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Headstones in a cemetery | Source: Shutterstock
Headstones in a cemetery | Source: Shutterstock

Man Stumbles upon a Headstone in the Woods and Sees His Childhood Photo on It – Story of the Day

Rita Kumar
Jan 28, 2022
01:40 A.M.

A man was gathering mushrooms with his family in the woods and accidentally discovered a headstone bearing his childhood photo. He investigated the locals around town to figure out how it was possible and learned about a dangerous cult that lived there long ago and the tragic fate of his family he never knew.

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The wind bustled through a thick grove of scarlet oak as Travis, Eve, and their 8-year-old son Robin sauntered across the woods, gathering mushrooms for dinner. It was their favorite weekend hobby since moving to Maine to escape the brutally hot and muggy Texas summers.

The recent relocation to the quiet town nestled in the picturesque hills helped Travis, 34, cope with his health issues. Doctors had advised him to move to a less hot and warm place, so Maine seemed like a perfect choice to live in and make good money when his company offered him a transfer and promotion.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

It had been three months since they moved to this part of the Pine Tree State, and that calm and breezy afternoon seemed normal until Travis decided to venture deep into the woods — somewhere they'd not set foot in before. He was just curious to explore the region, that's all.

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Walking along the gravel path, Travis realized Brandy, their Doberman, was missing from sight. "He must've gone to pee," he thought but started worrying when he heard the dog barking ferociously a few yards away. Travis followed Brandy's loud barks and saw him sniffing something in fear, crouching back, and charging again.

"What is it, boy? Phwwwt, come here," said Travis as he pushed through the dense, tall grass and walked further, only to be stunned at finding over a hundred tombstones there. Some were still in good shape. Some covered in moss and debris were eroded with the sands of time. But one particular headstone Travis encountered moments later startled him...

"Whoa, what is this place? And 1800s cemetery or something?" Travis's hand went over his mouth in surprise as Eve and Robin followed him.

"Honey, I think we should go back. I don't get a good feeling about this place. Look at those antlers...and these bones...and voodoo dolls. Oh my God, let's go. This place is giving me the creeps," Eve panicked, hunching her shoulders against the autumn breeze.

But by then, their son Robin had already ventured deeper and a little farther away from their sight. Suddenly, they heard him scream as though he'd seen a ghost. "Daddy...Mommy...Look, I found DAD'S PHOTO...I found DAD'S PHOTO!"

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"I heard the tombstones were cursed … And the children who visited them died."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Travis and Eve's hearts raced in fear as they bolted to the spot, only to freeze at what they found there. Robin was pointing his finger at a crumbled grave with a slightly tilted headstone bearing his dad Travis's childhood photo. Wide-eyed and with trembling hands, Travis dusted the debris off the ceramic picture and was stunned at seeing the date of birth etched on it. It was January 29, 1984, his very own date of birth.

"This is unbelievable! What's my photo doing out here...on this headstone?? And I don't remember wearing this dull yellow shirt in my childhood. I don't remember anything, but still, this makes no sense," Travis was alarmed. He took out his phone and quickly clicked a picture of the plaque as Eve grabbed his arm, begging him to take them home.

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"Let's go from here, honey. I don't get a good feeling about this place. Did you see that earthenware? And bones? I'm sure something weird was going on over here. This whole place looks haunted, and I think we're not supposed to be here. And why's this graveyard isolated from the rest of the town? Something's gotta be wrong. Let's just leave," she said.

Travis immediately took his family out of the woods and marched to his jeep. But he was still plagued by the weird headstone bearing his childhood photo with the date of birth matching his.

"Babe, I can't drive. I'm not able to focus...Can you just..."

Travis clearly couldn't concentrate on anything after that. Eve switched to the driver's seat and drove home while Travis sat tensed, biting his nails, and lost in deep thought.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"Maybe I'm thinking too much...It's just a photo, and it could be a coincidence. I heard we have at least six doppelgangers out there in the world! But..."

