The Bloody Handprint: A Story From Ex Fabula

By Ex Fabula | October 24, 2018

  • Cabin in the woods

Cabin in the woods (Original color photo by rlpape)

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You might imagine that a winter weekend trip to visit the ices caves on the Lake Superior shore would be an adventure of fun and discovery. But one never knows what darkness lurks around the next bend.

Mia Noel shared her tale at Ex Fabula’s “On The Road” curated StorySlam, in partnership with The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee.


There are some people who really love the outdoors. There are some people who grew up…maybe they were lucky and they had a cabin up north or their family went camping in the summer. I’m not that person.

I grew up in cities, first in Chicago and then Milwaukee. I grew up watching horror movies. You know black people don’t do so well in those movies, right? I grew up watching “Criminal Minds”. There are lots of serial killers in the woods. When I think cabin in the woods I think Jason is going to come and murder you, especially if you’ve had sex. Or there are “Deliverance”-style hillbillies around the end of a river. These are the things that I grew up with.

As I started to get older, I started to challenge those fears. I lived in a cabin for a year, I go road tripping, I go backpacking, I go camping. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not scared. In the back of my head I still think that there’s probably something out there trying to get me. But it’s worth it. It’s worth that risk. That’s what I’ve decided for myself.

Four years ago someone posted these pictures of the ice caves at the Apostle Islands. They were beautiful and they were gorgeous. There was all this frozen ice and there were people with crampons hiking out to the ice.

I’m going to go up there. I’m going to do this.

So, I started following the Apostle Islands Facebook page. It’s a real thing. They give you updates about the levels of the ice. I started thinking about where I’m going to borrow these crampons. Where am I going to get, like, the hiking sticks? We’re gonna go up there.

So as soon as they said the ice is thick enough to go up out onto the ice along the lake shore and go into these caves, I started planning my trip. I got a bunch of friends together. We’re going to do this. We’re going to take a weekend trip. We’re going to go see these ice caves. And so then those friends invited other friends and it turned out we had eight people. We had four from Milwaukee, two from Chicago, and two from Minnesota. And I didn’t know everybody but I was like, you know, friends of friends were all going to get together we’re going to look at some ice. We’re going to hang out. What bad thing could happen on this trip? Right?

So we have this plan. We’re going to go up on Friday night half way and then on Saturday, we’re going to go the rest of the way up because they’re about six hours from Milwaukee. So Saturday morning we wake up really early.

We go see the ice caves we spend the whole day looking at the frozen water. We’re just, we’re in it. We’re taking selfies with ice. There are ice stalactites and there are ice formations and we’re crawling on ice and thousands of people come out to see some ice. They travel from far away. They get up there and they see this ice and we were part of it.

Mia Noel performs her story at an Ex Fabula event in Milwaukee.

Mia Noel performs her story at an Ex Fabula event in Milwaukee. (Photo courtesy of Ex Fabula.)

And so at like 5:00 p.m. that night, we’re cold and wet and hungry and kind of cranky. We have to find our cabin and because there are thousands of people who have traveled to find this ice, accommodations are scarce. You know the northern Wisconsin, Ashland – Bayfield area are not known for their hotel accommodations. So we end up at this cabin that we had booked but it’s actually kind of far from the ice caves and it’s sort of far from everything. It’s outside of a small town and it’s down a secluded road and it’s up a long and winding personal driveway and the neighbors are miles away. And this is a selling point for them. We get there and it’s a really nice cabin, you know, it’s got four bedrooms and there’s eight of us and it’s really big and beautiful.

We’re drinking and getting to know each other because, remember, I don’t know everybody. We’re playing games and laughing and it turns into a dance party that goes to 3 a.m. Then, we go to bed. It’s really quiet in the cabin. I wake up and I have to pee, you know, the things that happen after you’ve been drinking all night. So I get up and I go to pee and I’m a little bleary eyed. I go to the bathroom and I come out of the bathroom. I think maybe I should get a drink of water.

And on the wall between the bathroom and the kitchen is a bloody handprint…that wasn’t there before.

Pretty sure that wasn’t there when we were making dinner. Wasn’t there when we were drinking last night. And I’m like, well, maybe someone is pulling a prank because I’ve been very clear and open about my distrust of the woods and cabins and small towns and all. So maybe somebody pulling a prank. That’s not funny but okay. I’m going to get my water. I’m going to kind of work my way past this.

So I go to the kitchen and there’s more blood. There’s a lot of it. There’s a lot of blood. There’s blood on the faucet, there’s blood on the handles. Oh, a lot of blood. And even worse than all the blood that’s everywhere, there’s a bloody knife. And I’m like OK, it’s real. It’s go time. I’ve been practicing “Criminal Minds,” right? I am ready.

There are more bloody handprints. Oh boy, so much blood. What do we do? What do we do? What do we do?

Every scenario I could think of involves a murder.

There’s a murderer outside.
There’s a murderer in the house.
There’s a murderer.
Oh shit.
It’s so real.
I didn’t drive here.
I can’t leave.
I can’t go exploring because that’s what people do when they die.
I can’t, I can’t leave because there’s no cabin around for four miles. Remember this is a selling point. No neighbor for miles.
Oh God.

All right. So what I do is I grab a really big knife and I’m going to barricade myself in my room. That’s it. That’s all I got. I’m going to barricade myself in my room.

And so I’m in my room and I’m shivering under a blanket. I’m like, “Okay I’m going to make it, I’m going to make it.” I’m waiting and I’m not sure what I’m waiting for but I’m waiting. And then I fall asleep.

I wake up and people are talking outside. Ok, let me listen. Maybe it’s the murderers talking about how they’re going to eat me next.

But I listen and it’s my friends. I come out and I’m like, “Hey you all seem to be not dead and there’s no blood anywhere.”

And I’m like, oh shit. Did I dream that happened?

I find out one of the people, that I did not know, is a sleepwalker. They woke up in the middle of the night, went to the kitchen, cut some fruit, because that’s what occurred to them in their sleep dream, cut themselves in the hand, and then walked back to their bedroom leaving bloody handprints all over this cabin. Their partner woke up and was like, “What the hell happened?” and they cleaned up.

In all of my murder fantasy thinking, that is not one scenario I thought of. Thank you.


Ex Fabula

Ex Fabula

Since 2009, Ex Fabula has been strengthening community bonds through the art of true, personal storytelling. Ex Fabula, which is Latin for “from stories,” presents storytelling  workshops, StorySlams and Community Collaborations where people listen to each other, feel heard, and grow in empathy and understanding. Special projects like the Ex Fabula Fellowship, the Puente Project, and Equal Access use...
2018-10-26T14:27:48-05:00Tags: , , , |

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