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.

The Otherworld, The Upside Down And The Beyond

In today’s TV-series, the otherworld is presented in ways not seen before. In David Lynch’s latest Twin Peaks series a much deeper exploration of the otherworld realm happens as in the original series. The black lodge, the white lodge and some sinister otherworldly dimension appear in a much more organic way. It infiltrates the everyday world and is anything but a fantasy realm. Another excellent demonstration of a dark otherworld accompanying us is the Upside Down in Stranger Things. The otherworld had been always a crucial part of my forest dark story too. They all relate to an overwhelming tradition lasting since the origins of all mankind.

What is the Upside Down?

In Stranger Things, the Upside Down is presented as kind of a mirror world reflecting our own. It is like a distorted version of our reality: “The Vale of Shadows is a dimension that is a dark reflection or echo of our world (Stranger Things, Episode 5)”. The blue-coloured frightening dimension is a brilliant visualisation of the idea of a dark otherworld. It became also popular as the “Upside Down” effect.

A long tradition

An alternate dimension like the Upside Down is already described in Stephen King’s masterpieces. There are some similarities between the world of Stranger Things and Derry in King’s novel IT. Some people noticed that the other world in Silent Hill worked similarly. However, we could track this kind of alternative dimension to big feature film classics as MATRIX (which will have a reboot soon) and “Welt am Draht” from Germany’s legendary filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder too. In some stories, the alternative dimension is always a kind of energy. Even the Force in Star Wars is a form of an alternate dimension. These ideas go back a long way: Dante’s Inferno describes a dark alternate dimension. The otherworld as a reflection of our world is an old Celtic idea. It exists in Greek mythology and ancient Norse mythology. It is the realm of the Gods but also of angels and demons.

The Otherworld is Real

Modern science suggests that the alternative dimension is not a fantasy. It is a reality. There are theories about a multiverse or a five-dimensional world. It relates to the experience of philosophers. It is hard to imagine a world without the existence of an alternative dimension. The mirror world is present in dreams and visionary experience. In many near-death-experience, there are accounts of an alternate dimension. There are similarities between the Upside Down and the stories from alien abductees. They experience often an alternate distorted reality before they could return to the ordinary world. The otherworld is an essential part of any hero’s journey. It is a fact that this applies both to fiction and true stories.

The deeper dimensions Of The Otherworld

If we take a closer look into descriptions of the otherworld and visionary experience we see that there is much more as the distorted alternate dimension. This dimension itself appears as a projection. It is in some way a simulation – an idea which also occurs in Stranger Things. There is something behind the veil. We are experiencing two forms of the otherworld, one which resembles our own and another otherworld which is beyond comprehension. It might be a more abstract world or a primordial world of ideas (as Plato expressed it). People experiencing the deeper realms of the otherworld are changed forever. A good example of the distinction between the alternate dimension and the deeper otherworld – The Beyond – is Stanley Kubrick’s Odyssee in Space. In the end, there is a room which is a distorted version of our reality with the 18th-century room but we sense this is a simulation. There is a palpable higher realm behind. We never see The Beyond, but we know it is there.

It is an important question if the alternate deeper dimension is just a different realm or another plane of reality or does it interact with our reality. If we take the visionary’s experience serious we can’t be sure if our ordinary reality isn’t kind of a projection. It could be the other way around: Our everyday world is a distorted version of the otherworld – see Matrix. Our world cannot exist without the otherworld.

Psychic Communication and Devices

Sometimes people purposely make attempts to enter the alternate dimension or communicate with the other realm. Psychics seem to have a natural ability to access the otherworld. “Eleven” in Stranger Things has a long history of models in fiction and the real world. In Tarkovsky’s Stalker which is also about entering alternate realms, the Stalker’s daughter, in the end, has psychic capabilities. In realties, many people who had close encounters are becoming psychics. Indeed there are many examples of telepathy, telekinesis and even teleportation in connection with the Otherworld. The alternate dimension is similar to the internet and can transport information. It is a way to access places and people far away without travelling in the physical plane. However, this is always a dangerous path since the otherworld can also be a treacherous reality.

