For students in Austin, Texas, it is commonplace to learn about the horrific Indian Massacre that took place in Shoal Creek Park many many years ago. Elliot (Name changed for privacy), a local freelance photographer, recalls hearing the stories in high school and feeling ashamed of his ancestors.
“It was awful, the way Native Americans were treated in this country, but I think a lot of my peers are so detached from the situation, that it’s hard for them to put themselves in their shoes.
"So I decided that I should visit Shoal and take photographs. Perhaps a more visual approach would help students in Austin truly understand that what happened isn’t just some words in a boring textbook. It was real, it happened,” Elliot said, looking hopeful.
Horror in Austin
“So, two days later I visited the park. I was walking along, taking photographs of the terrain and of the historical markers they placed in each significant location. I was in the middle of taking a photograph when all of the sudden it seemed like a string of clouds floated above me all at once, casting me in shadow,” he said, gesturing above his head.
“One could argue that the chills I got were from the sudden absence of light, but I’m not convinced. It felt like there was something evil in the air, all around me. I felt chills run up and down my spine and my intuition told me to turn around and look behind me.
Stranger in the Woods at Shoal Creek Park
"I’m not sure, I might have screamed out loud when I turned, because I saw a hooded figure watching me from behind a stand of trees,” he said, growing pale at the memory. “Granted it could have just been some kid being a jerk, but that’s not how it felt, that’s not how my body reacted. I wanted nothing more than to turn around and run out of the park as quickly as my feet could carry me.
"But another part of me told me to stay, to endure. Like somehow, deep in the back of my mind, I knew that the figure I was seeing was somehow connected with the tragedy that had occurred in the park all those years ago. As I watched the figure walk parallel to the trees, more of them began to appear and I felt an intense headache form in the space between my eyes,” Elliot said, touching his forehead.
"Ignoring the pain, I raised my camera up to photograph the figures. I wasn’t altogether surprised when I looked down at the preview screen and found that they weren’t shown in the photos. Nevertheless, I went back to my studio later that day and spent an hour developing several of the photos I took.
"After the chemicals mixed and the photos dried, I brought them into my family room. In the photos that I had taken of the robed figures, several large white orbs floated in the air where the bodies would have been. Austin has a lot of history, but Shoals Creek Park is by far the most intense area I’ve ever been to in the city.”