One very spooky place often orbited by the paranormal are forests. With their twisting trees and often remote locations, they have a way of instilling a sense of isolation and fear, which weaves perfectly in with tales of the weird. Indeed there are numerous accounts of people coming across various phantoms, monsters, and demons in the woods, and here is a selection of some tales that may make you think twice about camping or hiking.

Some of the forest encounters we will look at here have a sense of some sort of monstrous phantom creatures prowling out past the periphery of the light and our understanding, perhaps some sort of undiscovered beast, or maybe something else. One such report comes from October of 1995, when a witness only known as “Tango” was out camping with his family and his dog in the White Mountains of the U.S. state of Arizona. At the time, the darkness was coming, the day coming to an end and the sun getting real low, and yet they had not managed to find a camping spot for the night as they drove along an isolated, narrow dirt road. As the dark began to cling to them, and the trees seemed to extend their branches outwards in the growing shadows as they retreated into gray amorphous shapes, Tango’s father stopped to turn around the car and head back, hoping that they could find a place somewhere along the route they had come through, that dim road ahead a little too mysterious and uninviting.

As they bumped along the steadily darkening road there then appeared a little girl somehow out there in the middle of nowhere, dressed in tattered clothes and obviously very frightened of something. When the father stopped to ask if she was OK, the mysterious girl simply blurted out “You shouldn't be here. Please go back!” They tried to console her, but the girl just kept repeating that same line before running off into the brush before they could stop her, and their calls after her went unanswered. Truly unsettled by now, the family continued on, that strange girl and her ominous portent weighing heavily on their minds. They eventually did find a camping site and set up their tents in silence, wondering perhaps if that girl was still out there, maybe even watching them from the growing shadows. They started up a campfire, and as they finally settled down after a long day on the road they were all simultaneously hit with the distinct, intensely creepy feeling that they were being watched. This was followed by a primordial screech from out in the black of night, and then there was a thing that loped out of the trees into the light of the fire. The witness would say of this:

It had sharp teeth and no fur. It was the size of a bear, but its eyes were yellow. I was frozen in fear. It stood for ten seconds in the light, then galloped off into the forest. I was horrified. My dog was whimpering and it curled its tail between its legs. This was the most horrifying experience in my life. This creature was extremely skinny, it looked like flesh and bones. This disturbing image of this... ‘thing’ is implanted in my head forever.

What was it and where does the mysterious girl fit into it, if at all? On the site ThoughtCo. there is another report of some monstrosity in the woods that is perhaps even more bizarre. In this case a witness named “Ben” was out one summer with his sister and some friends camping at an unspecified location in the United States. They found themselves gathered around a campfire, laughing, talking, and totally unaware of anything that might be stalking about past the periphery of where the firelight reached. At one point one of the friends gasped and pointed off into the dark, and Ben would look to see something beyond his experience looming out there licked by the flickering firelight, saying of what happened next:

It was white and about the same size as a big dog. It had large red eyes and it was glowing very brightly. It was late at night in a pitch-black field in the middle of nowhere. We had no torches shining on this thing, and yet it still stood out like a sore thumb. It really did glow! In less than a couple of seconds, it ran 30 feet and scaled a 7-foot stone wall, jumping down to the other side. It then ran another 50 feet to the end of the wall and jumped back up onto it. It then stood on its hind legs watching us! When it stood like that, it was about the same size as a man and looked rather daunting. But we plucked up our courage and carried on toward it. Again, very quickly it jumped down the other side of the wall and ran up and over the hill. I know of other people who have seen the same thing in this area, but no one has any explanation as to what it could be.

