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

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

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Rereading: The Terror by Arthur Machen

Machen does a beautiful job handling all the weird and uncanny anecdotes he accumulates through the first half of the novel. It is 1915, and press discussion in general of the "terror" taking place is forbidden by censorship, so that characters are slow to realize the scope of the inexplicable crisis.

This is my third read of The Terror. It is the first time all the disparate pieces of narrative evidence arrayed by Machen have hit me full-force. Brilliant depiction of uncertainty, anxiety, panic, and of course "terror" in wartime. It achieves levels of emotional poignancy unsurpassed in Machen's longer works.

I think my favorite Machen stories are the ones where the narrator is a journalist like Machen, sent to investigate a strange situation and struggling to make sense of queer events and astonishing hearsay.:

"The Great Return."
"The Terror."
"Out of the Earth"
"Opening the Door"
Et cetera.



N.B. What then was the Terror?

....In my opinion, and it is only an opinion, the source of the great revolt of the beasts is to be sought in a much subtler region of inquiry. I believe that the subjects revolted because the king abdicated. Man has dominated the beasts throughout the ages, the spiritual has reigned over the rational through the peculiar quality and grace of spirituality that men possess, that makes a man to be that which he is. And when he maintained this power and grace, I think it is pretty clear that between him and the animals there was a certain treaty and alliance. There was supremacy on the one hand, and submission on the other; but at the same time there was between the two that cordiality which exists between lords and subjects in a well-organized state. I know a socialist who maintains that Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" give a picture of true democracy. I do not know about that, but I see that knight and miller were able to get on quite pleasantly together, just because the knight knew that he was a knight and the miller knew that he was a miller. If the knight had had conscientious objections to his knightly grade, while the miller saw no reason why he should not be a knight, I am sure that their intercourse would have been difficult, unpleasant, and perhaps murderous.

So with man. I believe in the strength and truth of tradition. A learned man said to me a few weeks ago: "When I have to choose between the evidence of tradition and the evidence of a document, I always believe the evidence of tradition. Documents may be falsified, and often are falsified; tradition is never falsified." This is true; and, therefore, I think, one may put trust in the vast body of folklore which asserts that there was once a worthy and friendly alliance between man and the beasts. Our popular tale of Dick Whittington and his Cat no doubt represents the adaptation of a very ancient legend to a comparatively modern personage, but we may go back into the ages and find the popular tradition asserting that not only are the animals the subjects, but also the friends of man.

All that was in virtue of that singular spiritual element in man which the rational animals do not possess. Spiritual does not mean respectable, it does not even mean moral, it does not mean "good" in the ordinary acceptation of the word. It signifies the royal prerogative of man, differentiating him from the beasts.

For long ages he has been putting off this royal robe, he has been wiping the balm of consecration from his own breast. He has declared, again and again, that he is not spiritual, but rational, that is, the equal of the beasts over whom he was once sovereign. He has vowed that he is not Orpheus but Caliban.

But the beasts also have within them something which corresponds to the spiritual quality in men — we are content to call it instinct. They perceived that the throne was vacant — not even friendship was possible between them and the self-deposed monarch. If he were not king he was a sham, an imposter, a thing to be destroyed.


...."A young fellow I know," he said, "was on short leave the other day from the front, and he spent it with his people at Belmont — that's about four miles out of Midlingham, you know. 'Thank God,' he said to me, 'I am going back to-morrow. It's no good saying that the Wipers salient is nice, because it isn't. But it's a damned sight better than this. At the front you know what you're up against anyhow.' At Midlingham everybody has the feeling that we're up against something awful and we don't know what; it's that that makes people inclined to whisper. There's terror in the air."

Merritt made a sort of picture of the great town cowering in its fear of an unknown danger.

"People are afraid to go about alone at nights in the outskirts. They make up parties at the stations to go home together if it's anything like dark, or if there are any lonely bits on their way."

"But why? I don't understand. What are they afraid of?"

"Well, I told you about my being awakened up the other night with the machine-guns at the motor works rattling away, and the bombs exploding and making the most terrible noise. That sort of thing alarms one, you know. It's only natural."

"Indeed, it must be very terrifying. You mean, then, there is a general nervousness about, a vague sort of apprehension that makes people inclined to herd together?"

"There's that, and there's more. People have gone out that have never come back. There were a couple of men in the train to Holme, arguing about the quickest way to get to Northend, a sort of outlying part of Holme where they both lived. They argued all the way out of Midlingham, one saying that the high road was the quickest though it was the longest way. 'It's the quickest going because it's the cleanest going,' he said."

"The other chap fancied a short cut across the fields, by the canal. 'It's half the distance,' he kept on. 'Yes, if you don't lose your way,' said the other. Well, it appears they put an even half-crown on it, and each was to try his own way when they got out of the train. It was arranged that they were to meet at the 'Wagon' in Northend. 'I shall be at the "Wagon" first,' said the man who believed in the short cut, and with that he climbed over the stile and made off across the fields. It wasn't late enough to be really dark, and a lot of them thought he might win the stakes. But he never turned up at the Wagon — or anywhere else for the matter of that."

