"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Stranger West by John E Olsen (2019)

Stranger West by John E Olsen (2019)

John Olsen's three books of strange stories from the U.S. West take the reader to rugged landscapes and towns of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. They are modest and brief books based upon face-to-face interviews with the experiencers themselves, working class women and men whose lives, for a few hours, once took an odd turn. Olsen's witnesses are outdoor people: campers, hikers, hunters, and people whose jobs put them at a lonely gas station or video store at 3am.

Some accounts are more compelling than others. Outdoor encounters in mountains and lonely valleys for me trump eerie houses or black-eyed children. Olsen is one of those today showing wild and open country still has its power to overmaster and breed panic. Readers of Blackwood and Machen will find much to appreciate in Stranger West.

Below are excerpts from some of Olsen's chapters. 

The Cloaked Vision

....I had almost finished my lunch when something caught my eye to the right side of my Jeep. Something I couldn't explain was running down the hillside towards me. The best way to describe it was that it looked almost cloaked like I was looking at it through a heat mirage. I got the distinct feeling that I was looking at Native American running down the trail at me, but as though he was partially hidden in a cloaked haze. The figure ran past the front of my Jeep, not more than a few feet away. Then he crossed the road in front of me and continued down the path on my left and disappeared. I sat in stunned silence, waiting for it to return.

Shadowed in Yellowstone

....I sat still and continued looking around to try and see what was going on. Some movement in front of me caught my eye and turned my head to look at it. Walking towards me between two big trees was a massive, human -like figure that was entirely black. Its head, body, and limbs all appeared to be stretched out, making the character look very tall. The head wasn't round, but more like a long oblong shape. I froze as it started walking towards me. It reached a spot between the two trees and stopped. It was so tall!

     As best I could tell, it appeared to be 8 or 9 feet tall, and it was solid black. If it's even possible, I would describe it as blacker than the night. With the moon being full, I could only make out its outline. Where I should have seen a face or clothes, I only saw jet black. I flipped on my flashlight and shined it towards the creature. When I did it completely disappeared from my view. I stood up and shined my light around entire area, but it was gone.

     I noticed then that the whispers had stopped too. I stood with the flashlight for a few moments in the quiet woods. The only sound I could hear was the pounding of my heart in my ears. I was just about to turn and head towards the campfire when I listened to the whispers start up again. I heard footsteps again, right where the creature had been walking before. At this point, I didn't wait to see it again, I turned on my heels and bolted back to camp at full speed....

Sierra Wendigo

....I remember waking up to an odd sound. It sounded like someone was walking and dragging something. I listened intently hoping it was just a small animal, but as it got closer, I could tell whatever it was it was on 2 feet. I heard it shuffle into our camping area then stop. My heart was pounding so hard it felt like my chest was going to explode.

     The moon was almost full, and so there was a lot of light shining down on our tent. Suddenly the steps slowly started again, this time towards our tent. I could just barely make out the silhouette of a figure on the wall of our tent. It had the shape of a man, but it was stretched upwards. It seemed tall and very skinny. It took a few more steps towards the tent and paused. I could hear raspy, almost sickly breathing coming from the creature. Each breath in sounded wheezy and strained. I slowly reached for the flashlight on my left side between my sleeping bag and the wall of the tent. When I grabbed it, I hit my water bottle with a loud clank. The deep breathing stopped . The sound must have scared it because the creature quickly jogged towards the trees....

Little Foot

....as if we'd done something to scare it, it leaped into the pine tree and scrambled to the top in a flash. I was amazed at how fast it climbed. It seemed to fly up to the top. It was huddled in the upper branches, and I could see that it was still staring at us. We watched it for a few more minutes as it started to get dark. We decided we didn't want to be around when it tried to come down.

Uinta UFO

....The Uinta Mountains are a place of wonder . Whether it's UFO 's, Bigfoot, Ghosts, or Skinwalkers, there are many paranormal stories to be found about this area.

Black Eyes at the Station

....It was a tranquil and cool night. As I looked over my drink choices, I got a strange feeling I was being watched. I looked up and just to the other side of the road to my left; I could see two small figures standing just off the road. They were just out of the range of the street lights so I couldn't see their faces or what they were doing. They just seemed to be standing there watching me. I quickly bought my pop and walked back to my car. I looked, but I couldn't see the figures from where I was pumping my gas.

