This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast,and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m (still) binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!
This story contains much talk of suicide.
Hello Dweller of Swamps,
It’s strange to finally write this after months of meticulously crafting the perfect letter with which to grab your attention, but sadly those hours were in vain. It’s impossible to express the entirety of what happened without including some rather embarrassing details, but I can’t keep this to myself any longer. Hopefully, you can see past my mistakes and consider reading this to your viewers. There is no defense for my intentions, but I would like to conclude this preface by saying that I am a different person now.
My name is Parker, and I’m a 21-year-old manic depressive, bipolar, college dropout; I’m also a snob and all around asshole. This isn’t a cry for help – it’s an explanation. You see, I’ve been coming to The Swamp since 2018; it’s one of few pleasures in my pathetic life. Any tale where someone suffers more than myself is a treat, but here… I don’t know, there’s something special about the atmosphere; I’ve nearly convinced myself I’m visiting a real place. Did I cross a line from loyal fan to obsessive psycho? Probably, but listen to my whole story before passing judgment.
Eventually, listening wasn’t enough anymore; I wanted to “keep the show going daily” – to hear my words shared with everyone here in the Swamp! The problem? I was a boring nobody, and apparently, so was my family; there wasn’t a single haunting or stalker among us. Finally, I decided to create a work of fiction, but they were dull; even if you read them, they’d be immediately forgotten. No, if I was going to lie, it was going to be something memorable!
After trashing a dozen more drafts, the entire world stopped. My sister died, and I experienced real pain. The previous depressions were nothing compared to the new torments of daily life. Leslie was walking to her car after work when some shitbag just… grabbed her, but that’s not the story I’m here to tell; it’s only the catalyst.
I’ve always wanted to die; not in a ‘I can’t take it anymore’ dramatic way; in a ‘this is pointless and I don’t wanna’ passive way. After Leslie, it became the bad kind. Wanting justice kept me going at first, but when the shitbag went down shooting, that was gone too.
There’s a calmness that comes with the decision to die; the pain finally stops because it doesn’t matter anymore. It felt like my mind was clear for the first time, and I understood exactly what I wanted to do. Opening a new doc, my fingers danced over the keys as words practically wrote themselves. In minutes, three perfect paragraphs introduced myself as a adventurous hiking enthusiast; I explained my love for this channel and lifelong desire to visit Aokigahara – Japan’s Suicide Forest. It was far from finished, but a beautiful beginning.
Next, I bought a plane ticket (round-trip to support my claims), got a passport, and packed my bags. The plan was nearly flawless; I would write of my daring adventures, and when the audience was captivated with my unbelievable discoveries, I would deliver the clincher – the “returning tomorrow, will update soon!” Of course, that was never going to happen. Later, when my body was discovered… Well, you get the idea.
There was a chance details about my true personality would surface, but most people want the mystery; they’ll overlook a few discrepancies if the story is good enough, and I thought mine was. I researched the area to ensure no claims contradicted the legends too much and found the subject fascinating. In 2003, a record breaking 105 bodies were discovered; in 2010, over 200 suicide attempts were made! Due to the drastic increases, they won’t release the numbers anymore.
In the year 864, Mount Fuji erupted and where the lava flowed, Aokigahara eventually grew. Halfway up the mountain, one can see the forest from high above the treetops; that breathtaking view is the reason it was named, Jukai, or Sea of Trees. Unfortunately, the surrounding villages were poor and starving; it was common for families to abandon their elderly in the woods and call it mercy. Many of them committed suicide rather than face weeks of starvation and exposure.
This brings us to the Onryo – vengeful spirits capable of causing physical harm. Many claim these malevolent beings are responsible for most – if not all – of the forest’s deaths and disappearances; even experienced hikers tend to lose their way. Now, the public trail ends with ‘No Trespassing’ notices and warning signs. Those who are determined to die simply venture forth and do it;. if they’re unsure, they tie a ribbon in the trees to guide their possible return.
Sometimes, locals volunteer to perform suicide checks and know what it means to find one of those trails. In case you’re wondering, I took camping gear, but only to support future claims. We can skip the swank hotel, weird toilets, and actual trauma of public transportation. I’d rather jump to where fantasy and reality diverged.
Once I learned what it’s like to travel in a crowded city – I knew multiple trips were out of the question. Instead, I took everything on the first day. Finding reception at the bottom of the mountain seemed preferable to another round trip. Plus, it fit my narrative better – “I was just camping, but things were so scary I came down to send this!” At least, that’s what I told myself.
