The Memory Of The Forest

by Peter Engelmann,  June 25, 2021

The forest never forgets. The forest is like a storehouse of the past. Writers and filmmakers use the forest regularly as the place where the hero faces the past. Sometimes it’s the hero’s own past. Sometimes it is related to the location. Secrets and old legends get revealed in the darkness of the forest.

However the forest is more than a metaphor where someone gets confronted with his own past. In a very literal sense the forests of our Earth store information about the past. Scientists learn from old trees about historical events like climate change or the outbreak of a volcano. A tree’s annual rings are like a chronology of the past.

A forest is a place of constant change. During the summer the forest is full of life. In winter there is death. Nevertheless information never gets lost in the forest. The whole network of plant life saves information about the things which happened in the past.

There are not only traces of natural events like wildfires in the forest. In the forest sometimes things appear which had been buried for centuries. The relicts of battles of the past as the ancient battles of the Romans against the Barbarians in the German forest are still there. Archeologists visit the forest regularly.

Traces From The Past

Some say there is more to this. The ghosts of fallen soldiers of long forgotten battles still roaming the woods. In some nights the lonely souls of victims of crimes can be seen and heard. And of course there is the witch which was banned from the community hundreds of years ago. What if events and the traces of entities from the early days of Earth are also stored up here? Something which is still alive in a sense? The forest as a whole might be a storage medium for many things.

But people going into the forest and discovering their own past? That might work in a psychological sense if you are alone for a longer time memories might come up. What if you find something in the forest which is connected to your own past? Something which was lost and suddenly lies there in front of you. If this happens in a fictional story it sounds like the typical intervention of the writer.

It’s another story if the person has the same places visited before or has lived in a certain place. Then a trip into the forest can be an experience where memories which were suppressed for a long time come back. In these cases the forest might be sort a catalyst. Perhaps it works in the sense of synchronicity – something from the inner life gets materialised in the outside world.

Driftwood In The Forest

The forest is a place where things disappear and return. And here is the strange thing. Sometimes it’s like at a beach where the sea returns something which was swallowed for a long time. Now its flotsam. We know about incredibly strange missing 411 cases: Search and rescue diligently searching the same area several times and finding nothing. Then, sometimes many years later lost items or even a person resurfaces.

There might be even more to this if we think of the intermingling of dimensions or distorted timelines. We are used to think in linear timelines. Some experiences suggest that we could get into places where timelines are somehow distorted or different. Future and past is not what we think it is. Or lets say its something we should explore deeper.

Time

Of course there is a lot of speculation here. However it is interesting how many people which had a strange experience in the woods reports weird things about the perception of time too. Sometimes its missing time. Sometimes present and past intermingle. Memories can get lost or somebody remembers things and has no idea where that information did come from. If we remember the saying “the forest is what’s between the trees” it might open up many ideas. Maybe its some people who are wired to higher dimensions which have that kind of experience. They can connect to the subspace or alternate stream of reality. If there is sort of a subspace out there it might be something similar to our world wide web: a neural network where memories and information is stored.

Lovecraft Forest

by Peter Engelmann,  January 5, 2021

Storytellers and moviemakers exploring the nature of the unexplained, the real horror, the unnamable forces in a haunted forest will find the universe of H.P. Lovecraft as a fruitful and inspiring description of the unknown realm near our dimension. The American Horror and Science Fiction writer introduced the modern idea of cosmic horror. But does it also apply to so-called true stories?

We can cope with the forest demon, the hairy monster, or the sinister backwood person as a sort of invented story, fairy tale, or a true crime story. However, if we listen to witness reports, the rich lore of many regions, and the terrifying accounts of people who disappeared and returned after days, we sense a deeper reality behind these encounters.

It seems that there are entities and other dimensions beyond our comprehension lurking in the shadows. The reports of fairies, mysterious lights, and abductions might be an effort of the mind to keep sane and to carry on because we wouldn’t dare to think about what’s really out there. Some stories and movies do the same but others try to achieve more and take the story to a greater scope. That’s also what the Forest Dark Feature Film Project does. It’s what many writers do. Getting to the point where the audience feels that there is some truth in a story that might sound fantastic.

Is it even possible? The master of modern horror H.P. Lovecraft created a whole universe filled with terrifying encounters with the Great Old Ones and other entities. The words he uses trigger our imagination, the painfully detailed description of unparalleled horrors and the reports of unspeakable events create a special mood.




The Whisperer in Darkness

There is one story in particular which concerns the forest as a place haunted by beings from outer space or another dimension. In The Whisperer In Darkness Lovecraft takes us to the mysteries of the ominous hills in Vermont. The narrator receives letters and pictures from a man, Henry Akeley, who seems close to a nervous breakdown because of some horrors coming from the woods. It doesn’t take too long and the narrator himself is on the brink of madness.

