I never looked into stories about deaths or murders but this one caught my attention more than any other. The headlines were "Mysterious Deaths at Local Camp Begins to Catch National Interest.
" This article was in an old stack of newspapers that my dad had kept that had important shit in them. This one had the London train bombings in them, and the article that had caught my eye was in bold underneath. The camp in question was called 'Camp Blue Jay' and it wasn't very far from where I lived. This story is just what I need for my senior research project on local events.
This article was published back in 2004, so tracking down the counselors or kids was rather difficult. I did find one counselor named Blake Jernigan, whom was interviewed in the article I mentioned.
I looked Blake up in the phone book and on Google maps, but no information appeared. I eventually found some old phonebooks from 2004 in my parent's attic, and found his name, and he lived relatively close by.
So I got directions to his house and followed them. The house was overgrown with weeds crawling up the siding, and infesting the yard. Ivy was finding its way through every crevice along the brick chimney at the front of the house.
I walked up to the front door and knocked, and waited for about a minute or two, but no answer. I knocked again and I glanced over at my car, which was still running. As I glanced, I noticed a curtain in the house move, as if someone were looking out at me. I began to bang on the door harder and ring the doorbell. Finally a man answered the door, but he appeared to be scared. He was obviously a recluse. He was pale with redish brown hair and with a very thick beard.
“Hi, I was wondering if Blake Jernigan still lived here? It’s about his experience at Camp Blue Jay?” I said to the man. The man looked at me as if I were crazy and told me I should keep my nose out of places where 'it don’t belong'. It was at this point where I thought that he would slam the door in my face, but instead he invited me in.
“My name is John Jernigan."
"My brother Blake killed himself about a year ago.” he said. His house smelled of cigarettes and cat piss. “I’m so sorry to hear that. My name is Tyler Pierson. Did he ever tell you about what happened at Camp Blue Jay?” I asked him, rather reluctantly.
“No,” he said as he turned to the kitchen, which was down the entrance hallway. “I was a counselor there during the murders as well.” I looked at him confused. “Wait who said anything about murders?” I asked. He gestured for me to follow him into the kitchen.
The kitchen itself was rather clean, to my surprise. To the right of the door was John, sitting at a circular table with three other chairs underneath. I pulled one out and sat down as John began to light a cigarette. “Well it all started about the second week of camp….”
I was a counselor at the age of 17, which was younger than all of my peers. The camp was big in the sense that the main cabins were the size of mansions. Each age group had their own cabin, and the girls were separated from the boys and so on. In the main cabins, there was a giant study area in the entrance and a kitchen behind a privacy wall. There were picnic tables all along the foyer and bookcases along the walls to the left. I’ll draw you a picture:
We always served breakfast, lunch and dinner at the main cabins, and during free time some kids would come in and read the books that we had or they would bring their own books that their parents sent them. Anyways, at dinner on the first day, I sat with the ten year olds and they were talking about fishing and what they caught earlier that day.
I looked over at Blake, who was with the 7-9 year olds, but he didn’t notice that I looked at him. Well, as the night went on we made the kids go to bed at around 9:30 the first night. As the counselors were settling into their bunks we heard a scream come from the girls cabins. I went with Amy, one of the girl counselors, to go look to see what the girl was screaming about.
We walked to the girls cabins and saw all the kids crowded around something, some of them throwing up as they ran away from the crowd. We pushed the kids out of the way to find a little girl, mauled and gutted on the ground. Amy turned away into my chest and started to cry. I told her to go back to the cabin and call the police. As she was walking away, The first thought was a bear that killed her.
But bears don’t usually come around here, but if they did, I doubt one would violently attack a small girl without being provoked. I looked around and there were no bear tracks on the ground. Only rather large shoe prints. I looked at her chest and it was busted open. All of her entrails were leaking out from her ripped t-shirt.
I was holding back the vomit. I walked into the nearby girls cabin and grabbed one of the extra blankets and covered up the disfigured corpse with it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I'm surprised I didn't puke putting the blanket over her.
It took about twenty minutes for the police and paramedics to arrive. We were questioned as the coroner took the girl’s body away. The police were asking us what we were doing and where we were when we heard the scream. Well everyone’s stories aligned so the police told us to watch out for bears and told us to tell the kids that the girl is fine, and she’s in the hospital.
Why should we lie to these kids? Majority of them saw what she looked like. Her intestines were pulled from her stomach, her chest was ripped open, and her neck was ripped open. The police obviously knew something that they didn’t want to tell us.