What in the world was this glowing thing? Was this an alien, a cryptid, or just frazzled nerves? In another report from 2003, a witness called “Al” was out on a fishing and camping trip with his girlfriend at a lake in a remote part of a nature preserve, setting up their camp right up against the edge of the water. On this evening there was no moon and the stars glinted in the sky like diamonds tossed across a black velvet cloth, with the two sitting within their tent watching the lines they had thrown out. At one point one of the rods was violently yanked, causing him to rush to grab it and find that whatever it was was enormously powerful, to the point that the rod simply snapped in two. Knowing that he had lost the fish, he was disappointed, yet also curious as to how any fish in those waters could have been that explosively strong. They would eventually drift off to sleep but be awoken at around 4 AM to the sound of thrashing water. When the witness stepped out of the tent to get a better look he says of his experience:

About 100 or so meters away in the lake was a humanoid-looking creature,” Al says. “It was a dark green color with red, glowing eyes. It looked like it was standing on the water. I rushed back in to wake my girlfriend, and when she came out to look, the creature was now about 50 meters away from us. It was literally walking on the water! Not giving a second thought, we ran through the woodland back to the jeep.

The two hastily got into their jeep parked nearby and tore off along the road, and as they did so the witness says he looked into the rearview mirror to see it standing there glaring at them. He would later tell his friends of what he had seen and convince some of them to go with him to check the area out, where they would find the campsite ransacked and the tent torn to shreds. Whatever this thing was, it seems to have been very pissed off that its territory was being infringed upon, and presumably that it had been hooked by a fishing pole.

This seems like quite a frightening, rather menacing report, and there are others that are even more terrifying. On the site Week in Weird there is an account from a man who claims to have been out with some fellow campers in southern New York state when they had an encounter that would chill them all to the bone, combining all manner of high strangeness. As many of these stories begin, the small group was gathered around their campfire enjoying some beers and the quiet of the night when there was suddenly realization that it was all a little too quiet. When they listened there was not the expected symphony of crickets or any other forest sound, just a wall of silence, as if they had been cut off from the outside world and were watching it all through a muted TV set. The witness says:

Everything just went dead quiet. It felt like there was a lightning storm coming because you could feel the static in the air and all the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Jamie started saying that he felt like the air was humming and then all of a sudden there was a real deep bass noise and this bright light in the distance that flashed up and lit up the whole woods. It looked like the light when a real big firework explodes for the first few seconds, but it lasted for probably a minute before it split up into 3 or 4 other lights and shot back down into the trees. We could see all the lights glowing out in the woods and then there was a big gust of wind and it was gone. Everything smelled like it had just rained but it never did.

The group sort of wrote it off as tiredness and just a weird night, and mostly decided to basically wait and see what happened, thinking it might have just been meteors, not wanting to face the fact that they had just seen something beyond their comprehension. They went back to their conversation, ignoring the deadly silent night, and finally drifted off to their tents to sleep. At around 2 AM, one of the witness’ friends suddenly woke him up in a panic, saying that there was “something big watching the camp,” standing on two legs and swaying back and forth. Things explosively launched into the bizarre moments later, of which the witness says:

While he was talking we heard a loud scream. I’ve never heard anything like it before as long as I’ve been alive. It sounded like a pig being slaughtered, but deeper, and so loud it made your ears ring. Next thing I remember was hearing 3 or 4 more things come running toward the camp site and the embers from the fire kicking up and landing on the tent. The things, or creatures, or whatever they were, kept running up to the tent and grunting and running back into the woods. Every once in awhile one of them would scream again and pull on one of the tent poles, dragging the whole tent a foot or two.


The tent was collapsing on one side and we didn’t know what else to do, so we just started screaming as loud as we could. Only took a a minute and then everything was quiet again, so we made a run for the truck as fast as we could and hit the gas. When we were leaving we saw one of those fuckers in the headlights standing in the road. I told Jamie to gun it and the thing straightened up and puffed up its chest. It must have been 8 feet tall. Had dark gray hair all over its body except the front. That [hair] was white or yellow around the chest. Its face looked kind of like a dog but not really. I know what Bigfoot looks like and this was way different.


It didn't even move when we drove at it. We had to swerve around it or we would have run right over it. We drove back down the mountain to the highway and parked the truck in a gas company parking lot. We were going to go tell the cops what happened but we didn’t know if we were camping somewhere we shouldn’t be, and we had been drinking all night and can’t afford a DUI, so we just waited for the sun to come up and sobered up. When we drove back up to get our stuff there wasn’t anything there. Everything was gone. No tent, no cooler, nothing. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the lights we saw but it was the weirdest damn thing any of us had ever experienced. That was no bear.

