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Paranormal Encounters along the Appalachian Trail

Sprawled out across a vast swath of eastern North America, spanning 1,500 mi (2,400 km) from the island of Newfoundland all the way down to central Alabama, the Appalachian Mountains, also called just the Appalachians, is one of the great mountain ranges of the continent. Formed over 480 million years ago, the Appalachians are also among the oldest mountains in North America, with their now relatively modest average height of 3,000 ft (910 m) once soaring to jagged heights to rival those of the Rocky Mountains before the countless eons tirelessly wore them down to their present size. Meandering through this wilderness is the Appalachian Trail, which at a total of 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long is the longest hiking-only trail in the world, passing through 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, with an extension called the International Appalachian Trail continuing northeast, crossing Maine, cutting through Canada to Newfoundland, and with sections continuing in Greenland, through Europe, and into Morocco. Among the millions of people who hike this trail every year there are sometimes tales of the bizarre and the paranormal, and here are some of the stranger of these, as well as several haunted places along the longest trail in the world.

A very bizarre report comes from the site Blue Ridge Outdoors, and is told by a witness named Brad Lane. The odd experience supposedly happened in the summer of 2011, when he was out backpacking alone along the trail near Catawba about 15 miles from New Castle, Virginia, camping out along the way. Over the course of these lonely nights, he claims that on several occasions he was kept awake by what sounded like footsteps crunching about outside, as well as what he describes as the “grumble” of a voice talking to itself. He convinced himself that it was all just his ears playing tricks on him, but on another evening he saw something that would disturb him. He says:

I managed to collect a fair amount of firewood and by the time nightfall came I had a small fire going with a good collection of fire-wood piled beneath me. Under the reassuring light of the campfire, I started to become more at ease with the deafening silence of nature. I pulled a cigarette from my pocket and enjoyed a casual smoke as I put my feet up. When I tried to ditch the butt in my weakening flame, my throw was off and I landed it outside of the ashes. I got up to fix my mistake and to stoke the fire when I turned around to go back to my seat and I saw him…

 

The light was low with my little fire, but I could clearly see a man reaching down with a scorched hand for my firewood. He wore red plaid with large black burns tearing at his trim and a red ashy beard that smoldered at this face. He quickly looked up and his vacant white eyes connected with mine. He gritted his teeth and scrunched his nose towards me before quickly leaving the ring of firelight.

 

I was shocked. I have never experienced a fear like it. I fell right onto my butt next to the flames. I looked out into the forest and saw nothing but dark shadows and unclear objects, a blank wall of nothing, of everything; I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even yell, with no one to hear me but him, so I did what every red-blooded American would do; I packed up my things and got the hell out of Dodge.

He kept on until dawn, continuing on his rush to get out of there for hours before he grew tired and stopped for a moment. He did not seek sleep, but sleep found him. He would awaken 3 hours later, when his journey of the bizarre would continue. He says:

I awoke two to the three hours later, for the sun had dropped down considerably, and a funny smell filled my nostrils. I blinked a few times and when the funny smell persisted I shot off my back with my heart beating to the sound of something troubling. What I saw was my tent, or what remained of my tent. For now the only thing left standing was the tent poles that dripped with oozing leftovers of my tent body. A bubbly layer of melted green plastic lay beneath the poles with a steady gray smoke still rising from the mess. I got up and felt the weight of the sky fall on my head. For a moment I was sure I had woken up into a horrible nightmare. Without contemplating it much further I grabbed my water bottle and ran through the empty pasture.

 

By the time I made it to the gravel road I was out of breath and dripping with sweat. I hastily chugged from my water bottle and wiped my mouth. Down the road I could see a vehicle parked in the dust. I staggered forward with my hands on my sides and soon realized it was a sheriff’s sedan, and for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t have been happier to see a law enforcement vehicle.

 

When I got closer to the vehicle I noticed that it was parked outside of the remains of a charred house, nothing left standing but the mailbox out front. On the way into town I didn’t tell the officer about my experience being afraid that he might think I escaped from the loony bin and instead asked him about the burnt down house he had been parked in front of.

 

The sheriff explained to me that four days prior, the same day I started my trip, the house had burnt down. They had no known cause but there was indication of arson. Two daughters, a wife, and her husband where all in the house when the fire started and none of them made it out. Real tragic stuff the sheriff said as he retold the story and I could only shake my head with my bottom jaw hanging low.

