The dim forests of our world have long been breeding grounds for strange tales of the unexplained. These are places that seem to exist as if in another realm, beyond our prying eyes and existing in a world of their own, so it seems only natural that they may draw odd stories to them. Among these are the various accounts of encountering ghostly and spectral forces out there in the wilderness, and here we will look at a type of such encounters involving bizarre entities that seem to stare at and watch us.
A relatively well-known case of this sort comes from the Missing 411 series of books, by David Paulides. On September 22, 2012, 53-year-old Linda Arteaga was hiking along with her 56-year-old brother Eddie Huff in the forests of the Arkansas Ozarks, near the town of St. Joe., and although the brother returned and claimed to have seen his sister off at a relative’s house and that she was safe, in reality she was nowhere to be found. A large search was launched and Arteaga was fortunately found that day in the woods, albeit in a profound state of distress, but the circumstances surrounding the whole ordeal would become increasingly more bizarre.
When she was questioned on what had happened, Arteaga could not recall how she had been separated from her brother. She did mention that she thought he had been hurt somehow, and that she had tried to find help for him. As she had walked along, she claimed that she had come across other hikers, but that all attempts to communicate with them had been futile, as if they had not seen or heard her at all. She also said she could see other shadowy figures who seemed to be hiding from her in the woods, saying: “These people were hiding in bushes. They were weird people, very weird people.” It also seems that at some point she saw these strange figures staring at her and managing to always remain obscured behind a tree or other obstacle, their faces never really seen. One of the searchers who found Arteaga, a deputy Dewayne Pierce, said that when they had found her she “she wasn’t quite about her head.” Some who have looked at the case have come to the conclusion that Arteaga may have ingested some hallucinogenic berries, but it remains unclear just what is going on here.
Another very odd encounter was relayed by a witness called “John R.” on the site Backpack Verse. He claims that he is from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and that he often takes hikes through the wilderness near his home. On this particular day he claims that he was out for one of these routine hikes at around 5 p.m., and at that time there were few others on the trail. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, the number of people out hiking the trail dissolved until he was the only one around, and that was when things would get weird. He began to get the eerie feeling that someone was watching him and following, even though there was no one else that he could see out there. At first this was just a creepy feeling, but it became more ominous when out of nowhere a fog rolled in to cover the trail with a thick cover of white. This might be spooky enough for most people, but he was about to be confronted with something strange out there beyond conventional explanation. He says of what happened next:
At first the fog was just a thin layer, but as my hike continued it started to get so bad that I couldn’t see 6 feet in front of me. My heart rate started jacking up with the feeling of something still following me through the fog. I wanted to turn around to convince myself I was imagining things, but I was too afraid to stop. Sick of feeling paranoid, I came to a sudden stop. I turned around and there through the haze was a woman standing a few yards away from me. I knew there was no one else on the trail as I didn’t pass anybody after the halfway point. Panicking, I started running as fast as I could back to my car. I looked back again and the woman was still the same distance away. She just stood there, looking right through me. I just kept running, hoping to get away from the mysterious figure. My heart was pounding, sweat was dripping from my forehead as I breathed heavy. I was about to have a panic attack until I noticed the fog was suddenly disappearing around me. I looked back and the mysterious woman had vanished. I kept running quickly to the end of the trail, finally reaching my car. Ever since that day I have been too afraid to take hikes alone. I’ve replayed the events in my head, trying to convince myself I’m not crazy. I don’t know what the mysterious figure in the fog wanted, but I feel in my bones that I barely escaped with my life that day.
What was going on here? From the site The Occult Museum comes a case from a witness named Michael Laicini, who at the time was hiking with some friends up a hillside, thick with trees, in the middle of the night during a long weekend. Although it was around midnight, the full moon ensured that there was enough light to see fairly well, and at the time they were chatting and having fun. At some point during their trek to the top of the hill, something caught his attention, and the witness describes the bizarre events that followed:
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 staring right in my direction. 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.
Such strong reactions of fear, danger, or the sense of not being supposed to be there are common in such cases, and our next one is no different. From the site Hiking Soul is a bizarre report from user “Lavrentiiy,” who claims this happened on a trip into the wilderness out “in the middle of nowhere” on a natural trail made by deer. As he walked, he says that he suddenly heard an unexpolicable sound from the surrounding trees that sounded like a sheep baaing. It was a little odd, and with the dark beginning to set in, he began to feel uneasy, but things were about to take a turn for the truly frightening, and he says of what happened next:
At first it doesn’t strike me as unusual, because on the surface, hearing a sheep in the country doesn’t seem out of place. Then I hear it again, directly from the shadows to my left, and two things hit me at once. One, this is deep wilderness and there is no farmland around me. Two, the baaing sounds too perfect. It sounds like somebody doing a really good impression of a sheep, but as I hear it again I realize it’s the same pitch and length each time, like a recording. The more I hear it, the more unnerving it gets. I keep walking, and seconds later I draw even with it. As I walk past I catch a glimpse of a figure crouched in the bushes just off the trail staring at me, and a flash of teeth as (I assume) whoever or whatever was there grinned at me. I did not stop anywhere near there that night.
He would go on to explain that during the incident he had been overwhelmed with a potent, irrational fear. Whatever this was seems to have obviously been inhuman, so what was it, a ghost, alien, or something else? Another report of what may have been some sort of alien entity was made by a man named Eli Boschetto who was camping with his wife in Northern California’s redwoods and decided to go on a short hike around the area. As he walked along with a headlamp on, he noticed something very odd by the side of the road, and a report on the incident in The Washington Trails Association reads:
At the side of the road, something stood there looking at him. Through the haze and darkness, he tried to discern what the creature was before him. It stood about 2 feet in height, completely gray, with a large round head and curious eyes. “It must be a raccoon,” he thought But … no. There was no mask. And no fur. And no tail! The creature cocked its head, looking back. Eli took a tentative step closer to get a better look. The creature withdrew slightly, peering cautiously back. What was this thing? Time seemed to halt as the two stared at one another. Remembering his head lamp, Eli reached up to set the light brighter. The movement startled the creature, and Eli particularly noticed that the creature walked off on two legs, dissolving into the misty, shadowy darkness. Every hair on his arms and neck was electrified, and chills ran down his spine. What had he just seen? He scanned the underbrush with his head lamp, seeking to comprehend what he’d just witnessed, but the small, gray, upright creature with no fur and no tail was nowhere to be seen. Had he just seen an alien? It was a sleepless night, as every creak and crack in their pitch-black tent seemed to alert him to the possible presence of interstellar beings, watching them from the woods nearby …
What is going on in such cases? Are there forces beyond what we know lurking within the wild places of our world? If so, what are we dealing with here? Are these ghosts, aliens, interdimensional interlopers, or what? Are there perhaps portals and thin spots in reality out in the woods that are allowing things to bleed over from other realms? Or are these just tall tales and overactive imaginations? The answers remain unclear.