"But what, honey?" Eve chimed in, handing Travis a cup of hot tea as soon as they arrived home.

"This picture of this boy who looks like me," he said, zooming into the photo of the headstone on his phone. "How did it get there? Is this little boy me? But I haven't been to Maine all my life."

"Babe, you're just overthinking. You don't remember anything about your childhood. Maybe it's just a lookalike, as you said. Stop thinking about it and get the bacon from the fridge. I'm starving. Let's make dinner…It's your turn today."

"But still, a little version of myself out in the woods on a tombstone? That's kinda strange, don't you think? Could this picture help me find any of my relatives...or parents who abandoned me? Is it connected to them by any chance?" Travis pondered, recalling the day he was mysteriously abandoned at a cathedral's doorstep 31 years ago.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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Back then, on a rainy evening on March 11, 1987, Travis was found outside a church in Texas with a note in his pocket.

"This boy's name is Travis. He was born on January 29, 1984. He's 3 years old and needs help. Please do not send him back to where he came from."

There was no surname or anything else mentioned on that note that could help Travis track down his origins in the later years. The priest and nun who found him were shocked at seeing his blood-stained clothes and immediately alerted the cops. But nobody could find out who the boy was and where he came from.

Travis was put in foster care and was then adopted by a Catholic couple in Downtown Texas. Growing up, the boy did have fragile memories of his birth parents, but his recollections of them faded with time. However, a strange dream of a woman running in the woods, holding a little boy, haunted him for several years through his adolescence.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Travis kept getting this dream often, but he never gave it much thought. At some point, he even assumed it was just his mind playing tricks on him due to his thoughts about his lost parents and his fondness for trekking in the woods. He even wanted to find his family and know what had happened to them and why he was abandoned. But he never found a clue that could help him unravel the mystery.

Eventually, Travis gave up hopes of finding his family, and as time ticked away, he accepted his new life, married Eve, and moved on. But he'd never imagined his past, which he could never recall, would come back to him through a time-worn headstone and baffle him even more.

Travis tried to shake off the thought about the tombstone, but a part of him told him to investigate further. He went around town, asking people if they knew something about the deserted cemetery in the woods.

While some were frightened to even talk about it, some told him that only one person in the whole town could help him. Her name was Lois Woods, an 89-year-old widow who was the oldest resident in that neighborhood. Travis and Eve then arrived at the old lady's doorstep to meet her the next day.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"You sure she'd know something? I hope she doesn't throw big eyes at us and walk away after hearing 'cemetery in the woods' like those in the café today evening," Eve pressed Travis's shoulder as they stood outside Lois's woodhouse.

"Heard she's the oldest in this neighborhood, and I'm sure she must know something," said Travis as he clenched his fist to knock again. But the door creaked open, and on the other side stood an old, fragile woman holding a walking stick.

"Yes, how may I help you?" said Lois, unable to talk fast due to her aging mouth and missing teeth.

"Hey there! I'm Travis, and this is my wife, Eve. We moved here three months ago. And yesterday, we were in the woods near the town...picking mushrooms. And we...we saw these old tombstones there. Do you know anything about that place? It looks like a deserted cemetery, but why is it detached from the main town? And there's this headstone with my…."

The rose on Lois's saggy cheeks turned pale with fright as she stared right into Travis's eyes. She immediately asked them to get in and slammed the door shut behind them.

"My dear, you're not supposed to go there…and do you have young children?" she asked, sounding nervous.

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"Yes, a son...Robin. He's 8 years old."

"Oh, dear... I'm afraid you're not supposed to go anywhere near those woods with your son... it's not safe to take little kids to that place."

Travis and Eve were unsettled when Lois said this.

"Oh, well, I didn't know that. We just moved here a few months back. We don't know much about the woods and the cemetery there. Do you know about the headstones? And why is that place deserted? And take a look at this…." Travis showed Lois the photo of the headstone bearing his childhood picture. "Do you know this kid?"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I haven't seen those headstones, and I don't think I've seen this boy before...but I heard the tombstones were cursed, according to old folklore locals believe in this town," said Lois. "And the children who visited them died. Maybe it's just a myth, but I wouldn't tempt fate."

