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Anyway, the picture is very much related. It's a screencap from Google Maps of the small wooded area I used to spend a lot of time in when I was younger. I lived in the area from the ages of three up until ten, and during those years I went into those woods more times than I could count. God knows why, seems they used to terrify me.
The wood was appropriately named Devil's Wood. I'm not sure what the official name was, but the local teenagers called it that to scare us younger ones, and it worked, because a lot of strange things happened in that place.
So, as with all places like that, there were rumors and legends and what not that went around there. One of the favorites was the old tale of the gypsies who were meant to live in the clearing at the back, which is the narrow end you can see in the picture.
Apparently, a few gypsies set up camp there, and as all witches and gypsies do in stories, they liked to kill children. One of the upmost dares you could get when we played dares was to go to the back of the woods by yourself, touch the last tree you could, and then return. I had to do this twice, and both times, strange things happened.
The trail to the back of the woods was a strange one. it zig-zagged from side to side, taking really difficult routes, and several times the ground rose up in huge humps that were murder to navigate if you were on a bike. It would naturally get darker and darker as you progressed, even though sometimes the trail would take you very close to the edge. It always stayed dark.
The first time I went to the back of the woods, I was as a kid would be who had just been dared. I was going to do it, and I was going to take my time doing it, too, to show all the older ones how scared I wasn't.
Now, this sounds cliche, but I always say cliches only become cliches because they're true. The deeper you got into the woods, the stronger the feeling of dread you felt. It was deeply unnerving, but a child's pride is a lot stronger than fear, and so I pressed on.
I reached the last turn before the clearing and paused. I could have sworn I could hear something in the clearing at the back, and suddenly the previously ridiculous stories of evil gypsies came flooding back to me. I crept up to the corner and peered around, and I think that was the first time in my young life that I ever truly shat bricks.
There was an old caravan there. A small one, because they would have to have towed it over the farmer's field, but a caravan nonetheless. Well, that first time I didn't take too long to look at it. I was terrified that they were in there waiting. It didn't occur to me that the caravan was in a serious state of decay. I turned and I ran, faster than ever. And fuck the trail, I just ran a straight line through those trees, the whole way swearing footsteps thudded behind me.
I tried to tell everyone when I got out, but I know they thought I was just taking the piss. I guess it just looked like I'd gotten scared, ran out, and tried to make up a story to disguise my fear. However, I kept on and on about it, and eventually my friend Connor had enough of my rambling and told me if I was so sure, we'd go in there again and I could show him.
Just a note you need to know about Connor: He was fucking insane. I'm not joking. He had no fear whatsoever and basically, any trouble in the neighborhood, you could bet your bottom dollar it was him. I usually got dragged along under the "I know stuff on you boyo" card.
So me and Conor set off just after lunch. We were around eight, I think. He was, as usual, bold as brass, strutting into the woods like he owned them. I was a lot more timid, still terrified that gypsies lurked behind the trees waiting for us. I think Connor thought I was making it up, but sure enough, when we reached the clearing, there it was, in all its battered glory.
"See!" I remember shouting triumphantly, before I realized I could just be drawing attention to us. Before I had the chance to persuade Connor to run like fuck, he had walked right over to it and pressed his face against it.
"You idiot," he told me. "It's not lived in."
Before I could stop him, he'd pulled open the old door (which nearly fell right off) and went inside.
As you can imagine, the inside of the small caravan wasn't really that interesting. Old leaves on the floor, mud scuffs, if anything of value had been left in there, it had been stolen. It took Connor about five minutes to get bored of it and hop out, and let me tell you, I was glad. To try and disguise a little of my fear I took a walk around to the back of it. The very back of the clearing was full of thorns and closely-knit bushes, so it was basically a dead end. However, there was a distinct hole in the thorny bushes, and I peered closer to find that loads of old junk had been thrown in there.
There were old sleeping bags, empty packets of food, water and alcohol, some old magazines destroyed by rain, just useless stuff like that. However, one thing leaped out at me as being kind of strange. It was an army jacket. Not the type you can buy in shops, but a genuine army jacket with regiment badges. The only thing missing was the Velcro surname slip, which had been ripped off.
Of course, there being an Army base close by, Connor wasn't that disturbed. However, I had seen the soldiers often, and they were certainly a proud bunch. I couldn't imagine any of them getting rid of their uniform, or deserting, or anything like that.
