We’ve all been frightened by things that go bump in the night, but imagine hearing those scary sounds isolated in a forest, miles away from mankind and any sort of salvation. That’s the reality for many park rangers. Rangers are often left to venture out and care for parks on their own, often going weeks or month without interacting with another human being. In that quiet time, some pretty creepy things can happen out in the wilderness.
1. Mysterious stranger stalks camp at night
“I once led a trip to the top of Mt. Sterling in North Carolina. It’s a tough climb to get to the top, and about six miles from the nearest road. I was leading a group of eight middle school kids and had one co-instructor. We were camping out on top of the mountain, and it was a beautiful night with a full moon. The kids and the other co-instructor went to bed in their tents. I chose to spend the night in a hammock that night. I was really into a book I was reading so I stayed up and read until about 10:30 PM. I turned my headlamp off to settle in for the night. Everything around me was rather bright from the moon and from the position I was in. I could see down the trail we had hiked to get to the top. I laid there enjoying the scenery and noticed something moving on the trail. Bears are common in the area so I perked up. As it got closer, I could tell it was a person. We were in the middle of nowhere and there was someone hiking up the trail with no headlamp or any gear. I was just frozen, watching this person move closer to our camp. They arrived at the top of the mountain where we were and just stopped. I watched as what appeared to be a man surveyed our camp. I really could only see the outline of him. He stood there for what seemed like 30 minutes but may have been 10. He then turned and sat down under a tree facing our camp. He was sitting up in a way that I knew he wasn’t trying to sleep. He just sat there staring at our camp. I had no idea what to do. I decided to wait it out. I waited, just staring at the man while he stared at my camp. This went on until about 3:30 AM. Then, he stood up, took a moment to survey my camp a few minutes longer and then went back down the trail he came up on. I, to this day have no idea what that was all about but it freaked me out. I was paranoid that we were being followed for the rest of the trip.”
2. Perfectly severed deer head found on isolated trail in Yellowstone
“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 kills, and I used to find cougar kills 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 scat. 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.”
3. Park worker finds abandoned house with sinister shed
“A shed behind an abandoned house with a steel reinforced door broken off the hinges. The windows of the shed were boarded up from the outside. The only thing inside the shed was a queen size bed with shredded, partly singed white sheets.”
4. Random gunshot fired in the middle of nowhere
“Camping 80+ miles from any thing resembling civilization. Lying in the tent talking before falling asleep when all of the sudden a gunshot rings out no more than 100 yards away. Then hearing the sound slowly travel away. Then quiet.”
5. Ranger finds thumb nailed to tree
“[I saw] a human thumb nailed to a tree.”
6. Search for teen hikers runs through creepy clearing filled with mutilated children’s toys …
“There was a group of teens that hadn’t been heard from after their scheduled return time from a camping trip. [A coworker] and I head out in the general direction the teens had set off in. We’d been hiking for most of the day and seen nothing. We’re about 35km into the woods at this point when we start noticing odd things. Sticks carved like spears stuck into the ground, weird carvings in the trees, a child’s stuffed animal hanging from a noose up in a tree. This place was nowhere near any roads, it wasn’t on the regular trails people would go on in the area. The really eerie thing was that everything was freshly-carved. Somebody had been there within a couple of hours of us and made these things. Mind you we’re still looking for these teens. We kept on hiking and eventually made camp for the night still kind of on edge from what we had seen earlier but we settle down anyway and go to sleep. We get up with the sunrise hoping to cover more ground before it gets to hot. We pack up the gear and get ready to go when I notice a bit of shirt that had caught on a small tree and ripped along with some shoe prints. We were thinking: great maybe we’re close by to the teens, when a radio call comes through. The teens had just been found 20 kilometers east of us, and they’re calling everybody back. All those weird things we had seen from the day before came flooding back into my mind, and we wasted no time hiking out of those woods.”
7. Suicide victim left hanging from tree for hours until medical examiner arrives
“I found a dead man in a tree… I am a seasonal ranger for my local forest district. The rest of the rangers say we find about one suicide a year, so here was the one for the year. When we go around opening parks each day, we drive through to make sure everything is OK. In this instance, I was driving through, and had just lost sight of the road when I saw a man hanging from a tree in a clearing. He had hung himself. I called the cops and the coroner… the coroner took an hour to show up, and he was the only one with a ladder long enough to cut the guy down…. so I stared at a dead guy in a tree for an hour.”
8. Ranger followed by cougar for days
“The scariest experience I had as a back-country park ranger in Washington State was being stalked by a cougar for a day and a half. I was hiking up an unpopular trail up to an old shelter and had that creepy ‘being watched’ feeling. I had seen fairly fresh cougar scratches and scats along the trail but that’s pretty common up here so I wasn’t worried at all. That night I camped at the shelter, which only had three walls and a roof. I felt uneasy all night and hardly slept. At one point (chiding myself for being paranoid) I arranged my emergency foil tarp around my sleeping bag so at least I could hopefully hear something if it approached me as I slept. The next day I found FRESH scat and scratches on the trail I had hiked in on. About a mile past the shelter I found a mostly-eaten deer in some dense brush off the trail. Cougars often keep kills stashes throughout their territory for later snacking. Now a cougar won’t usually tangle with a human, but here I am a five foot tall, 100 pound sack of flesh and bones at least 13 miles out from any other humans. I decided to cut short my three-day trip, and hot-footed it out of there. The last two hours of hiking through dusk in a dense forest was the most hair-raising hike I’ve ever had. I didn’t know I was capable of being that hyper-vigilant.”
9. Children visit park to see animals, find human molars instead
“Our park lets kids from school in so they can look for animals in the forest and the streams.
One day a kid finds molars. The teeth looked like human molars, but the teacher said they were a deer’s. I dismissed it and completely forgot about it.
