DURHAM — Before leaving on a camping trip with friends, Tia Wilson set up a game camera in her yard Friday, hoping to catch the fox that’s killed a dozen chickens this year.
Scrolling through pictures Monday, over the course of several frames she saw a fox, cats, kids, cars and something much more curious: what looks like a man wearing a rucksack standing near her front door at 8:58 Saturday night.
He’s there one second, vanished the next.
“We were, like, shocked,” Wilson said Wednesday. “Initially, I freaked out because I think there’s somebody in our yard. Who the heck, it’s 9 o’clock at night, who’s at our house?”
The motion-triggered game camera takes pictures in 10-second intervals after detecting motion. She scrolled through the frames again. The shot before the misty figure: bugs. The shot after: nothing.
“If somebody was walking up our driveway, it would have caught a photo of them much sooner, at the edge of our lawn,” she said. The image of the man appears nearer the middle of the frame.
The cats and the fox were visible in several pictures as they entered and cleared the area.
After she brightened the photo with the strange image, the figure popped, appearing to have a full body, standing in profile to the game camera, wearing a thick backpack and a hat.
Wilson asked a neighbor the next day if her 1820s farmhouse had ever been home to anyone who served in the military. She learned a man named John had fought in World War II.
“He came back and proposed to the love of his life. On their wedding day, he showed up, but she didn’t,” Wilson said. “He ended up living in the house and never married. I’m starting to call (the figure) John, because I haven’t gone back any further (in history) than that. It looks like something within the 1900s, so WWII kind of makes sense.”
One of her outside house lights has a green bulb, a symbol of welcoming veterans home. She wonders if maybe that drew him near.
Wilson is no stranger to the weird and unusual. More than 20,000 followers read about her adventures on the Facebook page “Quest for the Unknown.” She’s often exploring creepy history in out-of-the-way places: once, an old, abandoned nudist camp in Durham.
She’s had creepy things happen around her old farmhouse before, too. Doors opening, noises, footsteps, a shower curtain moving.
“I’ve been upstairs in the bathroom and the cats were raising hell on the stairs and I heard a man say, ‘Be good!’ like he was yelling at the cats,” Wilson said. “I’m in the bathroom, ‘Hello?'”
After getting over the initial startle of what she might have caught on her game camera, she has a theory.
“We’ve put the camera back up in hopes that maybe we’ll catch it again,” Wilson said. “My thought is that it’s sort of like a residual haunt and maybe every year on July 7 at 8:58 it happens, so I’ve put a reminder in my phone to put the camera out for next year.”
Weird Wicked Weird
This lightened image was caught on Tia Wilson’s motion-triggered game cam outside her Durham home Saturday night. It appears to show a man with a rucksack standing near her front door. He is in one frame, then missing from the next frame, taken by the camera 10 seconds later. To see the crisp image, go to sunjournal.com (Photo courtesy Tia Wilson)