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"That's strange! But why would people put up headstones to scare only children? And we saw some strange earthenware and bones there," Eve interrupted. "Voodoo dolls and weird knives made from bones."

Lois sighed heavily before revealing something the couple had not come prepared for.

"When I was a teen, my grandma told me about this religious cult that lived in the woods since the late 1800s. Locals believed the men and women of that secret society hosted occult ceremonies and rituals at night to please their god and seek happiness in the afterlife. They even hosted strange sacrifices to choose their leader. Some decades later, one man was chosen as their crowned leader. I heard police stormed the cult after they kidnapped and sacrificed little children to satisfy their gods. Some said a couple with twins tried to escape from this cult, and they just disappeared into the woods. Many rumors kept spreading in town after the cult was taken down."

"Oh, my God!" Eve gasped in horror as Travis clasped her hand tight. He was equally startled by what Lois had said.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"I heard the police beat up the members of the cult and vandalized their homes and temple. Some were shot dead. Some arrested. And some fled. The cult vanished from the face of this town, but nobody knows for sure. People started avoiding going to the woods after that. Some years ago, local woodcutters came running from the forest, claiming they heard strange noises from north of the woods where you and your family visited yesterday."

"I'm not sure how true these tales are...but there's someone who can help you," added Lois. "His name is Teddy...Teddy Sutton. His father was the inspector who led the team that stormed the cult and killed its last leader. For some reason, Teddy never mingles with people and keeps his life private. He lives with his cats and dogs. He is a bit cranky, so locals keep their distance from him. But you may still seek his help if you want to know the whole story. Everybody here says if there's someone who knows that incident better, it's Teddy. But he's never talked about it to anyone. Still, you may try your luck."

Travis and Eve stared into each other's eyes, anxiety crawling up their gut. "Thanks, Mrs. Woods."

"Miss Woods."

"Oh, thank you, Miss Woods. It was nice meeting you. Where can we find Teddy? If you could please tell us..." Travis said.

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"The last house at the end of this lane...with a broken chimney and dogs barking inside all the time...That's Teddy's."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I don't understand. Darling, let's just go home. Why do you want to meet that man? He's gonna tell us something spookier, which I don't wanna hear, alright? Did you hear what she said? A cult and their strange rituals…And little children were killed in the woods. All this is scaring the pants off me. Please, let's pick Robin up from his friend's house and go home," Eve pestered Travis.

"I know, honey...Even I'm a bit disturbed. But I need to find out what my picture is doing on that darn headstone. Did you see the date of birth below the boy's picture? January 29, 1984...I was born on that date. So it has got to do something with me...if not me, then my parents who left me, or my family…or someone. I don't know exactly, but I need to find out. Babe, please take the jeep and pick Robin up and go home. I'll go meet Teddy alone."

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"No, I'm not leaving you. I'll go with you," Eve insisted.

The couple then arrived in front of a shabby house at the end of the lane and knocked on the door.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Getty Images

For illustration purposes only | Source: Getty Images

"I hate doing this. It's getting dark, and we're going around disturbing people. I hope this man's kind to us like Miss Woods," said Eve.

The door then opened, and on the other side stood an old man, probably in his late 70s, holding a Bible.

"Gosh, I think we picked the wrong time. Hope he isn't mad at us," Eve whispered behind Travis.

"Yes??" the man spoke in a raspy voice.

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"Hey, I'm Travis, and this is my wife, Eve. We moved here from Texas a few months back and..."

"What do you want?" Teddy interrupted, a cold, grim stare gleaming his eyes as he looked at his wristwatch to see the time.

"Hey, I'm sorry for disturbing you at this time. I actually wanted to ask you about the headstones in the woods...Do you know anything about them? Miss Woods, the old lady down this street, she told us that you know...so we thought you'd tell us something about that place."

