The Cold Stream Monastery is located in a clearing, at the base of the Bucegi Mountains, Romania, up a small hill. It is near Râșnov and Bran, renown Transylvanian tourist destinations, with a direct trail from the monastery to the Trei Brazi lodge.

In order to get there, you have to take the south-east road from Râșnov to Predeal, but go east when you get to Pârâul Rece village (which translates to Cold Stream), so as to not reach Predeal. The road will zig-zag for a while, and when it goes straight you will see a rocky road appear on the northern side of it, with a “Cold Stream Monastery” sign urging you onto the sacred place. The way will be hard on any vehicle from here on, but keep going for 5-10 minutes and you will reach a crossroads. Turn left (right is closed most of the times, anyway) and you will begin your ascendance betwixt tall, guarding fir trees, towards the Cold Stream Monastery. In another 5-10 minutes, you should be there.

The main building of the monastery was erected in 2000, and since then the brothers built a pension, a small chapel, arranged & populated a nearby lake and are currently building a church. Monks there are very friendly and open to provide space for hosting activities of most kinds. Taking in consideration the somewhat secluded setting and the attitude of the Cold Stream Monastery conventuals, my boy scout group organized a boot camp there.

The story I’m going to tell you took place in the Autumn of 2013, when I was 17. We - the boy scout group- left for the monastery from Brasov (a town 30 km north of Râșnov) on an early Monday morning, huddled in a bus we borrowed for the trip. We fired up the engine at 7:15 and fled the concrete jungle, soon contemplating the beauty of nature in the barely set sun. Plan was to stay there the whole week, and I couldn’t be happier- the scenery was astonishing after we left the urban area. Tall, strong, oaks stood seemingly naked with their copper, beaten-down leaves scattered all over the ground. Grey, gloomy skies dominated the landscape, adding a melancholic flavour to the whole picture. I wasn’t depressed, or sad or anything, I just find myself appreciating these kind of darkly surroundings.

We made it to the clearing at about 8:30 a.m. We introduced ourselves to the monks and George, who organized the camp and made arrangements a priori, together with Brother Peter led us into the pension, where we were sleeping. The building was a 3-storey, with a kitchen and a common room at the first floor, sleeping rooms in the higher levels, a basement, and an attic.

I was assigned a bed in room 6, on the 1st floor. I shared the room with Andrew, a good friend of mine, and Robert, a guy I first met on our way here. They were both smokers, but we had a balcony, and since I was a non-smoker, they agreed to only smoke out there, something I was extremely grateful for. As a parenthesis, Romania has a big problem with tobacco smoking, in pretty much every demographic, especially adolescents. Many adults, such as George and the monks, tolerate this behavior in people my age, hoping, I believe, to be seen as a friendly, approachable figure.

We took our bags from the car and headed for the room, where we decided who sleeps where. I got the bed opposite the balcony door, Andrew made off with the one on the right side of the door and Robert got the one on the left. Afterwards, we unpacked, arranged our things in the drawers and played poker for about 2 hours.

At about 12:30, Andrew and Robert went out for a smoke and were surprised to see that a thick, impenetrable fog coated the area. Right when they got back into the room, we were called for lunch. After we ate, George and the other group leader, Anthony, made an announcement: the whole group was to go hiking on the trail leading to Trei Brazi.

We left from the monastery at 2:00 pm, and the fog was so thick you were only able to see 15-20 meters ahead. However, the group was only made up of approximately 30 people, so we were able to see each other all right. I don’t know about the others, but as we made our way to the renown lodge, a dreadful claustrophobic sensation seized my body. It was ridiculous, we were out in the open, but that damned mist, so dense, so unbreakable, made it seem like a tunnel, as opposed to a beaten-down, used, mountain trail. The weird thing though, was how FUCKING COLD it was outside. We were in early September, but the temperature couldn’t have been higher than 5 degrees Celsius. We figured it must be the altitude or something.

After two hours of hiking (with a few 5 minutes-breaks) we made it into another clearing. Again, something gave me unsettling feelings. The place felt uninviting and cruel, if places can be so. Brown grass greeted us and small, strangely distorted trees stood silent in the blowing wind. As they were, it felt to me, Andrew and Robert that they weren’t the most inviting of things. Added to the sad, unfriendly scenery was the early sunset, that sent dark, troubling shadows all around us. Is it possible that we were hiking for that long? The sun was supposed to set at 7-8 p.m., but our clocks showed 4:30. As if this wasn’t enough, all of our noses caught a scent: a dead, putrid, omnipresent smell surrounded us. This wasn’t right; this wasn’t right at all.

