Back in the summer of 2009, my family and a friend of mine took a two week vacation in Florida. Though, when I say vacation, it was more like a business convention for my father and a vacation for my mother, myself, and my friend. Most days were spent traveling to the nearby theme parks, swimming in the hotel pool, or attending convention events.
At the start of the second week, the three of us decided to take a trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Most of what happened during that vacation is lost on me, but I do remember Rock 'n' Roller coaster. My friend, a huge Aerosmith fan, absolutely insisted on going on this ride. I, however, wasn't much of a fan of the ride, so I chose to sit out while she and my mother went on the ride.
At some point, I remember my mother's bag slipping off the bench and when I went to retrieve it from beneath the bench, I discovered a camera bag. Setting both bags back onto the bench, I opened the camera bag to find, well, a digital camera. I looked through the bag for any form of identification, but there was nothing to be found in it. I merely assumed someone had probably tucked their bags beneath the bench and overlooked the camera bag when gathering their belongings.
By the time I had put the camera away, my mom and friend were walking out of the exit of the ride and I stood to meet them half-way. I had reasoned that on our way out of the theme park, I'd drop off the camera bag at the entrance so it could find its way to the lost and found. As one might expect, I forgot all about it until we got back to the hotel.
At the hotel, I finally took the time to turn on the camera and see if there was any way of identifying whom the camera belonged to. The memory card had been maxed out at five-hundred photos. The photos revealed a family of five; mother, father, two daughters, and an infant. They seemed like a young and happy family. What did strike me as strange was the fact that the first few images weren't of them at the theme park, but rather them at a barbecue in someone's back yard. After the first twenty images, I didn't feel it was necessary to keep going. My friend, who'd been equally interested in the newly discovered item, suggested that I make a Facebook post about it. I'd seen those types of post before, where someone finds a lost item and they manage to circulate the post until the missing item is reunited with its rightful owners.
It seemed a little stupid, but I figured I'd give it a try. With her help, I was able to pull up a few of the images on the camera and start a post. A few weeks passed and it seemed it was generating a lot of shares and likes. It had long past 100,000 shares, but when I really thought about it, it didn't seem like a whole lot and I was beginning to doubt that anyone was going to claim the camera.
By the time 2011 rolled in, the camera hadn't crossed my mind in months. I'd long ago stored it away in my closet and if I hadn't been in the process of moving out for college at the time, I probably would've forgotten it for another few years. When I stumbled across it again, I was in the process of determining what I needed to take, get rid of, or sell. With two years already having gone by, I didn't feel guilty about selling it or even keeping the camera. I did, however, feel obligated to at least save the images should someone ever try to claim the camera.
Deciding to save the images to my laptop, I began the process of uploading them. When the photos finally finished loading, I realized the dates didn't match up the way they did on the camera. It seemed the first images that came up, were actually the oldest. It explained why the images I'd seen of the barbecue, weren't taken in Florida. Curious, I scrolled through the various photos of the family. Parties, picnics, holidays, and family gatherings flew by until I got towards the bottom.
The photos were now just between husband and wife. They were intimate in nature and I felt strange looking through them. They weren't lewd , but rather pictures of them cuddling, or of each-other from a first-person perspective. They were laughing or smiling, sometimes shy or embarrassed. If it were a movie, it'd be your typical romance scene. Instead, though, it was real life and I was starting to feel like a creep.
The photos were quick to shift, the camera now seemed to be held by someone. At first, I assumed it was on a tri-pod, but some of the images were blurry, suggesting movement. As the sexual activity of the couple peaked, the photos shifted again. They were action photos, far too blurred to make out what was going on. At the beginning, at least. I soon realized the blurred images were of the wife repeatedly plunging a knife, or some other sharp object into her husband. The entire murder was only composed of four photos, each taken hours apart, but it was more than enough for me to handle. It seemed less about murdering the man and more about completely obliterating his existence. The fourth photo was taken from what I assume was the wife's perspective as she looked down on her husband from her straddled position.
The husband was an indescribable mess from the neck down. Bones were visible from the amount of times the knife scraped away at the man's flesh with each stab. Fresh blood bubbled from open wounds and dried blood stained the untouched skin on the husbands face. Even now, the thought of the image makes me sick.
Most haunting of all, was the husbands untouched face. His eyes were open, void of life as they stared straight into the camera, or more specifically, at his wife. His expression was almost soft, happy, even.
The next photo wasn't a photo at all, but a video. It was short, only twenty seconds. At first, I thought it was just of nothing. It was too dark to see anything and even after what I'd witnessed, I was naïve enough to think someone had forgotten to take the lens cap off. Then, at the ten second mark, the video glowed a bright white before dimming out enough to reveal a house on fire. The video was silent as the house fire consumed everything in its path. The last thing to be filmed was the silhouette of a woman in front of the burning house, waving to the cameraman.
Several photos followed that were either completely blank or too distorted to make-out. Then a crowd, children posing with Disney characters, and glimpses of familiar attractions. Some were of two little girls, somber in expression despite the cheerful atmosphere. I easily identified them as the two daughters and they looked more frightened, than happy. Sometimes, the wife would join in with the pictures, but she'd be all smiles. Whoever held the camera during these 'family' portraits, was never seen. The last few photos were of the Rock 'n' Roller coaster. I could see myself, sitting on the bench in one of the photos. What followed was a series of step-by-step photographs of the camera man walking towards me from behind. The last photo was of the cameraman directly behind me.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. None of it made sense to me. It seemed intentional, as if the woman wanted to share her horrifying secrets. The time-stamp between the photos of the gruesome murder and the family outing at the theme park were only days a part. The fact that wife had seemingly celebrated the death of her husband, made the event all the more terrifying.
For a long time after that, I've tried to figure out what had been so special about me. It's taken some time, but I realize now it had nothing to do with me. I wasn't special, just convenient. Someone who'd be forced to carry her secret to their grave. Elaborate hoax or not, it was twisted. I've tried looking for a crime that fits the family, but I've never found anything. I've long removed the Facebook post and I've never been contacted by family, friend, or owner of the camera. Honestly, it's probably for the better.