What We Encountered in the Woods

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I lived in Tennessee and was a big fan of camping and hiking. In 2006, me, my girlfriend, my cousin and four other friends had gone on a hiking trip. My girlfriend’s uncle had a rather large property he sometimes allowed people to stay at. In one remote corner of this land he even had a remote cabin he would rent out occasionally and this property was connected to a “no man’s land” as some people called it. You could go out there, as some of us had before and not see another sign of people.

We intended to rough it along the back trails with the intention to camp overnight. After a long hike, it got dark so we built a fire, set up our small tents, had a couple of beers, cooked a few hot dogs over the flames. It was pleasantly uneventful until near midnight. We had been telling stories when suddenly, my cousin started looking off into the dark and began trying to shush us.

After a few seconds of quiet I started to ask what was happening when he bluntly told me hush up. “I’m hearing like, voices out there. I think.”

We all stayed quiet for the next minute, my cousin swearing he heard a voice or voices calling out there past the treeline in the distance. Soon, we started catching what sounded like the faintest yell, that we couldn’t quite make out, and a few of us started yelling out to whoever was out there in the dark, trying to get a response. We thought maybe someone was lost.

“HELLO! IS SOMEBODY THERE? ARE YOU LOST?” my girlfriend yelled, joined in by one of my friends, shouting through his cupped hands: “Heeeelllooooo!! Over heeeeeeeerre!”

All we heard in reply was what sounded like the muffled voices of two people, as if they were calling from a great distance, but it sounded like there was somebody moving around just on the far side of the nearby treeline and they couldn’t have been greater than 100 yards away. More echoing shouts came from that area but were still indiscernible. It sounded like two people shouting at the same time.

Increasingly I became nervous, wondering who was moving around there, imagining backwoods creeps playing games with their victims. Here, at midnight, something was wrong I felt. For a short while we heard nothing. One of my friends went to his gear and retrieved the old Ruger Bearcat .22 revolver that his father given to him as a gift. “If someone wants to rush our camp, I’d like for us to be ready.” I nodded, feeling on edge.

“Hey, do you need help?” my cousin shouted again. In response came two voices shouting vaguely again, still sounding as distant as before. Before, they hand sounded like someone shouting words, even if we couldn’t quite make it them. Now, the shouts were loud and garbled, wordless shouts and baying noises. Someone was moving around out there. My girlfriend said what I was thinking, quietly “Who are these people, why are they here, messing around somebody’s camp, now?”

For the next half hour there was silence besides the fire and the nightlife. We sat on guard around our fire, straining to listen and during that stretch we heard no more shouting or footfalls. Resolving to put a .22 round in anybody that came barging into our circle.

Several minutes later we heard what sounded like people moving about only a short distance past the light cast by our fire, footfalls and the crackle of branches and leaves. Like somebody was staggering about at a brisk speed. A couple of us expected someone to step in to the light but nobody did. Suddenly it stopped. Not another voice was heard. No footfalls or crunching of grass or branches were heard which would indicate that whoever these people were had stepped towards our camp or departed in the opposite way.

All of us were nervous, especially with how the sounds of footsteps had just stopped instead of moving away. Certain that somebody was just watching us from off a ways and waiting for us to fall asleep, we managed to organize ourselves to sleep in shifts, at least two people to stay awake while the others slept in our tents. Wasn’t easy, especially with an odd numbered group but the rest of the night passed without incident.

In the morning, we gathered our gear and decided to leave, the appeal of being out in the woods having vanished in the night. What disturbed me was how far off the voices had sounded yet how closely the movements had come near us, and how they had disappeared. I was certain this was not just some people deciding to prank some campers or sneaking backwoodsmen having a good laugh.

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