There’s no official name for Talon Island. The small island is roughly four-hundred and fifty feet long and a hundred feet wide. Even this is subject to the water level of Kentucky Lake. I’ve seen the island larger and smaller depending on rainfall. It’s not impossible to swim there, but I’d advise against it. It’s near the middle of the main channel. For best results, use a boat.
My friends and I have made several attempts to camp there, but each time we’ve hit a snag. Most recently, my friend Callie got into a car accident fifteen minutes before we were supposed to meet up at her place. Realizing that the plans would eventually fall through, I set out to the island by myself. It’s not terribly hard to get there. With little more than a rowboat and a backpack of gear, I set out to camp on an island I’ve been dreaming about since I was a teenager. I set out from the boat dock at Irvin Cobb and rowed into the main channel before drifting north a while. It wasn’t long until I was pulling my small metal boat onto the shore and scouting a place to camp.
It was around noon when I had gathered enough driftwood and rocks to build a small fire pit near the middle of the island. There wasn’t much in the way of elevation, but I figured the highest point on the island would be the safest. One of the first things I noticed was the complete lack of cell reception. I wasn’t worried though. It wasn’t uncommon for signal to be spotty on that side of the county. I set up my tent and prepped the fire for later. What followed was an afternoon of fishing and day drinking.
It was around eight and starting to get dark when I pulled my fish from the water and moved up to my campsite. Despite a few lights in the distance, the sky was rather free of light pollution. I lit the campfire and let it get going as I cleaned the fish and got ready for a night of camping under the stars. I spent the night huddled up in my tent falling asleep to the comforting sounds of the local wildlife on the far shore to either side of the island.
I woke the next morning to a light drizzling rain. The small drops of water sizzled as they hit the fire pit. Not wanting to spend a day on the small island with dark storm clouds on the horizon, I packed up my tent and moved down to the shore. It was around that time when I noticed that my boat was gone. It wasn’t long before I was running up and down the shore looking for any sign of my boat. I had pulled it far enough up onto the shore that it couldn’t have floated away. The water hadn’t risen to the point it could have swept it off either.
I walked around the island a few times with my eye trained on the water and the distant shores only to realize I had no chance of finding the small metal rowboat. The rain had picked up from a light drizzle to a steady pour and I realized I was going to have to get out of the weather somehow. I wasn’t looking forward to setting up my tent in the rain, but I knew it was the only way I was going to get any peace as the rain continued to pour.
I must have looked a sight. I was huddled up in an army surplus tent sitting in my underwear as I hung my clothes up to dry. The rain pelted the outside of the tent and made it impossible to focus on anything other than the sound of the rain beating against the canvas. Despite this, I couldn’t help but hear the sound of footfalls crunching on the rocky soil outside.
Thinking my friends had finally come out to find me, I poked my head outside only to see that I was alone. No sooner than I had poked my head out, I watched lightning strike the shore and the loud crash of thunder that immediately followed. The storm was directly overhead and the lighting danced across the lake as the thunder boomed around me. One of the lighting strikes was so close that it lit up the inside of the tent and for a brief moment I thought I could see the silhouette of a man standing outside.
I again poked my head outside only to have a shower of water attack my face and hair. I scanned the area around my tent for any sign of movement only to find nothing. Someone was there. I wasn’t seeing or hearing things. I slipped on my swimming shoes and went out into the rain wearing little more than my boxers as I decided to search the small island for any sign of the other occupant.
The waves beat against the eastern shore as I walked north in search of anyone who might have landed on the island while I was trying to dry off. It only took a few minutes to completely circle the island and once again I couldn’t find anyone. I returned to my tent to find my clothes had been taken from the tent along with my backpack. As the rain let up I realized I was stuck on the island with no boat, no clothes, no fishing gear, and no phone. If there was someone on the island, they were either invisible or damned good at hiding.
Gray cloudy skies hid the sun from me as I contemplated my situation and tried to wrap my mind around how screwed I was. I briefly considered swimming to shore but knew better than to cross that channel after a fresh rain. I was stuck without food and my only shelter was an army surplus pup tent that barely survived the last storm. I could already see darker clouds to the south and knew I was in for one hell of a storm compared to the last.
It rained for two solid days. I hadn’t bothered telling anyone I was coming and I couldn’t trust that anyone was looking for me either. I made it through the days by trying to arrange rocks on the shore to say the word, “Fuck.” I wasn’t sure anyone would show up if it said help, but I knew a curse word would offend local sensibilities that someone would show up and help. I worked all day to get that message sent only to come out of my tent the following morning and see that all of the rocks were gone.
I hadn’t eaten in two days and I had been surviving off of rain water and the one edible plant that grew on that island. Despite this two days of raw Cattail and and rainwater had me ready to devour a whole cattle farm. The rain wasn’t letting up and something on that island was ruining any chance I had for signalling help. I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to swim away while I still had the energy to do so.
It was roughly eight hundred feet to an adjacent island and another thousand to the shore. There were a few houses there, but I hadn’t seen any lights in them for the past two days. I figured the power was out or something. The storm had been pretty bad. Now I’m not the best swimmer and I have to admit that first leg of the swim was difficult as hell. I thrashed against the water as it seemed intent to pull me down and to the side. Even then, my biggest fear was that lightning would strike while I was in the water.
I was less than a hundred feet from the next island when my thrashing about proved pointless and I was pulled under by the current of the lake. The undertow had pulled me and I thought I was done for. For a brief moment I even felt something scrape against my back before I felt the cool air on my arm and thrashed to right myself and get a breath of precious air. I saw a shore in front of my and beat my arms and legs against the water frantically only to reach the shore and realize I was back on Talon Island. If not to make matters worse, it was clear from where I was standing that my tent was gone.
I screamed and I cursed as I stormed around the island looking for any trace of my belongings in vain. My arms and legs were sore from my attempt at swimming and the stinging on my back made all the more sense when I went to probe it with my left hand and pulled it back to see the rain washing away the blood on my fingers. I screamed more and I cursed more as I set about the small island trying to build anything resembling a shelter. It was clear to me that something wasn’t letting me leave and I wasn’t about to die on that damned island. It was another dinner of raw cattail before a night curled up in the fetal position trying to find anything resembling warmth on a pile of leaves nestled under a lean-to made of branches and driftwood.
It was during that night that I finally saw him. It was a naked man with a long beard standing on the edge of the shore. He stared right at me with a blank expression as I tried to pull myself further into the the makeshift shelter. A flash of lighting in the distance flickered and the man was gone. There was something so incredibly unsettling about him that left me unwilling or unable to fall back asleep. I spent the rest of the night half-alert as I tried desperately to survive the night.
At some point I fell asleep. I woke the next morning sore and tired. The sun was low in the sky and the water seemed to have calmed down a little. I didn’t think so much as move toward the shore where the man had been standing when I walked into the water and swam to the next island without incident. I was on autopilot as I made the last stretch to the shore and walked up the beach toward the first house I saw. I must have looked something awful as I stood there in soaked boxer shorts with cuts and scrapes all over my body. I think I might have got two words out when the owner opened the door before collapsing.
The police think I’m crazy. My boat was found downstream a few miles down with my bag, clothes, and tent inside. I told this story to the staff at the hospital and later to the police and in both cases I was confronted with the discovery of my boat damn near in Aurora. I told them about the three days I had spent on that island and the man who had been stalking me only for them to tell me I had been gone for more than a week. My friends and I aren’t planning any more camping trips this summer.
I don’t know who or what was messing with me on that island, but one thing is certain; I was not welcome there. So please, if you are considering a camping adventure around LBL this summer…
Don’t camp on Talon Island.