It takes all kinds. Some ideas just happen. They are proffered as a laugh or a dare. Or someone comes up with it, then everyone else eggs them on, each too worried about looking like a killjoy to stop it happening.
Thus it was that a group of Confederate Civil War re-enactors thought it might be a great idea to camp for the night in Bloody Lane. No tents or anything. Just a gang of men, in their grey uniforms, lying under the stars. It was warm enough.
The inspiration was easy to pinpoint. There were a series of famous photographs taken in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Antietam. Many focused on the carnage in Sunken Lane, aka Bloody Lane. The re-enactors' own ancestors may have been amongst the bodies shown in them. It was this exact location where the men sought to bed down for the night. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Not that they had permission to do this! Antietam National Battlefield is closed at night. But it's hard to police a long, sprawling boundary. It's a simple task for men familiar with the terrain to park their cars, slip over a fence, then make their way to that infamous location.
The reality of their morbid endeavor only really struck many of them as they lay there. Suddenly there were chills. Whispers. People turning to their buddies and hissing, "What did you say?" But none of them were speaking. They were all becoming spooked.
All of the men heard the moans. They sounded authentic, the groans of the anguished and dying. Or sudden mutterings, appearing to be breathed right into their ears. After the usual screaming at their friends to grow up, or just admit who was joking so inappropriately, they concluded that nobody was.
All but one of the re-enactors had enough. They stood one by one and declared that they weren't staying here. It wasn't such a good idea after all. In that balmy night, they were shivering with the cold. They made their way back to their cars, which weren't parked a great distance away. They would see out the remainder of the night sleeping in them.
But not all. There was still that one man, who'd rolled his eyes at the cowardliness of his fellows. He didn't believe in ghosts. He had heard the mutterings, whispers, moans, groans and all of the rest, but he was convinced that one of their party was having a laugh. He didn't scare easily, and to prove it, he'd sleep in Sunken Lane all alone.
It was later when those back in the car-park heard the scream. it was desperate and blood-curdling enough to have them all scrambling from their vehicles. Their friend was obviously in deep trouble. They ran back out onto the battlefield, hurtling towards Bloody Lane. They didn't need to race all of the way. Stumbling through the darkness, he was fleeing towards them.
There were tears and trembling, his whole bravado smashed. It took ten minutes for them even to get a word out of him. He was so scared and that scared them. Tough, hardy dudes, who were now thoroughly spooked. The story tumbled out in stages.
He'd been lying here. Eyes closed, listening to the sounds which had seen off his fellow Confederate re-enactors. He'd been trying to ascertain what they were. Had someone crept back to try and frighten him? He refused to rise to the bait. Maybe it was the wind. In truth, it was difficult to sleep, but that was because of the situation - it was exciting in its unusual aspect - rather than any real thought of ghosts.
Then the chill had grown so much deeper. He'd shivered lying there and some prickling of instinct had caused him to half-open his eyes. There was an arm. Right next to him, a bloodied arm in the same uniform as himself. He'd opened his eyes fully, assuming a friend had sneaked back to lie beside him.
The arm was attached to no body. He went to sit up, but the arm moved suddenly, pressing hard against his chest, pinning him to the ground. He'd screamed loudly enough to rouse his friends over in the car-park.
it had felt like a struggle to the death rising from that lane. He'd shoved away the disembodied hand with all his might, then rushed out of the lane and across the field. That's when he'd met them all again. His friends had no doubt that he'd experienced something. They'd never seen him break down like this.