Slender forest 2

If you drive along Helk’s Brow in northwest England near Lowgill, on the winter solstice after dark, you may come across something peculiar.

Rusted iron gates, with peeling black paint. The sign is said to read, in faded, near-illegible font: “Blackwater Park: CLOSED”.

Many unsuspecting motorists would simply drive past the beaten, unremarkable entrance without a second glance, but if you know what you’re looking for, with a certain amount of luck you’ll come across it.

Accounts of the gate are few and far between, and accounts of what lies behind it are even fewer, and this made finding information concerning it near impossible. After careful deliberation, I reluctantly decided to go there myself, and get a first-hand experience of this place.

When the day came, 21 December 2004, the weather wasn’t ideal. Thick fog, low temperature and ever-so-slight rain, the kind that gets you drenched without you even realising. I drove along the road at a moderate speed, around 6:40 PM, and it wasn’t pitch black, there was a dim glow over the horizon, but I thought it qualified as “after dark”. After around 15 minutes of carefully watching the sides of the road for an opening between the tall trees, my heart jumped. There it was.

As described in the stories I’d read, it was a set of black iron gates, with no distinguishing features to them apart from the sign that read “Blackwater Park: CLOSED”. Due to the fog, you couldn’t see far past the gates, apart from that there was a small bridge over murky, still water, the surface disturbed only by the light rain.

The gates weren’t locked; they only took a push to swing open, creaking eerily as I stepped past the opening and into the park. I felt a slight chilling breeze that made me shiver momentarily.

I walked slowly down the thin, dirt trail that made a path between the tall, dead grass. I came to the bridge I could see from outside the gates; it was made from thin planks covered with greyish lichen over dark, stagnant water.

I trotted carefully over the bridge, hoping that the wood would not snap under my weight and send me plunging into the cold depths. Fortunately, I made it over the bridge and stepped back onto the dirt path that from then on led into a section of trees. I decided to walk on, my pulse ever so slightly rising; the only sound I could hear was my own footsteps on the dirt and every so often a rustle or a cracking sound from within the trees, which would make me involuntarily jolt.

After a minute or two of walking through this woodland, I heard the rain increase in intensity. Its hiss against the thick canopy above me grew louder, and I felt and heard heavy drops hit the dry earth I was walking on. I put my hood up and walked on.

The sound of the rain relieved me; it eased the tension a little, as the deathly silence was making me slightly uncomfortable. The darkness had descended completely upon me now, but my eyes had adjusted, so I could see the path in front of me, now an ever-narrowing trail through the tall, thin fir trees. I felt a hint of dread in the pit of my stomach, but I dismissed it as irrational.

I continued to walk through the trees, until-

I stopped dead in my tracks and squinted hard. There appeared to be a small wooden cabin 10–15 metres in front of me. As I realised this, my eyes widened and the feeling of dread returned, dramatically so, as I felt myself start to breath heavily, and I started to shake slightly.

Thoughts immediately rushed to my mind that I should turn back and return home, but in my panicked state I had lost sight of the path I was walking along. The rain and the wind had stopped. The silence had returned, total silence. I could hear my heartbeat, pulsing in my temples. I could hear every intake and expulsion of breath.

Disregarding my terror, I forced myself to walk further toward the cabin. I noticed there was a window on the side of its crooked construction. I crept over to it, and looked through the dirty pane of glass. A snapping noise behind me made me jump out of my skin, but I realised it was my doing; I had stepped on a brittle object that I couldn’t make out in the darkness.

I continued to look into the cabin and saw no movement. Trying my hardest not to succumb to terror, I stepped carefully over to the unlocked door and twisted its metal handle, and it creaked open, with what seemed like a deafening volume compared with the silence of the forest and the dark.

I carefully put my foot through the threshold and onto the wooden floor of the cabin, trying not to make any sound. I slowly moved the rest of my twitching frame through the doorway. I felt my way around the walls, slowly, slowly. One half of the room was bare as far as I could feel, and as I began to blindly scan the other half with my cold hands, I felt my fingers brush against.. Something.

Something wooden, and something upright. Even though it was likely something perfectly normal it still further terrified me. As I explored this object further with my hands, I soon found it was a bed of some kind, as you’d expect in a solitary cabin like this. I shuffled around, checking the single bed for some kind of presence. There was none. I sat on the bed, soon realising how exhausted I was.

After a minute or two of sitting there motionless, just breathing, I considered simply going to sleep in this lonely cabin, after all, the bed was surprisingly dry and comfortable for somewhere as dilapidated and isolated as this..

My thoughts got the better of me, and I slowly brought my legs up onto the mattress, feeling my weight disperse and the pressure on my ankles refrain. As I got more comfortable lying on my back, my eyes adjusted to the inky blackness. I looked at the end of the bed.

I saw a pale, bony figure hunched in the corner.