Park Ranger Stories

Park Rangers Describe Creepiest Things They’ve Seen

We’ve all been frightened by things that go bump in the night, but imagine hearing those scary sounds isolated in a forest, miles away from mankind and any sort of salvation. That’s the reality for many park rangers. Rangers are often left to venture out and care for parks on their own, often going weeks or month without interacting with another human being. In that quiet time, some pretty creepy things can happen out in the wilderness.

  1. Mysterious stranger stalks camp at night

    I once led a trip to the top of Mt. Sterling in North Carolina. It’s a tough climb to get to the top, and about six miles from the nearest road. I was leading a group of eight middle school kids and had one co-instructor. We were camping out on top of the mountain, and it was a beautiful night with a full moon. The kids and the other co-instructor went to bed in their tents. I chose to spend the night in a hammock that night. I was really into a book I was reading so I stayed up and read until about 10:30 PM. I turned my headlamp off to settle in for the night. Everything around me was rather bright from the moon and from the position I was in. I could see down the trail we had hiked to get to the top. I laid there enjoying the scenery and noticed something moving on the trail. Bears are common in the area so I perked up. As it got closer, I could tell it was a person. We were in the middle of nowhere and there was someone hiking up the trail with no headlamp or any gear. I was just frozen, watching this person move closer to our camp. They arrived at the top of the mountain where we were and just stopped. I watched as what appeared to be a man surveyed our camp. I really could only see the outline of him. He stood there for what seemed like 30 minutes but may have been 10. He then turned and sat down under a tree facing our camp. He was sitting up in a way that I knew he wasn’t trying to sleep. He just sat there staring at our camp. I had no idea what to do. I decided to wait it out. I waited, just staring at the man while he stared at my camp. This went on until about 3:30 AM. Then, he stood up, took a moment to survey my camp a few minutes longer and then went back down the trail he came up on. I, to this day have no idea what that was all about but it freaked me out. I was paranoid that we were being followed for the rest of the trip.”
  2. Perfectly severed deer head found on isolated trail in Yellowstone

    “I’m a ranger at Yellowstone. Couple weeks ago I was exploring the Lamar Valley, about 11 miles from the nearest road and even further to the park boundary.
    There, in the middle of the trail, is a perfectly severed deer head. No blood, no raggedness at the severance. Perfectly in tact.
    This is weird because I have seen wolf and bear kills, and I used to find cougar kills in SD with radio tracking just after the cougar made them.
    This was not any of those things. The head was completely uneaten – eyes, tongue, everything intact. Even the ravens hadn’t touched it yet. No caching, no scat. Right smack in the trail, but again, no blood.
    Even a human doing it made no conventional sense. It was a doe so it had no antlers, plus, why leave it in the trail?
    Whole thing, even in broad daylight, gave me chills. Just an ocean of waving grass, bison calmly grazing, and a perfectly clean deer head right on the path.”
  3. 3

    Park worker finds abandoned house with sinister shed

    A shed behind an abandoned house with a steel reinforced door broken off the hinges. The windows of the shed were boarded up from the outside. The only thing inside the shed was a queen size bed with shredded, partly singed white sheets.”
  4. 4

    Random gunshot fired in the middle of nowhere

    Camping 80+ miles from any thing resembling civilization. Lying in the tent talking before falling asleep when all of the sudden a gunshot rings out no more than 100 yards away. Then hearing the sound slowly travel away. Then quiet.”
  5. 5

    Ranger finds thumb nailed to tree

    “[I saw] a human thumb nailed to a tree.”
  6. 6

    Search for teen hikers runs through creepy clearing filled with mutilated children’s toys …

    There was a group of teens that hadn’t been heard from after their scheduled return time from a camping trip. [A coworker] and I head out in the general direction the teens had set off in. We’d been hiking for most of the day and seen nothing. We’re about 35km into the woods at this point when we start noticing odd things. Sticks carved like spears stuck into the ground, weird carvings in the trees, a child’s stuffed animal hanging from a noose up in a tree. This place was nowhere near any roads, it wasn’t on the regular trails people would go on in the area. The really eerie thing was that everything was freshly-carved. Somebody had been there within a couple of hours of us and made these things. Mind you we’re still looking for these teens. We kept on hiking and eventually made camp for the night still kind of on edge from what we had seen earlier but we settle down anyway and go to sleep. We get up with the sunrise hoping to cover more ground before it gets to hot. We pack up the gear and get ready to go when I notice a bit of shirt that had caught on a small tree and ripped along with some shoe prints. We were thinking: great maybe we’re close by to the teens, when a radio call comes through. The teens had just been found 20 kilometers east of us, and they’re calling everybody back. All those weird things we had seen from the day before came flooding back into my mind, and we wasted no time hiking out of those woods.”
  7. 7

    Suicide victim left hanging from tree for hours until medical examiner arrives

    “I found a dead man in a tree… I am a seasonal ranger for my local forest district. The rest of the rangers say we find about one suicide a year, so here was the one for the year. When we go around opening parks each day, we drive through to make sure everything is OK. In this instance, I was driving through, and had just lost sight of the road when I saw a man hanging from a tree in a clearing. He had hung himself. I called the cops and the coroner… the coroner took an hour to show up, and he was the only one with a ladder long enough to cut the guy down…. so I stared at a dead guy in a tree for an hour.”
  8. 8

    Ranger followed by cougar for days

    “The scariest experience I had as a back-country park ranger in Washington State was being stalked by a cougar for a day and a half. I was hiking up an unpopular trail up to an old shelter and had that creepy ‘being watched’ feeling. I had seen fairly fresh cougar scratches and scats along the trail but that’s pretty common up here so I wasn’t worried at all. That night I camped at the shelter, which only had three walls and a roof. I felt uneasy all night and hardly slept. At one point (chiding myself for being paranoid) I arranged my emergency foil tarp around my sleeping bag so at least I could hopefully hear something if it approached me as I slept. The next day I found FRESH scat and scratches on the trail I had hiked in on. About a mile past the shelter I found a mostly-eaten deer in some dense brush off the trail. Cougars often keep kills stashes throughout their territory for later snacking. Now a cougar won’t usually tangle with a human, but here I am a five foot tall, 100 pound sack of flesh and bones at least 13 miles out from any other humans. I decided to cut short my three-day trip, and hot-footed it out of there. The last two hours of hiking through dusk in a dense forest was the most hair-raising hike I’ve ever had. I didn’t know I was capable of being that hyper-vigilant.”
  9. 9

    Children visit park to see animals, find human molars instead

    “Our park lets kids from school in so they can look for animals in the forest and the streams.One day a kid finds molars. The teeth looked like human molars, but the teacher said they were a deer’s. I dismissed it and completely forgot about it.
    Two days later, they found a corpse with a smashed skull and jaw in another part of the park. All its teeth were missing.
    A local news paper covered it, but all they had to say was thank the spooky skeletons for good bones and teeth.”

     

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