There can be no doubt that our planet holds much great beauty in the form of the many untamed and pristine wildernesses that dot its landscape. Here we can find solitude, myriad wildlife, and natural splendor, but the woods can also be a decidedly spooky place full of both danger and great mystery. Thrumming under the surface of those grand vistas of trees and mountains one can sometimes find strange forces at work, and the woods can seemingly harbor mysteries and strange entities beyond our ability to grasp. Here is a selection of some truly bizarre and creepy tales of people who have ventured into the woods to find not only the natural world, but perhaps the supernatural as well.
Many strange stories from the wilderness seem to involve some sort of bizarre and mysterious entities, and there are quite a few such reports to be found. One odd one comes from the r/AskReddit forum, and concerns the supervisor of a wildland firefighter with the forest service in the U.S. state of Idaho, who sighted what appears to have been some sort of bizarre, shapeshifting entity. In 2004 the witness, an assistant superintendent at the time, along with his crew, had allegedly been in an area called Hell’s Canyon on an emergency call and were told that they would likely be there for the night. The supervisor then went out ahead into the forest along a lonely, unpaved logging road on an ATV in order to scout the area ahead.
As he made his way along the rather decrepit and treacherous remote road, he allegedly came across a bobcat standing there crouched right in the middle of his path. This wasn’t so strange in and of itself, as the area had many bobcats, but the startled witness was surprised when, instead of running off with the approach of the vehicle as a normal forest animal would be expected to do, it rather just stood there staring at him ominously. The witness and the bobcat then stayed there at a brief standoff with gazes locked for a few moments before the animal suddenly let out an ear-piercing scream and scampered up a nearby tree.
Unsettled by this rather odd encounter, the witness continued on his way undeterred, and soon came across a ramshackle cabin overgrown with weeds just off the road right out there in the middle of nowhere, which was strange since it was technically federal land and there should have been no private structures, but there it was. Curious, the witness stopped his vehicle and went to investigate, finding all of the windows tightly boarded shut and the door well secured with chains to the structure itself. It was apparent that someone did not want anyone getting in, or out, of that cabin, and a peek through a crack in the door showed that the interior seemed to have been ransacked by someone or something. There was a distinct, chilly sense of unease that crept up over him, and he glanced around, almost expecting someone to pop out of the brush, but the woods were quiet. Deciding it best to get on his way and not wanting any more to do with that spooky cabin, the witness then got back onto his ATV and got back onto the logging road. The commenter relating the tale explains what happened next thus:
Well, here’s where it gets real interesting. Right where the bobcat had been, there stands a native American woman, in a badly tattered nightgown and bare feet. Just standing there. He yells at her, asking if she needs help. She just screamed at him, the same scream as the cat from before, and climbs right up the tree, faster than any human has a right to be climbing.
Obviously, he nopes out of there as fast as he can. Unsure of who or what he just saw, he asks a local guy about the cabin. After asking around a little, a local Native American hears them talking and informs them that they saw a pumawha (Excuse the likely butchered spelling). In effect, a skin changer, a warg. Now, I would not believe most people that tried to tell me that. But this was a serious man that did not fuck around about many things. He was dead serious the 2 times I’ve heard him tell it, and I 100% believe he saw what he saw.
Quite similar to this account is one that comes from a park ranger himself, who claims that he had a very strange experience out in the wilds of Montana. The weird tale begins when the unidentified witness alleged found a seemingly abandoned cabin out in the middle of the woods, far from any road or town. Next to the isolated house was a shed that seemed to have had a reinforced steel door that rather alarmingly seemed to have been forcefully broken out of from the inside. Looking into one of the windows of the house he was met by the sight of toppled furniture and a bed that looked to have been shredded by some sort of wild animal.
As the ranger examined the house and its shed, he claims that he looked up to see what looked like a Native American man approaching from a clearing, dressed in tattered clothes and looking to be in some sort of trance or daze. The park ranger called out to him, but when he did the mysterious stranger looked up with an expression of surprise and ran off to disappear into the trees. Already creeped out by that house and its weird shed, the ranger decided not to pursue the weird man, instead deciding to come back the following day.
When he did, he claims that he found that same man sitting out in front of the house. Once again, when the ranger approached the man ran, this time into the house and locking the door. The ranger then allegedly tried to talk some sense into the stranger, telling him through the door that he wasn’t in any kind of trouble and asking if he was OK. When there was no response he looked into the window to find apparently no one there at all. As he scanned the interior through the dust streaked window, he says that he heard a sudden loud noise from the back of the house, after which a full grown bear ran right past him to lope off into the forest. Although the ranger admits it all might have been a coincidence, he was still nevertheless deeply unsettled by the experience, and wonders just what was going on with that man and that strange house. He has perhaps not surprisingly not been back to that house since.
