Forces of nature beyond our control have always drawn legends and awe from humankind since time unremembered, and often serve as wellsprings of tales of the odd and unusual. One particular type of naturtal catastrophe that had birthed some intriguing stories of the bizarre are forest fires, and here we have tales of ghosts, high strangeness, Bigfoot, and more.
A very weird and spooky tale concerning a forest fire seems to have firm roots in the paranormal world of ghosts and specters. Lying in Southern California within the San Gabriel Mountains and the sprawling Angeles National Park is the magnificent South Mount Hawkins. Known for its pristine, unspoiled natural splendor and as being a haven for all manner of outdoor activities, South Mount Hawkins is nevertheless scarred by a bit of dark history. On September 1, 2002 this expanse of rugged beauty was hit by a major fire that raged through the canyon and basin of park’s recreation area, destroying large swaths of forest and severely damaging the main highway that passes through the remote area.
Known as the Curve Fire, this conflagration is believed to have begun at a fire lookout tower erected in 1935 upon the summit of South Mount Hawkins, which was unfortunately old, brittle, and made of wood. Rumors soon spread that this fire was not started by any natural means, but rather by a shadowy cult-like group, which had performed some dark ritual up there at the tower involving animal sacrifices and perhaps had awakened something that had sparked the flames. Whether this all had really had anything to do with the bizarre phenomena that would follow or not remains uncertain, but follow it did.
In the aftermath of the blazing fire, local residents and tourists and hikers alike began to report of hearing outlandish wails and shrieks echoing out from the forest of South Mount Hawkins, as well as seeing strange apparitions darting about. Wandering the woods were seen birds, rabbits, and cats that seemed to have something off about them. From a distance they were seen to have odd, disjointed movements, and upon drawing closer it could be seen that they had hair missing, odd hardened flesh, and eye sockets devoid of eyes, merely gaping black holes that stared into nothingness. Some hikers even reported being stalked by these prowling apparitions. Rumors quickly sprang up that these were the spirits of animals killed by the cult in the ritual that had led to the fire, that it had awakened some primal evil, and there were those who refused to go anywhere near the area.
On top of this there have also frequently seen tall shadowy figures standing top ridges on the mountain, very similar to the Dark Watchers I wrote of recently, as well as furtive dark entities flitting about and lurking in the trees. Apparently these zombie-like animal specters and shadow people have still been spotted from time to time right up to the present, and whether it is all an urban legend or not, South Mount Hawkins certainly seems to have its share of creepy stories.
Speaking of forest fires and ghosts, there are cases where the fires themselves appear to have been ghosts. According to a witness named Ludwig Wittgenstein, in the summer of 1976 he was working as a U.S. Forest Service employee in a rugged area of central Idaho by the fork of the Salmon River. The witness had a lookout vantage point in a lookout tower high atop a place called Pilot Peak, in the Payette National Forest, in an area so remote it was only accessible by helicopter. One evening he was camped out there when he woke up at 2AM unable to sleep. As he looked out over the horizon he noticed what appeared to be a “bright orange triangle” near the crest of a mountain about 6 air miles away. He would say of what happened next thus:
Stunned by what I saw, I leaped from my bunk, pulled on pants and a coat, laced my boots, and dug a flashlight out of a drawer, all the while glancing at what I perceived to be a forest fire. I slapped my face, splashed cold water into my eyes and down my cheeks, and then walked out onto the catwalk with the binoculars.
Sure enough, through the lenses I could see a patch of flame and a couple of huge trees crowning out with fire. Breathing heavily, I went back inside, made some azimuth-based calculations with my fire-finder, and filled out a fire report. Then I leaned my shoulder against the window, eyes on the fire, and radioed data to the closest fire station, fifteen air miles away. After reporting everything and knowing the fire crews were being awakened and prepared to leave base by helicopter at dawn, I stood back and watched the fire that I estimated to be two to four acres in size.
I watched for twenty-five minutes while retaining radio contact with another lookout upriver that was in the same vicinity as the fire. This lookout could still see no indication of a fire where I had reported it. Shortly, I called the fire station to report that the flames seemed to be receding. Within forty minutes after I spotted the flames, they disappeared altogether. Perplexity set in. What I had assumed was a two- to four-acre fire was now nothing, and I had been the only person in the entire national forest to report it. A two- to four-acre fire does not ordinarily cease to exist after only forty minutes.
He had called it in anyway, and had been told that the fire may have been blocked from vision by cloud cover or fog, and that at dawn he should be able to find out the location of the fire through the trail of smoke reaching up into the sky. However, when morning came there was no smoke to be found at all, nor were there any signs of flames or even fire damage anywhere. Nevertheless, his report had been taken seriously enough that for a few days helicopters and smokejumpers scoured the area looking for the forest fire, yet could find no evidence that there had ever been one.
After the strange incident the witness tried to go over all of the possibilities of what he had seen in his mind. He considered that it had been an optical illusion, some sort of atmospheric phenomenon, that he had been sleepwalking, but he was certain he had been wide awake, in full control of his senses, and that he had definitely seen a forest fire, albeit one that behaved strangely and ceased to exist rather quickly. More paranormal possibilities he considered were that he had seen a vision of the past or conversely one of the future, but in the end he could not fathom what had happened, and the “Pilot’s Peak Phantom Fire” remains unsolved. You can read more about this case here.
