Just what is it about woods and forests that makes them so beautiful and so eerie at the same time? When most people take a scenic hike through the woods, they don’t typically expect to come face to face with a shapeshifting, teleporting old witch in a cloak. But that’s exactly what our guest on Episode 125: The Shapeshifting Witch encountered while hiking around the isolated area of Dismal Falls in Transylvania County, North Carolina (which totally sounds like a place that’s not at all haunted…). As creepy and unsettling as his experience is, there are a great many uniquely chilling tales of people encountering something unexpected, and not usually welcome, while out in the wilderness. Whether they be supernatural events, human horrors, or mysteries of nature, here are 16 scary things people experienced in the woods!
Stories from Thought Catalog:
A ghost writes Latin phrase in the snow?
The words “Per audacia ad ignotum” drawn in the snow in the absolute middle of nowhere, yet no footprints around them. The words were probably a few hours old. The closest translation we could find was “through audacity towards the unknown.”
That feeling that you’re not alone in the deep, dark cave.
Took my young children to a cave not far from the house. Popular spot, but we had the place to ourselves. You can walk through it in about 30 minutes without too much difficulty. It has a tiny exit at the opposite end. It was pretty muddy, so we decided to turn around and head back to the entrance. Halfway back, there was a lit candle sitting about eight feet up one side. It was definitely not there on the first trip. I went into full-on protective-dad-mode knowing there was likely someone hiding in the dark while we walked the rest of the way out.
Get out now.
My dad said once he was out in the forest with one other ranger, the had to camp overnight halfway to their destination. Well that night they heard footsteps and a lot of them outside their tent. Then they heard at least 20 people scream ‘get out!’ Needless to say they got the f*** out and radioed it in. The next morning the cops went out and searched and found 4 skinned animals pinned to the treats around their camp site.
Apparently every time they go hiking, it’s a nightmare.
I’ve spent various stretches of time backpacking and camping throughout the US and seen some strange things.
My brother and I came across an abandoned trailer town, of sorts, that scared the hell out of us.
We also came across a rundown town (really, really small) out in northern New Mexico that seemed to have one person living in it. We based that on the fact that there was still some food and supplies there that were fairly fresh (perhaps just a few days old). Spent a couple days there trying to find the person, just to find out why they were staying in the town. Never found a person.
We found the skeletal remains of an unknown number of deer (ranging from bucks to fawn) ensnared in a barbed-wire fence that encompassed a 10×10 area in the Ozarks. A few of the skulls topped the fence posts, and there was one post in the middle of this area that had decaying deer bodies (looked to be two, but there were only 6 hooves jutting out of the wreckage) wrapped around it.
We found a dummy hanging from a tree while in the Yukon territory of Canada. Literally out in the middle of the woods. No reason for it, as far as we know.
And we also came across a dead junkie on a road out of Olympia. Obvious OD, as he had his arm tied and a needle in hand. Eyes were glazed over and staring straight ahead, mouth slightly ajar.
A giant guy in a black coat talking to himself is scary pretty much anywhere.
When out exploring an old abandoned quarry with some friends we found this dude stood staring at this rock, occasionally twitching, but he never turned around. We were pretty creeped out so didn’t investigate, and left pretty soon after. Later on that night we found out that another friend was driving down the lane that runs parallel to the quarry found a guy in a black coat stood in the middle of the road, and wouldn’t move. She was pretty freaked out and had to reverse all the way back up the lane in the dark because he was still there. Pretty sure it was the same guy, otherwise it was just a big coincidence.
Why does this sound weirdly like a smaller scale DyatIov Pass incident, minus the bodies?
I was once canoeing the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. These aren’t your normal backyard ponds. The boundary waters are thousands of enormous lakes interconnected with each other (think mini-great lakes). We had been canoeing and camping along the lakes for about a week at this point. We didn’t really have an itinerary, just planned to boat and camp, fish, and live off the land two weeks. We had a GPS and a sat phone to call a helicopter for pickup whenever we were done.
