phone. He asks my park, then pauses. He asks the issue.

“Buncha kids on an unauthorized site, do I go break it up? I can see their campfire out the ridge right now.”

“No. Do not leave the building. Do not attempt communication. That is all. Report if there are any developments.”

Right after daybreak, the manager rides up. It’s real early.

“Have you seen them? Did they leave?”

“No, the car’s still there. Let ‘em rest, they’re probably all hungover.”

He curses, nonstop. He then goes inside to make a call. I’m outside looking up the ridge when he exits the station.

One AR-15 in his hand, another one strapped across his back. Glock on his hip. He marches single-mindedly toward his car. I try to ask him what in God’s name he’s doing but he isn’t listening or responding. He takes a jerry can of gasoline from his car and marches up the ridge.

I yell after him, to no reply. I consider following him, but that doesn’t seem like a good idea. I go back inside and call the number.

The same curt voice. The same direct questions.

“Yeah, the manager went up to that campsite. Armed to the teeth, and carrying gasoline. What the hell do I do?”

“Stay there. Do not interfere. Backup is inbound. Report if there are any developments.”

About the same time I start to see smoke wafting off the ridge, two vans ride into the lot at a screaming speed. A dozen men, heavily armed and armored exit quickly. I go out to check.

“Who are you guys? What’s going on?”

The men are all lined up with that impeccable military precision. One of them, a commander, I assume exists the vehicle last. He says, “Which direction did he go?”

“I mean he’s up there.” I point at the increasing smoke.

The men fan out and start jogging up the ridge. I hear rifles cocking as they leave.

I try to shout after them, but no response.

I look at the vans they came in. Large, nondescript. They just say “DOI Response Team” on the side.

Half an hour later they return, dragging the manager with them. He is bound in zip ties. He screams,

“I did what needed to be done! Trust me! It’s worse than they thought! We can’t stop this! Burn it all!”

They throw him in the back and sedate him. The commander approaches me, my neck hairs bristle in cold fear.

“I need to see the office. All computers and anything with a hard drive is coming with me. He mentioned videotapes. I need those too.”

I unlock the doors and they ransack the place. Everything gets taken. Printed reports from the last few years disappear into those vans. The videotapes get bagged up and held by the commander himself. He studies the gun cage.

“Cute. You’re out of your league,” he scoffs.

Finally they found everything they looked for. The commander tells me,

“Call the number. Tell them it’s contained. You need a new superior. Also, don’t talk about this to anyone.”

They leave, and just on cue the fire brigade and a few news vans show up.

The fire is contained, the news reports say. Rumors of missing campers are unsubstantiated at this time.

Still, the rumors alone are enough to scare off this season’s campers. The quick change-up of managers is chalked up to bureaucracy. The press dies down after a week or two. The new manager is very good at dealing with them.

Thankfully with no new campers and our now even shorter open hours, we can get more work done around here. Rebuilding the station took some time, and we just set up the new campsites. They’re practically spitting distance from the station. Nothing dramatic happens for a few days. Then on a whim, the manager tells us to set up some cameras around the station and the campsites. There’s usually so much human activity around here all you see are some raccoons, maybe the rare hungry bear but we humor him and set them up all around.

Couple of days pass, we collect the footage. I play poker with one of the rookies while the manager watches hours of footage of an empty but brilliantly illuminated parking lot. Then he gets to the footage around the station. Screams come from the office.

We barge in and he’s stamping on the camera hard drives, gibbering things I can’t understand. Along the lines of,

“Told me it was clean, safe. No recent activity. Bullcrap here, I’m not gonna do it….”

He barks at us to leave. Later he makes a call. Rookie goes up to the door and listens in.

Rookie comes back reporting,

“Yeah, he’s demanding a transfer. Says they lied to him. Something about they didn’t do their jobs properly. He’s not prepared or equipped here. Then I just heard the phone click, and some sobbing.”

Hours later, my manager exits the office. His shoulders are slumped, defeated. We cut our hours even further, practically open on weekends only. We’ll have a full staff ready those days, but a skeleton crew the rest of the time. Campers are required to check in to one of the closest sites. No campsite and they’re told to leave. We are not authorized to leave the station after dark under any circumstances. In an emergency, do not call 911, call the number and do exactly what they say.

We draw straws for who gets overnight shifts. Why we need to stay overnight if we can’t do anything is beyond me. I asked the manager about it and he just said that standard protocol is to have someone on hand to report any irregularities overnight.

I have to work my overnight shift. I keep my phone close, the number dialed in, ready if I need to call.

It is a bad night. I just wind up pacing around with my shotgun, glancing into the bright floodlights, trying to see what’s past them. I hear crickets, and it relaxes me. Prey is quiet when predators are around. It is a long night.

The next night, my manager draws the short straw. He seems resigned. In the end, we all have to take a turn.

He brings the brightest damn tactical flashlight I’ve ever seen. Said he bought it just because he’s afraid of the dark. He isn’t really. He’s afraid of the things in the dark.

I get a phone call at 3 AM. It’s him.


“Wha? You have a damn arsenal.”

“NOW! Oh I swear to god I screwed up. Oh man, I think they’re attracted to the light. I called that number and all they said was backup would be here in the morning. Oh damn damn damn.”

I hear the piercing staccato of gunshots. A pause. More gunshots. Screaming. Scuffling. The line goes dead.

I call the number. A new terse voice answers.

“Look I work at [REDACTED] Park. I just got off the phone with [REDACTED].”

“I just spoke with [REDACTED]. What can you report?”

“Something bad happened. It’s serious. I heard gunshots.”

“We will have backup there as soon as possible. Did he say anything else?”

“Yeah, he said he thought they were attracted to the light. Doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Interesting. Thank you for your report. The park is now closed. You will be reassigned. Goodbye.”


Officially, the park was closed to be scheduled for a controlled burn, let the old trees die and make room for new ones. There was nothing in the official report about what happened to the manager on duty. The public understanding was bureaucracies need to be shaken up on occasion. No one asked any more questions.

I get transferred to a new park, halfway across the country. Change of scenery and beautiful. They’ve got some odd rules here too. Don’t go far after dark, and don’t carry a flashlight.

I’m concerned about why. Why can’t you use a flashlight at night when you need one? They won’t tell me.

Be safe everyone.

Rating: 6.31/10. From 13 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: Scary Stories Told in the Dark – Podcast (Standard Edition) | 🔑 Podcast (Premium Edition) | YouTube (feat. Otis Jiry) ✦ Otis Jiry's Horror Storytime – YouTube (feat. Otis Jiry) ✦ Chilling Tales for Dark NightsYouTube (feat. Steve Taylor)

Written by Jeff Hartin
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by Otis Jiry and Steve Taylor

🔔 More stories from author: Jeff Hartin

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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