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January 1, Boy Dies in Controversial Wilderness Therapy, Camp Investigated



A 12-year-old New York boy tragically died after just one day in the care of a controversial “wilderness therapy” program, prompting an investigation into the North Carolina camp. The Transylvania County Sheriff’s Department announced that the boy was found “not breathing” at Trails Carolina Camp in Lake Toxaway after being taken by two men from his home state with the consent of his parents.

Following his arrival at the treatment program for “troubled youth” last Friday, the child was assigned to a cabin with other minors and four adult staff members. By the following Saturday morning, officials responded to a 911 call to find that the boy “appeared to be deceased for some time,” according to a press release.

The child’s body was transported to Winston Salem for an autopsy as “his death appeared suspicious,” the sheriff’s office wrote. The autopsy, conducted on Tuesday, preliminarily decided that the death “appeared to not be natural,” though the manner and cause of death are still pending.

Investigators soon carried out two search warrants — one for the Lake Toxaway base camp where the boy died, and one for another camp location in Pisgah Forest. “The reason for the second location at 618 Sundance Lake Rd was that Trails Carolina Camp had moved the other juvenile campers from the cabin where the incident occurred to that location,” Transylvania County officials said.

According to the sheriff’s office, “Trails Carolina Camp has not completely cooperated with the investigation.” The camp has disputed this, claiming to Fox News that it is fully cooperating with law enforcement and planning to conduct their own internal review.

“We are shattered by the tragic loss of a young life and our deepest sympathies are with the student’s family and loved ones,” the camp said in a statement to the outlet. “Our priority is to acknowledge and respect the unfathomable impact on their lives and maintain the integrity of the investigation into the cause.”

“While we understand the need and value of keeping the public informed, protecting the family’s privacy and the privacy and well-being of our students and staff is our primary concern,” Trails Carolina Camp added. The program also said that the staff members assigned to the deceased boy’s cabin have since been placed on leave.

“The investigation is continuing and the report generated by the N. C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner may not be available for several months,” the sheriff’s office said. Trails Carolina Camp, which costs about $715 per day depending on a child’s age, is part of the controversial “troubled teen industry,” which includes wilderness and residential treatment programs for minors with emotional or behavioral issues.

In 2014, another child died at the camp when 17-year-old Alec Lansing escaped from staff and succumbed to hypothermia. Authorities believe that after Lansing slipped away from a “group expedition” through the wilderness, he suffered a broken hip and froze to death in a shallow stream he appeared to have fallen into, reported the Transylvania Times.

Trails Carolina was fined $12,000 for the incident, but continued their operations. Other teens who experienced the camp have detailed their horrors over the years, with Kathleen Reilly telling WBTV Chicago that she was woken up in the middle of the night to a uniformed man and woman forcing her out of her home.

Reilly, who was 16 at the time, said in the 2021 interview that she and other minors would go weeks without access to showers or basic hygiene while being forced to live in the wilderness. “I remember laying there every night praying to a god I don’t even believe in saying ‘If you get me out of here, I promise I will do whatever I can to help whatever child so they don’t have to go through this,’” she recalled.

Dozens of other programs in the troubled teen industry have also come under fire in recent years, with media personality Paris Hilton meeting with Biden administration officials to combat such facilities in 2022. Hilton has been a longtime advocate against such programs after claiming that she and others suffered abuse at Provo Canyon School in Utah.

The socialite was sent away to Provo for 11 months when she was 17, and says she was mentally and physically tortured, claiming staff would beat her, force her to take unknown pills, watch her shower, and send her to solitary confinement without clothes.

Why It Matters (op-ed)

The tragic death of a 12-year-old boy at a North Carolina “wilderness therapy” camp highlights the dangers of the so-called troubled teen industry. These camps, which claim to treat emotional and behavioral issues, often employ questionable methods and lack proper oversight.