It wouldn’t matter why I went back afterwards – people always make dumb decisions in those situations. Let everyone speculate I forgot something, or maybe I was forced. The important thing was to steer them away from suicide. I didn’t care what went in its place – Onryo, Yakuza, Aliens – pick your poison!
From the moment I arrived, things were more difficult than anticipated. The insects were drawn to me like they smelled a foreign delicacy in my blood, and the weight of my gear increased with every step. When the trail split in two, I stopped for a much needed break. The signposts were in Japanese, but a passing elderly couple spoke English well enough to help. They exchanged worried glances after noticing my tent; I insisted my interests lay only in camping, but it’s doubtful they believed me.
I’m still in awe of the forest’s beauty; it’s amazing what nature can do when the trees aren’t cut every 10-20 years! If you leave the trail – even before the forbidden zone – it’s practically guaranteed you’ll get lost. I stopped for a few more breaks along the way and reached the end in roughly two hours. A small barrier with numerous warnings offered no challenge in preventing my entry, but that’s what marks the point of no return for so many.
My first glimpse revealed tattered ribbons of all colors and sizes blowing in the breeze. I worried my line would be too easily seen if it started within view of the trail but then noticed a uniquely shaped tree in the distance. Halfway there, a blue, uncut ribbon could be seen stretching into the dense foliage ahead; it inspired a combination of fear, curiosity, and regret. Turning back, I found a new landmark to the right; when sure no others were nearby, I started my own red lifeline.
It was a solid hour before I found a suitable place for the tent. It was the lightest available, but as the clouds gathered overhead, the choice felt regrettable. Not checking the weather is a perfect example of the basic things I overlook in laziness. I set up between two huge trees and hoped heavy rocks would help against the wind; there was nothing to do against flooding except hope it didn’t happen.
It wasn’t until resting inside that I heard the sporadic patter of raindrops and realized the trees blocked most of it. Luckily it never rained hard enough to be more than a nuisance, but the soothing sounds lulled me to sleep. Nightmares are a common theme in the forest’s legend, but that’s true for most haunted places. Regardless, bad dreams are ineffective threats against those of us intimately familiar with night terrors… as long we realize we’re sleeping.
One moment I was resting comfortably; the next – footsteps were crunching in the distance. I rose to look outside, fully expecting a deer or bear. My ears couldn’t discern how many legs it walked on – just that it was heavy. The sound stopped instantly when I unzipped the flap; taking a few cautious steps forward, I scanned my surroundings. It was then I realized Aokigahara was a serial killer’s paradise, but it was too late for new worries. Besides, I was there to die; if someone wanted to help – why complain?
I turned and felt urine stream down my leg. Standing not five feet behind my tent was the elderly couple from before… except now they looked like zombies! They weren’t ghostly apparitions but solid bodies! Their faces were chalk-white and peeling; the woman’s neck had a jagged red slash, and her husband was missing a portion of his skull.
With a sickly, rotten smile, the man – in perfect English – asked, “Are you sure you’re only here to camp? Is there anything you’d like to talk about? We’re wonderful listeners.” As he spoke, they advanced from both sides, and I stumbled backwards.
“Oh don’t be frightened dear,” his wife added, “We only want to help; we have a grandson your age! Or we did… until he left us to rot, the sorry, selfish bastard!” Her voice became deeper with every word until it no longer resembled a human’s.
I retreated faster and soon fell flat onto my back. Twisted roots and rocks jabbed painfully into my skin, but there was no time to stop for the stars dancing in my vision. The couple’s approach grew louder with each step, and their cold, iron grips would come any second. I flailed, desperately propelling myself backwards, but my clothes snagged in several places. Finally, when I thought my heart would fail from pure terror, I jolted awake to a loud clap of thunder.
Outside in the cool, fresh air, I noticed my clothes were soaked in sweat. Once changed, I started a fire and wondered at the possibility of staying awake for the rest of my life; having one of those dreams at night was something to avoid. A phantom-pain lingered from the imaginary fall, but as a lifelong hypochondriac, I’ve learned to ignore most aches and ailments.
In a blatant act of rebellion, my brain showed me awful things waiting in the forest – creeping closer by the minute. I didn’t care about the story anymore, but I was trapped. If I fled in the dark – every branch would be fingers, every animal would be demons, and every cold breeze would be the Reaper’s breath.
