This morning on the news I heard about a movie called, “The Killing Fields.” It is based on a string of unsolved murders around Interstate 45 southeast of Houston Texas. The killer and possible killers target young women and girls however, after a bit of research there is suspected 12 different serial killers in the entire Houston vicinity, not just I-45. In fact, there have been 200 unsolved murders of girls in the area since 1971. I don’t usually write about this kind of thing, but when I was in college I went on a road trip with my boyfriend. It started out fun and then things got really scary one night when we stopped in a campground a few hours west of Houston off of I-10. Below is an excerpt from the journal I kept during the trip:
The Devil’s Triangle
Road Trip Day 13, 14, 15
June 15, 2008
I don’t understand why I have this strange hobby of walking around cities drunk. Maybe I’m immature, maybe I have a drinking problem, or maybe it’s a little bit of both.
New Orleans was really the most welcoming place for this type of behavior, but I tend to do it anywhere. Towards midnight, the stench of vomit wafted through the air infrequently as we walked block to block. It was pretty disgusting, but on Rue Bourbon we quickly realized that it’s legal to walk around and drink alcoholic beverages, so I guess it must also be legal to vomit on the sidewalk.
I still couldn’t believe you could walk around with an exposed drink in hand; no need for paper lunch bags in this city! So that is just what we did. Most of the bars had city prices, so when I saw a man wielding a large sign, “HUGE ASS BEERS $5,” we couldn’t help but be lured in. We walked in and were greeted by a Barbie blonde who had huge ass…friends, and although Nick seemed to be examining them thoroughly, my consensus was the girls were fake. The wait for drinks was short, with only one man in line before us, lingering long after he received his HUGE ASS BEER, to talk to the blond. So we ordered our beer and for $5 received a container the size of a casino change cup casinos, full to the brim of cheap draft, with big blue letters across the side that read “HUGE ASS BEERS.” We left the bar and walked around with our HUGE ASS BEERS debating whether it was an appropriate title. We came to the conclusion that “BIG ASS BEERS” would’ve been more suitable.
We didn’t want to drink too much, because we’d had a few scares that day already, for one, our campground, Bayou State Park was one giant swamp. From my recollection and general knowledge of things, I thought alligators lived in that type of environment. Even though my loving boyfriend reassured me that it wouldn’t make sense to have a campground near alligators, think he was just trying to shut me up. My thoughts surrounded the image of myself a the mercy of the giant reptile’s jaws. And after we drove around The French Quarter for an hour looking for a parking spot, I had almost got robbed, sort of.
We parked the car in an open lot, and my boyfriend went to find a place for us to pay. In the meantime, I watched as a man dressed as a valet, walked around the parking lot. He spoke to the only people in the lot besides us, a nicely dressed middle aged couple. Then the man walked over to my boyfriend who was on the other side of the lot, and then he walked over to me.
“Do you have change for a twenty?” I had my wallet in my hand and I clutched it tighter as I looked into his eyes to think of an answer. I knew it was never a good idea to open a wallet or even dangle one this close to a stranger. I noticed his eyes were glazed and yellowed, like the crack heads I’d seen walking the streets of downtown Waterbury talking to themselves, and trying to bum cigarettes off me,
“No,” I said with an attitude. He quickly walked away. His clothes were not very clean for a valet.
“Yea he was sketchy, he asked me for change for a twenty and I was like ‘hell no’,”
“Well, he stole those people’s money. They said he asked them for change for a twenty. I guess he took their change and just walked off! ”
“I knew something was wrong with him!”
And another incident occurred as Nick and I gave each other cheers with our HUGE ASS BEERS as I held the camera out to snap the picture. Out of nowhere I heard, “I’ll take it for you,” and a smiling woman appeared from behind me as if from nowhere.
“No thanks,” I said and broke eye contact at which point she gave me the most disgusted look,
“It’s not like I’m going to walk away with your camera,” and she held out her hand encouraging me to hand it to her,
“That’s okay, I got it,” I said and broke eye contact with her and walked away as she stood there pouting and glaring at me with her hand still extended.
We had been on the road for twelve days and had been bamboozled by enough “homeless” people to know not to trust strangers with valuable possessions. Perhaps I was already weary after the incident in the parking lot, and all the creepy voodoo shops were really adding to my nervousness. I was into a lot of unusual things, tarot, psychics, saints, but voodoo was something every metaphysical text I’d ever read warned of. I refused to even step into one of the shops fearing I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from buying in to voodoo’s magical lure.
Exhausted, we drove back to the campground where a large gate blocked the entrance. It was locked!
