Whether its hiking or horseback riding its 24 miles of trails, camping in a cabin or tent, swimming at the lakeside beach, or swinging for a hole-in-one at the 18-hole Creek Golf Course, Georgia’s Hard Labor Creek State Park offers hours of recreation and fun for everyone. However, the state park’s beautiful woodland setting belies something a bit more sinister after the sun goes down. Around the campfires of Camp Rutledge at night, tales of ghosts and ghouls, and mayhem and murder abound. These stories sound so extraordinary that we just had to find out for ourselves whether they’re true or not. Do you dare join us for a night at what’s been called the most haunted campground in Georgia?
A Little History Before the Haunting
Located between the towns of Bostwick and Rutledge in Morgan County, Hard Labor Creek State Park is a 5,804 acre Georgia state park build by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s named after the eponymous creek that runs through the park, thought to be derived from either Native Americans who found the area around the stream difficult to ford or from enslaved people who once found tilling the hard ground here took a lot of work, thus Hard Labor. The state park is home to two group camps – Camp Rutledge and Camp Daniel Morgan – both of which are situated on Lake Rutledge, one of the two lakes that occupy the park. When it comes to the second lake, however, this is where things start to get a little chilling.
The Massacre in Morgan County
The history of the Camp Rutledge seems to have been born out of bloodshed which culminated in 1813. Back then, white settlers and Native Americans used to live near one another and would often trade goods among themselves. White settlers traded guns, knives, axes, cotton cloth, metal tools, glass beads and the like for Native American deerskins. However, these trades came with some negative side effects, one of which was the overhunting of deer by both whites and Native Americans. This caused a decline in the local deer populations, and thus, the deerskin trade. By the beginning of the 19th century, whites hunting on one side and Native American hunting on the opposite side often attacked one another. As a result, not only was the hunting season an extremely dangerous time, but it also may have been the cause of the Morgan County massacre.
On November 6, 1813, a band of Creek Native Americans attacked the settlers who lived on the several farms that lay within what is now Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County. Those attacked included members of the Brantley family, of which the only survivor was the patriarch, Lewis Brantley. Among the nine who now lay dead included Brantley’s wife and son, an enslaved Black girl, and two other adults – a man and a woman – both unnamed.
Eventually, the Native Americans would be defeated by General Andrew Jackson and cede more and more of their land with every defeat until they were marched to Oklahoma in 1839 on what would come to be known as “The Trail of Tears”.
Lewis Brantley would recover from his injuries, sell his farm, and move near Atlanta in 1832. There he remarried and had two more children. He died in 1836. The CCC named Lake Brantley in his honor.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, one thing’s for certain – staying overnight at the most haunted campground in Georgia is not for scaredy cats.
It’s not scary just because of the story you’ll hear about the ghost of a man who wonders around Camp Rutledge at night, knocking on the sides of the cabins or angrily slamming doors shut. (Could it be the same unknown man who was killed with the Brantley’s during the Massacre of 1813 warning people about the approaching Creek Native Americans?)
Then there’s the story of the ghost of a little boy named Ethan who likes to play catch as he rolls his otherworldly red ball your way. Ethan reportedly wandered away from the campsite during a family vacation in 1973. Despite repeated searches, Ethan was never found.
Another specter of a little boy was spotted staring at a man from behind a tree when the man accidentally stumbled over three broken headstones in what appeared to be a small cemetery within the camp.
Then again, maybe it’s some kind of creepy vibes left behind when they temporarily changed the name of nearby Camp Daniel Morgan to Camp Crystal Lake for the filming of 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
While we didn’t see any of those things mentioned above, we did experience some pants-changing creepiness when we recently camped overnight there. Check out the video below:
So, is Camp Rutledge really haunted? Well, there’s only one way for you to find out, isn’t there? (That is, if you’re not too chicken to stay at Georgia’s most haunted campsite.)
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