"I don't know anything. GET OUTTA HERE!" Teddy said rudely, stunning Travis and Eve. He was just about to slam the door shut in their faces when Travis stopped him by showing the photo of the headstone on his phone.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"Look, Mr. Sutton, only you can help us. I need to know some details about this place, particularly about the boy in this photo. Please tell me if you know something. It's really important to me. I need to know what happened after your dad killed the cult's leader. Please!"

Shock and fear pooled in Teddy's eyes as he grabbed the phone from Travis's hand and looked at the picture, zooming the little boy's photo on the headstone.

"This picture...this boy..." Teddy stammered.

"Mr. Sutton, that's my childhood picture, and I found it on the headstone in the woods I've never visited before."

"I'm new to Maine, and this whole thing is driving me crazy. That's why I'm here to ask you if you know something. Please help me if you do," said Travis.

Sweat and tears rolled down an alarmed Teddy's face as he immediately asked the couple to get in.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"Do you have any other picture of you when you were little?" Teddy asked after a momentous silence, just staring at the headstone's photo on Travis's phone.

"Yeah, yeah, I do... It's on my phone.."

Travis then showed the man a picture of him with his adoptive parents when he was 3-years-old. Teddy suddenly burst into tears as he gazed at the photo and revealed the gruesome incident that shook that part of the town on March 9, 1987.

"My dad, Billy, was a cop. He told me he was investigating something 'mysterious' going on in the woods. It was about a cult. My dad and his team then wiped away the secret society and even gunned down its leader."

"On the previous night before the cult was taken down, something terrible happened to the boy whose picture is on that headstone....and it's got something to do with you, I'm afraid," Teddy added.

"With me? I don't understand. I haven't been to Maine before. I find my childhood picture on a headstone here…And I keep getting this strange dream of a woman running with a little kid in her arms. It doesn't make any sense," exclaimed Travis.

"Well, you'll know now!" began Teddy.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

"The cult I'm talking about was something the locals in this town dreaded until the late '80s," said Teddy. "The men and women worshipped a deity and were part of a secret society that detached itself from the town. They were known for their strange rituals, voodoo, and midnight sacrifices, the sort of which still frighten many."

"Miss Lois told us the cult had these rituals of human sacrifice...Did they kill young children? I heard that's why the cops stormed and wiped the cult away."

"They did have ceremonies and rituals, but human sacrifice was not a part of any," added Teddy. "They lived in the forest and only visited the town to sell their handmade goods, honey, and pottery. They followed strict rules and never mingled with the locals except at the fair, which would last three days. That's how my younger brother, Shawn, met her!"

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"Met who?"

"Your mother!"

"What?? My MOTHER??"

"Yes! Your mother, Nedaara. Shawn was a photographer and was planning to go to New York to start a studio. When he heard the cult was coming to the fair in town, he wanted to click their pictures to put up in his studio. And that's how he met Nedaara, the cult leader's youngest daughter."

"What happened after that?"

"Whatever happens to a young, handsome man in his 20s when he locks eyes with a beautiful, young girl! Shawn fell in love with Nedaara at first sight without knowing she was the cult's leader's daughter. She started sneaking out to meet him, and they dated for two months. One day, Nedaara came crying to our house, saying somebody had told her dad about Shawn and their secret meetings. Afraid of losing her, my brother braved into the woods to meet Nedaara's father and ask for her hand in marriage. Shawn should've thought twice before taking this foolish step, but it was too late, and he'd called this upon himself. Maybe I should've not let him go," cried Teddy.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"I waited the whole night, but my brother didn't come home. Only I knew where he'd gone. I didn't tell our dad. He was busy in the station. Maybe I should've told him. Had I done that, then maybe Shawn would've been with me today," tears gushed into Teddy's eyes when he said this.

"What happened to your brother? He never returned after that?" Travis gasped.

