Within the world of mysterious disappearances and vanishings, some of the most peculiar have happened in the wilderness areas of our world. Among the strangest of these are the cases compiled by researcher and author David Paulides, in his Missing 411 series of books, featuring all manner of bizarre clues and odd details that at times seem to point at something almost supernatural at work behind the scenes. Since most of the people who have gone missing have never returned alive, we are mostly left to speculate, but on certain occasions there are those accounts in which someone seems to have been on the brink of becoming one of the victims, yet somehow escaping the clutches of these forces to return to tell the tale. Here we will look at a selection of some accounts from these “almost vanished,” which seem to point at something rather insidious permeating the wild places out there, to pull people in to never come back.
Among these tales of the almost vanished, almost “taken,” whatever you want to call them, there are quite a few cases in which it seems that the very woods have called out to these people to draw them in, quite possibly with the intention of never returning them. There are numerous examples of this on the Missing 411 Reddit forums, and one of these comes from a poster called “MagnificCone,” who says that this happened when he was a young Boy Scout camping in the rugged wilderness at a place called Mt. Washington, in the United States. At the time he was part of a group of others, and they were in the process of hiking up one of the mountain’s winding trails when the two group members he was with decided to stop and take a break. However, he felt a strange, overwhelming urge to keep going, often accompanied by a sense of blurred or lost time. The witness in this case says:
Once my group and I got above tree line and by several boulders my two friends decided to slow down and drink water. I don’t know why but I was overcome by an urge that pulled me to keep moving. Eventually I got lost. My perception of time vanished. It felt like a dream because I kept changing locations but I couldn’t remember walking there and I never questioned it. Somehow, I got to a cliff and suddenly I was by a huge pile of rocks. I began feeling sick and dizzy. I took off my gray and olive windbreaker to reveal my neon scout shirt and I folded my windbreaker into a pillow and I laid down. Suddenly a man, dressed in black tights with a Red Cross, (I think he worked there idk) ran towards me and told me that I looked dehydrated and that there was a weather station I could eat at. I put on my jacket after getting cold and headed up to the weather station. I met up with my troop there and they were worried and informed me that I was missing for almost an hour. When we made it back down, I fell asleep in the car and was drained.
What was going on here? We also have the case of poster “cacophonica,” who says this happened when he was living in a rural railroad town in the southwest corner of Missouri, in the U.S., which was surrounded by hills, woods, and ravines. One summer day, he went out for a walk in the woods near his home along with his dog, a pit-bull named Fatty, and as they made their way through a creek bed the dog began whining and cowering for no discernible reason. Thinking that there was a wild animal out there, the witness stopped to listen, only to find the woods eerily devoid of any sounds at all, no wind or birds or anything at all, which was very weird because even on a calm day the forest would usually be teeming with sounds and life. He stood there for a few minutes in that spooky silence, the only sound his whining dog, which was also odd in that the animal was usually fearless and afraid of nothing, and then he then felt a creeping sensation that gave him the distinct impression that he was being watched, an ominous feeling he could not shake. Yet, although every fiber of his being told him to get out of there, he instead felt a strange urge to keep going deeper into the trees, and he explains the series of bizarre events that would follow next:
All signs pointed to leaving, right? But no, another weird thing happened. Call it being an edgy teenager or anything else, but I felt this strange pull into the woods. There was no sound but I felt like something was calling me, luring me deeper into the woods. It was the creepiest thing I had ever felt in my life, but I was so curious. I wanted to know what the hell wanted me to wander further ahead. I walked forward, aware that my dog had firmly planted himself at the fallen trees. He was shaking all over and yelped at me as I walked away, but he didn’t come with me. He also didn’t leave, which I believe potentially saved my ass that day. I left Fatty behind and eventually got to the part of the creek that I had never been to. It was a clearing with a ring of trees surrounding it, with the creek stretching far ahead and going around an unseen corner. The sun hadn’t moved and it was still silent.