Also rather outlandish is a report given on the site Ranker, from a witness saying that he was camping with his family up at Joshua Tree National Park, in southeastern California, when he had his unforgettable experience with something beyond his understanding and perhaps beyopnd reality as we know it. He says at the time he was only 12 years old, and that he was staying in a tent along with a bunch of his cousins, and that there were 20 people out there altogether in deifferent tents. The witness says that it all started when he was drifting off to sleep, only to be snapped back to reality by a pebble falling onto the tent from a boulder right next to them. He says of what happened next:

I open my eyes, and the first thing I see is someone appears to be standing on top of the boulder, about 15 feet up in the air, looking down into our tents. The person seemed to be wearing tight clothing and was really skinny and oddly shaped. At first I tell myself that it's one of my male cousins, because they had been trying to scare us all night. But the person was moving really weird. It's head was moving back and forth like a cobra, and it kept crouching down on all fours and crawling down the face of the rock, closer to us, then crawling back up and pacing. At one point, it looked up at someone making noise at another campsite, and it's eyes gleamed in the moonlight. I'm also entirely sure that it did not have the skull shape of a coyote or a mountain lion. It had a flat face, with no snout.


So I'm laying in my tent, freaking out and trying to rationalize what I'm looking at. A lot of time goes by, and this thing just continues to watch us and move its body in really strange ways. I think about screaming, but the thing keeps coming down the side of the rock and I am afraid it would jump onto our tents and kill us. After some time, I hear a "hey...what the heck, hey! Hey! What are you doing?!" It's my uncle. Suddenly, at like 3 am, everyone is awake. My female cousins are awake and confused and two of my older male cousins jump out of their tent with an ax. For a few seconds, the thing stays completely still, but then my aunt and several of my cousins see it and they all scream. Someone finds a flashlight and they turn it on, but the thing jumps off the backside of the rock. A couple seconds later, it runs/gallops out from behind the rock, past our campsite. My uncle manages to shine a light on it for a second, and I still don't have any idea what I saw, besides the fact that the thing definitely didn't have clothes on, but was naked and had a dark mark on its side that I mistook for spandex. We hear screaming and thrashing from another campsite and several of the guys in our group go over and investigate. Whatever the thing was escaped into another campsite and ran into a small two person tent.


When the rangers got there, it's 4 am and everyone was confused. My uncle and the people at the other tent say that it was a naked person. I definitely don't think it's a person, and thankfully two of my adult male cousins had also spent some time watching it and being absolutely terrified by it, so they agreed with me. We give them all the details we could, and one ranger tells us that it was probably a coyote or mountain lion with mange. The other ranger looks really really concerned and I think he went off into the night to look for it. Either way, it was way too big for a coyote and I've tracked mountain lions back in college, and know for sure mountain lions do not move like that, nor look like that when they have mange.


We all left and went home that night. Either there was a naked crazy person, a monster, or a mountain lion with mange running around, and it had spent at least an hour watching us. No thank you. We stayed in hotels for a couple of years after that, and I've camped there at least 20 more times since then and I've never heard or seen anything like it since.

It is hard to know what to make of any of these cases, and it all gets even weirder still, as we begin to branch out into accounts that seem to be decidedly even more ghostly and paranormal in nature. One such report comes from a witness named “David,” who in September of 2001 was out camping with his girlfriend along a lonely, unpaved road in the Manzano Mountains in northern New Mexico. He says that on this evening the night was clear, and he was lying there awake listening to the sounds of the night when he suddenly heard a cacophony of barking and howling from just outside his tent, which he took to be a pack of coyotes. He says of what happened next:

I turned over to see if my girlfriend was listening, and I thought I saw her leaning up from her sleeping bag on one elbow with her head tilted upward, looking toward the roof of the tent. She had a terrified expression on her face. I was about to laugh and ask her why she was so afraid of a coyote when I realized it was not her, but some sort of strange, dark figure with a distorted, translucent face. The figure was right above my girlfriend's body. It seemed that she (the spirit) had reddish hair and was wearing a black cloak with a hood. In my mind I wondered: Why are you so scared? I tried to get the spirit to look in my eyes, but it looked past me into the distance. I couldn't make eye contact. Soon the figure dissolved into thin air and I could then see the top of my girlfriend's head as she was lying in her sleeping bag. The howling coyote was gone as well.

