The Legend of Skeleton Bear

I took the boy camp­ing this week­end. Made up a ghost sto­ry about Skeleton Bear the first night, and fol­lowed up the sec­ond night with an ori­gin sto­ry. Spent the in­ter­ven­ing time search­ing Salt Fork State Park for the afore­men­tioned Skeleton Bear. We didn’t talk about or search for The Grassman, be­cause sasquatch sto­ries are a dime a dozen and played out.

The Story

About 100 years ago there were tons of bears around here, and they were all the kind of bears that mind­ed their own busi­ness and didn’t cause any trou­ble un­less some­one brought it with them. They ate fish and berries, lived in caves, and searched for hon­ey. One day a hunter named Hosak came to the area and killed a bear. He took the bear’s skin to sell it at a store and he ate the bear’s meat. When he got to the store, the store­keep­er and the shop­pers were all shocked that the hunter Hosak had killed a bear. They asked him why and he told them that bears were vi­cious, mean, dan­ger­ous an­i­mals. He fright­ened the peo­ple so much that every­one start­ed hunt­ing bears. They would kill bears and use their skins for rugs, and put their heads on plaques on the wall. They would eat the bear meat and leave the bones on the ground.

This con­tin­ued for many years un­til all the bears had been killed ex­cept one. This bear was the nicest bear in all the for­est, and would re­turn miss­ing camp stakes to the tents of campers, gen­tly rub­bing the side of the tent and say­ing “You can call me Bear, I’ve brought back your tent peg.” Despite be­ing the nicest bear in all the for­est, she was sad and a lit­tle an­gry be­cause she didn’t un­der­stand why all of her bear friends were be­ing killed. The son of the orig­i­nal hunter was now a young man and de­cid­ed that he and his dad would find this bear, kill it, and rid the land of bears for­ev­er. The son even said “I’ll take the bear’s bones and tie them to­geth­er in the front of Hosak’s Hall so every­one will know who killed the last bear!

The hunter’s son and the hunter Hosak went out in­to the woods, scat­ter­ing tent pegs as they went. They set up camp and de­ter­mined to stay awake all night un­til the bear re­turned the tent pegs. They stayed up the first night, but the bear didn’t come. They man­aged to stay up the sec­ond night as well, but the bear didn’t come. On the third night, af­ter two days with­out sleep, they could bare­ly keep their eyes open, but, just be­fore dawn they heard a gen­tle rustling on the side of the tent and heard: “You can call me Bear, I’ve brought back your tent peg.”

They hunter Hosak and his son jumped out of their tent with their guns and said “Ha! We’ve got you bear! We’re go­ing to kill you and tie your bones to­geth­er in our Hosak’s Hall, so every­one will know we killed the last bear!” And they shot the nicest bear in all the for­est. Before the bear died it said: “A curse on your kind! There’s enough life left in my bones to get re­venge! You’ll see!” And the nicest bear in all the for­est died.

The hunter Hosak and his son skinned the bear and re­moved the meat, and on­ly took the bones with them back to Hosak’s Hall. They tied them to­geth­er in the shape of the bear and cov­ered it with an old tent. Then they in­vit­ed all the peo­ple in the area to a par­ty to see the bones of the nicest bear in the for­est. They all came to Hosak’s Hall and ate lots of food, and drank lots of beer and were ap­pro­pri­ate­ly im­pressed when the hunter Hosak and his son told their sto­ry and un­veiled the bear skele­ton. Some of the peo­ple were sad that all the bears were dead, es­pe­cial­ly the nicest bear in all the for­est, but they kept these feel­ings to them­selves.

All of the peo­ple in­vit­ed to the par­ty went home. A few weeks went by and they re­al­ized that no one had heard from the hunter Hosak or his son. Another few weeks went by and they de­cid­ed to send a po­lice­man to check on them. When the po­lice­man got to the place where Hosak’s Hall had been, he didn’t find it. Instead he found a big cave with a bee’s hive hang­ing in front of it, and no sign there had ever been a house, a hunter named Hosak, or his son. Out from the dim­ness of the cave a sham­bling bear emerged. But this bear was on­ly bones! The po­lice­man ran away and Hosak’s Hall be­came known as Hosak’s Cave, Lair of the Skeleton Bear.

Soon af­ter this, campers start­ed dis­ap­pear­ing. Their tents were found clawed apart but there was no oth­er sign of what might have hap­pened to them. People start­ed whis­per­ing about the curse of the Skeleton Bear, and it was said that when the bear came to your tent it would ask “Does any­one call you Bear?” If the per­son an­swered “no”, the bear would kill them fast. If the per­son an­swered “yes”, but was ly­ing, the bear would kill them slow. If the per­son an­swered “yes”, and was telling the truth, Skeleton Bear would leave them in peace.

One day a new group of hunters laid a trap for Skeleton Bear. When the bear came to the tent, it ex­plod­ed with dy­na­mite and de­stroyed all the bones. But the next night, Skeleton Bear came back and de­stroyed the hunters. It’s said that no mat­ter how many times Skeleton Bear is de­stroyed, as long as there are bones in the for­est from an­oth­er bear killed by hunters, it will re­turn to seek vengeance.

Some Context

I want­ed to tell the boy a sto­ry that would scare him a bit, but make it so that, in the end, he felt safe and con­fi­dent enough to sleep. The first night, I told him about how Skeleton Bear at­tacks the campers, and since I’ve been call­ing the lit­tle guy “Bear” since he was small­er than a small one, if the Skeleton Bear came to our tent in the night, he could hon­est­ly an­swer the ques­tion and be safe. The next day we wan­dered around the park look­ing for Skeleton Bear, and while we were on a bri­dle trail I con­vinced him that fall­en trees had been crashed by Skeleton Bear, that the horse dung was from Skeleton Bear, etc. By the time we got to Hosak’s Cave, he was reach­ing his own con­clu­sions. We got back to camp and he lost a tent peg, that I lat­er found and pock­et­ed. I laid the ori­gin sto­ry on him by the fire that night and put the tent peg by his shoes where he might find it in the morn­ing. He did, of course, and is con­vinced that there’s still a lit­tle bit of good in Skeleton Bear some­where.

And he’s not scared at all.

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