"He did...Shawn did come back to collect his things the next morning. He told me the girl's father had agreed to get them married, but only if Shawn detached himself from the town and joined their cult. I wanted to stop my brother, so I told my dad everything. We tried to convince Shawn to change his mind, but love had spread in his heart and soul like venom. Dad even offered to set up a new studio for him in New York. But Shawn refused and left."

"My brother and Nedaara then married in the forest after some weird rituals. He was not allowed to visit the town or us, but I used to sneak into the woods to meet him. He told me he wanted to come back home. He cried, telling me about the strange practices that were hosted there every other day. The cult often starved and drank animal blood. My brother was forced to do it since he was a part of them. Couples were allowed to sleep together in one hut only a few times a year if the leader permitted them. He told me his wife was pregnant, and eventually, she gave birth to twin baby boys."

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"When the babies turned three, Shawn and Nedaara had hatched a plan to flee from the cult. They sought help from a friend, thinking he would help them. Unfortunately, he was the leader's sidekick and spy. On the night of March 8, 1987, my brother and his wife took their kids and were about to flee from the woods, but they were caught and shot dead. One kid among the twins was killed too. Nobody knew what happened to the other kid."

"Jesus Christ...that kid whose photo is on the headstone..." Travis cried.

"Yes, he's your twin brother!"

"But how did I end up in a church in Texas?"

"My dad and his team stormed the cult the next day when they got a tip about Shawn's murder. A woman who was an occultist in that cult was arrested, with a few others. She told us about Shawn and his wife and their children and even claimed she'd wrapped the other boy in a blood-stained blanket and hid him in the bush to save his life."

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"She said she'd carried the unconscious boy to the road and gave him to a driver in a passing truck, leaving a note bearing the child's name and date of birth. She had asked the driver to leave the boy in some orphanage or church and claimed she didn't know the truck's final destination. We didn't believe the woman and thought the other boy was killed too. But his body was missing."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

"I think that truck's final destination was Texas!" said Travis tearfully, unable to process the whole truth of his origins. He cried into Teddy's shoulders because, at this point, he understood that the old man was none other than his paternal uncle. Travis cried for a good long ten minutes when Teddy showed him his dad Shawn's old photos. Travis held a part of his origins in his hands for the first time, his heart bleeding with pain and regret.

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"Is he my dad?"

Teddy was too heartbroken to react, so he just nodded, snapping away his tears.

"Honey, I want a minute with you. Can you please come aside?" Eve whispered in Travis's ears. She was still not convinced that Teddy could be her husband's uncle.

"Look, different people have been telling different tales about this place and that cult. He's old and could be having issues with his memory. You don't even have your birth parents' picture, and you haven't seen them. How do you know that the man in this picture is your dad? Honey, listen, you still need to verify, alright?"

A part of Travis had already crumbled after hearing the truth from Teddy. But another part of him told him to verify the man's claims and the depth of his truth. So a few days later, Travis and Teddy took a DNA test.

When the results arrived a few weeks later, Travis was shattered completely. Teddy Sutton, brother of the late Shawn Sutton, was indeed his paternal uncle!

"I don't know how to process this," Travis confided his anxiety to his wife. "I wanted to find my family all my life and know why they abandoned me. But now, I feel I shouldn't have looked for them. The truth about their tragic fate could've been buried in their graves forever."

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Pixabay

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pixabay

What can we learn from this story?

  • Follow your instincts because you may never know what you might discover as an answer to all your questions. After accidentally finding his childhood picture on the headstone, Travis decided to find out why and how it was there. He met his neighbors and eventually learned that the little boy whose photo was on the headstone was his twin brother.
  • There is a reason why things happen a certain way in your life. Travis relocated to Maine with his family from Texas as part of his personal and professional growth. But little did he know that he would eventually unravel the mystery of his dead parents and twin brother he'd never seen before.

Tell us what you think, and share this story with your friends. It might inspire them and brighten their day.

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A woman hears screams outside her house and bolts to check on her child, only to find her pet dog carrying an unknown baby. Click here to read the full story.

This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone's life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com.

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