The interesting thing about this story from H.P. Lovecraft is that partly it is written like an article in a scientific journal. The introduction is expanded speculation about the ancient roots of creatures described in modern sightings. There are strong parallels with modern texts about aliens accompanying mankind from the very beginning. It is a lot about scientific speculation and later on it is not only what happens deep in the woods in these Vermont Hills but also about the nature of true tales in Vermont.

The Whisperer In The Dark introduces the Lovecraft Forest. The horror in these woods is not only about some sort of alien race, worshipping of ancient deities like Shub-Niggurath but also weird artifacts as a black stone or strange anomalies. There is mention of a Lord Of The Forest and a transcript of a recording of strange rituals in the forest implies sinister gatherings and invocations:

“(A BUZZING IMITATION OF HUMAN SPEECH)
Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

We don’t learn who or what Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat of the Woods exactly are but the story works like a jigsaw puzzle. In the end, we sense the whole picture.

Names, descriptions and the story may sound bizarre. It is a weird tale. However, in many aspects, Lovecraft was ahead of his time. The idea of phenomena and alien entities which somehow defies our laws of nature makes more and more sense if we look into modern theories in physics, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics. A visitor entering our dimension and coming from a higher dimension might match some of Lovecraft’s ideas.

Wait a moment. Of course, there is also a straight sci-fi tale here with the Mi-Go alien race and the twist at the end of the story. But what’s interesting here are the choices between the beats in the storyline. It’s what is happening, how it is happening, and the description.

Furthermore Lovecraft uses a special technique of storytelling which creates tension and allows him to slowly reveal what’s going on. The narrator receives letters by Henry Akeley. Later we are not direct witness of a ritual in the forest but the recording is mentioned. This is not only a writing technique its a very smart way to picture something which is not some sort of singular object but like a combination of phenomena. He gives us bits and pieces and we need to draw further conclusions.

Real mysterious forests

In regions where there are a lot of sightings reported or other supernatural phenomena occur it is often not about a single event. Most of the time it is a complex mix of history, strange events, weird behavior of inhabitants, cases of high strangeness, mysterious disappearances, crime, secret rituals in the forest, and communities with secrets on the surface. In 2018 documentarist and musician Jarrod Tyler visited Washington State and the Snoqualmie region where the legendary Twin Peaks series was shot. He interviewed several people and unraveled the real mysteries of the region in a very good and very impressive road documentary Road To Twin Peaks: A North Bend Story. The real stories he heard and the links to an “energy in the forest” do sound even more strange as some of David Lynch’s inventions. Twin Peaks does now feel even more “real” in a special sense. It has a feel of that Lovecraft forest, a place which is somehow different from our normal dimension. In the end Jarred Tyler raises the question: “Was the North Bend mystery created by the TV show or was the Twin Peaks mystery created by North Bend?”

The same question applies to H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales as The Whisperer In Darkness: How much inspiration got Lovecraft from these remote hills in New England and did his story influence modern stories, reports of sightings, and Ufo-lore? 

We don’t know. But what we see is a theme that runs like a unifying thread through stories, movies, and folklore. And it is something we find not only in these hills in Vermont:

“The dense, unvisited woods on those inaccessible slopes seemed to harbour alien and incredible things, and I felt that the very outline of the hills themselves held some strange and aeon-forgotten meaning, as if they were vast hieroglyphs left by a rumoured titan race whose glories live only in rare, deep dreams” (H.P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness).

This is what the Lovecraft Forest is and if we inspect the haunted forests of this world we might come across these mysteries.

The Demonic Forest

In my story the forest is infested with the mysterious forces as described in the last post about the “demonic (principle) which can manifest in men, animals and things even in whole epochs (corporal and incorporal)”.

Of course this is not a very original idea or something new but always worth to be told from a new angle.
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Is there anything we could do differently rather doing another “chilling story in the woods”?

As I have mentioned before I am strongly convinced that we should take the ideas of zones of the supernatural and places where the walls between our world and another otherworldly realm alongside our reality are thin and permeable very seriously.

The forest had always many different qualities in our culture in history. Of course the forest is one of the most positive forces known on this planet and everything should be done to protect any forest. The forest itself is not demonic but the demonic element can manifest in nature.

Therefore it is more about demonic places which could make a demonic forest. Cases have been mentioned before here about places which have a weird tendency of letting the same strange thing happen again and again. The demonic element here appears more like an invisible childlike supernatural force repeating the same trick.

The question what could be done differently, what could be told from a different angle is connected with the considerations about the “demonic forces” at certain places (the demonic principle is of course not something necessarily connected with a certain place but it seems there are notorious areas which have sort of a tendency for weirdness).