Normal people use drugs, ritual and different devices to connect. As this is in the first place a shadow version of our world there are dangers everywhere. In the story of the Forest Dark Feature Film project, people try to make use of black fire. People going into the woods in the Witch Mountains because the mysterious lights promise knowledge. Many never come back.

In David Lynch’s Twin Peaks the log of the log lady is the device. Sandra Bullock communicates through the electrical lights in Stranger Things.

In other cases, people use any kind of magic device or practice to get something from the alternate plane of reality. Indeed, people sometimes get rewarded with knowledge about the unknown. Often a price must be paid. People getting too curious loose their mind. The alternate dimension is the realm of the dead too. Danger lurks there everywhere.

The Cosmic Connection

Scientists discovered that cosmic rays had more influence on trees rather than climate change. BBC Earth reported in an article the surprising discovery that there is a cosmic influence to tree growth. The author said, “When the intensity of cosmic rays reaching the Earth’s surface was higher, the rate of tree growth was faster”.

Cosmic rays are particles in the universe which hit the surface of the Earth. However, their intensity varies with solar activity. During the heightened activity, there are more sunspots on the surface of the sun, which create a strong magnetic field. The field absorbs the cosmic rays to a certain extent.

Cosmic rays are not the only connection between the forest and the universe.

Now think of our solar system as one big spaceship. The nine planets and its surroundings are indeed in a kind of bubble travelling through space. Space is a vacuum, but it isn’t empty. There are cosmic rays. There are other stars and planets, black holes, rogue planets, and somewhere there is dark matter. Space is anything but a lifeless place. There might be intelligent clouds, alien civilisations, but also entities which are beyond our imagination.

What if Earth attracted on its endless journey through the vastness of our universe a cosmic hitch-hiker? It might be something, which was lurking somewhere in the depth of space. What if it landed in some remote forested area a long time ago? Perhaps it is still there. “He who walks behind” doesn’t show his face, but he is here. Right now.

We should also be aware that any point on the surface of Earth and other places in the solar system could be in connection with the universe. If we look at Astrology in a metaphorical sense, we get the right picture.

The cosmic-hitchhiker surprisingly gets some credibility through science. The mystery of the genesis of life remains unsolved. The most common idea is the microbial-hitchhiker sitting on some comet or some other cosmic driftwood. We know that microbes can survive journeys of millions of years in space. Some day the asteroid hits a planet. The asteroid survives the impact. The seed of life in a primordial world is the microbes on the surface of the asteroid. That’s also called the “Panspermia theory”. The theory means that life on Earth may have seeded here from other worlds. The transportation happened via microbial contamination of solid objects like asteroids.

The earliest forms of life on Earth are 3.48 billion years old. These are fossils found in Western Australia. There is no proof for any extraterrestrial origin but at this time Earth was very young. The young solar system was chaos with a constant bombardment of cosmic debris on the surface of the young Earth. There is also a prominent theory suggesting that life comes from Mars.

The unsolved riddle of the creation of life on Earth brought up even more fascinating ideas: What if there was some extraterrestrial civilisation “seeding” planet Earth? This is the idea of the “Engineers” as seen in the Alien Franchise by Ridley Scott. Okay, this is science-fiction but is it too fantastic or could it be real?

Recently Kelsey Johnson wrote in a Scientific American article about “No E.T. Life Yet – That might be a warning” that “ridiculously crazy and complex ideas are sometimes correct”. “Just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a serious academic study”. The article is mostly about why we haven’t found extraterrestrial life yet and that we shouldn’t draw simple conclusions. It says that humans are “cosmic babies” considering the age of the universe. “E.T. life is likely to be millions of years more technologically advanced than we are”.

There is another problem connected with the unsolved questions about the origins and the creation of life. That is our limited view of what life is. There might be other forms of life, which are different from any idea we have. If this is the case, we should not only watch the skies. Perhaps we are sharing our spaceship Earth with other cosmic-hitchhikers, with somebody accompanying us from the very beginning.

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.


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.