"What happened to him?"

"He was found lying on his back in the middle of a field — some way from the path. He was dead. The doctors said he'd-been suffocated. Nobody knows how. Then there have been other cases. We whisper about them at Midlingham, but we're afraid to speak out."

Lewis was ruminating all this profoundly. Terror in Meirion and terror far away in the heart of England; but at Midlingham, so far as he could gather from these stories of soldiers on guard, of crackling machine-guns, it was a case of an organized attack on the munitioning of the army. He felt that he did not know enough to warrant his deciding that the terror of Meirion and of Stratfordshire were one.

Then Merritt began again:

"There's a queer story going about, when the door's shut and the curtain's drawn, that is, as to a place right out in the country over the other side of Midlingham; on the opposite side to Dunwich. They've built one of the new factories out there, a great red brick town of sheds they tell me it is, with a tremendous chimney. It's not been finished more than a month or six weeks. They plumped it down right in the middle of the fields, by the line, and they're building huts for the workers as fast as they can but up to the present the men are billeted all about, up and down the line.

"About two hundred yards from this place there's an old footpath, leading from the station and the main road up to a small hamlet on the hillside. Part of the way this path goes by a pretty large wood, most of it thick undergrowth. I should think there must be twenty acres of wood, more or less. As it happens, I used this path once long ago; and I can tell you it's a black place of nights.

"A man had to go this way one night. He got along all right till he came to the wood. And then he said his heart dropped out of his body. It was awful to hear the noises in that wood. Thousands of men were in it, he swears that. It was full of rustling, and pattering of feet trying to go dainty, and the crack of dead boughs lying on the ground as some one trod on them, and swishing of the grass, and some sort of chattering speech going on, that sounded, so he said, as if the dead sat in their bones and talked! He ran for his life, anyhow; across fields, over hedges, through brooks. He must have run, by his tale, ten miles out of his way before he got home to his wife, and beat at the door, and broke in, and bolted it behind him...


...."'Ask no questions, Ned,' he says to me, 'but I tell yow a' was in Bairnigan t'other day, and a' met a pal who'd seen three hundred coffins going out of a works not far from there.'"

And then the ship that hovered outside the mouth of the Thames with all sails set and beat to and fro in the wind, and never answered any hail, and showed no light! The forts shot at her and brought down one of the masts, but she went suddenly about with a change of wind under what sail still stood, and then veered down Channel, and drove ashore at last on the sandbanks and pinewoods of Arcachon, and not a man alive on her, but only rattling heaps of bones! That last voyage of the Semiramis would be something horribly worth telling; but I only heard it at a distance as a yarn, and only believed it because it squared with other things that I knew for certain….


....The child who was lost came from a lonely cottage that stands on the slope of a steep hillside called the Allt, or the height. The land about it is wild and ragged; here the growth of gorse and bracken, here a marshy hollow of reeds and rushes, marking the course of the stream from some hidden well, here thickets of dense and tangled undergrowth, the outposts of the wood. Down through this broken and uneven ground a path leads to the lane at the bottom of the valley; then the land rises again and swells up to the cliffs over the sea, about a quarter of a mile away. The little girl, Gertrude Morgan, asked her mother if she might go down to the lane and pick the purple flowers — these were orchids — that grew there, and her mother gave her leave, telling her she must be sure to be back by tea-time, as there was apple-tart for tea.

She never came back. It was supposed that she must have crossed the road and gone to the cliff's edge, possibly in order to pick the sea-pinks that were then in full blossom. She must have slipped, they said, and fallen into the sea, two hundred feet below. And, it may be said at once, that there was no doubt some truth in this conjecture, though it stopped very far short of the whole truth. The child's body must have been carried out by the tide, for it was never found.

The conjecture of a false step or of a fatal slide on the slippery turf that slopes down to the rocks was accepted as being the only explanation possible. People thought the accident a strange one because, as a rule, country children living by the cliffs and the sea become wary at an early age, and Gertrude Morgan was almost ten years old. Still, as the neighbors said, "that's how it must have happened, and it's a great pity, to be sure." But this would not do when in a week's time a strong young laborer failed to come to his cottage after the day's work. His body was found on the rocks six or seven miles from the cliffs where the child was supposed to have fallen; he was going home by a path that he had used every night of his life for eight or nine years, that he used of dark nights in perfect security, knowing every inch of it. The police asked if he drank, but he was a teetotaler; if he were subject to fits, but he wasn't. And he was not murdered for his wealth, since agricultural laborers are not wealthy. It was only possible again to talk of slippery turf and a false step; but people began to be frightened. Then a woman was found with her neck broken at the bottom of a disused quarry near Llanfihangel, in the middle of the county. The "false step" theory was eliminated here, for the quarry was guarded with a natural hedge of gorse bushes. One would have to struggle and fight through sharp thorns to destruction in such a place as this; and indeed the gorse bushes were broken as if some one had rushed furiously through them, just above the place where the woman's body was found. And this was strange: there was a dead sheep lying beside her in the pit, as if the woman and the sheep together had been chased over the brim of the quarry. But chased by whom, or by what? And then there was a new form of terror.

