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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