It was Friday the 13th, a day that promised mischief and complete and utter shenanigans. The fact that it aligned with our first day heading out to Camp Redwood for our Counselor Training session before the campers got bussed in seemed like a sign. Or maybe we were just reading too much into it. After all, Friday the 13th was just a day like any other, right? As we rolled up to the hotel where we would get into the vans that would take us to camp, everything seemed normal. However, none of us would know what kind of memories we would make that night on our trip to Camp Redwood.
For those wondering why Camp Redwood sounds familiar it’s because in the latest season of American Horror Story, which airs tonight, the series will be paying homage to the 80’s slasher genre that so many of us love. Though information on the new season is scarce, it would seem that Season 9 will be taking place at Camp Redwood. Last weekend, about 15 of us had the chance to live out our own Camp Redwood experience and to say it was a killer time would be an understatement.
Upon arriving at the campgrounds, we met the lead counselors who would be taking us through our training in preparation for the slew of campers arriving the following day. After we unloaded our luggage in our cabin, we headed to orientation where we proceeded to learn of all the fun activities we had in store for the day. However, there seemed to be some tension between each of the counselors, but none more noticeable than their interaction with Bill, the handyman. Dirty, eccentric, and mute, Bill embodied everything that screamed “He’s a killer”, especially when he was skulking around with a large “body” bag filled with god knows what. The counselors didn’t want anything to do with him and would constantly berate when any inconvenience arose, which, to be honest, would drive anyone to murder.
As we settled into our routine for the day, we counselors in training broke off to learn different types of activities such as ax throwing, archery, arts & crafts, jazzercise, and knot tying. While doing these different experiences, we had the chance to get to know our lead counselors more. There was Bradley, the Camp Director, who constantly went head to head with Chad and was always yelling at Bill whenever anything went sideways. There was Jill, the blonde bombshell who obviously had the hots for Chad. Speaking of him, Chad, with his overly cocky persona, who obviously had the hots for Jill was definitely a character of a person. Leading Arts & Crafts was Patty, who believed in being one with nature and who obviously had the hots for Chad (who did not reciprocate). Making sure that we were all in tip-top shape was Tish, the tough and direct Jazzercise instructor, who had the hots for the Nurse, and the Nurse who was quiet and intimidating and repeatedly told me to stay away from the woods, who had the hots for Bill. These characters fit perfectly into the stereotypical 80’s archetypes that we have come to expect from slasher horror films, which only helped in elevating the experience.
As our day went along, we all enjoyed the activities presented to us, but there was always a creeping sensation that something wasn’t quite right. For example, after using the restrooms, I was beginning to make my way down to archery when I noticed a commotion in the First Aid cabin. Deciding to go check it out, I learned that one of the counselors in training had fallen and was being treated for her wounds. While making sure she was okay, I took in my surroundings and found it quite odd that the First Aid Cabin had two beds outfitted with wrist and ankle straps as well as a straight jacket and human bones. Furthermore, there were two large puddles of liquid on the floor that looked suspiciously like blood. I tried to ask for some clarification on all these items but I was shooed away and told not to worry about it. Believe me when I said I worried about it the entire time I was at Camp Redwood.
Meanwhile, my friends Sarah and Roxy made some discoveries of their own while dealing with their activities. When they first tackled knot tying with Chad, he had other things he wanted to focus on instead. Near a shack by the knot tying area, he brought them over along with a handful of other people to try to figure out what Bill had been burying in the woods. He had thought that Bill had been burying raccoons, but this was not the case. Sarah, Roxy, and the rest of the group started to unbury the bones that Chad had discovered and it became quickly apparent that they were human in origin. However, there was something weird about them. Like they had been fused. Chad kept insisting that they had to be a raccoon of some kind. Needless to say, something was fishy and it wasn’t a dead raccoon that was for sure.
After taking in some archery, we were told it was time for mandatory Jazzercise. With a groan, I made my way over to the large field with the rest of the campers where we started our exercise routine, only to be interrupted shortly after by a young man running out of the forest. Out of breath and with fear in his eyes, he yelled to us that his friends had gone missing and that he had encountered a man in a ski mask. He needed our help in finding his friends but before we could learn more, he along with myself and three others were quickly rushed to the First Aid Cabin to calm him down. We learned that his name was Ethan and that whoever this mysterious man in the mask was had scared him so much that he feared for his friend’s safety. The Nurse, along with Tish, reassured us that everything was okay and that Ethan was just dehydrated and needed some rest. As we left the First Aid Cabin, I looked back knowing that that would be the last time I ever saw Ethan again.