What was going on here? Who knows? It seems that forests are indeed ground zero for utterly weird reports of supernatural phenomena and shadow creatures such as this. A witness on a Reddit hiking thread gave a creepy encounter he had while hiking along an isolated mountain trail by himself in the late afternoon on a clear day. He describes the trail as being heavily wooded and running along the side of the mountain, with such a thick canopy of trees that even on this bright day the sunlight barely trickled through the branches. For this reason darkness began to creep up quite quickly as the sun continued its trajectory towards the horizon, and realizing that he did not have much light left he began to hurriedly make his way back to his starting point, with no other hikers around and alone out there on that darkening slash of trail meandering through the steadily ominous looking trees.

The sun was already starting to hide behind some of the mountains and the forest was already really dark. So I powered my way up the incline through the forest. The whole way there was not a living soul on the trail besides me. I was already kind of creeped out being by myself on this trail so I just listened to music and tried not to pay attention to anything else but the trail. As I was walking, I saw a black mass, about the size of maybe a rabbit or skunk run across the trail. It definitely wasn't an animal because it was too fast and there was no defined color, shape, or anything. It was just a mass. It freaked me out a little bit so I started to jog the trail. The whole time, I can see the light dwindling and it was getting darker by the second.


As I was jogging, I just had that feeling something or someone was following me. I knew no one was behind me because the whole trip back it was just me on the trail. I pulled out my pocket knife that I always carried with me in case I had to shank something or someone. About halfway through the forest, I grew tired from jogging, so I decide to just walk but keep a fast pace. As I slowed down, I had the urge to look back and I did take a look over my shoulder a few times. I kept a fast walking pace for about a good half a mile or so and I was close to the trail head when I decided to look over my shoulder again. When I did, I saw a human-like black mass, trailing behind me, about a good 30 or so feet behind. This mass had a definitive head and upper body shape but anything below the waist was just a black mass. As soon as I noticed this mass, just in a blink of an eye, it darted straight into the trees. Of course scaring the hell out of me, I darted for the trailhead, thankfully, I was closer than I expected and never was I so happy to see sunlight and my car. I was running so fast to my car that I didn't even realize that there were still people in the parking area of the trailhead who were getting ready to leave as well until I was sitting in my car shaking and trying to get myself together before I drove off. I haven't gone hiking since that day.

Interestingly, the witness says he did some research in the wake of his terrifying experience, and found that the trail he had been on was once used in the 1800s to travel between gold mining towns, then forgotten until the 1980s, when it was retraced. Whether this has anything to do with what he saw is anyone’s guess. In another account from The Occult Museum we have a witness who was hiking up a thickly forested hillside with some friends for the purpose of going up there to set off some fireworks. It was around midnight at the time, with a bright full moon set within the sky, and along the way, they passed through a rolling grass valley frosted with moonlight and covered with a light veil of fog, lending it all a rather eerie ambiance. The witness describes the following frightening events:

My buddies and I just hiked in a straight line through the rolling grass valley approaching the hill — when something caught my eye. On my right I saw a tall shadowy figure standing perfectly upright on the top of small grassy hill. It was standing there right next to a large dead tree. I couldn’t make out any details – both the tree and the tall figure where silhouetted under the moonlight. The strange part was seeing this figure didn’t scare me, I didn’t immediate sense any threat – I almost assumed it might’ve been just another hiker or somebody having a smoke. I passively turned my flashlight on it and that’s when it happened. In an instant as my light hit that spot where this figure was standing, it INSTANTLY moved just outside of the range of my flashlight. Like it teleported or something. But just as vividly as I saw it standing in its initial spot, as my light hit that spot and the figure moved, I could see it standing just outside the range of my light.


