2. Bigger in real life.
Falling asleep in my hammock while on a backpacking trip only to wake up in the middle of the night surrounded by dark moving objects. Flicked my headlamp on to reveal a small heard of elk now standing stock still staring at a very confused/frightened human with a light on its head. They all held that position for several seconds then bolted. Elk are a lot bigger and menacing when you’re by your lonesome and they are within arm’s length of you.
3. He wasn't just lion around.
Hunting on Thanksgiving, 2015.
I was at my in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving in NW Montana. They live about 60 miles south of the Canadian border. They are what I would call comfortable survivalists, and live waaayy off the grid. No TV. No cell reception, too far up in the mountains for that. Great people, just don’t like towns. (My wife was home schooled). You get the idea.
I decided I would go for a morning deer hunt on Thanksgiving. It’s a great location for it, as they are right in the middle of prime deer, elk, and bear country. Their house borders national forest land on 3 sides, so pretty easy to find yourself in the middle of nowhere, because you’re already there.
My FIL insists I leave the house at the butt-crack of dawn. (Where I hunt, the deer don’t start moving around until 8 to 9 am.) But of course, I agree with him and head out before light.
I’ve got a head lamp on, walking down a narrow trail in thick coverage and can see about 10ish feet in front of me. It’s super cold but no snow. Dark as hell. 20 miles from the nearest town. FIL says before I left that about 20-25 minutes hike you’ll come to a small curved valley that is a newly finished logging project. Perfect area for deer hunting as there is minimal coverage and you can see about a mile down the valley.
The trail meets up with a rugged logging road. As I keep walking I can start to see large slash piles from this logging project all over the place. I find a good spot over this little valley to sit and listen.
As I’m sitting there and it’s getting light, I’m looking all around me for deer. To my right about 200 yards away there is a slash pile with something moving on or around it. I pull out my little binoculars and look. There is a deer with its legs in the air, covered in dirt and blood. I start to feel the hair on my neck straighten out. The deer disappears inside the pile of branches and then I see a mountain lion come out from the pile, nose red with blood. He scrapes all around the area for a few minutes. I’m guessing he smelled or sensed me, because he was walking around in little circles and looking up in the air. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I kind of panicked because they are very territorial and will definitely attack people. So me being the cool guy I am, fired my gun in the air and walked back to my in-laws’ place in circles. I did see the lion run off, but still. That was the scariest walk I’ve ever been on!
And of course played it cool when I got back. Told my wife what happened that night.
4. The Simplicity of the Scare
Out at sea late at like maybe 2 AM and just seeing a fin pop up above the water near your boat in the complete silence and black ocean.
5. Ping of Russia
Hearing the faint sonar pings from the Russian subs in the middle of the night out in the Baltic Sea.
6. Lost At Sea
Seeing what was left of a man lost at sea. We were too far offshore to report it to any governing body and what would they have done anyway? Just a bloated and sunburnt torso bobbing on an endless horizon. Entrails dragging behind like jellyfish tentacles, and fish hanging out underneath, nibbling.
For me, the creepiest part was that there was no mystery. We all knew what happened, more or less, and we all knew we could be that guy.
7. The Blob
I camped by myself in Northern MN by boat. Found my spot but saw an unidentifiable creepy blob underwater. Set up my tent etc., went fishing but curiosity lead me to the blob again and I finally figured out it was a large dead deer contorted and missing it’s abdomen. Later I noticed bark scraped off tree about 8 feet up (bear sign). It was getting dark.
(Serious) I was living in a dirt floor cabin for about 6 months. I would pack a lunch and hike out half a day in random directions. One day I found an abandoned hotel with an attic full of bats. The old kitchen was full of taxidermy. Not abandoned old taxidermy…current taxidermy, in various states of finish. There was a closet with stacks of dead birds, tools, woodworking tools and glass for the display cases, etc. I noped out of there in a hurry. I took my brother there later because he didn’t believe me…so I have a witness.
9. Lingering Mystery
On a small sailing boat in the Pacific, sailing south from Panama to Ecuador in the middle of the night. Two people on deck – the helmsman and me, theoretically on lookout but really just there to keep the helmsman awake. It’s well after midnight and we’re away from major shipping lanes. We’re somewhere west of Colombia and we haven’t seen land or another vessel in at least a day (at least, not while I’ve been awake – four hours on, four hours off).
