three weeks ago, I drove my son out to a national park for a little weekend
camping trip. We took the 410 out from Tacoma into Mount Rainier, a place my
own dad used to take me when I was a kid. I wanted my son, David, who’s two and
a half, to find the same joy of the wilderness as I had, but I’m quite
convinced that he will be terrified of forests for the rest of his life.
we arrived that Friday, the weather was crisp and the first signs of spring had
finally made themselves known. We walked (or rather, I walked with David on my
shoulders) for about two, maybe three hours from the parking lot into a small,
desolate camping ground with a pre-made fire pit. I’m not a very overprotective
parent, so I let David wobble around a bit while I pitched the tent.
as I was about done and was getting ready to unload our three-day supply into
the tent, I heard David make some sounds from behind me. Now, I recognized
these sounds immediately, as they are the sounds he usually makes when he’s
excited about something. I turned around and saw him sitting in the grass,
about twenty feet away, staring into the woods. More strangely, he was doing
this thing he does when he’s particularly excited about something, in which
he’s slapping both of his thighs repeatedly.
slowly walked over while trying to keep an eye on both him and the woods at the
same time, but there was nothing in the treeline I could make out. When I was
finally by his side, I asked him what he had seen, and at this his response
was smiling, still slapping his thighs, and as much as I tried to match his
excitement like a good parent should do, suddenly, the serenity of the woods
was replaced by a sense of unease. I fixed my eyes on the treeline and peered
in very, very carefully. It was just such an incredibly strange thing for him
picked David up, not wanting to leave him alone anymore, at least until I could
regain some clarity, and walked into the treeline. I don’t know how many of you
are parents, but the last thing you want to do when you’re taking your kid out
for a fun weekend is frighten him. I mention this because the sensible thing
might have been to hush him, to tell him to keep quiet for a while, but then, I
also knew that realistically, this was just an imaginative manifestation.
a few minutes of scouting around with David up on my shoulders, I decided to
return to camp. It was about 3:30 I believe, and so I made us some lunch, still
keeping an occasional eye on the space at which David had been clapping and
yapping just a few minutes before.
much as I tried to forget it, I just couldn’t. I’m not superstitious. I don’t
believe in aliens, ghosts or bigfoots. But I suppose my parental instinct was
simply in too much of a high gear for me to let go, so as the cold sun was
setting, I decided to ask David a bit about what he had seen.
understand my story a little better, it might be relevant to mention here that
David is has a mild learning disability, which has particularly impaired his
speech. He can understand fine, but his ability to communicate has lagged
As I was
getting the fire going, I asked him about the monkeyman. I asked if it was a
David thought about that for a second. He then laughed and nodded. I then asked
if it seemed like a nice monkeyman,
and David once again giggled in approval. I wasn’t really sure what else to
struck, and on full bellies, I read a chapter from a book to him as he fell
asleep in his sleeping bag. When I fell asleep myself, I had almost forgotten
awoke in pitch darkness. The fire pit was out. I reached out to feel for David
and panic struck me hard. He wasn’t in the tent anymore. With only my underwear
on, I stormed out, but realized it was too dark to see anything, so I dropped
back into the tent and tore my flashlight out of my bag. I was screaming his
name all at the same time.
only the weak beam of a flashlight I didn’t think I would ever have to actually
rely on, I shone it around in circles, still calling for David. For some reason,
I ran towards the spot at which David had been so transfixed in the daytime. I
shouted his name into the trees.
I trotted inwards into the pitch black woods, I was too frantic to notice how
badly my feet were getting scraped up by the bark and stone. After only about a
minute of walking, I saw something that made me drop the flashlight and bolt
forward. David was standing there, peering into the darkness, utterly still. I
grabbed onto him, hard, and began to sob. Still clutching him tightly, I picked
up the flashlight again, which had been idly beaming the ground, and scouted
around, fending off the darkness. I could see nothing around.
I carried him back, looking over my shoulder, I asked what had happened. He
implied that he didn’t know, and that he was tired. David has had a long
history of sleep walking.
night, I locked up the tent from the inside with a padlock. I only got about
three hours of good rest. David slept like a rock, despite my trembling
following morning, I cooked some eggs and bacon on the camping stove. David had
no recollection of what had happened, and seemed content to continue the trip.
I thought it would be incautious to shrug off last night’s event as mere
sleepwalking, especially considering the “monkeyman”-business, but
also thought it would be a bit too silly to cancel the entire trip over it.
Thus, I made a promise to myself that if anything else were to happen, we would
drive back to Tacoma at a moment’s notice.
rest of the day was actually quite nice and helped me take my mind off of
things. David was at first a little upset at not having the iPad, but
eventually discovered that nature can be just as cool as pixels. We made some
bark boats with faces on them and set them downstream, watched squirrels and
listened to the birds. It was everything I had hoped the trip would be.
dusk, when the trees stretched long shadows across the grass, David was getting
too cold and too tired to play anymore, so I decided we would spend the rest of
the day in the tent. I had brought along this game where you have to trace the
outline of a person with an electrode, and if your aim is off, it makes a funny
sound. I don’t remember what it’s called, but David found it hilarious. It’s
dumb, but supposedly helps with motor development.
one of David’s turns, he made an error and the little speaker made the sound
again, and David bellowed into laughter. What happened next filled me with a
sense of fear that I doubt anything will ever match.
about 150 feet away, I heard the exact same laugh that David had made, only
that it was much deeper. It was almost like when you record yourself speaking,
then digitally pitch it down. I froze, and this time, I couldn’t hide my
reaction from David. I could tell by his face that he had heard it too. I
lifted a finger up to my lips to communicate him that we needed to be quiet. It
was at this moment that I also noticed that the sun had set completely. I also
noticed just how dead quiet the woods were.
second felt like an eternal minute as we sat there in the tent, absolutely
still, enveloped in the silence. When the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears
finally ceased a little, I slowly leaned over towards my backpack to get my
I turned around to face David again, I saw that he had picked up the electrode
again. I sternly removed it from his hand and whispered with equal sternness,
“not now, David.”
just as I had said it, a low, broken voice whispered from literally inches from
next thing I’m aware off is that I’m shooting wildly through the fabric of the
tent in the direction the sound. David is screaming. And as the gunshots ring
throughout the woods, I hear the last remnants of something sprinting away.
my hand violently trembling, I opened the padlock and jumped out with a
flashlight in my left hand, aiming the faint beam into black nothingness. I
grabbed David, stuffed everything within arm’s reach into the backpack, and
way back was pure terror. There was not a second at which I did not feel as if
something was right behind us, ready to leap out from behind us or the side of
the trail, out from the darkness. The only thing I could say to David was
“it’s okay, you’ll get the iPad soon. Do you want the iPad?”
ever leaped out at us, nor did I hear anything except for the rushing of the
wind and the occasional running stream by the trailside. I was so out of it
that even in the car, I kept checking the backseat just to see if there was
something sitting in it, ready to destroy us.
don’t know how to explain to David’s pediatrician what happened in Mount
Rainier. I haven’t even told his mother the full story, only that I thought
someone came up to our tent and that I fired a warning shot. Needless to say,
David hasn’t been the same since. He has been getting constant headaches, which
might be from damage to his ears by the gunshot.
don’t really know how to end the story, but one thing is for certain.
Never, ever take your kids out to
Mount Rainier National Park.
Credits to: Horrors_of_the_Woods (story)