I stood in place for a minute and considered turning around. The clearing was creepy and felt…devoid of everything. I can’t explain it well enough. I felt like if I walked around that corner, which was just about 100 feet away, that something terrible would happen. It felt like something was just waiting for me to walk into it, unsuspecting. I brushed it off as paranoia. I had plenty of sunlight left, and I could explore alone for once. Besides, if something was drawing me further in, I might find something amazing. I took a couple more steps, and suddenly I heard my dog yelping frantically behind me. Startled, I turned around quickly, my dog looking like a little white speck far back into the trees. He was pacing back and forth at his spot and barking like it would kill him if he didn’t take off running. He kept lunging forward, but wouldn’t move any distance forward. I finally realized that something was very wrong. I turned around again to look back at the clearing. It was pitch black outside. I shit you not. Seconds ago the sun wasn’t even close to going down below the horizon, and now the stars were out. No sun. No light. I stared hard at the trees around the corner, seeing nothing but elongated shadows. I heard a twig snap. All of a sudden my ears started to ring, and panic flooded my entire body. I whipped around and shot back towards the fallen trees, sprinting towards my dog. He was snarling and barking like mad, and when I ducked under the trees both of us sprinted back towards the house.
The entire time I felt like I had death on my heels, and Fatty never once ran ahead of me, staying right at my side the entire way back. When I made it home I checked the clock. During a walk that usually took ten minutes, I had been gone three hours. I’d left my house at 7:30 and arrived home at 10:30. My parents were due home in an hour. The next day I walked only partway back, to where I could see the clearing. The very farthest I could have walked was about 2 miles, and it took three hours. I don’t know what wanted me in the woods that day. I didn’t see what it was and it said nothing to me, but I ignored every natural instinct I had to run until it was almost too late. My dog being there may have been the reason I didn’t wander deep into the woods of Missouri and succumb to someone or something in the dark.
What was after him out in those woods, drawing him in for unknown reasons? Was he perhaps in danger of becoming another person who vanished without a trace? From another witness called “OoklaTheMok” comes an experience that allegedly happened on a camping trip with a youth group in the state of New Hampshire. At the end of the 2-day trip, he took a hike by himself down the hill to an area with a makeshift archery range in order to tear it down. He made a pile of garbage and equipment to bring back to camp and was about to head back when he says that all sounds in the forest just suddenly ceased, as if a curtain of silence had just fallen down around him. He then says that he could sense a sort of humming sensation, and that is when things would unfold into a terrifying experience. The witness says:
For some inexplicable reason, I snapped my head to the right to view the tree line, and noticed there was an area with ‘thinner’ brush like an opening, and I started walking towards it, like I was being drawn. As I cleared the tree line and stepped into the woods proper, I could feel the ‘pull’ to go deeper into the woods become much stronger. Looking ahead, the woods were in deep shadow, with a strange group of four trees about 75 feet away lit by a shaft of light beaming at an angle from above. The light wasn’t the normal afternoon yellow sunlight, but a very strange golden color. The light hit the trees in a way that the bases of the trees were glowing in a beckoning way. With the rest of the woods in shadow, and the trees lit up, it created a weird tunnel vision.
The compulsion to go investigate the four trees was now almost overwhelming. The thought of “Come See! Come Quickly! Come Right now!” was insistent. My head was pounding, like a headache without the pain. As I was about to take another step forward, another -separate- ‘feeling’ from the depths of my being started screaming at me to STOP IMMEDIATELY. I instantly, viscerally knew that, despite how enticing this call was, if I proceeded forward towards those trees I would be lost to the world. That specific impression…”lost to the world”, scared me deeply. The feeling of “This is *Not Right!*” & “Danger!” were palpable to me. This somehow overrode the compulsion. I quickly looked backwards to the opening, and I could see the bows sitting on the ground, and I think seeing a bit of reality helped me break the hold of ‘the call’. I suddenly felt a hollow pit in my stomach and I started tracing a path slowly backwards towards the opening. I kept my eyes on those trees like I was facing down a predator. I didn’t want to turn my back on them. I couldn’t turn my back on them.
Making it back and stepping through the opening to the archery range, my head almost instantly cleared. I could again hear noises from the camp and feel the wind. I looked at where I had just stepped from, and it now felt ‘normal’. I immediately grabbed the first load of equipment and headed back to camp. For some reason, I didn’t tell anyone at camp what I experienced. On my subsequent trip to get the last load of equipment, absolutely everything was normal, but I stayed the hell away from that that opening. What stands out to me is the “lost to the world” impression. It was so clear and ominous and final. I can’t express how truly drawn I was to go deeper into those woods; the feeling to give myself over to it (whatever ‘it’ was)…I do know that something not good would have happened if I hadn’t heeded that warning. I know that my experience was very real and very scary. I am also convinced that I wouldn’t have come out if I had kept going that day.