Other cases are of a more cryptozoological nature. On August 6, 1999, Battle Mountain, Nevada, was hit by a series of catastrophic wild fires that laid waste to large portions of the area in an apocalyptic blaze called the Battle Mountain Complex Fire. According to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), during the incident an actual Bigfoot was injured and subsequently captured, and the site listed a letter supposedly from an unnamed government employee at the scene, which read:
I observed an animal wounded by fire moving on all fours not like a bear. More like ape. Fire fighters captured animal, contacted local vet and medical doctor. U.S. Department of Fish and Woldlife, Department of Interior, and Bureau of Land Management on the scene. Animal tranquilized and moved to unknown location. Those at scene told not to talk about what they saw.
Animal approximately 7.5 feet long/tall, human like arms and legs, face not like man or ape but mixed between. Genitalia: male, uncircumcised and human-like. Hair covering most of body except chest, chest has hair but sparse, hands with sparse hair, palms bare, with five digits with human opposition of thumb and 5th digit.
Doctor and Vet working together providing care and moved it to unknown location locally. This notice given in violation of orders given by BLM, DOI and DF&W. Witnesses numbered in the area of 30-25. Word is out in the government agencies, and among the firefighters, since an M.D. was called out. Many thought a firefighter was injured.
Please note that I am a government employee of one of the listed agencies fighting bruse fire in wilderness area of Nevada (large scale fire approximately 70,000 acres burned) and under orders not to disclose information. I believe a cover up is in the making, people need to know, the animal needs to be kept alive and studied and released in protected area.
The massive beast was claimed to have had serious burns and singed hair over large portions of its body, and was even described as trying to communicate with its caregivers through some grunts and groans, although what it was trying to say was anyone’s guess. Sadly, although the BFRO tried time and time again to contact this source and get further information they received no response, leaving no way to know if any of it had any truth to it whatsoever. Just when they had given up on ever knowing more there was apparently a phone call by the witness, during which he gave some additional reporting on the situation on the condition of anonymity.
The witness claimed to the BFRO investigator, Thom Powell, that the creature had wandered into a clearing in full view of around 20 firefighters, and had sort of realized it was captured, as if it had just “given up.” The injured creature then sat down upon the ground and put up no resistance whatsoever as it was loaded up into the back of a utility truck and an intravenous drip was administered. It seemed to know that the paramedics were trying to help, and did nothing to stop them. The witness mentioned a particular odor about the creature, which was described as a “strong equine odor,” and although the creature was quite animalistic in nature and had vaguely ape-like features, he was struck by how incredibly human it also seemed. As to what happened to the creature after its capture no one seems to know, and correspondence with this mysterious individual sort of just dried up, leaving it uncertain if there is any truth to this at all or if it is all a hoax.
What would an article on forest fires and the paranormal be without mentioning UFOs as well? In July of 2014 an out-of-control wildfire hit a place called West Kelowna, which is northeast of Vancouver, Canada. A news organization in Western Canada called Castanet posted video of the fire and it was not long before something odd was noticed in the footage. According to one witness who noticed the phenomenon:
It shot out from the clouds above the mountain during a forest fire near our neighborhood. It pulled a wisp of cloud with it as it exited. A forest fire broke out on the mountain behind us and during the attempt to put it out, this event took place.
I was watching a video online of the fire from a little earlier in the day and I spotted the UFO 37 seconds in. I have no idea whether anyone else has noticed this or not. Most folks would be focused on the fire. 37 seconds into the video the UFO comes shooting out from a cloud right above the mountain and passes through a clear spot back into the next cloud. I was quite startled and surprised when I saw it.
The UFO left a thin trail of cloud vapor as it exited the cloud. This, to me, eliminates any thought that this might be a camera lens artifact or light phenomenon effect. The event lasted only a few seconds. Judging by the distance I was from the object it had to have been moving very fast. The scene cuts away while the UFO is still visible. I’m left to assume that there must be more footage of it than I saw.
I phoned the website’s news department to ask if it would be possible to see the full footage, but was met with disapproval. In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned the word UFO.
Although it is speculated to have been merely a meteor, it is unusual to say the least. Another UFO was reported in 2017 at the White Mountains, in New Hampshire. A witness named Arthur Frenette claims that at around 6:40 PM he was driving home when he saw something that looked like a ball of fire with other flames protruding from it descend from the sky to plow into a cliff by Kinsman Ridge. The next day he was passing through the area and noticed that there were firefighters congregating at the scene, as well as helicopters circling above as they struggled to contain an out-of-control wildfire.
In the meantime, the witness is not sure what he saw, only to say, “I can’t say it was a meteorite, but I know it was something. It’s just kind of an interesting thing. I don’t care what people think, I just know I saw a ball of fire.” The thing that struck him as odd is that, unlike a meteor, it seemed to plummet straight down, and at a speed that suggested it was not simply at the whim of gravity. Was this a meteorite that caused the fire or a UFO, perhaps a crashed one? All that we know is that there was certainly a fire there, although what caused it remains up for debate.
Here we have looked at a selection of decidedly bizarre phenomena centered around one of the truly frightening natural disasters that scorch and scourge the wildernesses of our world. Is there something to this all, and if there is what part do these raging fires have to play in it all, if anything? Whatever the case may be, it certainly casts a sheen of the bizarre over the wrath of nature, and serves to get the imagination going.