Surrounded by controversies, Trails Carolina horror stories have unraveled the reality of the hyped healing and therapy center. Multiple claims of ragging, abuse, and misconduct have been made by teens who have previously enrolled and attended the famed wilderness camp in North Carolina. On Prima Facie, nothing suspicious can be seen in the organization’s operations but after some serious allegations made by some teenagers in an interview, horrific details were unearthed which are infamously known as Trail Carolina horror stories. There is almost little knowledge on the internet, but here in this blog, you will be fully informed about Trails Carolina Horror stories from beginning to end.
What are Trails Carolina Horror Stories?
To understand the whole scenario, you must first understand what Trails Carolina is. Trails Carolina is an organization based in North Carolina USA. It organizes therapy, wilderness, yoga, survival, and a few other camps for its customers for relaxation, adventure, or treatment of anxiety and other mental and behavioral disorders. Based in Brevard, North Carolina, the organization was established in 1989. Trails Carolina became headlines in November 2016 when law enforcement agencies stumbled upon a teenage boy after he went missing for more than two weeks while hiking in the Nantahala National Forest. The body was later identified as Alec Sanford Lansing who was of 17 years of age and had enrolled in one of the wilderness programs of Trails Carolina situated in Lake Toxaway.
This incident raised certain questions about the management of Trails Carolina and raised eyebrows regarding the practices in the center. After this incident, other students and teenagers of the camp who had previously attended also came in front of the media and made some shocking revelations. In the investigation, it was also revealed that Lanning was physically and mentally harassed by the camp authorities, still no action was taken against them and justice is to be served.
The organization on the other hand has denied all the claims and allegations in this context. Soon after taking cognizance of the incident, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in the year 2018 issued some guidelines making the presence of additional staff mandatory to oversee the activities. After the incident, the people seemed to be divided into two, one-half supported the steps taken by Trails Carolina to eliminate anxiety using such harsh methods while the other group completely disapproved of such regressive practices in today’s era.
What are the allegations on Trails Carolina?
Apart from the death of Alec Sanford Lansing, who died after falling from a tree and breaking his femur when he made a successful attempt to run away from the camp, even the trail staff waited for 5 hours after Alec went missing to call the police. If the staff had acted promptly, his life could have been saved. After the incident Trails Carolina was awarded a $12000 dollar fine but no further actions were taken against the staff members.
In an interview given to a news channel, Alec Sanford’s mother claims that sending her only son to the wilderness camp in the Trails Carolina organization was the worst decision of her life. Her son was a good student with a bright future. He suffered from no mental disorders but lacked some confidence. In order to elevate her son’s confidence, she decided to enroll him in Trails Carolina’s wilderness camp. She claims that the staff members of the Trails Carolina drugged her son so that he could endure the physical trauma in the camp.
Few other attendees of the camp have some of the horrifying stories to reveal in front of people. Here are some facts given by them in their interviews.
Katelyn Haruko Schmisseur explains that the bathroom conditions were pathetic; it was just a tent tied between two trees. As she was suffering from an eating disorder, a staff member was present around the clock with her. Solid waste management was unattended for a long period which increased the number of flies as well as diseases spreading from it. The essential commodities such as toilet rolls were scarce and a single roll was shared by a group of 10 people. The staff would also physically tackle children who would attempt to run away from the camp.
Another student Kathleen Reilly claims that she was welcomed into the camp with the “F” word and was given just two pairs of clothes. On arriving at the camp there were no structural buildings, just a few camps and temporary tents. She was even denied baths for an initial 17 days. Even though the staff was outnumbered there were only four people to supervise a group of 30 people. Reilly also claimed that her parents were deceived in the name of therapy. The camp involves no actual therapy sessions or one-on-one counseling but just rigorous outdoor activities in seclusion from the rest of the world.
Post returning from the camp, Kathleen Reilly’s condition has become worse. She is now facing abandonment issues, insomnia, anxiety, severe panic attacks, and other mental trauma. Being constantly regulated by someone else daily in the camp, she is even terrorized while recalling those camping days which she hoped to be a fun activity.
Jonathan Hyde, an ex-staff member who worked with Trails Carolina for 6 weeks claims that the staff members were not professionally trained and were paid minimum wage. In his 6 week tenure, he saw kids who were vocally suicidal, wanted to tackle and run away, and with many such issues who needed better psychological treatment and care but all of them were subjected to one single person who was untrained as well as unprofessional. Hyde claims that he received only three days of training. Children would often cry and have a mental breakdown during the whole process. The parents were provided half knowledge about the program during enrollment. They were never shown the infrastructure or met with staff members. The parents were only shown some testimonial videos that would convince them to enroll their child in the program. Moreover, during their stay in the camp, the students were not allowed to contact their parents.
Another claim made by an anonymous woman claims that she was picked up in the middle of the night and dropped in the camp in an uncanny situation. She was subjected to inhuman conditions having a shortage of proper utilities in the name of therapy. She also claims that the Trails Carolina were bypassing many guidelines in the name of treatment. She to date is suffering from PTSD. The anonymous person also added that the staff would often use racial and other derogatory slurs in the name of therapy.
What does the Trails Carolina have to say in this regard?
- Trails Carolina is avoiding any direct questioning from individuals and news agencies after the incidents have surfaced. All the answers framed by the spokesperson seem to dodge the main underlying questions and fail to give credible answers. The organization claims that they have been operating according to the guidelines set by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and that nearly 3000 individuals had a positive impact on their life through their program. They claim that their staff is professionally trained for two weeks and have to undergo mandatory rigorous training after deployment but the claims made by Jonathan Hyde, an ex-staff member suggest otherwise.
- He claimed that the staff members were unprofessional and just got training for two days. Moreover, the facility lacks basic infrastructure and is heavily understaffed. To counter this argument, Trials Carolina claims that the lack of infrastructure and basic amenities is part of therapy and they are not understaffed but have a deployment of more than 200 active trainers and professionals who are qualified and have attended two weeks of training. The firm also claims that the students also receive one-to-one counseling once a week and group counseling every third day but the attendants of the camp would like to differ in this regard. They all claimed no such provisions but only for tiring physical activities. The teenager also claimed that the facility did not have any medical representative to cater to the needs, moreover, the experience in the Trails Carolina camp has negatively impacted their mental health and caused trauma.
What were the actions taken in Trails Carolina after the horrific death of a teenage boy?
From the regulatory as well as other authorities, little or no action was taken regarding the death of Alec Sanford Lansing, a 17-year-old boy who fell from a tree and landed on a creek breaking his femur. The organization was awarded only a 12000 dollar fine and none of the officials was penalized for the incident. The DHA conducted a survey and found several irregularities in the organization. There were 50 deficiencies reported between the years 2010 to 2019. The Trails Carolina had issues regarding improper medications, failure to protect against abuse and neglect, and improperly used seclusions, restraints, and isolations. On top of that children suffering from different disorders were handled by one single untrained generic staff member. But even after all these findings, no action was taken against the organization.
When the DHA personnel were questioned in this regard they answered that they found no anomalies in the conduct and due to COVID-19 restrictions, their further investigations were hampered.
Parents whenever sending their wards to such institutions must do a background check of the organization and tally their findings, and records with the law enforcement agencies. They should refer to some medical expert before their child undergoes any such programs.
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