When You Can’t Trust Your Own Memory

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

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.

One response to “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.
    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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