Little Green Man

....He looked a little annoyed at me. He jumped up and quietly shut the door, pulling on the knob to make sure it was shut. Then walked close to me and whispered, "Aaron, don't you remember the little man? The promise you made not to tell anyone?" He then pointed at the window sill where the little man had been sitting.

Stairway to Nowhere

....I had been hiking for about 2 hours. And the sun had started to dip low in the west. I was contemplating how long I wanted to hike and decided to I'd hit a few more ridges before heading back. I came around a small peak when I noticed something extraordinary in front of me. There on the hillside was a set of stone steps. I walked over to them and found they were made out of rock. They were cut out of what looked like granite. I was perplexed. I was nowhere near a road or building, and they seemed to come out of a thick patch of brush and then up the slope above me. They were worn, but still very recognizably stairs.

Black Eyes at 4am

....I took a sip of my coffee and walked to my car. I had to turn my back to him as I opened the car door to get in. I knew I had been quick to do it but was shocked to look up and see him now standing 5 feet from my car, facing me. His head was still down, and his hair was still in his face. The level of fear I had bubbling up inside me was something I had never experienced before.

Uinta Watchers

....My first day out was uneventful, and I ate dinner then watched the fire before going to bed. I fell into a heavy sleep. I woke in the middle of the night. I'd had a disturbing dream that I was at camp and someone was yelling at me to leave! I was the distinct feeling I wasn't wanted there. It was an alarming and vivid dream that stayed with me all through the night. I slept after the dream, but restlessly. At 5 am, just as it was starting to break light, I decided to get up and make my breakfast. The feeling of the dream was still lingering with me.

     ....Every time I heard something or saw something flash through the trees, it wasn't real. Every time I checked, I found nothing. As I sat by the fire, all my senses were on edge . I blocked the firelight from my eyes (firelight kills your night vision), so I could try and see what was going on around me. After what felt like an hour or so I started to hear sounds. It sounded like people were talking among the trees. I strained to listen to what they were saying , but it was in a language I couldn't understand. However, I was reasonably sure it was a Native American language.

Witch Hecida

….As it came around the last little bend and cleared a big tree about 30 yards from me, it was no longer just a ball of light. A person in a cloak stood next to the tree. It wasn't big, in fact, I'd guess it was no more than 5 feet tall, but its presence was ominous. The dark cloaked figure was illuminated by the orb of light. Now that it was closer , I could clearly see that it was a woman, holding the orb in her right hand at about shoulder height. It looked almost as though she was holding a fireball.


....All around, there were bright white balls of light hanging in mid-air. They were so bright, it was hard to look directly at them. They varied in size. Some were the size of a tennis ball and there a few as large as a basketball. We gasped in awe as we walked into the clearing. There was no sound coming from the orbs, but you could feel an electrical surge in the air.

The Book

....Books are a strange thing, people become very attached to them. Both collectors and everyday people can have unique connections to a book. I've had a few books over time that I felt had a strange aura around them. I never told anyone about it because I thought they might think I was crazy. To be 100% honest, I wasn't sure it was even possible. That is until I got The Beasts of Tarzan book.

Enchanted Choir

....Finally, I had everything locked up, and it was now 10: 15. I had hoped the choir would have stopped on their own, but they hadn't. I walked down to the door near the front of the chapel. The choir was singing "How Great Thou Art." I decided I would wait until they finished the song then let them know it was time to go. As I stood outside the door, the song sounded beautiful. I stood patiently and waited. Just as the song finished, I opened the door and walked in. I was met with a dark room and complete silence. I was baffled. I walked over and flipped on the lights next to the first pew. The chapel lit up, and to my shock, it was empty.

Ghost, Spirit, or Divine Intervention?

....Once in the tiny vehicle, I was squished between the two massive guys in the front seat. I was wedged pretty tightly between them. As I looked around, I noticed a red rose on the visor of the passenger side. Making conversation, I asked where they got the beautiful red rose from. They told me it was from the funeral of the person they killed.

The Paper Route

....One house on my route always gave me the creeps. It was an older home , and the old man that lived there would always run in the house or hide behind the curtains when I came by to hang the paper. I didn't know who he was. This was especially strange because I thought I knew everyone in town. I asked my dad one night what was wrong with him. My Dad explained he was a World War II Veteran. When he got home from the war, he had never been the same. He worked as a janitor, but no one could get him to talk. In fact, no one had heard him speak since before the war.

My reviews of Olsen's two previous collections can be read here and here.


3 September 2019

No comments:

Post a Comment