Everybody was obviously disturbed by this, but none of us knew what to say. Andrew spat out a “Let’s get out of here” and shortly after, we left. Nobody said anything for about 5-6 minutes, and after we resumed bantering everybody was still shook up.

The bad thing was that, as we went back towards the monastery, that horrible smell from the previous clearing persisted. However, the worst thing by far, was the rustling. 30 or 40 meters to the left of the trail, we could hear leaves rustling, the way they rustle when you step through them. As far as I knew, there was no one from our group out there, but whatever was to the left walked in unison with us. To give you some perspective, the area we were in is known to be the home of a few bears-in fact the monks have a shotgun to protect themselves from such predators- so we shrugged it off as one of them. Not long after, we started singing, screaming, and making all sorts of noises to scare the animal away.

Once we made it into the clearing the monastery is in, the smell dissipated, and we were surprised to see that it was relatively sunny outside. It was warmer, too. Nonetheless, we didn’t lose too much sleep over it. It was autumn, and weather is pretty undecided in times like these, shifting from dark and gloomy to warm and gleeful.

After a snack, we had some knot-tying lessons, and then we went in small groups around the monastery to gather wood for the bonfire we were going to set up that evening.

The gathering went OK for me and my team, but things turned weird again once we met up to build the fire. Alex, a big, bulky, sports-guy and his team felt adventurous, so they set out to gather wood from the trail that leads to Trei Brazi, the same one we went trekking on earlier. While on the trail, they all had the feeling that they were watched by a malevolent entity, they all could smell that stench again, and they all heard the rustling once more. The fog rarified a bit, but they were still not able to see the source of that mysterious noise. All of these obviously made them leave the trail in a hurry, get back, and share the news with everyone.

George and Anthony got pretty worried at this point, so they made a rule that everyone is forbidden to use the trail until they have time to investigate. They gave instructions on how to build a fire, put Alex in charge, and left to talk with the monks about the queer events of the day.

Alex, the sporty dude, took his responsibilities seriously, gave tasks to everyone, and soon thereafter we had ourselves a huge, monumental fire, crackling as if willing to break everyone apart.

After about an hour, George and Anthony got back, obviously disturbed, sad faces drawn on both of them. They pretended everything was alright, and said the monks blamed the rustling on some shepherd nearby, or maybe a sheep, or maybe a guard dog. A bit too few info for a one-hour talk, if you ask me. And the smell still remained unexplained.

Our group leaders went through the evening faking smiles, but deep down being creeped out. Everyone picked up on their negative vibe, so the evening was far from awesome, but we had some fun. We told jokes, fooled around, spoke about each other, you know, normal campfire chat.

We had a late dinner at 10:30 pm and at 11:00 we were sent to bed. While we ate Anthony and George spent an extraordinary amount of their time telling us not to go outside our rooms during the night, especially not outside the monastery, due to “bear danger”. Honestly, that was fine by me, I was very tired anyway, so after eating the last bit, I rushed to my room, changed into my pajamas and played a bit on my Nintendo DS. At 11:15 George got every smoker inside, locked all the doors and shut down the lights. After a minute though, Andrew turned on the lights  and talked me and Robert into staying up and playing different board games he saw fit to bring along. I changed my plans about sleeping and we socialized until about 1:00 am. At that point, Robert and I were under the covers, almost asleep, while Andrew went out on the balcony to smoke the day’s last cig. That’s when I felt it- the same dead, putrid smell we all felt in the clearing. It hit my nostrils like a Russian tank on fire. The same instant I got a very anxious feeling and I entered fight or flight mode. But why? For what? I was destined to soon find out.

Then I saw it. A… humanoid creature, at least 2 meters tall, jumped on the balcony, grabbed Andrew and threw him over the railing. He was so paralyzed by fear, he wasn’t even able to scream. Before jumping down as well, the creature fixed his stare in my eyes. My heart froze; the predator was extremely slim, with it’s skull’s features easily seen through the skin. It had a pale, white face and a set of fiery red eyes. On it’s back it donned a long black cloak with red linings, covering the slender body beneath. For a few seconds, it just looked at me, expressionless, but then it’s mouth twisted into a terrifying grin, a grin I still remember today. It was abnormal, the line of it’s mouth actually touched the beginning of it’s ears. The denture exposed by this was just as terrible, with the (I assume) canines being unusually sharper and longer. After scaring me into shock, the creature then jumped back down, but made no sound landing.