This isn’t the first time Trails Carolina has faced scrutiny; in 2014, another child perished at the camp. Despite a $12,000 fine, the camp continued operations. This raises questions about the effectiveness of regulations governing these institutions.

The recent investigation into the camp’s alleged lack of cooperation further underscores the need for transparency in the troubled teen industry. It’s time to hold these organizations accountable and protect vulnerable youth from potential harm.

As our loyal readers, we encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions on this issue. Let your voice be heard and join the discussion below.




  1. Robert Bates

    February 13, 2024 at 7:12 pm

    The boys parnets should be charged with child endangering and be put in jail !!!

  2. Jo Ann

    February 13, 2024 at 9:28 pm

    As an EMT on ambulance calls to Newport Academy in Bethlehem, CT, I can tell you the stories we heard from the kids we picked up there to transport after some altercation or other incident sound identical to the ones in your story. More than a few said they were taken out of their homes & sometimes their bed during the night, & taken to one of these facilities against their will. There are 2 facilities now, one for boys & one for girls. I think this company has more facilities in this state but not sure where. They break their will so the kids will do whatever they want but most of the direct care employees are not really trained for how to deal with the kids & it can get nasty.

  3. Peggy Witherspoon

    February 14, 2024 at 1:35 am

    Apparently the government has too much control over what the they deem as a “troubled teenager “. Reminds me of Hitler’s time in history. Scary.

  4. Frank

    February 14, 2024 at 8:09 am

    ??? I am 69 year old male. Who is not really partial to young kids these days. But who in Gods green acre came up with sending a young adult with difficulties too the woods. My oldest grandson then 5 or 6 wanted to go hunting. That said only about a hour out( his comment QUOTE: pap, forest is no place for kid !?? From history reports Nazi camps were better TREATMENT??????

  5. Penny

    February 15, 2024 at 3:50 pm

    Female .Penny /Born mid 60s. Adopted by older parents. Used to talk about being taken to the Wood shed. some kind of correction ? Never there ? never told what takes place there. Wondering is trip to the forest, a new modern version ? A ( WOOD SHED ) sounds more safer and controllable ,than loose in the forest. Maybe this tied in with Roswell area 51 experiments. MILLITARY/ Brain washing-mind control. Take Us too your Leader. So when UFOs really foreign gov. visitors arrive we have trained representatives. Another possible superior idea. I heard about SQURELLS running an scampering through the Forest looking for NUTS . This could be a State Game Commission Ploy for ANIMAL RIGHTS ! I would like too see some test studies on this. The percentage of favorable out comes on young adults/ kids/understandable , humans first .GOD forbid we violate animal rights for human ones. The last of my comments: Young humans with mental challenges. Put in a uncontrollable, surrounding/stress on so many levels. Is the cure ? to complete erase mental problems. Reboot the brain with what all we say is the rights facts? Last but not Least: Who or what Sadists came up with this LUDCRIS IDEA???

    • Frank

      February 15, 2024 at 7:02 pm

      Question of WOOD SHED theory? Having a tad of Government studies. The old adage if the pasta sticks ? close to something usable. But there is always un known outcomes. Possible answers to questions is there Big Foots, shape shifters. freaks of NATURE. Playing mind games genetic experiments . ALL governments try to be GODS proving superiority. The problem factor is : Hybrid or Feral. One good or bad outcomes. Feral able to multiply many copies or mutant a continuum of anything possible. The taken them too the FOREST seems to be is: ask the Question of Provability .Does test subject resort to animal preservation or to see enlighten alien gene kick in?? I will relate this therapy:: The Forest Prodject ? Trouble youths, of no value or resourcefulness to the WORLD. Only possibility of Gain nothing wasted. So incontext we have a problem : we fix it or not nothing loss only possible Gain. The saying WIN WIN . The adverse of reaction to reaction. WE have achieved Free energy, Free absolute corrective Wisdom. Satan was right after all WE ARE GODS!!!!!!!!!!!

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