I didn’t sleep that night at all. I was scared for the rest of the summer. Amy probably didn’t sleep either, but I didn’t want to ask her. She already seemed on edge at breakfast. My brother and Matt, the two senior counselors, went up to the front of the dining room area and told the kids that the little girl was fine, and in the hospital. Small bits of conversation arose and died down, as the two counselors made new rules about leaving the cabins. Matt and Blake walked back to the counselors table and sat down.
I walked out of the main cabin and saw something fluttering in the distance. It was a black balloon, tied to the stair railing of the cabin that the little girl was from. I thought it was something the kids did out of respect. So the rest of the day went on as normal, but with counselors escorting the groups to their next activity rather than letting the kids walk free to them.
At dinner, the counselors all began to talk to one another about the balloon tied to the railing at the little girl’s cabin. All of us decided that we shouldn’t raise the issue to the kids and that we should probably forget about it. All of the kids were talking about their activities, or the events of the night before.
That night, the counselors were making sure the kid’s cabins were locked after they were sent to bed, and the counselors put walkie talkies in each of the cabins so that the kids could radio them if they needed to use the bathroom or not.
At around 10:30 that night, Matt noticed that the lights were on in the ten year olds’ cabin. He tried to radio the cabin, but there was no response; only static. So he and I when to go look to see what was happening in the cabin. We went down to the cabin and were about to knock on the door when we heard the boys screaming. We unlocked the door and ran in to find the boys were telling ghost stories about this killer clown named Binky. We asked if we could listen to their story about Binky the clown.
Jason, the boy telling the story, said that Binky was an escaped psycho that like to butcher little kids. He said that Binky is watching them now, and that when Binky kills the kids, he places balloons on the porch of the murdered. “Jason,” I said, “B-Binky isn’t real, is he..?” I was legitimately scared. I knew what killed the girl wasn’t a bear. Then I thought about it, if Binky was real then why wouldn’t the cops have told us?
“Yeah of course Binky is real.” Jason said snootily, “He escaped from the asylum like ten years ago. According to the 5th graders, he’s been living around here.”
“You’re not scared are you John?” asked Matt, who looked as if he was about to laugh.
“It’s just a ghost story.” I waited until Matt and myself were gone so I could tell him the strange correlation between their “ghost story” and what happened last night.
“Matt didn’t you notice that the stor-” Matt cut me off before I could finish my sentence “John just chill the fuck out dude, it’s a story.Maybe the boys put that balloon there when we were all at breakfast.” I didn’t think about it that way. Maybe they did put the balloon there, maybe they didn’t. But I wanted to investigate this “Binky” a little further.
The next day arose, and I finally slept through the night. I still had thoughts on Jason's story though. It seemed a little too real. Maybe I'm just crazy and scared from what happened the other night. I can't get that image out of my head. I had to find out whether or not this "Binky the Clown" was actually a real person or not. I had to have some closure on this.
I said that I wasn't feeling too well, and Blake said that he would take my kids for the day. Of course I was lying to research this "killer clown" but I couldn't have done it while having to watch the kids. Besides, I still get paid anyway. I used the counselors computer to Google "Child Killers in Illinois", and the usual suspects appeared, like John Wayne Gacy. But the problem with Gacy is that he was executed by injection in the 1990s.
But to my surprise there was a news article that was published in 1994 that said there was a serial child killer named Nathan Holder that had escaped prison. Holder killed 17 children and is accused of killing 30 more.
All of his victims were killed violently by being gutted and drained of their blood by slitting their throat. After he killed the kids, he would rape their rotting corpses and after he finished he would throw them into a well in his back yard. In 1987, Holder had left town to go to a business meeting in New York and had his neighbor watch his house for him. Well his neighbor went over to give Holder's dog water, but the faucet in his kitchen wasn't working. So his neighbor remembered there was the well in the back yard.
When he pulled the bucket full of water back out, he looked in and found a small hand in the bottom of the bucket. He then called the police and Holder was arrested within a week. All of the recent child disappearances were linked to Holder as dental records showed that it was the missing children.
Holder admitted to all of the murders and said that he kidnapped the kids in by dressing up as Binky the Clown and luring them into his house. After he would kill them, he would go to the family's house and tie black balloons to their porch posts. He made the balloons out of "the souls of the children he took" as he said in court.
All I could say was, "Holy shit."
I couldn't bring myself to tell the other counselors. They wouldn't believe me. I should've told them sooner. But I didn't. All of the deaths that happened at Camp Blue Jay were my fault in a way.
Dinner came along and all I could think about was Binky. I saw the fucker everywhere. Amy looked at me with concern and asked if I was okay. I wasn't. "Yeah I'm fine. Why?" She said she was just wondering. I was concerned that I was coming off as crazy and that if I told anyone what I learned today they wouldn't believe me.