After the excitement of Ethan, we had some downtime to prepare for dinner – an event that was even more breathtaking than I could have imagined. When the time came to eat, we were led to the lounge which featured a long, narrow, wooden table designed with beautiful place settings and a menu to quite literally die for. While we munched on roasted chicken and steak along with baked white cheddar mac and cheese and other treats, we all took the time to get to know one another. My friend Roxy and I spoke in length with Jill about her feelings for Chad and helped Chad show his true feelings for Jill. Sarah also helped out Chad by helping him construct a bouqot to give to Jill as a display of his affection. We also got to spend a considerable amount of time with Bill who was more harmless than anything (and had quite a crush on Roxy). Sure, the tension between some of the other counselors was a bit palpable, but for the most part, we were all having such a great time. I got to know two of my counterparts across from me, Jennifer and Cliff, who seemed to be having a blast – until Cliff spilled water on himself. He excused himself to use the restroom and at this time a warning sound went off in my head. Where was Cliff going? Would we ever see him again? A considerable amount of time passed and yet he never returned, though I was reassured that he probably went and took a nap after being so embarrassed.
Shortly after dessert arrived, a scream erupted from the table as Patty stood and pointed her fingers towards the large windows behind us. She saw a man, she said, walking outside the windows which prompted Billy to go and take a look. When he came back he assured us, through the use of sign language, that no one was out there. As everyone settled back down to eat, I decided to excuse myself to freshen up, but after I returned and got back into the groove of talking to everyone, the lights started to flicker. Camp Director Bradley assured us there was nothing to be worried about, having had Billy go out to check the breakers, but no sooner had he said that then all the lights went out and the room erupted in total chaos. We were quickly rushed out and led to a large campfire in hopes that we could all relax until the situation was under control. We spend the next 15-20 minutes singing camp songs, laughing, and telling ghost stories. Many of us were munching on s’mores and being drawn into the scary story that Chad was telling when a blood-curdling scream reverberated around us. The scream was coming from Patty and she was pointing towards the woods, where a masked killer appeared followed by the swinging body of Cliff. I don’t remember much that happened after that only that Patty was dragged away by the nurse and the killer disappearing before a woman arrived with a chainsaw that she dragged across her belt buckle which shot sparks everywhere. Not sure why she appeared but none of really cared because this chick was putting on one hell of a show and everyone around her was completely captivated.
After the show though, the veil of secrecy seemed to have lifted. The counselors started laughing and revealed that everything just happened to be a joke. Sarah was definitely still shaken by the reveal of the dead Cliff and I had a sinking suspicion that something else was going to happen, something that would end up coming at us in the middle of the night. But we went along with the laughter, took turns taking pictures with Cliff’s body before we were pointed across the other side of camp to where we could take pictures with the masked murderer. The masked murderer who, even after the counselors started to break character, never revealed who they really were. It appeared that our night had ended, but the conspiracy theories in my brain just couldn’t stop forming. Was this really it? Was this what Camp Redwood had in store for us? When we got back to our cabins, this was when I started noticing things that supported my conspiracy theorizing brain. On each cabin, with the exception of one, there were little creepy messages that had been left. Some people had their names crossed out. With my friend Roxy, her name was crossed out with the message, “You’re next.” It definitely felt like something was up and the horror nerd in me couldn’t help freaking out. But, as I tiredly discovered after trying to keep myself up during the night, this was not the case. Perhaps it was all over and there was nothing left to worry about.
This feeling carried over the next morning as we got ready to leave. Several of us hadn’t slept. We were so hyped up on the possibility that something or someone was going to drag us out of our cabins that we were ready for anything. As we tumbled out of our cabins with our bags in tow, we pondered perhaps if we had gotten too into our horror nerdy selves with our theorizing. Everything just seemed so normal, except with Sarah smothering large quantities of guacamole on her toast (it was oozing out, guys). We loaded ourselves into our vans to prepare ourselves for the journey back to the hotel where we go and hide in our cars and digest what actually happened at Camp Redwood. The driver started the engine and started moving and everything just seemed so normal until we saw them. The masked killer from the night before had their ax in hand and was slowly marching towards us the hilltop. His eyes were intent on doing something. As our driver sped away, all we could do was look back at the masked killer and hope that everything was okay.
This ends our story about our tale in Camp Redwood. AHS: 1984 premieres tonight on FX at 10 PM/9 PM CT.