This was in the region of the marshes under the mountain. A man and his son, a lad of fourteen or fifteen, set out early one morning to work and never reached the farm where they were bound. Their way skirted the marsh, but it was broad, firm and well metalled, and it had been raised about two feet above the bog. But when search was made in the evening of the same day Phillips and his son were found dead in the marsh, covered with black slime and pondweed. And they lay some ten yards from the path, which, it would seem, they must have left deliberately. It was useless of course, to look for tracks in the black ooze, for if one threw a big stone into it a few seconds removed all marks of the disturbance. The men who found the two bodies beat about the verges and purlieus of the marsh in hope of finding some trace of the murderers; they went to and fro over the rising ground where the black cattle were grazing, they searched the alder thickets by the brook; but they discovered nothing.

Most horrible of all these horrors, perhaps, was the affair of the Highway, a lonely and unfrequented by-road that winds for many miles on high and lonely land. Here, a mile from any other dwelling, stands a cottage on the edge of a dark wood. It was inhabited by a laborer named Williams, his wife, and their three children. One hot summer's evening, a man who had been doing a day's gardening at a rectory three or four miles away, passed the cottage, and stopped for a few minutes to chat with Williams, the laborer, who was pottering about his garden, while the children were playing on the path by the door. The two talked of their neighbors and of the potatoes till Mrs. Williams appeared at the doorway and said supper was ready, and Williams turned to go into the house. This was about eight o'clock, and in the ordinary course the family would have their supper and be in bed by nine, or by half-past nine at latest. At ten o'clock that night the local doctor was driving home along the Highway. His horse shied violently and then stopped dead just opposite the gate to the cottage. The doctor got down, frightened at what he saw; and there on the roadway lay Williams, his wife, and the three children, stone dead, all of them. Their skulls were battered in as if by some heavy iron instrument; their faces were beaten into a pulp.


2 June 2018

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Folk: No-Man's Land by John Buchan (1899).

….I had come a wild cross-country road, and was now, though I did not know it, nearly as far from my destination as at the start.

An anthology could be built of stories about narrators lost in uncanny open country as darkness falls.

Munby's "An Encounter in the Mist" is a fine example.

"No-Man's Land" by Buchan is a novella-length thriller with an unmatched lost-hiker scene in which Oxford archaeologist Mr. Graves has a tumultuous encounter in the mountains above the Scottish moors.

....after my better judgment had warned me of its folly. At last, about three in the afternoon, I struck my camp, and prepared myself for a long and toilsome retreat.

And long and toilsome it was beyond anything I had ever encountered. Had I had a vestige of sense I would have followed the burn from the loch down to the Forest House. The place was shut up, but the keeper would gladly have given me shelter for the night. But foolish pride was too strong in me. I had found my road in mist before, and could do it again.

Before I got to the top of the hill I had repented my decision; when I got there I repented it more. For below me was a dizzy chaos of grey; there was no landmark visible; and before me I knew was the bog through which the Caulds Water twined. I had crossed it with some trouble in the morning, but then I had light to pick my steps. Now I could only stumble on, and in five minutes I might be in a bog-hole, and in five more in a better world.

But there was no help to be got from hesitation, so with a rueful courage I set off. The place was if possible worse than I had feared. Wading up to the knees with nothing before you but a blank wall of mist and the cheerful consciousness that your next step may be your last—such was my state for one weary mile. The stream itself was high, and rose to my armpits, and once and again I only saved myself by a violent leap backwards from a pitiless green slough. But at last it was past, and I was once more on the solid ground of the hillside.

Now, in the thick weather I had crossed the glen much lower down than in the morning, and the result was that the hill on which I stood was one of the giants which, with the Muneraw for centre, guard the watershed. Had I taken the proper way, the Nick o' the Threshes would have led me to the Caulds, and then once over the bog a little ridge was all that stood between me and the glen of Farawa. But instead I had come a wild cross-country road, and was now, though I did not know it, nearly as far from my destination as at the start.

Well for me that I did not know, for I was wet and dispirited, and had I not fancied myself all but home, I should scarcely have had the energy to make this last ascent. But soon I found it was not the little ridge I had expected. I looked at my watch and saw that it was five o'clock. When, after the weariest climb, I lay on a piece of level ground which seemed the top, I was not surprised to find that it was now seven. The darkening must be at hand, and sure enough the mist seemed to be deepening into a greyish black. I began to grow desperate. Here was I on the summit of some infernal mountain, without any certainty where my road lay. I was lost with a vengeance, and at the thought I began to be acutely afraid.

I took what seemed to me the way I had come, and began to descend steeply. Then something made me halt, and the next instant I was lying on my face trying painfully to retrace my steps. For I had found myself slipping, and before I could stop, my feet were dangling over a precipice with Heaven alone knows how many yards of sheer mist between me and the bottom. Then I tried keeping the ridge, and took that to the right, which I thought would bring me nearer home. It was no good trying to think out a direction, for in the fog my brain was running round, and I seemed to stand on a pin-point of space where the laws of the compass had ceased to hold.

