The woods can be a damn weird place. There are all sorts of mysteries that revolve around the wild places of the world, and I’ve written plenty of articles that would put many off camping for quite some time. But beyond the strange entities and mysterious vanishings that have been reported from the wilds, there are other bizarre phenomena as well. One very odd feature of the landscape of the wilderness are purported stairs that seem to sit out in the middle of nowhere, go nowhere, and are surrounded by all manner of paranormal strangeness.
Probably the most discussed and unsettling reports of stairs in the woods are those that are said to be found scattered about within the wilds of National Parks in the United States. According to the tales, people will on occasion come across staircases just randomly sitting out in the middle of the wilderness, often miles deep into the woods and with no sign of other structures around. There are just those stairs jutting up forlornly out of the brush and leading to nowhere, sometimes even seemingly built upside down or appearing in bodies of water. They are built from a variety of materials, including steel, wood, iron, brick, and stone, and can be either looking brand new or incredibly decrepit and ancient, like the ruins of some forgotten civilization, and besides being a very peculiar thing to find out in the middle of the forest, if the numerous reports from the people who have seen them are anything to go on, then these enigmatic structures can be surrounded by all manner of weirdness.
One odd detail often mentioned is that the stairs tend to feature perfectly white carpeting, and that they are generally remarkably free of the weeds and growth that one would expect from a forest moving in to reclaim any such structure that had been there for a considerable length of time. In fact, in most cases it is claimed that it seems that grass, weeds, and bushes won’t grow in the immediate vicinity of these stairs. Another detail that is mentioned quite often is that they exude a repulsive sense of dread so thick it seems to hang in the air like a cloud, and witnesses have spoken of being so suddenly overcome with terror that they have the strong urge to flee. Within a certain range of the stairs one is said to almost step into a bubble in which the sounds of the woods cease and silence comes crashing down like a curtain. Those who find the stairs and decided to go back will often claim that they cannot be located again, and sometimes the same stairs will seemingly appear in another location, as if the massive structures have been moved.
It is all very creepy, indeed, and the phenomenon can mostly be traced back to an initial report that came from a poster on Reddit who claimed to be a worker for search and rescue (SAR) for the forest service. He goes on to say that it is quite common to find these strange stairs on the woods, and that the teams of rescue workers are told by their superiors to stay away from them. The poster, called “serachandrescuewoods,” says of these stairs:
Now, I don’t know if this is true in every SAR unit, but in mine, it’s sort of an unspoken, regular thing we run into. You can try asking about it with other SAR officers, but even if they know what you’re talking about, they probably won’t say anything about it. We’ve been told not to talk about it by our superiors, and at this point we’ve all gotten so used to it that it doesn’t even seem weird anymore. On just about every case where we’re really far into the wilderness, I’m talking 30 or 40 miles, at some point we’ll find a staircase in the middle of the woods. It’s almost like if you took the stairs in your house, cut them out, and put them in the forest. I asked about it the first time I saw some, and the other officer just told me not to worry about it, that it was normal. Everyone I asked said the same thing. I wanted to go check them out, but I was told, very emphatically, that I should never go near any of them. I just sort of ignore them now when I run into them because it happens so frequently.
The poster also goes on to claim that these stairs are often present in areas where people have mysteriously gone missing, and it all seems like it must surely be nothing more than a spooky Internet creepypasta, but as soon as his story was posted others began to come out of the woodwork with their own tales to tell of the stairs in the woods, usually claiming that they had been keeping it to themselves and had not realized that others shared their experiences. At first most of these were from national parks in the U.S., but this quickly expanded to include people from other countries jumping in, and some of their stories are quite odd indeed. One poster claims that the stairs seemed to be almost impossible in the way they were built, a kind of structural anomaly, saying:
An hour east of Iron Wood there is a clearing in the forest that has stairs. I was hiking and exploring with my cousins and we stumbled on a clearing about half a football field long. Had a few staircases but not against trees, just standing in the open. They looked like stairs from a normal suburban home. Kind of old though. The older cousin decided to investigate. He walked to the stairs to see how they were being held up, couldn’t find anything which weirded him out. He made us all leave. Grass didn’t grow near the stairs either.
