All through the 1990’s and early 2000’s my ex-wife, son, and I took numerous trips down to the Caribbean. Living in the Pacific NW and enduring
the dark damp cold winters, I don’t think an explanation as to why this became our default destination is necessary…
Anyway, when our son was 13 – this would have been 1997, we went down to Aruba for a couple of weeks.
Aruba is about as far south as one can go in the Caribbean. It’s not easy to get to from the NW US and is about as much flying as I care to do to
go on vacation.
But once there, it is uniquely different from the other islands to the north and east. It is profoundly Dutch with a healthy dose of Latin American
and African influences all mixed together. The food is awesome, the people are great, and the atmosphere is truly different from what one would
expect in a Caribbean destination.
But from day one, even though I was fascinated by the cultural and environmental uniqueness of the place, I felt a certain sense of unease like
something was not quite right. Still, I enjoyed each and every day out on the turquoise water, my son caught a bucket-full of fish, and my wife stuck
her nose in a book and soaked up as much sun as she could.
One day we decided to go out and explore the island. It’s not very big – maybe 30 or 40 miles in circumference. One of the stops we had on our
itinerary was caves that were one of the obligatory tourist stops on the island. We got there mid-morning as I recall, in a howling wind.
Anyway, my wife was not too thrilled about exploring bat-filled dark caves when she could be in the sun, so my son and I climbed down the rocky path
to see what we could see. Caves. One big cave to our immediate right as we approached, several others along the shore-front in the distance.
We explored the first cave. Meh…
We kept going into smaller caves beyond. There were “cave drawings” on the wall, but who knows if they were from antiquity or not. My son, ever
the intrepid explorer kept pushing on, across rockier ground, through tide pools and water-filled basins, until we found the entrance to a small cave
that could only be accessed by wading through a couple feet of water and was impossible to see from the “tourist” cave 1,000 feet or so in the
Inside the cave I immediately noticed a smell of dead animals. I mean, really strong. The thought that it could be a dead human never crossed my
mind, but in retrospect…
Anyway, my son eagerly pushed forward into the darkness, though it seemed like a mile, it was probably less that a 100 feet from the opening. The
smell of death was almost overwhelming -- rotting meat maybe. I was one or two steps behind my son when he stopped and pointed at the wall.
“What is that?” he asked.
It was a table covered with wax, candle wax I would assume, maybe a foot thick in places. Around it were bones, feathers, torn up cloth,
partially-burned pages from a book, and on the far end of the table a few items of clothing.
I knew immediately that this was some kind of voodoo or Santeria alter for the performing of sacrifice rituals. I remembered the specific sacraments
from my anthropology classes years before.
Now, I’m an agnostic. I very seriously doubt there is any Supreme Being or God or Devil out there anywhere, not the way we’ve been told anyway.
But something inside me that day said GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE.
And I did. I told my son it was time to go and watched him as he turned around and started back for the mouth of the cave. But something held me
When we’d first got to the “alter”, I had noticed some articles of clothing on the far end toward the back of the cave. Something compelled me
to take a step or two back in that direction just to have another look. Again, it was very dark.
There were a few strips or chards of clothing material on the floor around the “alter”, but they were old and had obviously been there awhile.
However, piled close together were what appeared to be a man’s white tee shirt and a woman’s two-piece bathing suit. Both looked like they’d
been there a few days at most.
They were both also stained and splattered with blood. Not soaked in blood, but sprayed or splattered…
Right at that moment my son yelled, “Dad, there are people coming!”
And that was enough for me. I exited that cave with great dispatch, picking my son up on the way out and carrying him a good way back to the
“tourist” cave. I never saw the “people” he was referring to…
That was about half-way through our stay in Aruba and for the rest of the time my sense of unease in that place, the way the locals recognized that I
might have had a glimpse behind the curtain, the change in the way the resort staff went from treating us like long-lost relatives to bothersome
tourists was more than palpable. Hindsight being 20/20, it was a mistake for me to mention this incident to a couple of the staff at the resort
including the head of security.
edit on 8-3-2013 by SBMcG because: (no reason given)