It was the roughest sort of walking, now stepping warily over acres of loose stones, now crawling down the face of some battered rock, and now wading in the long dripping heather. The soft rain had begun to fall again, which completed my discomfort. I was now seriously tired, and, like all men who in their day have bent too much over books, I began to feel it in my back. My spine ached, and my breath came in short broken pants. It was a pitiable state of affairs for an honest man who had never encountered much grave discomfort. To ease myself I was compelled to leave my basket behind me, trusting to return and find it, if I should ever reach safety and discover on what pathless hill I had been strayed. My rod I used as a staff, but it was of little use, for my fingers were getting too numb to hold it.

Suddenly from the blankness I heard a sound as of human speech. At first I thought it mere craziness—the cry of a weasel or a hill-bird distorted by my ears. But again it came, thick and faint, as through acres of mist, and yet clearly the sound of 'articulate-speaking men.' In a moment I lost my despair and cried out in answer. This was some forwandered traveller like myself, and between us we could surely find some road to safety. So I yelled back at the pitch of my voice and waited intently.

But the sound ceased, and there was utter silence again. Still I waited, and then from some place much nearer came the same soft mumbling speech....

Machen readers will note the phrase 'articulate-speaking men.'

Graves, setting out earlier that day for fishing, recalls a college encounter that only increases his uneasiness when he becomes lost:

....with some uneasiness I reflected on that older and stranger race who were said to have held the hill-tops. The Picts, the Picti—what in the name of goodness were they? They had troubled me in all my studies, a sort of blank wall to put an end to speculation. We knew nothing of them save certain strange names which men called Pictish, the names of those hills in front of me—the Muneraw, the Yirnie, the Calmarton. They were the corpus vile for learned experiment; but Heaven alone knew what dark abyss of savagery once yawned in the midst of the desert.

And then I remembered the crazy theories of a pupil of mine at St. Chad's, the son of a small landowner on the Aller, a young gentleman who had spent his substance too freely at Oxford, and was now dreeing his weird in the Backwoods. He had been no scholar; but a certain imagination marked all his doings, and of a Sunday night he would come and talk to me of the North. The Picts were his special subject, and his ideas were mad. 'Listen to me,' he would say, when I had mixed him toddy and given him one of my cigars; 'I believe there are traces—ay, and more than traces—of an old culture lurking in those hills and waiting to be discovered. We never hear of the Picts being driven from the hills. The Britons drove them from the lowlands, the Gaels from Ireland did the same for the Britons; but the hills were left unmolested. We hear of no one going near them except outlaws and tinklers. And in that very place you have the strangest mythology. Take the story of the Brownie. What is that but the story of a little swart man of uncommon strength and cleverness, who does good and ill indiscriminately, and then disappears. There are many scholars, as you yourself confess, who think that the origin of the Brownie was in some mad belief in the old race of the Picts, which still survived somewhere in the hills. And do we not hear of the Brownie in authentic records right down to the year 1756? After that, when people grew more incredulous, it is natural that the belief should have begun to die out; but I do not see why stray traces should not have survived till late.'

'Do you not see what that means?' I had said in mock gravity. 'Those same hills are, if anything, less known now than they were a hundred years ago. Why should not your Picts or Brownies be living to this day?'

'Why not, indeed?' he had rejoined, in all seriousness.

I laughed, and he went to his rooms and returned with a large leather-bound book. It was lettered, in the rococo style of a young man's taste, 'Glimpses of the Unknown,' and some of the said glimpses he proceeded to impart to me. It was not pleasant reading; indeed, I had rarely heard anything so well fitted to shatter sensitive nerves. The early part consisted of folk-tales and folk-sayings, some of them wholly obscure, some of them with a glint of meaning, but all of them with some hint of a mystery in the hills. I heard the Brownie story in countless versions. Now the thing was a friendly little man, who wore grey breeches and lived on brose; now he was a twisted being, the sight of which made the ewes miscarry in the lambing-time. But the second part was the stranger, for it was made up of actual tales, most of them with date and place appended. It was a most Bedlamite catalogue of horrors, which, if true, made the wholesome moors a place instinct with tragedy. Some told of children carried away from villages, even from towns, on the verge of the uplands. In almost every case they were girls, and the strange fact was their utter disappearance. Two little girls would be coming home from school, would be seen last by a neighbour just where the road crossed a patch of heath or entered a wood, and then—no human eye ever saw them again. Children's cries had startled outlying shepherds in the night, and when they had rushed to the door they could hear nothing but the night wind. The instances of such disappearances were not very common— perhaps once in twenty years—but they were confined to this one tract of country, and came in a sort of fixed progression from the middle of last century, when the record began. But this was only one side of the history. The latter part was all devoted to a chronicle of crimes which had gone unpunished, seeing that no hand had ever been traced. The list was fuller in last century; in the earlier years of the present it had dwindled; then came a revival about the 'fifties; and now again in our own time it had sunk low. At the little cottage of Auchterbrean, on the roadside in Glen Aller, a labourer's wife had been found pierced to the heart. It was thought to be a case of a woman's jealousy, and her neighbour was accused, convicted, and hanged. The woman, to be sure, denied the charge with her last breath; but circumstantial evidence seemed sufficiently strong against her. Yet some people in the glen believed her guiltless. In particular, the carrier who had found the dead woman declared that the way in which her neighbour received the news was a sufficient proof of innocence; and the doctor who was first summoned professed himself unable to tell with what instrument the wound had been given. But this was all before the days of expert evidence, so the woman had been hanged without scruple. Then there had been another story of peculiar horror, telling of the death of an old man at some little lonely shieling called Carrickfey. But at this point I had risen in protest, and made to drive the young idiot from my room.