So I kept my mouth shut.
I eventually excused myself from the table and walked outside onto the deck. I followed a path down to the lake and began skipping stones. I noticed a bright colour walking in my peripheral. I look and see Binky. I blink and now nothing is there. I am losing my mind. No doubt.
I heard the scream of kids and the stomps of their feet as they came running into the water for their after dinner swim. I guess I was the lifeguard on duty as no other counselor came after the three boys. The boys were about ten years old, and then I noticed one of them was Jason.
"Hey, Jason," I yelled "Can I talk to you for a minute?" "Oh yeah sure, John." he yelled back. As he was walking up to me I kept on the look out for that fucking clown and looked at him with disbelief. "Where did you hear that Binky story?" I asked him. I really wanted to hear that he made it up. I really did.
"I read it online. On this ghost story website." he replied.
I then believed that he got the "kid friendly" version. He left out the bits that said what Holder did to his victims when he told the story the previous night.
"Did it say what Binky's real name was?" I asked.
I felt like this kid was confused that I wanted to know so badly. After all, it was only a story.. right?
"I think it was like.. Nathan Heller or something?" he said, with uncertainty "I don't remember John. I'm going back to swim now." He ran back into the lake and started splashing his buddies whom I didn't recognize.
They then all stared at me as Jason presumably told them what I had asked him about. They probably all think I'm scared of the ghost story that Jason told. But it's what the story was based on. That's what was scaring me.
A week or so passed without any incidents as I began to believe that it was a bear that killed the little girl. Why would a psycho killer stay around after he escaped prison? He probably booked for the border as soon as he broke out. Nathan Holder was sentenced for death at his trial. I certainly wouldn't risk staying around. Anyway I bet anything that it was Jason and his gang who tied that balloon to the girl's cabin.
That night was ghost story night as the kids told their favorite stories of horror. Jason told his usual shit about Binky and the balloons. Amy and Matt told a story about some high beams and a killer in the back seat. I was too busy thinking about Jason's story again to listen to them. The details that reflected the girl's death so accurately. The younger kids were scared by Jason's story and they asked Amy if it was true. Amy denied it and took them to their cabin. Blake and I sat on the deck looking out onto the lake so perfectly reflecting the moon as Matt took the boys to bed.
"Blake, if I tell you something, would you believe me?" I asked him. I was nervous. "If its not batshit crazy John" he began to laugh and he looked at me. "What, do you have like an extra dick? Spit it out!" I began to swallow my pride and I told him all about the Binky story and how it was actually true. "John you're fucking with me right?" he asked me. I didn't care if it was a rhetorical question or not. I had to show him the article. I lead him to the counselors computer and opened the article. He began to read it.
"John, what the fuck do we do?" Blake asked as he finished reading. Matt was in the bedroom with Amy and we didn't want to disturb them. That's when we heard another scream that was cut short. We sprinted outside to find bloody drag marks along the ground, leading to the woods. No bear tracks either. Just the same shoe print as before. Blake ran back inside to the main cabin and told Matt and Amy what had happened. Blake and Matt ran out together with flashlights, minus Amy as she was calling the police.
"Follow those foot prints" Matt said. We followed the prints to an open field, with a tree standing alone in the middle. There was nothing around us except for the cries of cicadas and the hoots of the owls. We couldn't see anything for about twenty feet. The prints had ended once we got to the field so it was just a matter of searching for the kid. We still didn't know who we were missing. I walked to the tree to see if I could find the kid. I looked at the ground all around the tree, and noticed there were blood drops on the ground. I looked up to see Jason, lynched from the tree branch, about 10 feet off of the ground.
I screamed and fell down. I turned onto my stomach and threw up all over my hands as I had tried to contain my vomit. Matt and Blake ran over and asked what I screamed about, but I couldn't speak. I just pointed at the tree branch with Jason's corpse hanging from it. Blake turned from his normal rosy color to paper white and Matt just fell to his knees in disbelief.
Why is this happening to us? What did we do to deserve this?
The police came with the ambulance and we led them to the tree with Jason's body. They were as mortified as we were. This murder definitely meant that the camp was going to be investigated. The kids were definitely going home now. This was no bear accident.
We were all questioned by the police as they cut down Jason's body. It looked like his achillies tendons were sliced as the back of his ankles had extremely deep slices in them. Binky the fucking clown had definitely wanted it to be known that he was present at the camp.