More difficult to identify is a case of a witness who claims to have been leading a group on a climb at Mt. Sterling, in North Carolina, when he saw something he can’t quite explain. The climb was apparently a very difficult one, and they were about six miles from the nearest road, but they had finally reached the top and set up camp for the night. After everyone went to bed, the witness stayed up in a hammock reading a book, finally deciding to call it a night at around 10:30 PM. The evening was described as being very bright, with a full moon shining above. As he prepared to go to bed, the witness claims that he noticed something coming up the trail, which he first took to be a bear but turned out to be a darkened humanoid figure. He would say of what happened:
We were in the middle of nowhere and there was someone hiking up the trail with no headlamp or any gear. I was just frozen, watching this person move closer to our camp. They arrived at the top of the mountain where we were and just stopped. I watched as what appeared to be a man surveyed our camp. I really could only see the outline of him. He stood there for what seemed like 30 minutes but may have been 10. He then turned and sat down under a tree facing our camp. He was sitting up in a way that I knew he wasn’t trying to sleep. He just sat there staring at our camp. I had no idea what to do. I decided to wait it out. I waited, just staring at the man while he stared at my camp. This went on until about 3:30 AM. Then, he stood up, took a moment to survey my camp a few minutes longer and then went back down the trail he came up on. I, to this day have no idea what that was all about but it freaked me out. I was paranoid that we were being followed for the rest of the trip.
Was this a man, a shadow person, a ghost, or what? Other strange wilderness experiences seem to be connected more with ghosts and other unexplained paranormal phenomena. One Reddit user called tytrim89 gave a rather spooky account of an experience he had while poking around at a remote abandoned town out in the woods of North Carolina that the Army had once used as a training area. The witness said of the location, “They replace the doors and electrical but everything else they let go to shit. Which is very cool because the main house is over 100 years old.” After arriving, the man locked the doors to the jeep they had come in on and went about exploring the grounds, and the witness says of what happened next thus:
We all end up splitting into small groups and I end up alone (Yay me). My wife and her friend go around back and I stay out front walking around and scanning the woods. They then come back which is when they tell me they heard what sounded like 2 little girls laughing and playing out in the woods. So I start walking around with the flashlight scanning the woods. When we get back….the dome light was on and one of the doors war cracked open on the jeep. I shit you not, this starts to freak everyone out.
As we are discussing this we heard the loudest thud come from the house. I compared it to someone dropping a safe on the top floor of the house. This literally shook the house and I heard the base in my chest. Now being prior military I know for a fact it wasn’t artillery or ordinance. The rest of our friends that were in the house beat feet and we got in our cars and left. No one can explain the noise. They were all upstairs and they looked in a bedroom and then went to the next room and the boom came from behind them.
Another Reddit user called fleetw16 relates a frightening experience that happened as he was working one year as a summer camp counselor. One time they took all of the kids out on a backpacking excursion, and that evening they set up camp, after which he and one of the other counselors went to a nearby clearing around a quarter of a mile away to do some stargazing. As they were lying there, the sound of water suddenly and inexplicably began to pervade the air around them, which was strange because they didn’t know of any river or creek in the area, and the witness described this enigmatic sound:
As we were laying I heard the beautiful sound of water behind me and I mean beautiful. I’ve never heard water running before and thought to myself “wow this sounds beautiful”. All I could imagine was crisp, clear water gracefully trickling by. I had this image stuck in my head. I had this sudden urge to go find it. Not just an urge but a NEED to find the creek.
The witness and his friend got up and peered into the thick forest behind them, wondering whether they should go out there or not, and the feeling they got was of a “a playful presence” urging them to go find the source of the sound. After a few minutes of wondering what to do, that lovely sound dancing all about them and pulled by that nagging compulsion, they decided to go find it, but oddly the sound got fainter and fainter the deeper they pushed into the dense brush, and things began to get rather scarier. The witness would say:
As we were approaching the sound, it became quieter and quieter. We stopped not knowing if we wanted to continue. As we stood there, the noise of trickling water became louder and louder until it sounded like standing next to a river. I then said “let’s come back tomorrow to find it” and we agreed to come back later.
When I made that decision the sound of the creek vanished along with the urge to go. There was only silence. The presence I felt earlier suddenly became sinister. It was just this dark feeling of a presence, kind of similar to knowing when someone is watching you. I felt this fear slowly creeping up from my belly.
The next day, the curious group went back to the site in the assumed safety of broad daylight in order to see if there was a creek there, and they found not a single sign of one, nor anything else that could have possibly explained the sound that they’d heard. They even looked at maps, which confirmed that no rivers or creeks flowed through there. In the end the witness was baffled as to what it could all mean, but seems sure that something very sinister was trying to lure them in that evening, for what dark purpose no one knows. He would say:
I’m scared to imagine what would have happened if we followed the sound of the water because of the ominous presence we both felt. If I was by myself I would have thought I was imagining it, but my friend thought, felt, and experienced everything I did. I don’t know what it was but it was eerie to say the least. What’s strange is neither of us said anything to each other once we heard the sound of water, and yet we both made the decision to go look for it without asking each other and both heard the sound of water becoming louder and quieter even though there was nothing there. We both felt the sinister presence trying to lure us in.