Other stories are decidedly more ominous, hinting at a menacing quality to them and illustrating their generally sinister nature. One poster explains that the stairs he found were infused with a certain sense of dread, and says:
A few months back, we went hiking. Nothing big, just a walk and a picnic in some woods.With us were my niece and nephew, who are both quite young, so I joined them in Hide and Seek while the proper grown-ups had coffee and whatnot. Me and my nephew were first to hide, but we split up, and I ran alone quite a ways into a thicket of woods. And I found a staircase. Nothing remarkable, riddled with moss, and made from what looked like really old concrete with large pebbles of rocks in it. It didn’t really seem out of place at the time, but thinking back… Anyway, I decided it was fit for a hiding place, but after only a few seconds of squatting behind it, I got up, and stepped back. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I really shouldn’t be anywhere near it. I suddenly had this feeling of being severely unwelcome, and that I should get as far away from it as possible. So I went to my family and didn’t look back at it. Thinking about it now it still gives me the same sort of… I don’t know, twisted, wrong feeling.
Other stories tell of people who, rather than getting away from the stairs, actually tried to climb the mysterious structures, and the results range from the creepy to the downright terrifying. In one weird case, the witness climbed up a set of these stairs and as soon as they reached the top they allegedly heard a shrill, inhuman scream that sent them scurrying back down again. As they were running from the area, the witness says he felt a hand grab at his shoulder, only to turn around and find no one there. In another, a woman was witnessed to climb one of the staircases only to collapse at the top and die later of an aneurism. In yet another, the witness, a poster called “Case 9” says that he encountered some sort of malevolent presence upon reaching the top, saying:
I found the staircase while walking through foliage so thick I didn’t see it until it was almost underfoot. The stairs were made of loose cobble and moist earth like they were a work of masonry once, long ago. I climbed the stairs thoughtlessly, half expecting there to be a landing to greet me at the top. There wasn’t though. Just another crumbly step and an unimpressive view. Something caught my eye as I craned my head… the bushes were packed tight except where the stumps of dead trees formed sunken wells around them, and from one of the craters someone was looking at me. I remember clearly their dark, lean face, their round eyes black. No sooner had I seen the face than it disappeared again, only then did I have the foresight to take off down the steps and back through the bushes and brambles.
In addition to all of this are the bizarre cases of people climbing them or getting close to them, only to experience missing time, as if they have been whisked away to some other reality only to be dumped back where they started as if nothing has happened. One such story comes from a Reddit poster claiming to be a search and rescue volunteer, who says that he and his team came across a stairway with pristine, white carpeting on it. He says that he and one team member broke off from the team to go up the stairs out of curiosity, but once they were at the top an eerie silence descended upon them, as well as an inexplicable sense that something bad was about to happen, which filled them with irrational panic. Faced with this crushing fear, they had the uncontrollable desire to flee, and so they ran back to their team, only when they did it turned out that they had been missing for hours rather than minutes. According to the witness, upon telling their leader about the stairs he seemed to know exactly what they were talking about and warned them to never go up the stairs again. Another missing time story involving the stairs comes from a witness who says he was a ranger in the Philippines when this happened. While traveling through a patch of thick jungle he says he found one of these anomalous stairways and climbed it to get a better view of the surrounding terrain, but when he came back down and got to his destination it turned out that a full 5 years had passed. He claims to have no memory of where he was during that time. What is going on here?
It is hard to really explain all of this, but there are ideas. One is that the stairs are merely the remnants of structures that once existed, or the beginnings of buildings that were never finished, but that doesn’t seem to really adequately explain their remote locations or all of the strangeness orbiting them. More fringe theories have them as being all manner of bizarre things such as places for secret rituals, portals, structures left by aliens, interdimensional phenomena, or secret government experiments. Of course, since the original story that fired all of this up appeared on Reddit, there is the distinct possibility that this was a fiction or hoax that just happened to take on a life of its own to become an ever growing Internet urban legend, yet many of the stories seem sincere and come from people who appear to be looking for honest answers. Whatever these anomalous stairs in the woods really are, they are very strange, indeed, and perhaps more information will be forthcoming.