Forest Survival And Strange Missing Cases

Forest Horror is often about strange disappearances. It is about survival. People die because they are scared to death. Some stories claim that they are based on true events. But is there a real background? According to many sources, it is and what happens goes sometimes beyond our imagination.

Survival in the forest can mean a couple of different situations. A survival situation develops very quickly. People get lost. People lose orientation or get hurt. People get sick. Wild animals could pose a serious threat, even this is not the wilderness of former days with many bears or mountain lions. (Statistically, the most dangerous animals in our times are ticks as carriers of diseases). Of course, in a tropical forest, there are still deadly snakes. In the Northern hemisphere encounters with bears could still go wrong. Wolf attacks are very rare but they exist too.

Throughout history, there are numberless accounts of alleged supernatural attacks. Are they real? There is probably a very thin line between fear, self-deception and hallucination and real unexplainable events. If we leave civilisation and if we are alone in an unfamiliar environment our mind can easily trick us but sometimes the danger is very real. Several missing person cases lead to disturbing conclusions.

Surviving a supernatural attack means not only physical survival. Dion Fortune described in her book “Psychic Self-Defense” different types of psychic attacks. These attacks do not automatically pose a life-threatening situation. However, people could become sick. Many people have psychological problems. This applies particularly to close encounters. Survival means not to lose your wits. If we look at the mysterious circumstances of some cases of missing persons or people returned and appeared changed, these circumstances suggest some form of psychic attacks.

Lost in the woods

A survival situation is always about real problems in the first place. One of the biggest problems is dehydration. People need water. You can longer survive for some time without food but water is essential (in a warm and dry environment you wouldn’t last more than a few days without water but theoretically three weeks without food). Lucky survivors collected in some cases rainwater.

If you find a stream or a spring it is important to know if the water isn’t polluted. There are ways to get some food: Most of the time of the year there are wild berries and plants in the forest. Knowledge is important since there are numerous poisonous plants like belladonna or yew trees. It happens sometimes even to experienced bushcrafters that they mix something up and get sick. Many plants look very similar.

Exhaustion is another reason why people die in the forest. The sheer experience of losing orientation leads to physical and psychical stress. People wandering around in a panic, desperately seeking a way out. We are used to mobile phones helping us to find a street in the city but what if there is no signal? Using digital maps or GPS needs some experience. Surviving in an unknown forest territory means to have some skills. If the sun is shining it helps to navigate. In a clear night, the stars are helpful if you know how to find for example the North Star. In the northern hemisphere moss mostly grows on the north side of trees. Sometimes you can follow a stream or spruce. With a little sense of orientation, a wanderer will find the way back to civilization.

Even then a situation can get quickly out of control.
Weather conditions can change quickly particularly in mountain forests. Nights are getting very cold. It could rain for days. It doesn’t take much and you are suffering from hypothermia. It requires some experience to find or to build a shelter. The same applies to make fire. Forest terrain often poses dangers because there are ditches, roots or sharp branches. Cuts, broken legs or other injuries have fatal consequences. Dramatic situations not only happen in the vast and endless wilderness of Alaska or Siberia. Accidents in the forest or people getting lost happen everywhere but with significant differences. According to unofficial accounts, about 1600 people have gone missing in the U.S. in national and state parks. There are clusters with more people gone missing. A lot of people getting lost in the woods return safely, but there is a real mystery out there.
It is a mix of missing person behaviour, tragic circumstances (like falling off a cliff or a sudden weather change) and indeed unknown mysterious reasons, which makes us wonder. There is a lot of high-tech available today but there is still this number of unsolved cases.

Getting lost in the woods can happen easily: First you don’t see a trail marker for some time and suddenly the trail thins out. Even experienced hikers get fooled. It is sometimes an intersection of trails, which leads you in the wrong direction or a short moment of disorientation. One reason why tourists or visitors of national parks get lost is probably their inability to distinguish between an urban environment and the wilderness. This is an experience which mountain search and rescue teams in the Austrian or German alps often tell: Hikers get in a dangerous situation because of their ignorance. They don’t understand that this not a playground and that there is a real danger out there. Sometimes a helicopter rescue mission is necessary because people climb a mountain in light summer clothes. When a sudden change in weather surprises them (in the Alps you can have snowfall in August) they are in deep trouble.

Survival depends strongly on the first decisions after getting lost. Indeed, responders find most persons gone missing in the woods within 24 hours. But then, there are types of cases where something terrible must have gone wrong. In some cases, the investigation suggests that people must have vanished immediately and were found later in “phenomenal distances” or in “incredible places” (as David Paulides said in an interview). Nobody can explain how they got there.




Unexplained disappearances


There is still a lot of mindboggling cases where either lost persons were never found, or there are unexplainable circumstances like a body appearing at a place where searchers have looked a dozen times. Sometimes a simple explanation occurs by coincidence. But then there are mysteries like the one in the forest dark feature film project, which provoke other ideas. There are many real stories about forest survival. In these stories, the researchers must confront the unknown.