Adding to these spooky, seemingly paranormal cases is an account from a park ranger on a Reddit forum for rangers. He claims that he and another ranger had been called out to search for a man in his 20s who had gone missing in the area while hiking. They ventured out and set up camp for the night on a high ridge commanding a view of the surrounding area. Things would get bizarre later that night in the wee hours of morning, when the witness saw a moving light at the base of the cliffs across the valley a few miles away. He told his colleague about it, and they decided that this was likely the very man they were looking for, and that they would go retrieve him when daylight came. The witness says:
The next morning, we decide to go check out the area and bring this guy home. We get to approximately where I saw the light the night before and start calling his name. Soon, we find his body at the base of the cliff. He had fallen 60 feet on his head. The body was badly mangled. We radio back that it has now become a “recovery” instead of a “rescue.”At this point, the other ranger yells to me to come look at this. Lying 20 feet from the man’s body was his maglite. It seemed odd, but I thought nothing of it until the other ranger reminded me of the light the night before. It kind of gave me the creeps, but I still dismissed it.
Before too long, the coroner arrived and inspected the body. After he took the body back to the lab, he said that the man had been dead for at least 48 hours before we found the body. All of the sudden the “oh, shit” alarm went off in my brain. I knew that it couldn’t be possible. I had the coroner review his work. Same result. I tried to find an explanation for the light I had seen–perhaps other hikers. But one Search and Rescue guy had stayed at the only trailhead in the area all night. No one had come or gone. To this day, I have no clue what I saw that night. It freaked me out though.
Other accounts are even harder to classify, leaving us unclear if we are dealing with some mysterious creature, a supernatural presence, psychopaths, or what, but being incredibly unsettling and creepy all the same. One ranger claims on a Reddit forum for rangers to have been with a co-worker out searching for a missing group of teens when they stumbled across something that is really hard to categorize. The witness says:
We’d been hiking for most of the day and seen nothing. We’re about 35km into the woods and at this point we start noticing odd things. Sticks carved like spears stuck into the ground, weird carvings in the trees, a child’s stuffed animal hanging from a noose up in a tree. This place was nowhere near any roads, it wasn’t on the regular trails people would go on in the area. The really eerie thing was that everything was freshly-carved. Somebody had been there within a couple of hours of us and made these things. Mind you we’re still looking for these teens. We kept on hiking and eventually made camp for the night still kind of on edge from what we had seen earlier but we settle down anyway and go to sleep. We get up with the sunrise hoping to cover more ground before it gets too hot. We pack up the gear and get ready to go when I notice a bit of shirt that had caught on a small tree and ripped along with some shoe prints. We were thinking: great maybe we’re close by to the teens, when a radio call comes through. The teens had just been found 20 kilometers east of us, and they’re calling everybody back. All those weird things we had seen from the day before came flooding back into my mind, and we wasted no time hiking out of those woods.
There is also a report from a ranger at Yellowstone National Park on the same forum that is really quite surreal in its bizarreness. The witness says that as he was hiking along a remote, isolated trail about 11 miles from the nearest road at the Lamar Valley, he came across something completely unexpected, startling, and quite morbid out there in the wilds, of which he would say:
There, in the middle of the trail, is a perfectly severed deer head. No blood, no raggedness at the severance. Perfectly intact. This is weird because I have seen wolf and bear kills, and I used to find cougar kills in SD with radio tracking just after the cougar made them. This was not any of those things. The head was completely uneaten – eyes, tongue, everything intact. Even the ravens hadn’t touched it yet. No caching, no scat. Right smack in the trail, but again, no blood. Even a human doing it made no conventional sense. It was a doe so it had no antlers, plus, why leave it in the trail? Whole thing, even in broad daylight, gave me chills. Just an ocean of waving grass, bison calmly grazing, and a perfectly clean deer head right on the path.
What in the world killed that deer? Who or what would cut its head off so cleanly and leave it in the middle of a trail out there in the middle of nowhere, all while leaving no footprints or evidence behind? It seems almost like it was intentionally placed there. Why would someone or something do that? Where did the rest of that deer’s body go? Why was there no blood or sign of scavenger activity? It is hard to say, but this is a damn creepy case to be sure. It is certainly not anything anyone wants to come across while hiking around out in the woods alone.
The woods can certainly be a scary place. There are myriad dangers that await the unprepared or careless. Wild animals, the elements, treacherous terrain, all of these can conspire to make short work of the foolhardy, and at night, out there alone the wilderness can be a frightening place indeed. Yet, as we have seen here there are perhaps other, less defined, more mysterious things, and even scarier things that perhaps lurk out amongst the sea of trees. The wild places of our planet are certainly ones of great beauty and solitude, but also a place of danger, and perhaps the wilderness is a realm of not only nature, but also of sinister mysteries perhaps from beyond it.