Connor was obviously bored now, and was taking the piss out of me for my epic escape from the forest. I was getting fucked off to say the least, and just as I was about to tell him to shut up, something caught my eye in the undergrowth close to the clearing.
I only saw it for a split second, but I could have sworn it was a man watching us. He was crouched in the undergrowth and seemed to be tattered and dirty in appearance, stockily built but otherwise not really that remarkable. My breath caught as it sometimes does when you see something that shocks you, and I wheeled around to see if Connor had seen it. To my relief, he had, and to my secret delight, he finally looked unnerved.
"Did you see that?" he asked me, and I nodded. We decided to climb down the ditch to the right of us and go through the farmer's field rather than go through the forest, as it was a lot safer in our eyes to risk getting chased by an irate farmer. As we walked on the thin strip of land between crop and ditch, we kept silent, eyes on the ground, wondering what we had just seen.
We began to notice the empty packets at the same time. Old crisp packets, chocolate bar wrappers, the kind of stuff Army guys are given when they go on training missions. High-sugar, high-energy things to keep them going in case of an emergency or stranding. At one point, we spotted an old, thick green sock just lying there, and we were seriously starting to wonder what was going on. I had made a vow to myself to leave that damn place alone now.
For the next few days I kept to my promise. There was a weird tree standing away from the woods that had been disfigured one night after being struck by lightning. If you climbed the trunk, you could sit in the large hole the two separated trunk halves had made quite comfortably. There was room for several of us, but I sat there alone while everyone went exploring in that forest.
Shortly after seeing the strange man in the back of the forest, weird things started happening in other parts of the neighborhood, which was originally blamed on foxes. You know, bins tipped over and hunted through, claw marks in doors, and eventually, small animals like rabbits mauled or killed, found half-eaten.
However, things quickly took a sinister turn when none other than Connor had the sheer shit frightened out of him.
I wasn't actually there when it happened, but it was the talk of everyone the next day. Apparently, the idiot had decided to accept a dare to go in there after dark and had been attacked. It was legit, because the police were called (I had to return home when I went out to see him as the police were arriving outside the house) and when I finally saw him, he had some impressive looking scratch marks down his arms. He was of course shaken, and it was strange to not see him showing off his war wounds.
The story eventually trickled out. Connor had been attacked, presumably by the same man who we'd seen. A search was launched and the woods were placed out of bounds, and eventually the police found him.
This man was obviously not right in the head. He had fled from the Army, complaining that they were conspiring against him. He seemed to think he was some sort of secret weapon and he had to flee and find his own way in the wilderness so he couldn't be used as the main weapon in any other wars.
I think everyone had a hard time imagining this man ripping rabbits to bits with his bare teeth and scavenging through bins like some wild or stray animal. But of course, it had been him all along, and all because he was convinced that the Army were out to use him as their ultimate killing machine.
He seemed to believe he possessed unnatural powers. When the police found him, his fingernails were all ripped to shit. I'm not sure if it's true but apparently fragments of fingernails were found in the gouged doors, and the same jagged gashes were found on Connor's arms.
Naturally, in such a small rural area, the newspapers and local news had a field day and stalked the story so much that they eventually obtained enough information to attract the attention of the national news.
They uncovered several strange things about the man. He had some really freaky beliefs, aside from the whole "I'm a secret weapon" one.
Devil's Wood was incredibly close to the Army base. If he really wanted to run from them, why choose a place so close? Well, it turned out that he had also heard of the gypsies and believed that their magic could help him. I always thought it was kinda of strange that a fully-grown man would believe what was essentially a kid's story. However, I had to take into account the fact that the caravan remained there, and it certainly wasn't his.
The police of course returned to the woods, trying to find out if the man's ramblings had any truth to them, and to discover who owned the caravan. However, they found the clearing empty of any caravan or junk, and fresh tire marks leading along one side of the farmer's field, turning into muddy tire tracks on the road and eventually vanishing. No leads were ever found, and they eventually had to give up on that part of the case.
However, this strange ex-soldier still kept up his tales of how they helped hide him, how they helped him discover more of his powers, and how they performed all these strange rituals. The most interesting part of it all was that for one such power-discovering ritual, they needed a young child. Connor didn't realize exactly what an escape he had. His parents shielded him from most of the information. They moved away shortly after.
Like I said at the beginning, this is just an old story from my childhood that I always thought was rather interesting. At least I've got it out there, though.
—Posted on /x/, by Anonymous