“It’s locked! Were locked out!”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, pulling the combination from the glove compartment. He grabbed a flashlight from the trunk and proceeded to unlock the gate. After a few minutes I crawled out of the passenger seat and held the flashlight over him as he fumbled with the lock. Defeated he said,
At least no one could break into the campground and try to rob us, but we couldn’t get in either. Hopefully the campground also had measures to keep us secure from large reptiles too. Eventually the two of us were able to unlock the thing and crash in our uncomfortable accommodations.
The next morning, after a night of near misses, we decided to proceed westward and try to get as far through Texas as possible, but not before visiting Jackson Square and trying the Beignets.
We packed out tent up and put it back into the car. I got my toothbrush and face towel and proceeded to the bathrooms. On my way to the bathroom I was intrigued by a bulletin board display. It advertised the nature walk within the campground and the different wildlife the state park housed. There were bunnies of course, we already saw 50 or more since we’d arrived. And there were snakes, and there right in the middle of the bulletin board was a picture of a huge alligator. It smiled at me as my face twisted in horror.
“Look! Look!” I hollered as my boyfriend reluctantly ran over to see what I was making noise about.
“Well, I guess that answers your question,” he said and walked into the bathroom.
The incidents in New Orleans would soon be dwarfed by the comings and goings in Texas. We left Jackson Square some time that afternoon and drove out of the Bayou and past the Gulf and then into Texas . It took about three or four hours to get to the border from New Orleans. When we arrived we stopped at a gas station. I hated driving and I hated driving on interstate highways even more. It would take a very long time to drive through Texas and it would be at least a full day until we made it to New Mexico. I felt reassured when I paid for gas and saw a jolly trucker in front of me buy a six pack of beer, “for the road.” As I put the gas in my car, I made mental notes of his trailer so I could avoid him if I we were to meet again on the interstate.
We drove for a long time, past oil refineries and oil wells. Texas was flat. We stopped in Houston and went to a nice restaurant for dinner. It was the best food we’d had in two weeks, maybe even longer. Happily, we drove until dark and stopped at a campground in Columbus right round 10:30. After we finished putting up the tent, we went to use the bathroom. It was locked. I had to pee so bad. We scrambled around the campground for about 25 minutes trying to find some type of pamphlet with the combination on it. We had gotten there so late the front desk was closed which is also where we found with paper with the combination.
There was only one bathroom so we had to take turns. I took my time while my boyfriend waited outside for me. I was intentionally being a pain in the butt, I’ll admit it. After brushing my teeth, I inspected my face and blemishes and played with my hair. Suddenly, I heard a banging at the door, geez I wasn’t taking that long.
“Hayl open the door now! Hurry up.” So I opened the door and he popped in,
“What is it?”
“I was walking around the campground and I saw a strange pickup driving around, so I was watching him to see what he was doing, and I think he saw me.”
“Now that you’re done with the bathroom, I’m going to be in here a while, so go back to the tent and wait for me.”
I started to walk back to the tent, but as I walked away from the building I noticed a white truck parked around the side . Quickly, I ran back to the bathroom and peered from behind corner it to see what the truck was doing. Being in the tent alone was probably a very bad idea especially since it was so far away from the bathroom and where my companion was.
Soon a black pick up parked next to the white one. Something was exchanged, and then they left. Although it looked like your average drug deal, my gut told me that they were exchanging something much worse. Something worse than kilos even. Something along the lines of illegal firearms or body parts. But then both trucks pulled out of the campground and disappeared down the strait-a-way, and my fear subdued.
He finally came out of the bathroom and we walked back to our tent. Fearfully I wondered if the white truck has seen us and our “accommodations.” Our lone tent among the deluxe RV’s stood out like the withered Christmas tree among the fuller plush trees in It’s Christmas Charlie Brown.
We lay down in the tent and I began to doze off. My boyfriend sat up in the tent and watched for what I did not know.
“What are you doing? Aren’t you going to sleep?”
“Something’s not right,” he said and shushed me. After hearing his words, my stomach sunk. He never had bad feelings. I was the metaphysical one who saw signs daily in my alphabet soup, and in animal totems and he was the one who rolled his eyes and called me crazy. One thing I did hear that night was the screech of an owl, and I had taken enough literature courses to know that the screech of an owl was one of the most foreboding signs a person could come into contact with: in most literature it warned of imminent death. At this point, I was sitting up in the tent clutching him.
“Look he’s coming back!” I yelled as the white truck pulled into the lot again.
“Stay down!” He yelled at me as we dove to the ground of the tent and huddled beneath the screen. At that point I remembered that I hadn’t told Nick about the exchange I’d witnessed while he was in the bathroom. I told him and it made him more nervous.