Two days later, they found a corpse with a smashed skull and jaw in another part of the park. All its teeth were missing.
A local news paper covered it, but all they had to say was thank the spooky skeletons for good bones and teeth.”
10. Family pet shot and left to die in the forest
“US Forest Service here: dog skeleton, still leashed to a tree, bullet hole in skull.”
11. Ranger stumbles onto a few-year-old plane crash
“[I saw] the remains of a plane that had crashed into a cliff. Found out later that it had crashed a few years before and there had just never been the proper resources to remove the wreckage, but finding a place you know people have died in is weird.”
12. Ranger stumbles onto Furry orgy
“I have been a ranger in the southern Canadian Rockies for a few years. One Sunday morning, I was doing my daily patrols, saw some smoke from afar, and thought I would check it out. When I arrived on the scene, there was a group of people half-naked (only sexual parts exposed), dressed up as animals all curled up in a ball passed out on the ground. Probably one of the weirdest things I have come across.”
13. Totaled (yet empty) truck found at the bottom of a cliff
“A pickup truck that had been driven off the 1200 road up in the Cascade Mountains above Washougal. It was totaled. I hiked down to it and checked it out. No signs of injury, so maybe it was just pushed down after being stolen. But behind the truck seat was a used pair of women’s panties. I called the cops with its location, don’t know what ever came of it.”
14. Shirtless man runs around forest waving crowbar
“I was surveying a remote restoration site near an old trail and I heard someone walking up a nearby path. All the hair on the back of my neck stood on end, so I grabbed all my stuff and started casually walking down the trail like I belonged there. I turned the corner and there was a shirtless guy swinging a crowbar around in circles, and when he saw me he started yelling, ‘I’VE GOT A CROWBAR! I’VE GOT A CROWBAR!’ I think I nodded at him, squeaked something like, ‘Nice crowbar,’ and then ran the mile or so back to my truck.”
15. While fighting fire, man almost pees on black bear
“My scariest wilderness encounter was at about two AM while maintaining fire line on a 300-acre fire caused by a lightning strike. I needed to take a piss and the rule is you don’t piss on the fire, so I walked over towards a stump outside the fire line. I was about 50 feet away from the stump when it walked away. It was a black bear.”
16. Tent set up illegally is filled with food, cigarettes, even a teddy bear, but no occupant
“The oddest thing (that is, my unsolved mystery), was the abandoned camp next to the trail. Camping outside of designated campsites is a big no-no, and I was surprised as all get-out to walk around the corner one day and find a tent set up directly next to the trail. The trail ran along a nice stream, and was a very tranquil spot. Inside, I found a cloth sleeping bag, some dirty clothes, LOTS of food (big cans of Spaghetti-os, and what looked like some leftovers from a refried beans and rice dinner), and a teddy bear. Everything reeked of cigarette smoke. I was reticent to confiscate everything and leave the individual out there with nothing, but I did take all the food and pack it to a secure food storage box along the way back to my cabin. I left a note explaining where I had taken the food, and that they needed to move camp. I was unable to return to the tent for two weeks (way too long to leave it sitting there, next to the trail). It was basically untouched when I returned. Some trail crew folks had checked it out and let me know, but that was probably it. I packed up the rest and hauled it out. I spent some time poking around the area, but never saw any other signs of life. It was obviously someone who was not prepared for camping out in the back-country, judging by the food, equipment, and the teddy bear….I just don’t know. Everything: clothing, gear, etc., indicated just one individual.”
17. Eagles teach chick how to hunt by picking up young goats and dropping them from high up
“Working as a ranger in western Queensland, I saw three wedgetail eagles rounding up some feral goats. It looked like mum and dad were teaching junior how to pick the weak goat – diving down on them and separating the weak young from their parents. Finally the large eagles were picking up the young kid on their fly-through, lifting it up a couple of meters then dropping it. Not supernatural, just strange and cool.”
18. Nearly naked man found napping in the wilderness
“While out in full fog, my friend and I figured we were the only people silly enough to go for a hike in the cold rain and fog. There was one other truck in the parking lot when we arrived. Well… after a few miles in, near the top of the mountain we were climbing, we found the guy. He was in his underwear and had a pillow and a walking stick. That was it. I don’t know if we interrupted his nap but he got up and left when we came upon him.”
19. Wolves and bear slaughter moose feet away from men
“Were in the middle of nowhere, no other humans for at least 40 kilometers and were hearing this unearthly shrieking sound. We run out into the forest, heading down hill to the lowlands next to the river and watched as a group of maybe six wolves chased down a bull moose.
The animal had a massive gash in its side. It had been gored by yet another predator which was following up from the rear: a full-grown male grizzly bear.
I thought I was watching a movie, like one of those things you only see in nature documentaries. We followed from a distance of maybe 250 metres, while the bull moose desperately tried to cross the river, it didn’t make it.
The wolves descended on their prey, dragging it onto shore while it was still kicking and shrieking in agony. The wolves didn’t get their prize for long as the grizzly was done watching and charged the pack of wolves, which broke up at the first charge, then attacked. The massive bear broke two of the pack against the ground, then the others slinked back into the woods. They didn’t go far from the kill, knowing the bear would have its fill, and they would have theirs sooner or later.
It was a battle that you only hear about from First Nations. That was the moment I realized why we were not the top of the food chain at that moment.”
20. Appalachian meth lab explodes in the middle of the night
“I was out camping in the middle of nowhere, and just before dawn, I heard this huge boom that woke me out of my sleep. I packed up for a hike and set out towards the sound. After about a five kilometer hike, I found the smoldering remains of a what I think was a moonshine still. It could have been a meth lab. There was at least one very mutilated body, but it looked like one guy got out in one piece.”