When You Can’t Trust Your Own Memory

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Shortly before I graduated college, my friend Liz and I went for a hike outside of our town, San Marcos, Texas. There was a riverfront area popular for picnics, grilling, and hiking, but on this Spring day we decided to stray off the well-beaten (read: boring) path and see if we could find anything cool in the woods. We had water, granola, sunscreen, and bug spray – we were prepared for anything! So we thought.

Liz led the way, tramping over brambles and ivy, ducking under spider webs, and pushing aside low-hanging twigs. All was going well until suddenly she stopped and said, “No.” Just “No.” Without explanation, she did an about-face and stepped behind me. I looked at her face, which had completely lost all color, and then I looked through the trees to see what she had seen.

In my nearly-20-years old memory, all I see is a campsite in a small clearing, completely torn to shreds. Not an old campsite, abandoned and reclaimed by nature. No, what I see is a tent ripped apart by something sharp – claws, perhaps, or a knife; items such as a backpack and a blanket scattered from one side of the clearing to the other; and in the middle of it all, something that used to be white and fuzzy, now covered in fresh, bright blood.

I remember feeling terrified, because I had no way of knowing if the person or thing who caused all this was still around, but that is where my memory ends. I can’t remember calling the police or even telling anyone else about it. I don’t remember seeing anything about a murdered camper in the news. And Liz and I never discussed the incident again. Until last year.

Although we live in different states now, Liz and I still keep in touch on a regular basis and one day during a phone conversation I said, “Wasn’t that so crazy how we found that bloody campsite in the woods?” And she said:

“What bloody campsite?”

She had NO CLUE what I was talking about. I tried to jog her memory, but c’mon. Who WOULDN’T remember stumbling upon a murder scene while out on a hike?

So then I began to wonder – had I made up this memory? The more I think about it, the more it seems this is the only explanation. Maybe I had such a vivid dream one night that I somehow confused it for a memory, or perhaps I was working on a story, using a real hike through the woods as a setting, and somehow conflated my fictional story for a true event.

This “memory” being a work of fiction explains why I can’t recall calling the police or telling any of our other friends. It explains why Liz and I never discussed it in the nearly two decades since it happened. But it is deeply disturbing to have to admit that I *most likely* did not encounter a crime scene, as much as I really, truly think I did. What other “memories” of mine are mis-remembered half-truths, vivid dreams, or just flat-out 100% falsehoods? According to various articles and TV shows I’ve watched, probably a lot. I’ve started second-guessing any story I’m about to tell for which I have no proof or witnesses. If this “memory” of mine is false, then any memory could be.

What do you think happened here? Did I make up this event? Have you ever been in a similar situation? Tell me if you think I’m crazy or not in the comments.

1 thought on “When You Can’t Trust Your Own Memory”

  1. It seems to me that your imagination may have taken over your rational thinking and conjured a vision only for your eyes.
    OR
    This is a big conspiracy and you better watch your back and not accept any food or drink from strangers (or friends and family). Lol!
    This has never happened to me, but I have sometimes heard or seen things that are unexplainable. Or maybe my memory fails me. This is too complex. 🙂

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