Shadows darted about in the corner of my eye, but I was paralyzed. The trance was only broken when a figure suddenly lunged into the clearing; I turned my head in time to catch a glimpse of a pale, angry woman before she vanished. Taking advantage of my regained mobility – I dove into the tent. I felt a cold certainty that’s what They wanted, but my anxiety grew in tandem with the darkness; staying outside wasn’t an option. I felt naked and exposed; countless eyes were watching, waiting… but for what? The whispers hinted suicide, but I wasn’t ready to admit I heard them yet.
Things were almost calm during the first hour; writing seemed like a good distraction, but it was difficult to focus. It wasn’t until accidentally dozing that I heard real footsteps – several. The firelight cast tall, exaggerated shadows onto the tent, and they grew taller with every step. There were at least six, maybe more; I thought they would force their way inside, but they circled me like vultures! Round and round they went, slowly, never stopping or talking, but – occasionally – they showed me things.
I could hear, smell, and feel everything; most husbands granted their wives quick, painless deaths before committing suicide, but sometimes they tried to survive out there. Either way, death always came, and the men were always furious when it did. Their rage and hate poured into the land, strengthening its curse with every fresh infusion of fury.
What’s interesting is how the same children who left them on the mountain were in turn abandoned by their own offspring years later. The Onryo never forgot, and their sons were greeted accordingly. The practice of abandoning the weak may have ended, but its victims remain – and they hate us, all of us.
The visions continued until all meaning of time was lost; my head ached and my eyes grew heavier with each passing minute. I had drifted off for only a moment when the sound of tearing fabric startled me. Inches from my ear, a long, black fingernail poked through a small hole, and I screamed in surprise. The finger was immediately replaced by a glazed, blue eye. Gripped by panic, I leapt away from the tear, covered it with my pack, and sobbed as the circling footsteps resumed. I stayed that way until dawn, when all fell gloriously silent.
There were no retreating footsteps into the forest; they vanished mid-stride as if never there. I opened the flap wide enough for a peek but saw nothing. The gray light of morning filled me with renewed determination; it was imperative to finish my business before sunset, but I was no longer sure what that entailed. Not wanting to trust any decision made under duress, I reassessed my situation from the beginning.
The real doubts began with my letter to you, Mr. Dweller. It was nothing compared to the nightmare of reality. After much soul searching, the file went into the trash bin where it belonged. When I decided to visit Aokigahara, no part of me expected to witness any form of supernatural activity; now that I had – it would practically be criminal not to share it with the Swamp, right?
Admitting I might want to live was too scary; that would mean returning to my miserable existence of everyday life. It was easier to postpone the suicide rather than cancel, but my priority was getting the hell out of that forest. My gear was packed in ten minutes, and leaving the tent behind was an easy decision; no matter how long I lived, there would be no more camping in my future.
Following my red line back to its starting point, I remembered the stranger’s blue ribbon. My intention was only to take a few pictures – for the story – but then it was clearly older than I first assumed. The chances of finding a corpse at the other end were extremely high. Seeing a corpse wouldn’t bother me half as much as a living person would. I could be like the YouTubers and claim it was to give closure to a grieving family – or that it was the right thing to do – but I was chasing a story.
After twenty minutes, the sound of rushing water alerted me to a stream beyond the cliff-side, and the terrain was much better for walking. The forest’s beauty, made it easy to forget the previous night’s terror and the morbidity of my current objective. Lost in another fantasy, I wandered past the ribbon and into an old campsite. A gray tent was flattened beneath a large tree limb, and personal effects were scattered throughout the area.
Initially, I worried a person was inside the tent when it was crushed, but that wasn’t the case. After a brief inspection of the belongings, I noticed a yellow ribbon leading further into the woods. The dead woman was at the end of a much shorter hike. She’d been there long enough for the rope to eat through her decomposing neck; the noose still hung from the tree, but her head and body lay separately on the ground. Taking a picture was horrible, but no one would believe me without evidence.
Her icy, dead stare gave me chills; I couldn’t look directly at her – only through the camera. With my finger over the button, I took a few more steps and waited for the auto-zoom. When the shot came into focus, I screamed and fell hard on my ass.
The woman’s face was back to normal – her lips slightly parted; in no way could she be described as smiling. Yet, when the picture came into focus, that’s exactly what she was doing. Her terrifying grin stretched ear-to-ear, her lips were blood-red, and her eyes were suddenly aware and full of hatred. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her or she might make that face again, but I desperately needed to see that picture.