'It was my grandfather who collected most of them,' he said. 'He had theories,[*] but people called him mad, so he was wise enough to hold his tongue. My father declares the whole thing mania; but I rescued the book had it bound, and added to the collection. It is a queer hobby; but, as I say, I have theories, and there are more things in heaven and earth—' But at this he heard a friend's voice in the Quad., and dived out, leaving the banal quotation unfinished.

[* In the light of subsequent events I have jotted down the materials to which I refer. The last authentic record of the Brownie is in the narrative of the shepherd of Clachlands, taken down towards the close of last century by the Reverend Mr. Gillespie, minister of Allerkirk, and included by him in his 'Songs and Legends of Glen Aller'.

The authorities on the strange carrying-away of children are to be found in a series of articles in a local paper, the Allerfoot Advertiser', September and October 1878, and a curious book published anonymously at Edinburgh in 1848, entitled 'The Weathergaw'. The records of the unexplained murders in the same neighbourhood are all contained in Mr. Fordoun's 'Theory of Expert Evidence', and an attack on the book in the 'Law Review' for June 1881. The Carrickfey case has a pamphlet to itself—now extremely rare—a copy of which was recently obtained in a bookseller's shop in Dumfries by a well-known antiquary, and presented to the library of the Supreme Court in Edinburgh.]

"No-Man's Land" is a fine addition to the small library of "very old people" stories handled with confidence and a wholly satisfactory resolution

26 September 2018

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Stranger U.S. True Paranormal Stories from the United States

Stranger U.S. True Paranormal Stories from the United States 

Book four of the Stranger Bridgerland Book Series By John E Olsen (2020)

For the last three years my late-summer tradition has been to read the latest book by John Olsen.

My Stranger Bridgerland review is here.

Beyond Stranger Bridgerland, here.

Stranger West, here.

John's uniqueness is that his books only contain stories that he has found for himself via email, personal interviews, and site visits. Another appealing fact is that most of his stories (including those about his own youth) happen in the "Bridgerland" region of the Western US.

* * *

USS Lexington Ghost 

A girl scout troop spends a night in the bowels of the Lexington.

....I opened my eyes, and there was a thick feeling of dread in the room. The feeling hung in the air like a thick fog. The smell was so horrible I could taste it in my mouth. Suddenly there was a wall of energy in the room. It was passing through the compartment from one side to the other like a heavy curtain. As it passed through, I felt it move slowly through my body.  It started at my head and slowly moved through my torso and down through my toes. It's like I was being dipped head first in fear! I lay frozen in my bunk, unable to move anything but my eyes and head. Since I couldn't see my hand in front of my face, I listened intently....

Drowning Ghosts 

Two friends in Montana go snorkelling in a lake.

....I had been in the water for a while and made my way about 200 yards up the shore, I stopped and looked for Zac but couldn't see him. The sun had just gone down, and it was getting a little darker. I knew I didn't have more than 15 more minutes before I had to head back. I ducked back underwater when some movement caught my eye. Many times, you would see fish up close because they aren't afraid of you in the water, and I thought that is what I saw, however as I looked, I realized it was a large shadow just past where I could see. The lake is clear, and visibility is excellent, but at dusk, the light can play a trick on you. I stared in the direction of the movement, and I could see a large dark mass slowly coming my way. I came up to see if I could understand better from the surface, but I couldn't see anything. I went back now under to look, and the black mass had soon come close enough to see. There about 15 feet from me was the body of a woman....

Babysitting Bigfoot 

A young woman in rural Wyoming babysits, gets her charges to bed.

....I turned on the back-porch light and looked around through the window of the door, but I couldn't see anything. Just then heard heavy steps and the wood creek as something stepped on to the front porch. I turned off the light and made sure the door was locked. At this point, I still wasn't too afraid. Living out in Wyoming, you get used to all kinds of animals coming round your house at night, and I thought at worst it was a bear snooping around. I walked to the front room, and I could see the silhouette of an enormous creature standing on the porch through the big front window....

Time Traveling Dog 

A charming animal story. A girl in southeast Idaho loses her dog while on a family outing to gather firewood. It disappears, seemingly into thin air.