Robert had no vision of the balcony from his bed, so he had no idea of what just happened, but the thump Andrew’s body emitted when landing alarmed him. He bolted upwards and asked, a bit worried “What the fuck was that sound and what’s with the fucking smell? Andrew, you OK?”. No reply. I was still in shock; I tried getting him up to speed on what happened, but I was unable to articulate a single word. Robert must’ve thought I was sleeping, him not being able to see my terrified eyes in the dark. He got up from the bed and went towards the balcony, calling for Andrew. He got to the door of the balcony, but stopped and looked outside. By then I came a little back to my senses and squealed “Don’t go out”. He turned to me, probably more scared than I was, and blurted “Dude who the fuck is outside?”

I got up and turned the lights to help heave a bit of the awful feeling that clung the air. I then explained to him as best as I could what I saw. Afterwards, he said that when he got to the balcony door, the same creature was headed on the trail to Trei Brazi, with Andrew slung on it’s back. The most disturbing thing was that, as Robert saw it, the creature was not walking-it was more like hovering over the ground. Now, in stories like these, you may expect people like us to heroically jump down from the balcony and give chase to the intruder, to save our friend. I tell you, we were scared shitless; the only way we were going outside was if that being came back to claim us as well. Call us cowards, but what could we have done? The group leaders slept on mattresses in the common room, so Robert and I rushed there, to bring them up to speed.

When we made it into the common room, George and Anthony were already up and dressed, together with two of the monks, one of them holding a shotgun. They had flashlights and looked like they were about to leave.

Upon laying eyes on us, they got pretty surprised, but before anyone had the chance to say anything, I spoke “George there’s some weird things going on”. He told me that we knew and that everything was under control. I highly doubted that, but I didn’t get the chance to share any more of my thoughts, as George instructed me to wake Alex and help him get everyone ready to leave, bags and all, in the common room. They then proceeded to exit the building, and I asked him if he was going to get Andrew, to which he said yes.

When they left, they locked us in, and we did exactly as we were told earlier. It was pretty difficult to mobilize everyone, but Alex was somewhat of an authority figure, and when we filled him in on the entire situation, he sped things along greatly. At 2:30 we were all packed and ready, waiting in the common room. The guys started to ask questions so Robert and I told them what we knew. Some didn’t believe us, some thought we were joking, but the vast majority got creeped out.

At 3:00 we all heard multiple gunshots, coming from the Trei Brazi area. That instilled panic in everyone, but Alex managed to calm things down.

About half an hour later, George and Anthony got back, carrying a wounded, blacked-out Andrew. We were all relieved to see them, and we all had questions we wanted answered, but they just told us to get into the bus. As scared as we all were, they need not say twice. When we made it outside, all 4 monks that managed the monastery were standing in a line, with their backs to us, solemnly contemplating the forest. They were all such dynamic, nice people, but at that moment they seemed dead, filled with worry, contempt, disgust, and all that is bad. I didn’t wait too long though, I wanted to be anywhere but the monastery. I got into the bus and soon we were on our way back home. On the bus, George told us that the bear activity in the area was too dangerous for us to keep staying there. He also claimed that Andrew got scared by a bear, fell off the balcony, and was carried by the bear to it’s lair.

Our parents were called to pick us up from the train station in Brasov. My mom came for me, obviously pissed by the situation, but happy I was not harmed. George disbanded the group a week later, and I never contacted any of it’s members after this.

Three months later I heard on the news that Andrew committed suicide. In his note, he wrote things of hell, demons, haunting nightmares and endless suffering.

I was left psychologically scarred after these events. I underwent therapy, but I never told my therapist the whole story, nor did I my parents, or anyone else for that matter. I was afraid I’d be considered insane and sent to an asylum or something.

I’m 19 now, and I still live with my parents. I go to a university in my hometown, Brasov, and I am almost over the incident. However, not completely; I’m still left with a lot of questions. What could that creature have been? Is it still out there? Why was everyone so secretous? What was it trying to do with Andrew? Are there truly bears around The Cold Stream Monastery? I hope one day I’ll work out the courage to investigate this and, maybe, close the lid on this whole ordeal...