In another case, poster “bellebina143” describes how she was 11 years old when she had her own such brush with the unexplained. She says that she and her family would go out camping in the woods of New Hampshire in their camping trailer every summer, and it was during one of these excursions that something very odd would happen, indeed. She says that one time during one of these camping trips her aunt woke her up and asked if she remembered hat had happened the previous evening, to which she replied that no, she did not. It was then that the aunt, father and mother would tell her of what had transpired, which was creepy to say the least, and of which the witness says:
My aunt was a bit shaky as she asked “do you remember what happened last night”? I shook my head “no” and listened as my aunt told about me the extremely strange night, which I did not recall whatsoever. My aunt explained that at about 2 am she woke up to the door of the camper being wide open. She quickly checked the bunks and noticed that I was nowhere to be found. She woke up my mom and dad and then my mom and dad got flashlights and started frantically searching for me outside around the immediate area. My aunt stayed behind, because there were still 4 kids sleeping in the camper. After a scary 10-minute search, my dad spotted me. I had walked out of the camper and into the trees about 30 feet away. It was far enough that I could not be seen unless he walked into the trees a bit I was just standing out there in the dark, with my eyes completely open, but not responding to him at all. I had no shoes, no flashlight and was wearing just shorts and a tee shirt.
He said that he grabbed my hand and started walking me back to the camp. He remembers asking me “what’s going on? Why in the world would you go out on your own like that”. Then, I finally spoke up saying “I need to wait here dad! Let’s just stay here”. My mom remembers that I then started crying as she and my dad led me back to the camper. Whenever I think back to this story, I get a sick/strange feeling. Thank God my aunt woke up when she did! It’s important to note, that I’ve never been know to sleepwalk before or after that night. It was an isolated incident, which could have had a very different ending had I not been so lucky. My mom was so upset that she decided to get rid of the trailer and we didn’t do much camping after that night.
Was this something calling her into the woods to be spirited away or something else? Who knows? Similarly, we have the tale of a poster called “Superpeytonm022,” who says he lives in a house nestled right up against a large expanse of woods in the U.S. state of Kentucky and describes himself as an avid hiker and outdoorsman. When he had his strange experience, he was around 15 years old, and was out exploring with his two dogs, Max and Bo. He says of his surreal experience:
I was hiking a trail that runs up beyond my aunt’s house—one that I’d hiked day in and day out—just out and about, enjoying the woods. I remember looking up the mountain, which I’d never hiked to the top of before, and feeling this strange call. It wasn’t really a voice, but it was an urge I couldn’t ignore. Keep in mind that I’m a very timid person, and hiking unfamiliar trails on my own freaks me out to this day. But that day, all my fear had dissipated. All thought left my head. I just climbed, higher and higher. My dogs followed me. I don’t even know how to describe the feeling that came over me, but I remember just staring down at my feet and feeling at peace as I climbed. There was a moment when I paused to look out at the houses below—I’d never been that high up, remember—and I felt amazed. I took a picture on my phone, and then I looked around me for my dogs. Bo had already run off, and Max was following. I called out to them frantically to stop, but they didn’t listen. They disappeared. At this point, looking down the mountainside, I was very afraid. Then I looked back uphill and it came over me again.
I kept hiking. I kept telling myself I’d go just a little bit farther, see just a little bit more. I remember looking down at my feet, just like before, and listening to the silence of the woods around me, and feeling at peace. It felt so easy to just keep going deeper, and so difficult to turn around. Bo felt the call, too, because even after I did break out of it and turn around (only after stumbling on a root), and then called back to her, she wouldn’t stop. I had to catch up with her and physically turn her around and pet her before she’d come with me. I couldn’t stop. Eventually, I heard my walkie-talkie crackle. Everything was distorted, and I couldn’t make any of the words out. I assume now that I was just out of range for it to pick up, but back then, it freaked me out. Whatever had come over me lost its hold on my mind. My dogs were still gone. Panicked, I began running downhill. It’s a wonder I didn’t get hurt. As I neared the wide section of the spring, near the bottom, my walkie-talkie picked back up, and I heard my dogs running downhill behind me. I got home, and mostly forgot about it. I just told myself I had almost been lost and to be more careful. I don’t know what’s out there, but I know this: the woods call to us all.