Anyway, about a week in and we were set to canoe a few hours to the next lake. An hour or so in and we are in the center of a extremely long and narrow lake. Unfortunately, a storm started to blow in and the waves on the lake swelled to 2+ feet. Too much for our dinky canoes. We pull off to a random clearing on the shore and set up camp in rush to avoid being totally thrashed by a rainstorm. We just setup camp and hunker down for the night.
By the next morning it had cleared up. We started walking up the coast of the lake about 200 feet from our camp looking for a good fishing spot. What we actually found was another campsite. However, it was ABSOLUTELY wrecked. Trash strewn everywhere, tent collapsed and torn, clothes on the ground. At first we were just like disgusted like what assholes did this? or left their shit out to be bear food?
The more we looked around though, the weirder things seemed though. For one, their garbage was still hoisted into a tree to keep it safe from bears, but the whole bag was ripped open despite being 30 feet in the air. Second, literally everything except the canoes were still at the campsite. Clothes, packs, food, rope, pans, like a serious set of hiking equipment. Enough for 2 or 3 people. Half of it was trashed and torn open, mostly the packs, tent, and clothes. The other half was totally untouched but thrown on the ground. Like somebody NOPE’d the hell out of there in nothing but their long johns ditching hundreds of dollars of gear in the process. We waited a couple hours and eventually called it back to our helicopter crew– but they hadn’t been aware of anybody else or gotten any distress calls. We eventually just left everything and moved camp. Everybody was pretty upset by it and a day or two later we ended the whole trip early because it seemed like nobody wanted to be out anymore.
It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. First thought was bear attack, but there was food left uneaten, and I’ve seen bear attacks on camps before, but nothing like this. Bears rip open packs and go after food, and are generally pretty easy to scare away. What still sticks with me is why all their clothes and packs were still there with half being totally destroyed and half being untouched. I still don’t get it. I’ve done a lot of other camping and hiking, rafting and biking, all around the country and I’ve never had any other weird experiences like that.
Don’t follow the music.
I lived in a national park by myself for three months. Several times when I was going back to my trailer for the day, I would hear music like a music box or an ice cream truck. It was always loud and sounded like it was coming from somewhere over my head. One day I decided to look for the source so I followed the dirt road past my trailer. The music continued, I couldn’t tell if I was getting closer or not. I had my eyes on the trees and looked down just in time to avoid stepping on a snake. I scrambled back but it didn’t move. I realized it was dead and it wasn’t alone, there were half a dozen dead copperheads stretched out in the road, looking in the same direction.
I went back to get my car because I couldn’t bring myself to step over them, but by the time I got my keys, the music had stopped and I didn’t hear it again.
Stories From ViralNova:
The disembodied doll head.
It was right in the middle of a short trail. No garbage or anything around it. And no other doll pieces were near it. It was like someone wanted someone to find it. And the very next day it was gone.
Time slip into a crime scene?
I once found a bloody backpack and a termite infested book nearby. Clearly someone had left this here for a very long time considering the amount of termite damage. I picked the backpack up to see what was inside it and I saw that it left an indentation in the pine straw below. Inside the backpack was a mint condition notebook and a decaying binder. I left to tell my parents about the discovery. When we got there, the objects were just gone. It was like the backpack was never even there. There was no indentation left in the ground and there were no termites at all. My footprints were still there, but there weren't any other footprints anywhere.
No one will be going near the river on this trip. Or ever again.
Went for a walk through the woods today and discovered this...
What possible explanation could there be for what they found?
I was backpacking in Yellowstone above the tree line at about 10,500 feet. We are hiking on a ridge above a lake when all the sudden we come across a horse skull. No body just the skull, pretty cool looking. We get to our campsite not too far away from the lake near where we found the horse skull. When we climb down to the lake we find the body of the horse rotting on the edge of the lake with with negative film strips floating in the water and lying around the shore near the body.
