The forests of our world have always held mysteries for us. Since time unremembered there have been tales across cultures of things lurking out in the trees, hidden from sight and beyond our comprehension. One prevalent mystery that has orbited the wilderness are the occasional cases of strange howls and screams that emanate out from these wild places, serving to stir awe, wonder, and fear. Here we will look at a selection of cases of strange screams and noises from the woods, which are eerie at best, terrifying at worst, and which have remained unsolved.
One very unusual account of mysterious forest screams comes from Lon Strickler, at the site Phantoms and Monsters. Strickler claims that the story first came to his attention when he bumped into an old friend, Andy, in 1988, who had been visiting the area as a part of a Boy Scouts Council meeting. As the two caught up on old times, the topic of paranormal phenomena came up, and Andy claimed that some of the local Boy Scout troops had been spooked by “crying sounds” and screaming from the forest in the vicinity of a place called Camp Conewago, located north of New Oxford, in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The anomalous sounds had apparently been spooky enough to have whole troops call off their camping trips, so Strickler decided to head up there with Andy to investigate personally.
The two of them went with another friend named John, and were prepared for a several-day camping trip to the area, taking up a position away from the main camp deeper into the woods along Conewago Creek. The first night was apparently uneventful, although they all had the unshakable feeling of being watched, and that night they heard movement outside of the tents, although this could have been a lot of things and they mostly dismissed it as anything truly strange. The next day they walked for several miles through the woods, and that feeling of being watched still pervaded the air, something which they all felt, but dismissed as nothing more than nerves. It would not be until that evening that something strange would happen, of which Strickler says:
Later that evening, we were sitting around the fire engaged in a conversation about football when suddenly a scream rang out downstream from our location. I thought it sounded like an owl at first, but a few minutes later it happened again and it distinctively sounded like a child. I couldn’t tell how far away it was but it lasted for several seconds and seemed to fade in and out. We got up and walked a few yards into the woods expecting to hear the sound again. It was quiet for about an hour and we were discussing what could have naturally caused that sound. I have heard bobcats, owls and rabbits scream and none sounded close to this. We agreed that it was definitely the cries of a child. We decided to stay up for the entire night. There was a full moon and much of the woods and creek were visible. At approximately 1:00 am, I was walking the perimeter of our camp when I suddenly felt like something was watching me. I stood still and tried to gauge what was going on. I told Andy and John what I felt and we started to walk deeper into the woods towards the fork.
We walked about 50 feet when, without warning, we recognized to our right a large dark figure with bright red eyes standing in the creek… and suddenly it shot straight up into the air with an audible “whoosh”. A few seconds later, we heard another scream that seemed to fade as if was moving away from us. We hurried back to the campsite and compared thoughts about this phantom. Andy was shook up and didn’t talk for several minutes until I prodded him for his recollection. John was surprising calm and estimated that it was 6 foot or so, dark in color and seemed to have something extending from its back. I also noticed the structures on the back and commented that it reminded me of wings but I was unsure. We all agreed that it had bright red eyes. This creature or phantom jettisoned so fast that we didn’t even have time to get a flashlight on it. Andy wanted to spend the night in the administration building and come back and collect our gear in the morning. He and John walked back, but I decided to stay in the campsite for the remainder of the night. Nothing significant occurred though that feeling of being watched remained.
What was going on here? Strickler has come to the conclusion that this was perhaps a Mothman-type entity, but has no concrete explanation for it. Interestingly, he would later find that this was not at all an isolated incident, when he received a corroborating report of the phantom screams from a witness who reached out to contact him, as well as some testimony from a scout leader of the Boy Scouts who had originally heard the noises. Strickler says of this:
In 2008, I received an email from a man who lived a mile or so downstream from this incident (near Dick’s Dam). He stated that he had heard similar screams for many years and that the frightful sounds continued to this day. A scout leader also emailed me approximately the same time and wanted to tell me that a few of the boys in his troop had witnessed what they described as a ‘dragon’ that was 6 foot tall with wings and a tail….but looked like it had fur or feathers. He said that the boys seemed serious but thought they were ‘showing off’ and dismissed their claims until later when he read the account of my experience. Since that time, I have continued to check up on the area to see if anything strange develops. The Native American folklore and stories from settlers who inhabited the area offer several possibilities as to the identity of this cryptid but to date, I have not been able to make a plausible theory as to what is being heard or seen.