As the coroner examined Jason's body, he began to call the detectives over to look at what he discovered. The detectives called the counselors over to look at what they had found. As the coroner lifted up Jason's shirt, it was barely revealed a somewhat small written word, carved into Jason's skin, and as he kept lifting the blood ridden shirt, the word became so more apparent that it belonged to a sentence.
I will never fucking forget those words.
It simply said: "Binky's Back"
"...And that's what happened that summer at Camp Blue Jay." said John, as he appeared to be caught up in his own story. "Did they ever catch... Binky?" I asked. I definitely hadn't the slightest idea. I believed at this point that John was so scared of Binky that he hasn't left his house since it happened. "No. They didn't." John snapped at my question. "He's still out around the camp grounds, somewhere." I looked at him, then I looked away as I wondered if it were appropriate to ask what happened to Blake to make him kill himself.
"John, why did Blake kill himself?" I muttered. I just spat out the words as if they were poison. The words seemed so offensive. "He couldn't deal with the images of the clown haunting his dreams." John said. "He couldn't cope with the images burned into his memory of Jason hanging from the tree."
John looked down at the ash tray in front of him and put out his cigarette. "Binky put fucking balloons on our porch man." John seemed scared now as he said this. "He's fucking with my head man.. Just let me fucking die man"
"No, John. You're the only one that can prove that Binky still lives out there." I said. I don't know what the fuck is running through my mind. I can't even bare to think about going to that camp to prove that the killer is still alive. John kept looking at me like he expected me to ask him a question that was on the both of our minds. But we obviously didn't want to ask it. I finally got the balls to ask it.
"John, how about we go down to Camp Blue Jay and find out where this fucker was sleeping?" I couldn't believe I just asked that. It's like asking a Columbine survivor to go visit the shooter's graves. It seems so disrespectful. "Yeah, I actually would like to go with you." he said, to my dismay. We couldn't go alone. But if we told the police we were out there we surely would be arrested for trespassing. Unless we came back with evidence of Nathan Holder actually living somewhere in that camp.
John seemed slow at first to pack what he needed but when he was ready, we set off. He knew how to get to the camp, so we made small talk as he periodically told me which way to turn or which road to stay on. The final time he said make a right here, we drove past a brown highway sign that was covered in mossy green filth, that simply said "CAMP BLUE JAY: 1/2 MILE ON RIGHT'". At this point, we both knew what we were going into. Either we were wasting our time, or we were walking into a psycho's back yard. I hope it's the first.
The Search for Binky the ClownEdit
By the time we had gotten to the camp, it was already dark. The small, gravel parking lot was covered in pine needles and smelled of rotting leafs. "I think we should sleep in the car John." I said. I immediately got back in and closed my door, but John was sitting with the door open.
The feeling this place was giving off felt like we shouldn't be there. It felt like we were already being watched. But since it was so dark, there was no sense of direction. The only light in the area was coming from the cabin of my car, as John had the door open. John silently agreed with me and closed the door. I guess he felt the same way I did.
"I'm already having second thoughts about this." I stated the obvious. John looked at me and nodded his head. He appeared so paranoid. John was quiet this whole time, most likely feeling the same gut wrenching feeling I have. The emptiness of this place is so eerie. I can't imagine what John is feeling right now. He must feel as if he's walked to his own funeral.
The slightest bumps in the night had us on our toes. John and I made small talk about the camp and where Nathan could possibly have hidden while he lived there. Or where he still lives. One of the places John brought up many times is the far side of the lake. The far side of the lake is all wilderness. I made a mental note to bring up that location when we set out in the morning. But I knew neither of us would sleep because of the tension we were feeling about being in this small, dank parking lot.
It was about 2:30 and I guess John had forgotten where he was, as he was asleep. I can't sleep. I am scared shitless about being here anyway. The only sounds I could here was the wind rustling the trees and the sound of John slightly snoring. As I was looking around, I saw something move in the dim moonlight, just near the hood of the car. It wasn't an animal. It was something bigger. I locked the doors and started yelling at John to wake up. He sprung awake and looked at me. "Dude why'd you wake me up?" "Something fucking moved out there man. Let's just go home and come back tomorrow morning." I was almost to the point of tears. I couldn't stand the fear anymore. "No, we came this far, we stay here." John said. I looked out of my window and saw that it was a deer. A buck. I guess that my imagination was just playing stupid. John leaned over me to look out the window, and shook his head and went back to sleep. I felt so embarrassed. As the embarrassment faded away, I began to fall asleep.
All I dreamt about was finding Nathan and him killing the both of us. It's hard to escape the fact that we are in a location that is home to a serial child killer. John was still asleep so I manually unlocked my door and stepped out to stretch. The warm, morning air felt good to my skin. But as the wind picked up, I heard a noise. The slightest noise that sounding like a ball bouncing on the floor. I turned around to see the entire roof rack of my car had black balloons tied to it. The warmth left my body and chills went down my spine.