....Five years later, I was 15, and I again had to go help get wood for the winter. I had avoided it for most years because going into the mountains made me so sad.  But this year, my Dad had told me to suck it up because he needed my help.

     ....I turned around and looked up the road, and I could see a dog walking down towards the truck. Confused, I walked up to the truck. As the dog walked around the front of the truck with its tail wagging, I almost passed out. The dog looked just like I remembered Sammy. The dog bounced and wagged its tail as if it knew me. I looked more closely and realized the dog had the white S on its chest just like Sammy too.

     ....In shock, I called out, and she came running over. It was Sammy! But it couldn't be! Confused, I got down on her level and looked her over. She looked like I remembered, and I thought I must be dreaming. She was so happy to see me. I looked at her collar and saw her tag.  It was just as I remembered; her name and my name and address on it, and it was still brand new! I hugged her so tight and started crying....

UFO on Shasta 

A friend of mine at work, sober and serious, offered to show me snapshots of his Nothern California vacation. He pointed to a couple and half-joking said he thought they showed sealed "doorways" of flat rock on slopes of a trail.

     ....As I slowed down, the light came up on my left.  It was at this point I realized it wasn't a car at all. It was a craft floating above the road. It looked metallic, but it was also glowing bright! It was just bigger than my bug and staying right next to me, hovering above the roadway. I was mesmerized by the object. As I approached the next corner, the craft jetted up over my car and turned towards Mount Shasta. It got just above the trees, and then in a flash, it shot up and out of sight. I stopped and stared in disbelief! After a few minutes, I gained my senses and got back on the road.

Pawapicts - Water Baby 

A couple's disturbing experience camping in northern Utah.

...."I'm going to see what it is. Do you want to come or stay here alone?"

     When he put it that way, I decided to go. I slipped on my boots and grabbed a jacket. We exited the tent, but my husband didn't turn on the flashlight. There was enough light from the stars and moon to see where we were walking. We slowly continued down the path and towards the sound. It sounded just like a baby crying, but in my mind knew there was no way this was a baby.

    I hung on to Jon's arm as we made our way around a corner where we could see what was causing the sound. As we made our way through the brush, it cleared to and opening. Right in front of us was a bunch of rocks half in and out of the water. Sitting on one of the rocks was a creature. I could just make out the outline and some dark features. It was about the size of a 4-year-old child. It had arms and hands like a child, but its skin was dark green. It had scraggly black hair covering its head. I couldn't make out any facial features because it was too dark....


A young woman recounts her grandmother's encounter.

     ....When she was around 12, she was out searching for the sheep at dusk, and an older woman emerged from nowhere. My Grandmother said the old woman asked her to help her home, but Grandma had a bad feeling about the woman, so she turned to go home. When she turned, the Bruja screamed and jumped at her. Grandma narrowly escaped because of her dog, who came to her rescue and bit the Bruja. When the Bruja screamed and kicked at the dog, grandma escaped.  On my last trip, grandma told me she had seen the same Bruja come to her door and knock. When grandma answered, she saw it was the Bruja from when she was 12. Grandma slammed the door, and she said the old woman cackled and screamed well into the night as grandma sat and prayed. The Bruja finally left, but my Grandmother wouldn't let me out of her sight....

Cabin Nightmare 


     ....The evening started with dinner and continued with a lovely discussion by the fireplace. We were planning out everything we wanted to do the next day.  All at once, Trina put her hand on my arm to silence me. Surprised, I stopped talking and listened carefully. I could hear the boards on the front porch creaking as if someone was walking on the front porch towards the door.

     I jumped up, grabbed the flashlight, and walked towards the door. As I faced the door, I could hear heavy boots moving from the right side of the porch towards the front door. I looked over at Trina; she was sitting on the old couch with her knees held to her chest; her eyes were as wide as saucers. I held up a hand, then put a finger to my lips to motion for her to keep quiet. I grabbed the doorknob with one hand and held the flashlight in the other. As the footsteps reached the door, I swung the door open and shined the light on the porch....

From Bad to Worse 

Salt Lake City

     When the medium arrived, she walked around the first floor and then went upstairs.  She stopped right in front of the extra bedroom. She turned around, quickly walked downstairs, out to the front step, and vomited over the side of the porch. She was shaking and pale as Ted and I walked her back into the kitchen.

Missing House 


     This missing house bothered me, so I gave my brother a call. I asked him what he remembered about the house. He told me we used to play in it before it got bought by the Nelsons. His next sentence made me even more confused. He said they tore the old home down to build a new one. I questioned him more, but he thought I was making it up. I told him I remembered it differently.  They didn't tear it down; they remodeled the old home into a beautiful house.  I reminded him that we had been in the remodeled home many times over the years.

Night of the Comet 

Logan Canyon, Utah

     I stood mesmerized by the ball of light as it made its way down the hill. I hadn't noticed when Clay stopped taking pictures.  He was standing next to me, also staring at the bright light. We watched as it got closer and closer to us. 