It is hard to know what to make of this account, and it is very bizarre at the very least. In some cases, whole areas have been haunted by such mystery screams from the woods. In 2015, residents of Alert Bay, a remote community on Cormorant Island, off the coast of northern Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada, began reporting strange screams and howls coming from the forest that surrounds the town. The noises had apparently been spooking locals for years, but in this year they became particularly pronounced, usually eerily echoing out from the trees at night and loud enough that they were rather alarming. Since the remote island is not home to any bears, cougars or deer, it was assumed by some that it must be coning from a dog, although residents have denied this. One local by the name of Rod Alfred would say of the sounds:
This summer I’ve heard it three times, I’ve heard it scream three times. But it’s been coming here for years. With that volume, absolutely no dog can make that kind of a noise with that volume.
Interestingly, the island has had reports of Sasquatch sightings, leading many to believe that this is what is being heard, but no one knows for sure. You can hear it for yourself here and see what you think. There were similar reports in 2017 of something howling in the woods near Moricetown, in central British Columbia, Canada, which were at first attributed to the noises made by elk, but one local would dismiss this, saying, “I’ve lived in the country most of my life and been hunting every year for the last 23. I have never felt a sound like these before.” One local even managed to catch a recording of the sound, which you can listen to here. What do you think? From the forests of north-western Ontario there are also reports from the area of something screaming and shrieking in the woods. One report comes from a hunter and resident of Sioux Lookout, Gino Meekis, who has personally heard the otherworldly sounds. He says that he heard the noise while out in the woods with his wife and grandson in October of 2019, and although he at first thought it might be a moose, the seasoned hunter soon changed his mind. He says of what happened:
When it let out the first scream, I thought it was a moose, but my mind changed when it screamed again and again. I’ve heard many different animals in the wild but nothing like this. I grew up hunting with my grandfather for the first 12 years of my life. We could hear it moving … it sounded kind of heavy. My wife, she got scared … picked up [our grandson] and started walking fast towards the vehicle.
Meekis has posted a video of the sounds which you can listen to here. Wildlife officials have listened to the recording and believe that it comes from a “larger mammal” such as a bear or wolf, but have been unable to come to a conclusion as to what species it could be. In the meantime, other reports have come in of the noises coming from the wilderness of the area, and no one has a clue as to what could be causing it. The area of Richfield, Minnesota has also been menaced by terrifying screams coming from the wilderness around town, with several reports from frightened locals coming in in 2020. One witness described it as a “weird crowing/scream” and the sounds were heard by numerous witnesses over the course of four nights, always between 3 and 4 am, before they mysteriously stopped. Wildlife officials have stated that the sounds could have come from young barred owls, raccoons, red foxes, or even a dying rabbit. What were these people hearing? Listen here and decide for yourself.
Perhaps the most well-known recent case of strange sounds from the wilderness comes from the suburb of Forest Grove, lying within the Tualatin Valley of Oregon, just 25 miles from the major city of Portland. Originally sprouted from a farming community, the quiet town has a population of just over 20,000, and is usually a peaceful place outside of major news and the noise of the city. However, in 2016 the usual quiet was rudely broken when terrified residents of the rural town began to report hearing an unearthly loud shrieking noise piercing out from the surrounding countryside at night that no one could explain, and which would go on to generate national news and baffle experts.
To those who heard it, the sound was described variously as being a shrill squeal, a flute-like blare, the screeching of car brakes, a steam whistle, a mechanical scream, metal scraping against metal, an off-kilter siren, or a banshee like moan, but it was agreed by all that no matter what exactly it sounded like it was a truly intense and nerve-wracking racket which purportedly kept people awake and was said to drive pets nuts. The weird noise was also described as coming from the trees, from backyards, and even from the middle of the street, and no one could quite figure out where or what it was emanating from. The story was propelled even further into the mainstream consciousness when a video made by resident Paula Lynch was released purporting to contain one of the mystery shrieks, and the Internet went nuts trying to figure out what it was. One Dave Nemeyer, fire marshal of Forest Grove Fire and Rescue, investigated and said of it:
It’s definitely a horrendous noise. I have no idea what the noise is. [The resident] described to us that it was coming from the middle of the street. To me, it sounds like the sound of train tracks, that metal screeching sound, but there are no train tracks near her home … so that’s obviously ruled out.
The noise stopped as suddenly as it began, leaving us to wonder what it could have been. There have been many theories as to what could have caused the mystery shrieks of forest Grove, including leaky pipes, malfunctioning valves, earthquakes, a faulty attic fan or heat pump, wildlife, and of course Bigfoot and UFOs, yet despite much discussion and debate on the matter it has remained without a concrete explanation. That seems to be the case with all of these reports, no explanation and their mystery unsolved. What is out there in those woods screaming out, and for what purpose? What do we make of such accounts? Whether it is just normal wildlife or something more, it certainly shows that the wild places of our world are mysterious places that still have the power to inspire fear and wonder.