The Appalachian Mountains

Is this just a spooky urban legend in the making or something else? Another report mentioned on the site Phantoms and Monsters apparently happened in the mid-1980s, when the witness was at a shelter one December along the Appalachian Trail in AmherstCounty, Virginia along with his son and their dog, Ginger. As they relaxed at their camp talking, they saw something very odd indeed come shambling out of the wilderness. The witness would say of what happened next:

The figure came within 100 ft. The thing was tall and wore a dark brown “fur coat”. I was aware of Ginger’s barking changing to something I had never heard from her before that event…nor after. Without thinking I called out to the figure to come over and have some hot drink. That’s when things got very difficult to explain.

 

First the creature turned to face us. Its face looked human in shape but not human in appearance. It turned its whole body. When the creature looked at us is when Ginger’s barking changed. Her hind legs appeared uncontrolled. Her sounds were not barking sounds but a gurgling noise. She was in great pain! I momentarily focused on Ginger reaching down to her which did not stop her suffering! I looked to the creature who returned to continuing its long, athletic strides…taking it out of sight very quickly. Ginger resumed barking her aggression warning, but not the same as before the thing had turned to face us.

 

My son said “Dad what just happened to Ginger”? I was thinking what did that thing do that to Ginger when it was 100 ft away? I was not fearful and Ginger was a “hand full of Golden Retriever. We spent a cold night with Ginger at alert the entire time. When we made our way to the warmth of my car the next morning Ginger curled up with my son in the back seat and slept the three hour drive home. I’ve since learned that area had a fall and winter with dogs making a lot of noise at night with a large number going missing. A calf got missing without a trace. The owner was uncommitted as to what was going on but said his grandfather had a story about the BROWN MAN. He had not seen anything, but neighbors had. Something dreadful happened at that shelter in August of 2011. A hiker was found dead and half buried! Its now April of 2016. I have not heard of a arrest. I am interested if there are any similar accounts of these THINGS harming dogs. I am a skeptic looking for a explanation for Ginger’s actions OTHER than Bigfoot having mind control capability over dogs. And maybe humans too!

What was going on here? On the site Your Ghost Stories there is another very paranormal experience rom the Appalachian Trail that supposedly happened in the state of Pennsylvania. The witness was only around 10 years old at the time, back-country camping along the trail with her father and mother. They settled down for the night in a clearing, and that was when she began to sense that something was rather off about the whole scene. She says:

I looked up to my mother to notice that she was pale and her hand was tightly grasping mine.”Todd, can we set up camp somewhere different?” My mother asked, still clutching my tiny hand. She was not liking the vibe the woods were giving. I sensed it too, I was afraid. My father shook his head, “It’s getting late. I’m not searching for firewood in the dark.” I remember asking to go home, the small clearing seemed to give a ominous vibe. After hot dogs and marshmallows, we crawled into the 6 person tent my father had purchased. My father fell asleep in mere minutes but my mother and I could not sleep, “Emma? Are you asleep?” I lifted my head, “No, mama, I’m scared. I can’t sleep.”

 

“Hush, it’s fine. We’re safe inside the tent” she comforted. I finally fell asleep and woke up in the early hours of the morning. I came out of the tent and saw my mother sitting on the ground, meditating. She meditated every morning, with a cup of Earl Grey tea. I came up to her and tapped her shoulder, “Mama? Can we take a walk?” Mother opened her eyes and got to her feet, “Sure, let’s not go too far. I don’t want daddy to worry.” We hiked near our camp sight when my mother suddenly stopped. I followed her gaze to see a hazy image of a man leaning against a Birch tree about 20ft away. He was just a hazy image, but he did not seem threatening, just calm and solemn. He lifted his head and looked in our direction. I rubbed my eyes and he was gone. My mother just looked at me and I understood that the man was not threatening, just calm, and sad. After that I have never seen a ghost, but I will never forget him, never.

Just as creepy is an account posted on Your Personal Ghost Stories, with a witness who says that he had been backpacking along the trail with a group of friends when he would have his unsettling experience. One morning he says they woke up to the unsettling sound of children’s laughter emanating from all around their camp, odd considering that they were out in the middle of nowhere. As they peered into the early morning mist, they say that a procession of kids suddenly walked by, who asked them what they were doing out there. The baffled witnesses answered that they were hiking the Appalachian Trail, to which the mysterious children cheerfully replied “This isn’t the Appalachian Trail,” before wandering off out of sight. According to them, they could hear children’s laughter taunting them from the trees and underbrush for the duration of their hike, although they never saw the children again.