As the white truck drove around the the campground, I noticed a green car following behind it. The white truck parked in one of the empty RV lots, and the green car continued to drive through the thruways until he got to the lane where we were. As he turned to drive towards us beaming our tent with his headlights which suddenly began to flicker as he hastily tried to turn them off.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” my boyfriend said. That is the first time he had ever mentioned the phrase “bad feeling” to me. He was a man and from New England he didn’t get “bad feelings.”The car slowly drove towards us. Although the entire row was full of empty tent spaces, he parked about 15 feet away from us in the next tent space over. We watched to see what his next move would be, and doubted it would be pitching a tent. We contemplated what to do as we waited in silence huddled at the floor of our Walmart special.
“Lets just stay in the tent and maybe he will just go away.” That was my brilliant idea.
“We’re not staying in the tent! Are you crazy? We’ll go in the car.”
The driver’s side door opened and the man began to slowly get out of the car. We jumped out of the tent and ran towards my truck. The man instantly froze, likely surprised by our sudden movement. I started ignition, locked the doors and we stared at him waiting for his next move. He fumbled, as if surprised that we were awake or maybe surprised that there were two of us or maybe both. He stood aimlessly besides his car. Then he took his cell phone out of his pocket played with it. He put it back in his pocket and eventually got back into his car and drove away.
What he was really planning to do to us, we will never know, but they don’t call the movie the Texas Chainsaw Massacre for nothing. When he was out of sight, we jumped out of the car and threw the entire tent and everything inside it into the car without collapsing it, We drove until we saw a gas station, and bought $20 worth of Red Bull and Mountain Dew because at that point, we’d decided to drive until we couldn’t drive anymore. We were completely terrified after narrowly escaping this homicidal maniac.
“What do you think he was gonna do?”
“I don’t know.” he replied
“Do you think he was going to kill us?”
“I don’t know, but I think it would’ve been a bad idea if we stayed the tent.”
“Do you think he was going to rob us and then kill us?”
“I don’t know Hayl!”
“I think so. Do you think he was going to kidnap or rape me? Oh my God, I’m so scared.”
“I don’t know. I just had a really bad feeling
At three in the morning we reached San Antonio . We decided to go see this Alamo that we heard so much about. We parked the car and walked towards the large structure which looked ancient surrounded by this modern city. I became nervous again as we passed a few meandering drunks on our walk towards the fort. Common sense told me they were probably just walking to their cars after the bar closed, but I was still scared and clutched my camera tightly as I picked up my pace.
Once on the grounds of the Alamo , we took pictures and walked around as much of it as we could. It was not going to open officially until 9 am, so we could not go in. It was an eerie sight this late at night but it was a very impressive structure.
We were so shaken up from what had happened earlier that we left San Antonio without seeing the River Walk. We drove about four more hours. The sun began to come up and the terrain changed as we reached the western half of Texas. We drove through ridges and rock formations that were light yellow, the same color they usually use to depict Texas on US maps. Mountain goats walked around the ridges as we were careful to watch the side of the road for deer. Finally we pulled off the road at the busiest McDonald’s I’d ever been in and ordered some breakfast burritos and some pineapple empanadas which were surprisingly delicious. I added the pineapple empanadas to my “Road Trip Regional Foods” list and we continued heading west.
As we headed west the trees go smaller and we became more fatigued, but drove on until we reached Carlsbad, New Mexico. Our plan was to camp there, and visit the caverns the next day, but it was so scorching hot that we could not hang out in the tent for an entire afternoon to wait for the next day to come. On no sleep we kept going and decided to visit the caverns.
I hated the caverns. About a mile into The Big Cave my imagination got carried away. I began seeing demons and caped vampires in the rock formations. Though I had never had claustrophobia before I suddenly came severely claustrophobic to the point of labored breathing. I wanted to leave, but there were miles more to go before we made it to the exit. To makes matters worse, after surveying amongst the crowd, I came to the conclusion that I was the only one having a melt down. Did they not see the ominous faces and ghost people? Did they not fear the gnomes and spirits in the rocks? My boyfriend said he saw them too, but still thought I was a little crazy for freaking out about them.
When we finally reached the exit, I was never happier to see elevators! I had been to hell and back and it was time to ascend to the mainland. All the elevators were broken except for one, so we had to wait as the room full of people ascended the caverns one elevator full at a time. I was getting antsy. Each time an elevator went up, we watched the digital display as the number climbed to 600 feet and then watched the number descend to where we were.
Finally we managed to get into the elevator. I was very happy to be outside again. My boyfriend pulled out the gallon of water from the car, and chugged it as I breathed deeply and watched as two eagles circle in the clear sky. We got in the car and drove 22 more miles to Brantley State Park before collapsing. Despite the eeriness of New Orleans Voodoo culture and the creatures we saw in Carlsbad Cavern, in retrospect those days didn’t phase us, but we were still and may always be traumatized by what could’ve happened in Texas.