In some cases the lure that draws these people in is something other than a voice or feeling, but some sort of entity, and this can be seen in a bizarre report from poster “supremesymbiote,” whose story revolves around her mother, who grew up in an extremely rural area near Yrybucuá, Paraguay. One day the mother was out playing as a child along with her grandmother when it seems that she was pulled into the nearby forest by powers beyond our understanding. The poster says of what happened:
The area where my mom grew up is especially rural in the countryside where most of the poor people were. Her house was across from very thick woods that stretched for miles. One afternoon, before it got dark, my grandma and mom were outside. My mom was about 7 at the time when she spotted what she described as a beautiful little white baby chick. She’s always loved animals and enjoyed catching them, so she wanted to catch it. It kept running away from her, even though it seemed like she was just about to catch it multiple times.
After what seemed like she was running in a circle for minutes, my grandma came out of nowhere and yanked my moms hair. My mom said at that moment she was broken from a trance, that the sun had already set, and she was actually very deep in the woods. My grandma smacked her really hard on the head and told her that el pombero almost succeeded at taking her. My mom tried to explain to my grandma about the pretty little chick but of course it was nowhere to be found. My grandma said my mom seemed to be playing normally and then all of a sudden just started fast walking towards the woods. My grandma thankfully ran after her and was able to catch up to her. I always think about what would’ve happened had my grandma not been there to stop it. I’m glad she was there.
Spooky to say the least, and gives the feeling that this might have been some sort of forest spirit drawing the girl in for inscrutable purposes. Curiously we have another account from Nicaragua that also seems to involve some sort of impish forest entities. Poster “monki85” claims that when she was just 6 years old she was staying with her grandmother on a huge plantation surrounded by thick rain forest. On one bright, clear day she was out along a trail with her parents walking from their jeep back to the plantation and she says of what happened next:
I remember playing with one of my favorite toys, it was the green ranger that you could push a button and his head would switch from his normal head to his helmet. Anyways I was playing with it as we walked along the trail, we then arrive to a small stream, my parents are easily able to jump over it and keep walking, they look behind them and I can see them watch me try to make the jump smiling at me. I do make the jump but drop my toy in the process and it gets picked up by the stream so I immediately start following after it, I can hear my parents yelling for me but I’m too focused on catching my toy.
This next bit I still remember vividly to this day. All of a sudden I’m like in a field, with very tall grass. It’s surrounded by trees. The one thing I notice is that it’s eerily quiet. I have to reiterate that this is a Central American Forrest, it is never quiet. There are always hundreds of birds, monkeys and other small animals everywhere. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. Then I hear something weird, like chirping? And I see small tiny orbs in the tall grass, I’m not afraid of them. More like intrigued? They’re amongst the grass like the way you would see an animals eyes, but they’re weightless and floating. I start walking towards them but then I get scared and run away towards the forest. I remember getting sleepy as I fell against a tea trunk.
According to the witness, she then actually went missing for a full two days as her family frantically searched for her. It was thought that she had been kidnapped, since her father was rather rich, but there was never a ransom given. A massive search was launched for her, involving the police, military, “about a thousand people total combing the jungle, dogs, helicopters, the works,” but no trace of her was found. Although she doesn’t remember anything of what happened during those two days, she does recall how she suddenly woke to find herself on a bus by herself, and she explains:
I was missing for two days and the next thing I remember is waking up in the back of a bus, the bus driver waking me up and asking if I was OK. I immediately start crying and asking for my mom, my mom had me memorize our home number so they call and I get picked up. Police investigate thinking it may have been a kidnapping attempt, they think once they found out who was kidnapped they put me in the bus. I tell them my story and a few of them think duendes took me. Duendes is something a lot of the people in Nicaragua believe in, especially people out in the fields, it’s less believed in the major cities. They’re basically described like small people who kidnap children, kill livestock or ruin crops. Basically mischievous little things. A telltale sign of them being present is seeing small floating lights in trees or amongst tall grass, people say it’s their lanterns that they carry.
What are we looking at with cases such as this, and the many more like them, and what relation does this have to the whole missing persons phenomenon as a whole? The wilderness can be a perilous place, and it is understandable that some people might go missing, but when looking at reports such as these, one gets the feeling that there could be other factors at work other than the treacherous terrain, animals, getting lost, and the elements. Is there something perhaps drawing people in to these dim wildernesses to step off the face of the earth, in a way taking them off to places unknown? If so, what are they and why do they do this? For the time being, it seems to be a mystery that only the unseen forces thrumming through the trees know the answer to, and in the case of mysterious vanishings in the wilderness we are left to wonder if there is perhaps more to it than we can even imagine.