One example is real cases based on fact book series and a documentary called Missing 411 about strange disappearances. They match in an amazing way with ideas expressed in the forest dark feature film project. The writer and researcher David Paulides, a former police detective, did extremely valuable and reliable research about highly unusual cases in North America and beyond. He researched a high number of unsolved cases where victims disappeared in unusual circumstances. In some cases, he found strange commonalities: If a body was found it was in an impossible location which was impossible for the vanished person to reach. K9 dogs or cadaver dogs weren’t able to find any trace. The reason for death is not clear. Sometimes it was declared they were “scared to death”. Interestingly Paulides identified 28 clusters with a high number of cases in the U. S. National parks. There is an interesting tendency that the map shows more cases in territories where water isn’t far as rivers or lakes. This is a very valuable insight even it might sound very strange for some people. However, again and again, in all mysterious forest stories a certain topography plays a vital part. There must be zones, areas, places and sites which are somehow connected to another world.

In interviews, Paulides emphasises that he has no theory about what happened. It looks like he identified a phenomenon which has very strong similarities with previously on this website described phenomena like the “black fire” and close encounters. In an interview, he spoke of an “overreaching intelligence, that is far beyond our comprehension”. This a very good expression since most of the unexplainable experiences in forests point into that direction.

There is a particularly interesting field of research here which deals with the disappearance of hunters. Hunters are usually experienced people and not likely to put themselves in dangers. Instead many of the strange circumstances match the excellent research done by Jacques Vallée in his book “Confrontations”. In South America, there are several cases of sometimes deadly encounters with so-called “Chupas'”: Chupas are objects which emitting strong beams of light. Some hunters were hit by these strange lights near the city of Parnarama in Brasil and five people died. The cause of their death remains a mystery. It even looked like some vampirism was at work here, since the bodies appeared bloodless. This story is similar to the “elf-stroke” in medieval times.

Even in some cases, a mundane explanation seems possible there, is strong evidence for the unknown phenomenon described in previous posts in the forest dark. There is one thing where there is a strong similarity between the Missing 411 cases and the alleged close encounters: People were found in different locations and there is no explanation of how they got there in the first place. We know many UFO-cases where it appears that some sort of “Teleportation” happened. This happened also in Ezechiel’s story.

The long tradition of cases

There is indeed a long tradition for this type of missing person cases and strange forest survival stories. The modern cases have similarities with stories from medieval times where people vanished or were abducted by fairies. A good description of these historical cases was written by Reverend Kirk, The Secret Commonwealth, who became himself a mysterious case in the end.

Forest horror stories deal with survival and unexplainable elements. They are often about the mysterious and the supernatural. If we look at the many real cases it seems there is often a lot of realism in forest horror.

Lords Of The Forest

A deity or a local god plays often an important role in forest horror stories. In Christian tradition, these original pagan gods become sometimes the devil. But forest deities as the Green Man survived. They even exist in churches as paintings or sculptures. There is a deep respect for these deities as they represent archaic forces of natures. Are they a product of human imagination or do they indeed represent the otherworldly side of nature?

Storytellers like the lord of the forest as a sinister deity since it makes a great mystery or even a murderous antagonist. H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen and many others made use of the long tradition of deities. Some of the forest deities are the same or resemble ancient gods of the greek, roman or Celtic tradition.

A prominent example is The Great God Pan. Horned gods appear often as lords of the forest. Both Herne the hunter and the Celtic god Cernunnos are horned gods like Pan. Cernunnos, sometimes also a fertility god, has a frightening appearance. He is present in rituals, in folk stories and made a career in horror. Sometimes he is more seen as a devil or demonic figure. Recently he appeared in the outstanding forest horror series Black Spot (Zone Blanche) by Netflix and France 2.

It makes sense to have Cernunnos and Herne in the European tradition of folk horror since there is indeed a Celtic tradition. The tradition was later borrowed by modern witch-covens. The horned god plays an important role in Margaret Murray’s Witch-Cult hypothesis. These lords of the forest are often connected with sacrifice and magic powers. People worshipping the gods hope to get something in return. In more modern traditions the lords of the forest are also connected with the seasons and rituals related to fertility. One example is the Beltane tradition on April 30.




In winter the lords of the forest are related to the wild hunt. Herne is sometimes mentioned and this – of course – mostly presents the darker aspects of the forest deities. They are often hunters and it’s not always animals they are after.

The lords of the forest are often local deities. Even it seems easy for a god to travel wherever he wants to these deities often represent the genius loci. It is a spirit residing in an exceptional tree or a mountain top. There is no evidence for this, but the idea of the lords of the forest represents more an earthbound entity rather than a cosmic force as in my story.

However, it isn’t necessarily either one thing or the other. If there is one thing that “true stories”, folklore stories, witness accounts of supernatural phenomena or horror fiction tells us then it is the fact that the gods exhibit many faces of themselves. It might be the same phenomenon which appears in different disguises. The important thing about forest deities is that nature itself is an expression of these gods. The giant old tree or the impenetrable forest itself is only a cover. There is an invisible world behind this. Ancient folks had a sense about it. Forest deities as the horned god make it more simple to grasp these feeling because if something has a face or a form it is easier to handle.