     Suddenly Clay's voice broke the silence. "We need to go now!" he said.

UFO over Wyoming 

Rock Springs, Wyoming

     My head had barely hit my pillow, and I was completely out. I was in a deep sleep when something rattled me awake.  I cleared my eyes, and It took a few moments to understand where I was. The inside of the truck was too bright to see. I tried to look out the window, but the same blinding light was there also. There was a humming sound, so deep I could feel in my chest, and the light was so bright I couldn't open my eyes completely. After a few moments of confusion suddenly, the light was off, and my truck was silent. I rubbed my eyes and got out of the truck.

Monster Wolf 

Black Hills of South Dakota

     We made camp around 5:00 pm and took a walk. We came across a shrine in the woods just to the west of camp. It had some old clothes tied in a bundle, some small animal bones, and an old knife with a bone handle. All the objects seemed to be old and worn down from the weather. As we stood looking over the objects, my husband bent down to grab the knife, and I stopped him. Just as he reached for it, I had the worst feeling of anxiety and fear come over me.  I couldn't explain it, but it felt like this feeling was somehow attached to the objects and the area. Alex told me I was overreacting, but I finally talked him into leaving it and heading back to camp. Even at camp, it took me an hour or more to get the creepy feeling from crawling up and down my spine.

Not My Cousin 2 

     ....I yelled furiously up the stairs, "Jill, we needed to LEAVE!"

     A disturbing laugher filled the air. At that moment, apprehension turned to terror, that was not her laugh.  I quickly turned on my heels and ran down the hallway.

     I ran out of the building and down the street.  I didn't stop running until I made it home, out of breath. I was still confused and scared when I got to my front door. I opened the door and stepped in.  The first thing I did was call out to my grandma."Grandma!" Then I froze in shock, my cousin Jill was sitting at the counter with a bowl of cereal....

     I'm not sure how many people out there followed too far and now aren't around to tell their story.

Green Canyon Ghost 

Cache Valley in Northern Utah

     I woke up in the middle of the night to a mumbling voice. At first, I laughed because I thought it was Jill talking in her sleep, but as I listened more closely, I could hear it was a deep male voice. I opened my eyes and rolled over to look at Jill. To my surprise, there was a dark figure in the corner of the large tent. The shadow loomed over Jill muttering indistinctively in a deep growling voice. All at once, it stopped and turned towards me. The dark shadow changed before my eyes; it turned from a dark shadow to a tall older man with dark, dirty pants, a brown shirt with big suspenders. I was in disbelief as he stepped over Jill and just came right up to my face. I could see his filthy face and long beard as he bent down to my level. I had a scream stuck in the back of my throat, and my body shook with fear as he screamed, "GET OFF MY CAMP!"

Missing Time 


     One minute I remember watching TV, and the next, I'm coming to my senses standing in the snow outside the house looking at the window from the back yard. I was shocked at my sudden location change.  I went from my warm and comfortable basement to the harsh cold yard in the snow at night. As I was standing there in shock, I also realized I was now down to just my boxers.

The Little Old Man 


     The little old man was all skin and bones and had wisps of gray hair on his mostly bald head. He looked dead, and I thought for a second, I was looking at a dead body. When I gasped out loud, he opened his eyes and looked at me. His clothes were old and shabby, and he had big bare feet that were black with dirt. When he looked up at me, his eyes were deep green that almost seemed to glow from behind his gray skin. He had a thin, ragged beard that framed his gaunt, pale white face.

The Hatchet Head 

Northern Utah

     I was just about to turn on the hall light for a better look when a figure stepped out from behind the door. I could see he was in buckskin pants and no shirt, and he had long tousled hair and a band on his arm. I was staring at a Native American! My breath caught in my throat, and I reached behind me, fumbling for the switch to flip on the hallway light. I looked back up as the light illuminated the hall, and he was gone, and all the sounds had stopped. I grabbed a bat from my room and walked down the hall.

A Vision of the Past


     I set up and started watching the hills for movement. It had been an hour, and I had seen a few doe and fawn but not much else. It was beginning to get late, and the sun was about to disappear behind the hill when some movement, just below me, caught my eye. About 100 yards to the left of me, in a patch of trees, I saw a horse coming out of the brush, and I cursed under my breath. I thought at first, that it was a fellow hunter.  He was going to scare all the deer away from the hill I was watching. As I looked more closely, I realized this was no ordinary horse. It was a painted horse, and its rider was a Native American, he was not wearing a shirt, and he had on buckskins and was riding bareback.


This is the most disturbing experience by far in Stranger US. A couple plan to spend three days on a hike in the Wind River.

     At noon we stopped for some water, a little bite to eat, and then we packed up and got ready to go again. It was at this point I had a creepy feeling sweep over me. I didn't want to tell Jill about it, but as we started walking, she turned to me and said, "Can you feel that?"

     I nodded and said, "It's a creepy feeling, isn't it?"

