Dig Baton Rouge

Halloween Camping

By Chase Berenson

There are many things that people do to have fun on Halloween. Some people hang out at home and open the door for trick-or-treaters, some people gather with friends to watch scary movies, and some people go out to party.

But the truly awesome people leave town and go camping on Halloween!

The best kind of Halloween camping involves something a little spooky, and luckily Louisiana is full of legends, lore, and scary stories.

You may have heard whispers of the Honey Island Swamp Monster, who lives in the large Honey Island Swamp on the Louisiana/Mississippi border.

Honey Island is one of the largest remaining undisturbed swamps in the country. It’s about 70,000 acres in size, and over half of it is devoted to environmental preservation through the national Fish & Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The swamp is so large that it exists only as a green blob on Google Maps. The only roads that dare cross it are I-10, I-59, and US-90, which soar high above the swamp on large bridges and causeways.

To truly explore the depths of the swamp requires a boat, which means that there are deep dark areas of the swamp very rarely seen by human eyes. The swamp isn’t empty, though, and according to legend, there are other eyes that lurk in the center of the swamp.

Shortly before World War I, an itinerant circus was traveling by train through the southern United States, but the train ran into trouble shortly after crossing the state line. The resulting train crash occurred outside the town of Pearl River, Louisiana, and the animals that survived the crash escaped into the swamp.

The bears, panthers, and other predators that lived in the swamp over a century ago made quick work of the escaped animals, with the exception of the chimpanzees that were able to climb trees.

According to Louisiana legend, the chimpanzees not only survived but also ended up inter-breeding with the swamp’s alligators. This unique repto-mammalian hybrid animal still lives deep in the swamp, terrorizing anyone who’s brave enough to venture in.

According to people who have seen the Swamp Monster, it’s a hominid animal that stands and walks on two legs. It’s over 7 feet tall, estimated to weigh between 400 and 500 pounds, and is covered in dark hair.

However, the monster’s most notable feature is its piercing yellow eyes. All of the witnesses agree that the yellow eyes, set far apart on the monster’s face, are what they remember the most about their encounter.

Knowing that the Honey Island Swamp Monster is out there, waiting and watching, means there is only one thing to do this Halloween night: go camping in the Honey Island Swamp!

There are two ways to camp in the swamp, depending on how adventurous you truly are.

The northern end of the swamp is located in the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, which is crisscrossed by all manner of bayous and streams. A brave soul with a boat can venture into the Refuge and seek out the monster on his home turf.

Though camping itself isn’t technically allowed in the Refuge, it is an approved “secondary” activity if you are already in the Refuge for a primary activity. Luckily, “wildlife viewing” is an approved primary endeavor, and I cannot imagine any life more wild than the Swamp Monster.

Primitive camping is allowed within 100 yards of some of the Refuge’s rivers, and it’s recommended that the bravest adventurers contact the Refuge to determine which rivers they can camp along while seeking out the Monster.

For people who aren’t that brave (or don’t have access to a boat for primitive camping), there’s a campground at Crawford’s Landing in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in the southern end of the Honey Island Swamp.

The campground is on the banks of the Pearl River, and all night the moon shimmers ominously though the Spanish moss hanging from the trees above your tent.

At Crawford’s Landing you drive out into the grassy area and just set up your tent right next to the car. The campground is equipped with outhouses and a water spigot.

Though the Swamp Monster typically doesn’t venture that far from the heart of the swamp, it still takes a courageous person to dare to sleep on the fringe of the monster’s neighborhood.

If you’re camping this Halloween in the Honey Island Swamp, you might want to sleep with one eye open. At least you’ll know when the monster is coming. Witnesses agree that the stench of death hangs heavily upon him.

Though if you smell the monster outside your tent, it’s probably too late to run…

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