My breath paused as a wave of dread washed over me, something felt 100% unnatural about what just happened. As a reflex I moved my light to the new spot where the figure was and as my light passed it, it disappeared. I’ve never passed out in my entire life, not from heat, not from getting knocked out – never. But in that moment I felt my knees give away from under me and I just fell to the ground.


My friends turned and looked at my trying to pick myself up and my knees were too wobbly to stand. They helped me and I tried explaining to them what I experienced. I’m willing to bet it was all just light/shadows playing games with my eyes. But I’ll never be able to explain that sensation I felt of feeling like I had just seen something I shouldn’t have seen, something so unnatural that my body’s instinctual reaction to it was to go limp. I’m not convinced there is an after-life, or such a thing as ghosts, or demons… but what I saw in the woods felt so unnatural it made me second guess how I see the world.

The Occult Museum has another fairly otherworldly report of a ghostly entity made by a witness called “Devin,” who was out camping with friends and walking near some cabins where someone was having a party, music wafting through the trees. They had a good campfire going at the time, the night was clear, and Devin says of what happened:

It was a bright night with all the stars shining and the moon was well lit. There was a campfire going, and in one of the big cabins there was a party going on with music and so on. We were walking, and we both got a really weird feeling, as if we were being watched. We both turned toward the sea… we saw a blue figure, very tall – about 7 feet – walking through the trees. It made no sound at all. It was a bright blue and glowing figure walking through the forest. It was emitting a shimmery aura, and my friend and I both became very frightened. We shouted at whatever that thing was and we were asking it what it was. We got no reply, of course, but we expected one. We stared as it walked away and out of our vision; we didn’t dare follow it. We then ran back to the group of people at the camp fire, screaming and describing what we saw. Another friend of mine claimed he was watching it from a distance not far from were we were and was just as frightened as I was.

Lastly we have a rather bizarre ghostly forest encounter reported on the site Your Ghost Stories. This supposedly happened in the summer of 2011 at a wilderness area in Washington state, and rather than a camping tale this happened outside of the witness’ home, which was isolated and surrounded by woods. At the time he had a friend over, called “Mike,” and they went outside to take a stroll. This is where things get rather odd very fast. He says:

Mike and I had gone outside because it was too hot in the house, and we have a forest area in the backyard. Mike left before me, and I was to follow him out a few minutes later. I started walking outside and towards the forest. I usually look at the ground when I walk, but not this time because I needed to see where I was going. My paranoia got to me, and I expected Mike to be somewhere in the dark waiting to pounce on me and freak me out.


Halfway to the forest there's a little red barn that used to be a chicken coop. Once there, I called him and he seemed to be near the trees, so I didn't have to worry about him trying to scare me. I continued walking, and as I got near the edge of the forest I looked at the ground and happened to notice my shadow. Since I'm terrified of shadow people the sight of it made me a little uneasy. As I looked up I saw something glowing and white about 10 feet away from me and assumed it was Mike, but it couldn't have been, because Mike had worn all black that night. Its "body" was blurred a little bit, and it was kind of hard to comprehend. I kept watching it, and it just kind of slowly floated into the forest. After I saw it I called Mike again and he was in a completely different area than where I'd seen the thing, and he wasn't even IN the trees, just near the end of them but outside of them.


The figure I saw was about human sized, but it definitely WAS NOT human. I only say this because no one wearing all white was around, plus when it went into the trees it was not touching the ground at all. I never FULLY believed in ghosts until I saw this, and I wasn't ready to believe that every story on here was true. Looks like I was wrong. So now that there's a ghost out in my forest, can it get into my house and bother me? For me, that would be the scariest thing ever.

These are just but a few of some of the incredibly odd, very often sinister weirdness that people have supposedly encountered in the woods, and it seems that such locations are veritable wellsprings of the strange. Here we have looked at strange creatures, ghosts, possibly demons, all inhabiting the dark corners of the forest, and one wonders if these places with their trees and rugged nature are somehow conducive to such phenomena, whether the very qualities of the land itself imbue it with a force towards which such anomalies gravitate. Whatever the case may be, it certainly gives you something to think about the next time you are out hiking or camping in the great outdoors.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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