After several minutes spent blindly running my hands over the ground, I finally found it. The sad, broken remains of my phone only displayed the soft glow of nothingness; we can fast forward past my tantrum. Without a phone, there was no way to judge time, but I knew it was early enough to be safely locked in my hotel room before nightfall.
When retracing my steps through the ruined campsite, I heard a strange, gargled cry – like someone was drowning – and instinctively ran towards the sound. Looking down from the cliff’s edge, I froze at the sight below. It wasn’t water flowing through the stream but blood and bone! Skulls littered the banks, and spines stretched far beyond my sight. My head began to spin, and I sank to my knees knowing another vision would soon assault my senses.
Countless people jumped from that very spot, and countless more were all but pushed. I watched them in an endless loop; so many people – just like me – were surrounded by a horde of ghoulish figures taunting and poking them until they fell. Death wasn’t always instant – some only suffered broken bones; those begged for help until their heads sank below the surface. They were the same gargled cries which led me there in the first place.
I only returned to my senses when leaned forward, hovering at the tipping point. It was my own doing, but not my conscious doing; it required all my willpower to carefully lean back and avoid panicked movements. When there was a comfortable distance between myself and the cliff, thunder boomed overhead, and the sky was quickly growing dark. That’s when I remembered my laptop; it had a clock, but with a little luck – my phone would appear on the Wi-Fi options!
At first, I assumed it must be on American time – because why else would it say 5:15pm? The battery was over half full, but the power died when I opened the Wi-Fi settings. When pressing the power button, the light blinked and died. If it was almost 6:00, that meant I missed the sun’s entire journey across the sky while I was… what? What could account for so much time?
The answer hit me, and I almost lost the little food in my stomach. It hadn’t felt long at the river, but my muscles were weirdly stiff when I returned to my senses. As if confirming my worst fear, the bottom of the sun dipped just behind the mountain’s back and a long shadow fell across the land. That’s when the whispers returned, but it was hard to distinguish the outside voices from my own while crying in the dirt. “Kill yourself now; forget the story. You can’t spend another night out here.” No matter who said it – truer words were never thought.
After repacking the computer and finding my flashlight, panic finally consumed me; I ran without looking back. The headless woman would be there; there’s no way to prove it, but she would. A painful stitch in my side soon forced me to a stop. The flashlight wouldn’t have enough battery to last all night, but if I didn’t turn it on until it was pitch black – it should have enough power to make it to the public trail. The plan was to walk until the light dimmed, then start a fire next to the path.
If nothing else, having a plan granted me several minutes reassurance. I genuinely saw myself making it out of there and being a better person for it – like one of those life-changing experiences you see in a movie where the main character is an entirely different person at the end. All I needed to do was walk back to the blue ribbon; even I couldn’t get lost in the short space between it and the public trail!
The ribbon was gone; I followed it when fleeing the river, but it wasn’t there anymore. As if answering my screams of frustration, a violent wind blew, and a wall of dirt hit my skin like a thousand needles. Underneath the howling wind and crunching leaves there was another sound – whispers – floating to my ears off the cold breeze. They were secrets and knowledge, questions and answers, promises and threats – all for my ears alone! When the trees were calm once again, I opened my eyes in time to watch the last blue tatters fall to the ground.
Instead of being consumed by terror, I felt relieved… The whispers were pleased, and so was I, but immediately upon that realization, was the now familiar feeling of waking from a trance; those feelings hadn’t been my own, and the appropriate response of panic began in earnest. Thinking the trail must be close, I used the flashlight and kept moving in the same direction.
Fun fact: Walking in a straight line is impossible without a guide; you’ll always make a circle. Feel free to Google it; I didn’t believe it either, but it’s an interesting read.
I pointed the flashlight into the cluster of trees and took three deep breaths before proceeding. The light bounced with my unsteady movements, and the whispers begged me to look for their faces – to follow them home – but if they were trying to lure me right – I needed to go left; that’s when the old couple returned.
The moment the light fell on their rotting faces, I came to an abrupt halt, and they laughed at my fear. “You think he’ll wet his pants again?” The man asked his wife.
“Oh, hush, that doesn’t count! That was a dream… wasn’t it?” The woman teased.
“No telling, he was soaked clean through afterwards, who knows what fluids came from where.” The husband answered, and they both laughed.
My eyes only glanced away for a second, and my head never moved an inch, yet they halved the distance between us. Despite every conscious effort to avoid it, I yelped and fell once again. Standing no more than five feet away, they cackled maniacally while the whispers in my head turned to screams, “there’s only one way to end it!” They warned.