If we try to avoid stereotypes – for example the stupid killing demon attacking the wanderer – we can get closer to something which rings true to a lot of people.

If we look at most unexplained (supernatural) stories surrounding haunted forests it is more like something is teasing the victims. Even if we hear about dangerous close encounters most of the time the witness is confronted with an mysterious force neither exactly good or bad. However in the end a confrontation with the demonic element could result in a tragic ending. It’s like losing a game with an invisible player.

The mysterious beings in the forest – “The secret commonwealth” like the fairies – are described as paradoxical beings. They are not straight killers but they make people losing their wits.




It might be also a mysterious force behind the “notorious secret rituals in the woods“. Sometimes magic seems to work and perhaps somebody wants you to think that by performing magic you have supernatural powers. However we never had a clue what was really going on.

Our new angle could be something like to admit there are powers we could not reduce to something we know – the best stories or movies like Peter Weir’s “Picnic At Hanging Rock” don’t present simple solutions. They reveal a deeper truth.

“Picnic At Hanging Rock” is a story about the demonic par excellence. It’s disturbing because there isn’t some sort of massacre or any other horrible event revealed. The most frightening side of the demonic element is that we don’t get something bad we can cope with. The most unsettling idea is when we learn something happened which is beyond our understanding.

A “Demonic Forest” is in way like a “Poltergeist”. As soon as we have found a theory what’s going on the phenomenon does something which is like an unexpected twist. In Norway scientists try to understand the “Hessdalen Phenomenon” for a long time – mysterious lights appearing like Ufo’s in a valley again and again, but so far nobody really understood the phenomenon so far.

What the demonic principle can do to us is usually using our curiosity to lure us deeper and deeper into the forest. It needs our strong wish to understand. If we could not any longer understand what’s going on we are lost. Some people vanishing in the forest weren’t attacked by some entity but they lost control.

And perhaps the best trick of the demonic element is to make us believe it doesn’t exist.

Otherworldly Traps

“ROSLIN
Things. The forest is showing me…
Things…”(The Forest Dark Screenplay)

People getting lost or people losing their wits after they entered a dark place in the forest. Are there supernatural traps hidden in certain places in this world?


In fairy tales the trap is a very prominently motive. Writers were fascinated by these folclore stories. There are famous works particularly in the period of romanticism. An example which was described earlier is the “Runenberg“.

Another well-known trap is the court of venus, “Venusberg”. These traps lure the wanderer into another realm. The man who can’t resist will finally lose everything.

These kind of “erotic traps” use temptation. Of course, this is something which works very well in a number of stories.

However it’s indeed primary a literal motive not a very realistic one.

We don’t expect a beautiful fairy queen tempting us to walk straight into a rift in time and space when we enter the woods.

Otherworldly traps are perhaps something which works in a more subtle way. Nevertheless these kind of traps could be very powerful and dangerous.

It seems that there are places in this world were people lose their orientation or get depressed. The perfect description of this kind of otherworldly trap could be found in Algernoon Blackwood’s “The Willows” where two wanderers get maddened by a supernatural force and one of them is close to committing suicide.

“The Willows” is also a fictional supernatural tale but what happens could be closer to what’s really going on. Every year a number of hikers vanish mysteriously. In most cases there are very rational explanations for what has happened with these persons, but some cases remain unsolved. There are areas which have a reputation for this like “The Bennington Triangle”. According to the Indians the woods are cursed in this territory in Vermont.

I think there are two ways to make you losing your wits. If there are forces which could look deeply into the soul of a person these forces will find the weak spot. They will hit you on the most personal level. The other way is showing you disturbing things, things which are somehow not right, something like H.P. Lovecraft’s “Color From Outer Space”.

These kind of phenomena exist. There were described for example in “Dangerous Lights”. Obviously, they act more on a psychological level. They are happen in a realm somewhere in-between the physical world and the inner-life of a person.





Getting into the mind of a person is the most efficient way how a trap could work. The purpose of the trap it to break somebody’s will. Without a strong will we are an easy prey for whatever lurks in the forest. As soon as we are depressed and disoriented we’re lost. Sometimes the victim returns but is changed forever.

Peter Weir’s famous movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” describes the mysterious disappearance of a group of girls in the Australian outback. One of the victims returns but cannot describe what happened. The girl is changed and cannot remember anything.

The movie is based on a novel which is fiction but played around with the “based on a true story” pattern. The ending was left open for interpretation but the otherworldy quality of the “Hanging rock”, which exists, is a dominant motive. There are hints that it is the special quality or power of place itself which is responsible for the events.

This story is a very good example for a supernatural trap. It’s like a paradigm. We find similar stories surrounding other notorious place like Freetown-Fall River State Forest. In this case the forest itself seems to be the trap, like the famous woods in the Blairwitch-Movies.