I scurried back to the car and vaulted up to slap john on the shoulder. He awoke and looked at me with a really confused and angry look on his face, and yelled with a very tired tone. "What the hell's the matter with you?" he was more annoyed than anything. I couldn't speak. I just pointed to the ceiling of the car and he followed the gesture and got out of the car, staring at me the whole time with the same face of confusion and tiredness from when he woke up. As he stepped out of the car, his face went from confused to shocked, and he collapsed onto the ground. I ran around the car as quickly as I could to help John up. I reached down to help him stand, and he hit my arm away. He was crying hysterically, the fear had finally gotten to him.
After a few minutes of comforting John, we cut the balloons off of the roof rack of my car and set out into the woods. As it was the night before, the slightest sound of leaves ruslting had me on edge. "We're coming up on the counselor's cabin." John said, leading the narrow trail. I thought of his story about what had happened here almost a decade ago, and it just became so much more real because now the story has a face, being this desolated camp.
We approached the counselors cabin from the winding trail and put our packs down and pulled out our knives and flashlights. Nathan could be anywhere. I walked up to the door and pulled down the 'CONDEMNED' tape from the frame. I wiggled the door knob and it wouldn't give; it was locked. I took a step back and kicked next to the knob, freeing the door and opening up a place of darkness. I walked through the threshold and could smell rotting flesh. The only light in the room was from the crevices of the boarded up skylights above, leaking out onto the floor below. I turned on my light to examine the room, John behind me, watching the door. My heart was pounding. At this point, I started to wonder why I was here in the first place. Who the fuck cares if Nathan is still alive? I heard a board creak in the far corner of the room, and quickly turned to it and vanquished the darkness with my light. Something reflected my flashlight. I was shaking, I felt horrible approaching this thing. It was a gift box, wrapped with shiny, metallic paper. It wasn't there when I first looked through the cabin. I tossed the present aside for a moment, as I examined the area around the present, to find that some of the floorboard's grain ran differently than the rest of the floor, making it so obvious that they were crudely replaced. I stuck my knife underneath the mismatched planks to open a trap door, and I quickly got back, incase anyone was inside of it. Nothing was, as I called John over to examine the package. "I found a trap door over there" I said. "I think that it's a tunnel system." He looked at me and then looked back at the box, now bare without any wrapping on it. He opened the box to find a small notecard, folded over. He opened it, and read it aloud. "Nice... car" he said.
We looked at each other and sprinted back to the parking lot. We were halfway on the trail back to see a large amount of black smoke billowing from the lot. As we arrived at the lot, the flames had completely engulfed the car, the once white paint was now charred, and the tires were melted. The area around the car had red gas cans scattered about. "Fuck!" I screamed. "What the hell do we do now?" John looked horrified, as if he had just realized that we were in trouble. He sat down and buried his face into his knees.
I walked over to my burned out car, the only thing holding me back was the immense heat. It dried my eyes out to just look at it. I turned around to see to talk to John about what our new plans were, but I noticed John wasn't there. I jogged back over to the start of the trail over to the cabins and I saw him walking down the path, about one hundred feet into the woods. I called to him, and he ignored me.
I jogged to catch up with him, and he slung his pack down on the ground. "What do we do now?" I tried to ask as sincerely as I could, he wasn't in a solid state of mind right now. I don't think anyone would be if they were in their own personal Hell. He unzipped his pack and turned to me and said "We're going to find him". This confused me, "Why don't we do the sensible thing and call the police?" I pulled out my cell phone and unlocked it. John got up from his one kneed posture and slapped the phone out of my hands and began to stomp it. "What the fuck did you do that for?" I was getting genuinely scared now, these woods were getting the best of him. "That fucker hiding in these woods was the sole reason why the only person that loved me is now dead." his voice was starting to strain and he went back to his pack to pull out a Glock 17. He started again "You think I'm going to another 400 hours of community service because someone called the cops because I was trespassing?" I focused more on the gun than I did what he was saying. I had a gut feeling that the round in the chamber would soon be passing through my brain, John wasn't in the sort of state to be holding a gun. "John, I know how you're feeling, but please, let me take the gun" I thought of a lie "I use guns all the time with my dad, so I know how to use it." I've never fired a gun in my life. Not even a BB gun. John looked at me, then back to the gun. He then, reluctently, handed it over. We then headed toward the counselor's cabin to investigate the tunnel we had found earlier that day.