An earlier report comes from May of 1972, when a hiker was alone on the trail and noticed a thick fog gathering around him. When he peered off ahead of him he noticed a tall, black figure approaching, wearing a heavy coat and a wide brimmed hat. The stranger seemed to be confused, looking about him as if he had lost something, and he was so absorbed with what he was looking for that the two almost collided with each other. As they passed, the witness says that the figure looked up to him and met him with icy, electric blue eyes that generated a swell of dread within him. It was then that he also realized that the stranger was wearing out of date period clothes, as if he had stepped in from another time period. The hiker says he tried to greet the odd fellow, but was ignored. As they passed each other, the witness turned to look back and found that the strange man had simply vanished.

In a report from an Appalachian Trail enthusiast site called White Blaze there is also the account of a poster who says he was camping along the trail one night near a place called Pierce Pond, in the state of Maine, when he saw something he will never forget. He says that as the flames caused the light to dance about him he saw an unusual figure blossom out of the gloom, of which he says:

I’ve always thought that there were logical or scientific answers for all of these paranormal phenomena and probably always would have if not for the two nights I spent at Pierce Pond in June.Both nights were exquisite in temperature and weather, and no bugs which at the time I found quite odd. In hindsight it seems portent. I was alone, had a great campfire and played my harmonica and sang the first night. As the embers dimmed I sat on the edge of the lean-to writing in my journal as the night sounds started to get my attention. They were just different and I knew someone or something was about. I could feel it.

 

Through the moonlight I could see something that kind of took me aback and I sat still as possible while trying to slouch into my sleeping bag. There is no doubt it was a figure that was moving across my sight between me and the pond. It was definitely the form of a spectral, woodsy, outdoorsman type with a small pack and what appeared to be fishing gear. The figure faded into the night and I woke refreshed and relieved to be on the trail in such a beautiful location. I thought about heading out as my first experience like this had me unnerved. But the day was beautiful and I mostly forgot about it as I stayed on to enjoy another day. But as my campfire lit the trees around me that night, this same Woodsy character reappeared and as the fire crackled its eyes turned toward me and I was truly frightened for the first time in my life and I ran up the hill away from the lean-to and didn’t stop till I could barely breathe.

 

I finally had to slump down next to a tree and wait for the morning. When daylight came I found my way back to the lean-to, packed up and went to Tim’s for pancakes and told him of what I’d seen. He’d heard of this too. It seems for years this vision has been haunting a wide area of Maine although he was unsure if it had ever caused any trouble.

Along the Appalachian Trail there are also plenty of places that are said to be intensely haunted. One is a location known as the Greenleaf Hut, located along the picturesque White Mountains, atop a place called Bluff Mountain, in Virginia. The place itself is a quaint, scenic locale, home to the so-called Punchbowl Shelter, and the only thing rising any concern being a marker that designates it as the place where a 4-year-old Ottie Cline Powell died more than a hundred years ago after going missing while out hunting for kindling. It is from here where there have been numerous reports of a ghostly child stalking amongst the wilderness, wandering about as if looking for something, and it has become entrenched in the lore of the area.

Also in Virginia is a place called the Sarver Cabin, built in the 1850s and well off the beaten path along the trail and surrounded by feral wilderness. The crumpled ruins of the place are said to be haunted by a ghost called “George,” who is unidentified, but makes his presence well known to all who pass through. Another old batch of haunted crumbling ruins is an old homestead located within Big Ridge State Park, Tennessee. This place was once the home of the Hutchinson family, where in the 19th century one of the family’s younger members, a young girl named Mary, had fallen ill. When neighbors came over to help, they reported hearing a dog running through the forest towards them, although they could not see it. It would soon become apparent that the girl had passed away at precisely the time they had heard the spectral beast, and to this day the area is supposedly haunted by a phantom hound and the ghost of the little girl.

Go along the haunted Appalachian Trail and you can also come to Compton’s and Fox’s Gap, as well as Spook Hill, where there were fierce battles waged in 1862 during the American Civil War. At the time this was a place of absolute carnage and mayhem, leaving the area soaked with blood and littered with dead bodies, many of which did not receive a proper burial. There has been intense paranormal activity ever since, with one of the most popular legends being that cars parked at Spook Hill will be pushed up the incline by unseen hands, and that ghostly handprints will appear upon vehicles. There are also numerous apparitions of Civil War era soldiers seen here, and the whole area is apparently spook central.

Whatever is going on here, it seems hat this expanse of rugged wilderness is home to more than just scenic trails and unspoiled nature. What happened to these people? What did they see? What is it about this place that draws to it such forces? We may never know.