He Who Walks Behind

The mysterious lights are his currency. This is the way how he lures people into the forest in the middle of the night. In some nights he ignites the Black Fire. He who walks behind the trees (The Forest Dark Feature Film Project).

He who walks behind. This is mostly associated with Stephen King’s short story and movie franchise Children of the corn. In King’s story, He who walks behind the rows is a pagan fertility deity commanding the children of a remote city named Gatlin. The town becomes a deadly trap for a couple.

Like many supernatural powers, the idea of He who walks behind has already a tradition before it came in a contemporary culture like the black fire.

The interesting quality of this threatening and extremely dangerous entity is that it is present in many ways but usually cannot be seen. It manifests in many forms and is a shapeshifter. It can exert a hidden influence on humans, nature and things. It manifests in threatening ways but also makes promises.

The tradition of this kind of deities can be found in folk stories about pagan worship and in ritual. Typically this kind of deities demands sacrifice. In folk tradition, the deity is often connected to the power of place. Thus, it appears to be a local deity. However, it is not clear if it is kind of a force which is really a local power or is it one and the same phenomenon which manifests in different places.

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Haunted forests appear to be a good place for He who walks behind to manifest. It may be that it is such a kind of unknown force is behind unexplained phenomena and secret ritual. Its most unsettling ability is its influence it can except over humans. It does not only lead them into traps but also makes them doing things.




Something dwells in the darkness. He who walks behind is an uncanny presence which sounds familiar. It is the chaos gods which appear in many mythologies. The places of power are their seats. The Forest Dark is a place where HE is close, closer than anywhere. As Algernoon Blackwood said in his famous story The Willows: “The Gods are here, if they are anywhere at all in the world.”

He who walks behind is the one who hides his face. But who is He? Perhaps it is an abstract form, not human-like but also not a machine. It might be a form of consciousness. He was given many names. In stories, he appears in many disguises. He is the shimmer, the Wendigo, The Colour From Outer Space or The Great Old Ones.

The Fields Have Eyes, The Forest Has Ears

“The Fields Have Eyes, The Forest Has Ears” is revering mostly to a drawing by Hieronymus Busch who labeled it after a proverb. That proverb “The Fields Have Eyes, The Forest Has Ears” from around 1500 AD is mostly interpreted in the same way as “the walls have ears”. It means to be careful because there is surveillance.

But there is another connection here. It could be also seen in a more literal sense. The forest exerts influence upon us. And the forest knows your deepest secrets.

Alexander Porteous mentions the proverb in his famous book “The Forest In Folklore And Mythology”: “It has been said that the forest knows all and is able to teach all, and there is a French proverb to the effect that the forest, which always listens, has the secret of every mystery, while a Latin proverb of the Middle Ages says: Aures sunt nemoris, oculi compestribus oris, and similarly the German: Das Feld hat Augen, der Wald hat Ohren”.

Therefore there is probably here a different background leading to the deeper mythological dimension of the forest.

Some forests are like a big organism. There are many folk traditions where the forest is like a deity. It is something which has to be respected. The forest can be a friend but it can be also a fierce enemy. It is more like a zone with intelligence. Sometimes there is a deity known as the “king of the forest” residing in a certain tree.

The forest’s deities were also often worshipped in a grove. Furthermore,the witches met and performed rituals in these holy groves. Oracles were spoken in the glades of the primeval woods.

Sir James George Frazer’s “The Golden Bough”, a study in magic and religion, describes an ancient sacred ritual happening deep in the forest. It lies at the core of future pagan religions and others. A priest is sacrificed by his successor. Obviously, the sacrifice is made to a deity in the forest. This exchange between supernatural powers and men is the very model for human belief systems for a long time.


There are a lot of forest customs in later centuries where we see the “quid pro quo” principle: A favour or advantage is granted in return for something. If you want something from the forest(‘s deities) you have to offer something in return.

The forest has many things in store for us: food, knowledge, even protection (you can hide in the forest from your enemies). But something has to be offered in return. If the balance is disturbed the forest can take something (for example from the village in the midst of the forest). Somebody might disappear.

The forest deities exert immense power and influence. Today, we have forgotten about the older knowledge, but these forces haven’t vanished. The forest still has ears. He knows secrets and in certain moments knowledge can be gained. It doesn’t take much time and the wanderer will feel the elder gods in the solitude of a walk in the middle of a mountain forest.

In some places,strange stories happen a lot. Villagers far away from the big cities keep the old ceremonies alive. In the so-called Bennington Triangle region, Vermont, north-eastern USA, there is a ceremony that for over 50 years nobody has mysteriously vanished. There were a number of disturbing cases of vanishings which could never be solved. The area had already a certain reputation which goes back a long way. The American natives only used it as a burial ground and believed in evil spirits. An enchanted stone was suspected to swallow everything that passed by. People not only disappeared when walking in the woods but from their homes and even from a bus.

We do not know if they do something to please the spirits of the wilderness in that ceremony.

But ceremonies always need one crucial element: The belief that somebody or something is watching you and that this entity might react.

It seems that there are still places where something in the woods is watching you – “The forest has ears”.