I had spent the last couple of days photographing wildlife and landscapes at Everglades National Park in the winter of 1996. After my daily outing I was settling down after my evening meal outside my tent and noticed an unusual couple just arriving to pick out a campsite. He was a well-tanned, muscular, scruffy looking guy in his late 30s with full blonde beard but it was really his partner who caught my eye. Her athletic, tanned, perfect bikini figure was accented by a slim halter top and extra short cut-off jeans which seemed excessively modish for our campground setting. They set up nearby and later we talked briefly and they told me they were planning to canoe out towards Flamingo the next day. That morning they had already left their campsite when I set out to spend a day trekking around to photograph various scenic locations in the park. At days end, I was back at camp and happened to notice a police car pull up to the edge of the campground from which this couple got out and headed towards me and their campsite nearby. By the tired expressions on their faces I figured they must have been through some sort of ordeal and they seemed eager to share their adventure with me. The guy said they had canoed to a remote beach and walked along the shore and unexpectedly came upon the campsite of a young black kid maybe 15 years old. That they stopped briefly to talk with him and then continued their walk on the beach. Suddenly out of nowhere the kid attacked them with a log...hitting the guy on the back of the head without warning. The couple managed to drive the attacker off and escaped back to their canoe with which they were able to paddle somewhere to contact the park police. I was genuinely sympathetic upon hearing this story and expressed my dismay that they should have had what could have been a life-threatening misadventure. The girl then started to embellish the story the guy had just told me but inadvertently gave a totally contradictory version of the moment they came upon the kid's campsite saying they didn't stop by or talk to the boy at all but just innocently continued walking down the beach when they were attacked from behind. This instantly triggered my suspicion that something was very wrong here but didn't want to appear doubtful and feigned more sympathy for their victimization by what obviously was a kid gone berserk with lust where he tried to kill the guy so he could rape his sexy companion.
As our conversation grew ever more sympatico the guy seemed to draw closer than one would normally distance themselves and started to emphasize points in his conversation with his hand pointedly flicking my crotch. Not wanting to put him on guard, I simply ignored these obvious overtures. He proceeded to draw out of his pack a strange looking piece of drift wood, handling it like a sacred icon. He seemed extremely proud of this found object and asked me with some eagerness what I thought it looked like? He presented it so that I could just see one profile that had a rather unique shape and the association that instantly condensed in my visual cortex was that "it looks like the hand of God...pointing" I said. "No!, no!" he exclaimed with annoyance but still eagerly. "Don't you see the horn and face" and he slid his free hand pointing down through the "body" to the feature at the bottom, "and the little cloven hoof!" Careful not to show my dismay over this bizarre interpretation, I cheerfully agreed that it does resemble a devil and briefly carried on a compatible conversation for awhile longer. I finally managed to extract myself gracefully from their company, said farewell and noticed they packed up their campsite and left that evening.
I immediately went to the Park ranger station and reported my conversation and suspicion that this couple were some sort of Satanists who obviously had somehow known where to find this vulnerable kid. I learned from the rangers that the kid was participating in an Outward Bound camp session that has been running a program that drops kids off at lonely stretches of beach all the way out to Flamingo where they are deliberately left alone to fend for themselves to develop self reliance.
Somehow the kid contacted the park rangers who by that time had been told the version by the couple that they had repeated to me. The kid told the rangers the couple tried to befriend him and then attacked him but he fought them off and escaped into the water until they left. With two conflicting accounts, the rangers had not brought any charges and released everyone. When I reported my story to the rangers they found it as credible as if I had claimed the couple were aliens who had just landed in a UFO- so preposterous did they find my suspicions about Satanists. When I returned home I wrote up an account of the entire episode to the director of Outward Bound mainly to exonerate the kid from any suspicion that he had been guilty of anything and to warn their counselors that the lone campers would be easy victims since the time and place of campsites would be available from the schedules the program make available to anyone. Although I got a return letter acknowledging and thanking me for the warning I'm not sure how seriously it was taken or if they found the facts too inconvenient to deal with.
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