It started in 1926 as a way to keep young scouts coming back to Camp Tuscazoar in Ohio.  The camp has remained a popular summer destination for scouts for years.  But a secret, ritualistic society within the camp has some, including this writer, wondering if this secret society is safe for our kids.  Here’s what one scout who is now an adult wrote about his experience:

“Tuscazoar was highly regarded for its comprehensive camping program, its experienced leaders and the beauty of its locale. But its most stellar characteristic was the award it bestowed upon its honor campers. This award was called the Pipestone Honors Award. . . The pipestone was awarded to campers who had met certain requirements during their weekly tenure in the camp. There were camping, swimming, nature, Boy Scout advancement and other requirements necessary for qualification. For first-year campers, the requirements were fairly easy. For each subsequent year that the Scout attended the camp, the requirements became more difficult. This progression of difficulty continued until the last award was offered, which was the fifth year. The requirements were stringent and had to be met to qualify for the award. There were no pipestone “gimmes” handed out. . .”

So far so good.  However, others have made allegations that not all the rituals associated with Pipestone are that wholesome.  One such former scout camp counselor named Todd was sexually assaulted by an older counselor.  Here is what the police report determined to be Todd’s handwritten account of what happened to him, “About 11:30-11:45 PM, I went to bed and then sometime after midnight, Mike Klingler pulled off my blanket and woke me up. He asked me if everyone was accounted for. I quickly began to walk around the shelter to count [the younger scouts] and Mike grabbed the back of my shirt and took me to another camp sight and began choking, punching, kicking and hitting me. He took me behind one of the shelters and he (sexually abused me–EDITOR’s NOTE: ‘sexually abused me’ is our edit to remove graphic description of the abuse) . He beat me some more. He called me gay. He pulled down my pants and made me continue hugging the tree which was covered in poison ivy. He pulled me off of the tree and told me to go back to bed and if I told anyone about this he would kill me. He said he should have killed me that night.”  As the police continued their investigation, Klingler shot himself at his parents’ home, committing suicide.

Pipestone demanded secrecy about ritualistic behavior, nudity, and physical abuse for lack of compliance.  As a seasoned sex abuse lawyer who’s represented hundreds of survivors, this makes me cringe.  The secrecy, the rituals, and the nudity provide the perfect atmosphere for sexual abuse.

As part of their rituals, the “Indians” who performed these Pipestone rituals made a lot of smoke as they led the young troops through the remote woods.  It’s been my experience that where there’s smoke there’s usually fire.

Kelly Clark

About Kelly Clark

Most centrally, for nearly twenty years, Kelly Clark was a leading advocate for victims of ...