     I looked around but couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. I did notice that all the normal sounds of the forest had stopped. I couldn't hear the birds or bugs, not even a breeze. As we kept hiking, I noticed some movement to my left in the trees about 50 yards off. Whenever I stopped to see what it was, it would also stop moving in the brush line. Jill had noticed it as well, and she stayed very close to me as we hiked. As we went on, I could see that it was two to three distinct "things" following us in the woods, but I couldn't pick out much other than a flash now and again. After about an hour of this, we stopped to get a drink and talk it over. We were standing in the shade and trying to decide what it was that was following us when Jill's face went white.

     Jill pointed over my shoulder, and I turned, there about 50 yards behind me was a man standing to look at us. My best explanation of him as he looked like a tall thin-looking Amish man....


The Apartment 

Charleston, South Carolina

     ....One night after getting home from work, I had just finished dinner and was sitting in the recliner chair when something caught my attention. As I watched TV once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of some movement in the kitchen. It looked like someone was peeking at me from behind the wall just inside the kitchen. As I would turn to look at the movement, it would duck back inside the kitchen. I got up and walked to the kitchen and found that nothing was there. I looked around and couldn't see what would have caused the movement. I went back to the chair and continued to watch TV. After a few minutes, the movement was back. Without looking directly at it, I tried to use my peripheral vision to see what it was. It seemed to be an older man, older with a little hair around the side of his head. He kept poking his head around the corner, watching me but staying very concealed.

I Skipped in Time 

Jefferson City, Missouri.

     I told my mother, "Ok.  I better get going." and walked down the hall and into the bathroom to grab my bag when suddenly I was in my car on the road driving. I quickly pulled to the side of the road and tried to come to my senses. I tried to remember what had happened between picking up my bag and where I was now. Looking at the scenery, I could see that I was 20 minutes from my house and only 10 min or so from work. But, I looked at my watch, and it said 8:51. I'd grabbed my bag only 1 minute ago…but I was 2/3 of the say to work?

The Stranger 


     A young man stood before me wearing a dark coat that went all the way to the ground. He wore dark pants and an off-white shirt underneath. He had short dark hair and pale skin. When I looked up to his eyes, adrenaline rushed through me, and fear froze in my throat. The young man's eyes were a pale blue-grey color that I had never seen before.  He stood very still and had a calm smile on his face. He lifted his left hand and pointed at me with his thumb index finger and middle finger raised.

Haunted Hotel 

Ben Lomond Hotel in Ogden, Utah.

     As I entered the main elevator, the first thing I noticed was that it had mirrors on both sides of the walls. It gave the illusion you were standing in a hallway that never ended with infinite images of yourself. As the doors closed, it was odd to see endless reflections of myself standing waiting there to get off the elevator. I pushed the button that would take me to the lobby and patiently waited. Halfway down, some movement to the right caught my attention.

     I looked again at my many reflections, but this time I noticed that one of the mirror images was different from the rest.  Three mirror images back, a man in a trench coat was standing next to me. I blinked a couple of times to try and clear up my confusion.  Then I focused on the reflected images again.  He wasn't in all of the mirror images, just the THIRD one.  He stood right next to me, and it appeared as though he was also waiting patiently to exit the elevator....


Cache Valley in Northern Utah.

     We sat for about an hour waiting for anyone to drive by, but the chances of help were slim at that time of night, and especially on that remote road. Out of options, we tried to decide whether we would walk back to the cabin or stay the night in the truck. After a bit of debate, my husband, who was in much better shape than me, said he would hike back to the cabin and get someone to drive back down to get me.

     My husband took the only flashlight we had and headed back up the road. I sat in the dark truck for quite a few minutes when I spotted some movement in the sagebrush on the front left of the road about 20 yards from me. I figured it was just some animals, and I sat quietly, starting to get a little nervous.

     I knew the wilderness, and I knew I was nowhere near anybody. Any animal that could hurt me couldn't get in the truck, but there was this feeling of fear I didn't quite understand. I chalked it up to being left alone in the dark, but the anxiety just kept getting worse. It wasn't a full moon, but I could see out through the sagebrush flats that surrounded me, and I could see movement all around me....

A Strange Occurrence


      There was a hallway with restrooms nearby.  I watched as she waddled down this hallway only to disappear out of sight. After about 5 seconds, I thought to myself, "OK, my son should be coming behind her…any time now…". So, I waited a couple more seconds, and when he didn't appear, I commented to my daughter how I was getting very alarmed. She said she hadn't seen her at all didn't seem to be too concerned about the situation.

     I was getting anxious, so I got up from the table and walked to the hallway.  I looked up and down to the very end, and I couldn't see my granddaughter at all! Now I was both alarmed and confused. I couldn't imagine that my son would have left her this long without supervision.  I got up and started looking around the mall for him. When I couldn't find him, I went back to the food court to see if they had returned.  They were still out looking around....

* * *

Whether or not these tales relate something that "really happened" or not, their direct style and brevity, their plain-spoken yet uncanny power, are effortless and very appealing.


24 August 2020


My only criticism of the book is that it needs a couple more passes by a proofreader.