Stories From Ranker:
Short, simple, and horrifying.
[I saw] a human thumb nailed to a tree.
A very unsettling trail marker.
I'm a ranger at Yellowstone. Couple weeks ago I was exploring the Lamar Valley, about 11 miles from the nearest road and even further to the park boundary.
There, in the middle of the trail, is a perfectly severed deer head. No blood, no raggedness at the severance. Perfectly in tact.
This is weird because I have seen wolf and bear [spoils], and I used to find cougar [prey remains] in SD with radio tracking just after the cougar made them.
This was not any of those things. The head was completely uneaten - eyes, tongue, everything intact. Even the ravens hadn't touched it yet. No caching, no [droppings]. Right smack in the trail, but again, no blood.
Even a human doing it made no conventional sense. It was a doe so it had no antlers, plus, why leave it in the trail?
Whole thing, even in broad daylight, gave me chills. Just an ocean of waving grass, bison calmly grazing, and a perfectly clean deer head right on the path.
Stories from Mysterious Universe about Aokigahara, Japan’s Famous Suicide Forest:
A colorless vanishing man.
We thought this was another guy out there, but then we noticed that there was no detail to this person, no color. It was as if he, I felt it was a he, was just a shadow without any features. He also seemed to be following us, but he was way off the trail, just out in the trees, and there was not sound of footsteps or crunching leaves. This was strange, but it got stranger when I watched this figure pass behind some trees. I expected him to come back out from behind the trees, but instead he was suddenly about 10 meters ahead, as if he had just teleported. There is no way anyone could have covered that distance without me noticing it. After some time of this, the strange intruder stood there watching us and then just faded away right before our eyes. My friend and I were quick to head back.
Feeling the memories and despair of other people.
I began to have these memories of people I did not know. These memories came to me unbidden, and just popped into my head as clear as day. As I walked on I started to get this deep sense of despondency, fleeting images of sadness in my head. It was unbearable. But what made it even worse is that I began to hear this whispering in my ear, this insistent voice that told me to end it all, and I started to feel that I wanted to die. I felt compelled to kill myself, and I might have if I had had the means to do it. I sat down there right in the forest as this voice whispered to me and it was the most crushing sense of loneliness and despair I have ever experienced. Then another hiker came through and this wave of angst just lifted and I was myself again. I can’t quite explain it, but I feel like something visited me there in that forest and tried to take me.
The corpse that cried.
We heard what sounded like a woman weeping. It was very strange, but got more alarming when it seemed to actually get louder. We thought it might be someone out there in trouble, so we headed off the trail to see if we could find this person. It was odd, because as we made our way to what we thought was the source of the crying it seemed to move farther away, leading us deeper into the woods. Making it all scarier was that the crying seemed to get more desperate and anguished as we pursued it. We called out to whoever it was, but they did not respond. They just cried.
We got pretty deep into the woods, this crying eluding us the whole time, until we finally seemed to be getting closer to the source. The crying got louder and louder, we were almost there. And then it suddenly stopped. Just stopped altogether. We were a bit bewildered, and then my friend sort of gasps and points, and there hanging from a tree was a noose, holding the remains of what had once been a woman. We got out of there fast and contacted the authorities. It was another suicide. I’ve always wondered if what we heard was the ghost of that woman leading us to her forgotten corpse.
CREEPY BONUS PHOTO:
There’s no background on this creepy image, but we’d probably be staying way out of these woods if we stumbled upon this unexplained horror.
For more scary encounters in the wilderness, check out these frightening and unexplained trail cam photos, or listen to The Confessionals Podcast Episode 64: The Disappearing Church of the Woods, Episode 65: The Mysterious Pine Barrens, Episode 92: The Forest Lights, Episode 100: Bigfoot Found Them… and many more!
Have you ever experienced something scary while in the woods? Share with us below!