There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the mysterious footage of the so called Nightcrawler.
I grew up in the Fresno area of California and for many years had no handle on a terrifying teenage experience that haunts me to this day.
It began in 1993 when three friends and I decided to spend an autumn night in the woods near Millerton Lake. It was the perfect conclusion to an amazing summer and something we had planned for so long but always found a way to put off.
We walked aimlessly by the lake for hours, skipping stones, fishing and enjoying the warmth of the quickly fading sunlight. The warmth soon disappeared behind the treetops and we decided to walk a little further into the undergrowth to find a good spot to set up camp for the night.
Alex and I set up the tent while Terrence began collecting wood for a campfire. We had beer, meat and all the necessary components for a long night’s supply of S’mores.
The cold autumn night air soon enveloped our campsite and crickets began to sing as the smoky scent of the steak we were cooking drifted through the trees and up into the clear night sky.
As we finished off the last of the beer, we noticed that we had slightly underestimated the amount of wood needed to keep a fire going and so I decided to hunt around for some dry logs and branches. I paced around the camp site but couldn’t find anything more substantial than a couple of twigs so I decided to grab a flashlight and leave the safety of our enclosure, out into the wall of darkness surrounding us.
It became clear that this forest had experienced a run on fire building materials because for the life of me, I could not find anything big enough to justify carrying it back to camp.
I didn’t think I had wandered far when I heard a rush of air behind me. I turned around and saw the leaves on the forest floor twirling in the beam of my flashlight; a small dust devil perhaps. But as I fixed my gaze ahead of me and back towards the campsite, I noticed that things were not quite right.
I hadn’t walked more than 200m and yet I couldn’t see any glow of a fire whatsoever. I began to feel incredibly uneasy at the implication that I had somehow wandered further from the campsite than imagined and was now lost in these ominous woods, alone.
I managed to collect myself and began retracing my steps. The sameness of every direction was disconcerting, however I could see impressions in the dirt of where I had previously walked, so I followed intently, knowing that I would soon see the glowing orange light of the fire and the welcoming silhouettes of my friends by a tent.
The more I walked, the more I began to feel that things were not right. I was still following the trail of my footsteps, and yet somehow, after 5 minutes of walking, I was no closer to the campsite. I knew I had not walked for this long on my way out here. I stopped, feeling the need to crouch down and consider the situation before fear began to take hold. I looked around and began to notice that the trees around me felt strangely distant and faint, almost as if they were shrouded in a dark mist. This wasn’t a physical mist but rather something ominous that had somehow cloaked the forest in darkness. This wasn’t just the darkness of night, but beyond that, you could feel it.
I stood up however, and logic prevailed as I continued along the long path of my footsteps. In the distance I could see something familiar, I immediately picked up the pace and as I got closer I realised that it was the campsite, but there was no fire. The camp felt completely cold and empty. It seemed strange that the fire would have died out so quickly but not beyond reason. I finally reached the tent and that uneasy feeling I had managed to suppress quickly reappeared as I realised that my friends were no longer there. I called out their names and shined my flashlight into the surrounding foliage but there was no response. At this point, all semblance of composure left my body. I realised that they could have simply wandered off to try and find me but I somehow knew that this was not the case, call it sixth sense if you will.
I decided the only thing to do was to try to restart the fire with whatever fuel I could find but no matter what I did, no flame would appear from my Zippo lighter, as if it too wanted to hide away from this overwhelming darkness. I sat down again with my head in my hands, racking my brain for an explanation of the events thus far. I began to feel the surrounding blackness scurry closer towards me, as if it knew that somehow the absence of fire had removed some protective force field from around the camp. The next thing I can recall is just being confronted by the most terrifying sound. It can only be described as an eerie whirring noise, almost like a tornado siren but completely unnatural and unlike anything I have ever heard.
Chills ran down my spine as I sat up to determine the source of this haunting sound. It seemed to reverberate throughout the tree trunks in all directions, as the breeze which had been ever present throughout the evening seemed to retreat almost instantly into silence. I heard footsteps and immediately rejoiced that my friends were returning to the camp and that we could discuss the night’s events and at long last put myself at ease. As I listened to these footsteps drawing closer, I felt a sudden uneasiness as I realised that there was something very wrong with the sound: they were far too slow.
It sounded as if someone was walking unnaturally leisurely, artificially, or alternatively, that they were on stilts. The more I listened to these footsteps, the more convinced I became that this was the sound of someone walking on stilts and this thought really scared me because after all, who, or what would be walking on stilts in this pitch blackness in the thick of a forest. I shone my flashlight in the direction of the sound, dreading what I might see, but I had to know.
The footsteps were closer than ever now, “they must be right here” I thought. Suddenly I see an object glint in the beam of light. The footsteps stop. At this point I am absolutely frozen in terror as I glimpse a small white object through the trees. It moves slightly and I see what looks like a head, and legs. The head slowly turns towards me and what I see causes me to scream, but no sound comes out of my mouth. The “head” is completely featureless: there are no eyes, no mouth, no nose and no ears and yet somehow I know that it is “looking” at me. It had no body; just a featureless head attached to long, sinewy legs and must’ve been no taller than four feet. It slowly turned its face back to the direction in which it was traveling, as far as I could tell, and began its uncanny gait back into the darkness.
I sat there, shaking and mumbling as I tried to console myself. I had no explanation for what I had just seen.
Just as quickly as it had arrived, the ghostly darkness that had surrounded everything vanished and the breeze returned to the trees.
There they were, my friends, between the trees. I ran towards them and they were shocked to see my expression.
“What the hell is wrong?!” Terrence shouted as I reached them.
It seems they had heard something moving towards the edge of the lake and had gone to investigate, thinking it was me. It seems they too couldn’t find their way back to the camp and had also found themselves trapped on some endless path to nowhere. I mentioned the sound but they hadn't heard anything and had no idea how the fire had been extinguished as it was still burning strong when they left.
I told them about what I had just experienced and Alex’s facial expression turned to one of terror. He told me that Native Americans in the area had described seeing such creatures for generations and that they often carried with them a sense of dread.
We headed to the camp and noticed that all of our watches had stopped running and so we had no idea of the time frame in which these events occurred. Needless to say at this point, we didn’t sleep a wink that night but the rest of it was uneventful.
We left hastily at dawn.
For years I had wondered what these creatures were and why this one felt the need to show up at our camp. All I had was this tale of Native American legend and the fear that stayed with me since that night. It seems now that there is video evidence of these creatures venturing outside of the forest and into built up areas. I can’t help but wonder what it is that is drawing them closer to humankind and just what it is that they may be planning. In the meantime, we will never know.