And then I see a light off the port bow. It’s far off and distant and under the sail, and therefore hard to keep track of, but it’s there. It isn’t moving. And it seems to flicker and dim but gradually I become aware it’s getting a little brighter, bit by bit. And then I realize it’s a boat, and it’s coming right for us, and by this time I can hear the engine and I yell to the helmsman: “Hard a-port.
(Yes, I used old-timey sailing talk in a crisis. I have no good explanation for this)
So we steer to the left, and the oncoming boat passes on the starboard bow. It’s less than 10 meters away, a big RIB with a massive outboard engine at the back travelling at full throttle. There’s enough light from the moon and our running lights to see that there’s only one person aboard, slumped upright over the steering column, and a load of fishing equipment in the back. Then it’s gone into the night, still travelling straight at maximum speed.
This was over ten years ago. To this day, I have no idea if that midnight fisherman was alive or dead, if he’d fallen asleep at the wheel or suffered a sudden heart attack or what. I don’t know if he powered on until the outboard ran out of fuel and was never seen again, or woke up five minutes later and steered back home. I don’t know what he was doing that far from the other fishing boats (we later saw other lights on the horizon and guessed that they were the fishing fleet), or whether he aimed for us deliberately or if it was sheer coincidence that brought him within spitting distance of our tiny boat in the empty sea. I still wonder sometimes.
10. The cry nightmares are made of.
My parents bought a house in the mountains near national forest land around the time I was in 9th grade. I loved the woods and nature, so I would sneak out at night and walk through the forest all the time. A winter night in a forest in northern Utah is amazing. They can also be terrifying.
I later learned to identify some of the more common animal calls and cries, but at the time I knew nothing about any of that. So as I’m wandering alone through this forest one time I heard the most blood curdling and terrifying scream I have ever heard. I froze the second I heard it, lowered to the ground and didn’t move for what seemed like forever. Eventually I heard some quiet scuffling and turned to see a fox run across the dry river bed near where I was. Scared the absolute shit out of me. If you’ve never heard a fox cry, it is the scream of nightmares.
You see all kinds of cool stuff in the forest if you can be slow and quiet.
11. Crackling Cat
I was on an Outward Bound trip in the White River National Forest in Colorado. A part of OB trips is a solo, which can be anywhere from 12-48 hours in which the participants are by themselves with a journal and some snacks.
I set up a sweet tent in a tree grouping. It had rained the night before so the ground was pretty soft. After setting up I walked around the area. I felt pretty tired, and decided to take a nap… for 8 hours. I woke up in the middle of the night to a bunch of twigs cracking. It turned on my torch to look to see if it was the instructors or any kind of animal. I even called out, ‘Hey, you good?’ (not sure why I said it that way). Nothing.
In the morning I found some big cat tracks right by my tent that were not there when I took my nap. It was really unnerving knowing that a mountain lion was near me when I was sleeping. I told the guides about it and they got really particular about keeping our food away from where we were sleeping.
12. Alone on the Interstate. Late at night.
Driving through the middle of Montana one night, going about 100mph, passed something on the side of the interstate that looks like a mangled body. Turned around at the next pass, came back. Definitely a body. Put my lights on it and tried to call 911 on my cell. No reception. Got in the car to see if I could pick up cell reception (lights were still on)…nothing there but the blood splatters. Drove away QUICK.
13. The Drug Cartel
So I worked at a ranch in southern Arizona, right on the border. I didn’t really consider it to be secluded because I had horses and cows. In hindsight, I guess it was really lonely because sometimes they’d talk back to me.
Anyways, doing fence borders with a guy from another camp and we had to go down into this dry river bed. As we round the bend we see a bunch of beat up trucks sitting there armed to the teeth. Turns out we ran into some kind of big deal for a cartel. The other guy told me to keep steady and we just walked straight through them on our horses. Everyone staring at us, looking like they were ready to shoot us up if we made one false move.
I asked about it when we got to the other side without turning into Swiss cheese and the more experienced rancher told me: ‘The Cartel only cares about Border Patrol and cops. They know this is a ranch, and they know we roam around here, and they know we don’t say much.” Reason being, if they ever assumed the ranchers were the snitches, they could easily find our little ranch houses. Only had 1 person to so many acres. Could have been offed and left there for many days before someone noticed. With all that in mind, I had a very passive relationship with those kind from then on.
There are so many creepy things that can happen to people, and not just in the wilderness. Take a look at these terrifying mysteries which will have you peering over your shoulder.