Consumed by panic, I struggled to my feet and ran around them while (hopefully) staying on course. When their wild, mocking laughter was gone, I slowed to catch my breath. Turning the flashlight off at that moment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but every second of battery power was precious. In the dark, my breaths were loud and jagged; it felt like the sound would carry for miles.
As my heart began to slow, a soft whisper spoke into my ear, so closely I felt breath on my neck. “Come play with me.” It was a child’s voice that time, and before a chill ran the length of my spine, small fingers brushed the tips of my own! I frantically fumbled with the flashlight, nearly dropping it before finding the switch. It was on for only a brief instant, and immediately began to dim. As the beam slowly faded, faces began to appear between the trees, watching and smiling.
A whimper escaped my lips as I banged the flashlight against my palm – causing it to flare back to life for short spurts, only to immediately dim again. The pale faces in the forest blinked in and out of existence with the light – appearing closer with every flash, and the whispers promised, “soon!”
My entire system shut down; I collapsed and between loud, wracking sobs – apologized for every horrible thing done to the spirits in life or after. Somewhere in the corner of my desperate brain, I remembered the only paragraph involving “how to appease” an Onryo. They want justice; for many reasons – that wasn’t feasible here, not in the traditional sense, but I promised to share their story with as many others as possible. Then, I repeated it a second time; part of me hoped if I kept talking, I wouldn’t feel hands reaching from the darkness.
The words did nothing to appease the Onryo, but something appreciated the sentiment. The next time the light roared to life, it stayed on. Most of the faces were gone, and the ones that remained were beyond the beam’s reach. Rising unsteadily to my feet, I was surprised to see the clouds had parted; the moon and stars were shining brightly.
I wasn’t foolish enough to let my guard down; there was still a heavy tension in the air, but it was possible to breathe again. Forcing myself to move slowly, I turned in a circle, hoping to see anything familiar. On my third pass, I finally saw it; the end of a blue ribbon tied around a tree. The rest was torn away, but that one beautiful scrap remained; I ran to it – the possibility it would vanish was too real.
Halfway there, a cold, steel hand clamped around my ankle, and I face-planted, hard. If not for the mouth full of dirt and leaves, my scream would have surely woken the dead – though, to be fair, most were already awake. As I tried to rollover, a heavy weight fell onto me; it felt like a knee was pressing into the center of my back with two hands on my shoulders. My terror was complete; I couldn’t move or think. No air was getting through, and my vision was going black, but everything was just… blank.
I thought the distant voices were hallucinations until whatever held me down suddenly vanished with the appearance of multiple flashlights. Fortunately, the hotel manager was always suspicious of my reasons for camping at Aokigahara; when I hadn’t returned that day, he reported me as missing. The officials refused to start the search until morning, but the manager said he had a “bad feeling”; he’s friends with a few of the locals who volunteer there, and convinced them to come immediately.
So yea, I definitely owe that guy my life. There’s a lot I’ll never know about what happened out there, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What you believe is up to you, but I have a theory.
Suicide was viewed differently in Japanese culture; in the Feudal Era, the act of Seppuku was an honorable way to take one’s own life. It was most often carried out with a short blade to the abdomen – ensuring an especially agonizing death by disembowelment. There were a variety of reasons – usually to restore lost honor or to prove one’s loyalty, but the important thing is – it wasn’t the shameful, cowardly act most Americans view it as. They had a special name and honored traditions to show it was not for the weak.
Many poor souls were happy to die; they saw it as putting extra food in their children’s mouths and freeing their caretakers from an unnecessary burden. They expected their sacrifice to be honored and remembered – not forgotten on the mountain with their rotting corpses! So, I promised to remember – to pass their story on to all who would hear it. I think that’s why some decided to let me leave; not out of kindness or mercy, but a desperation to be known. I’m not sure if that conveys the profound life lessons I learned, but if nothing else, please try to be less judgmental towards others; not everyone is raised with the same ideals or opportunities, but we all bleed.
Anyway, that’s my story. Even if you don’t use it for the channel, I don’t care; the fact you saw it is plenty. Most importantly – thanks for all the shitty nights you’ve gotten me through. Whether you knew it or not, I think you might have saved a few lives when you started this channel. It’s not just that you provide quality entertainment; it’s that you include us – all of us – in every episode. You created a second home where all your friends are welcomed like family. I hope you knew that.
PS: Sorry again for being such a dick before.