Horror Fiction

Do Not Explore the Alaskan Wilderness

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Be sure to enjoy the full experience with his wonderful narration - available on YouTube or Podcast. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! He uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

My friends call me Ray, but I’m changing the names of everyone else involved. We lived in Texas until last year when we moved to Alaska. There isn’t much I can say about my job without giving away the company, but – needless to say – my time is spent outdoors. Two years ago, my wife (Hailey) was involved in a car accident, and we fell on some fairly hard times. We also have two kids, so when it seemed like we were being offered an opportunity to get back on track – I could hardly say no. While we didn’t expect to love it out here, we thought it would be bearable long enough to pay off some debts… but no amount of research could have prepared us for this place…


It took over a year for my wife to physically recover, but she still suffers from PTSD. Working from home and not traveling on interstates fit into our new lifestyle nicely, though there are plenty of downsides. The fact that an ocean now separates us from the rest of our family is what bothers me the most. The kids didn’t want to leave their friends, but luckily they haven’t hit their teen years yet, or the resistance would have been much worse; Jason is only ten and Jenny is seven. Surprisingly, they’ve adjusted better than we could have dreamed.

The strange day and night cycles aren’t split into six month cycles like we had always heard; there’s a couple of occasions where it’s one or the other, but it’s mostly just long summer days and winter nights. The kids were happy to discover what a novelty it all was to everyone back home; during the first two weeks, they practically lived on FaceTime. It made us feel like everything would be ok – which was a big deal considering how poorly Hailey and I were coping.

The overall stress was unbelievable; moving to a new city is a major undertaking, but this was a different league entirely. We failed to appreciate the fact that Alaska is very cold; obviously, we knew it was something to prepare for in terms of buying the necessary supplies, but those who have never experienced a true winter simply can’t grasp how drastically it changes your daily life. We couldn’t afford four entirely new wardrobes on top of new tires and the countless other items we didn’t consider. Thankfully, our families were able to help; I don’t know what we would have done without them.

Our house is far nicer than what we had in Texas which was another plus for the kids if not slightly ironic. Normally, it’s more expensive to live in the city than in the country, but that’s not true here. We got a great deal on our house thanks to my company, but everything else is nearly double the price. We almost sold our vehicles rather than pay to have them brought over, but thank goodness we didn’t. Had we understood my drastically higher salary was to cover basic living expenses – I’m not sure we would have moved.

Our only neighbor (Odette) lives across the road; she and her husband bought their home over forty years ago, but sadly, he passed away last spring. She doesn’t get out often, but she’s very kind. The day we moved in, she came over with a delicious casserole; there’s nothing like a free meal after a long, hard day – especially when that day involved your first glimpse at the grocery store’s outrageous pricing.

Odette accepted our invitation to stay for dinner; she may be in her late sixties, but she can keep up with the best of us. She has a thousand stories, and the kids would have listened all night if we let them. Once they were finally in bed, the rest of us had coffee in the den… That’s when Odette’s stories started to get a little weird.

The light-hearted tone in her voice suddenly turned very grave, and her gaze dropped to the floor. “When you bought this house, did Allan tell you about any of the local legends we have around here?” Her words ran together as she blurted them out.

“Uh… nope; none that I can remember.” I was certain because there had been almost no contact with the actual owner; I looked to Hailey for confirmation, and she was also shaking her head. The drastic change in our neighbor’s demeanor made us feel like she was about to deliver terrible news – like one of the previous owners slaughtered his family or a serial killer was loose in the area – something dangerous.

“I had a feeling…” she sipped her coffee and took a deep breath before continuing. “Did you know Alaska has its very own Bermuda Triangle?”

We most certainly had not – but she told us all about it. Something like five out of every thousand people go missing around here, and most of them happen in that area. I was surprised but not necessarily frightened. A vast amount of the state is uninhabited; it wasn’t a stretch to assume people might go out, lose their way, and succumb to wildlife or the elements.

It was like Odette could hear the thought forming; that’s when she explained the Kushtaka legends. Apparently, Kushtaka are Otter-men. I remember hearing a few Bigfoot stories in the past, but nothing we dreamed could be real. Even as we listened to her describe the eight-foot-tall shapeshifters, I couldn’t create a serious mental image of a giant, man-like otter walking around on two legs – at least, not in a malicious way.

Our neighbor went on to describe how they would sometimes take the appearance of a loved one to lure their victims into the woods. There’s no shortage of people willing to give firsthand accounts of their own experience, though witness testimony doesn’t mean much to me. It seemed like the Kushkata were Alaska’s version of cow-tipping; just because something is impossible doesn’t stop everyone and their brother from saying it happened.

Even though these creatures usually lure victims to their doom – Odette claimed they sometimes appear in human form to approach those who are lost or injured. They pretend to offer the victim aid, but in reality, they intend to lead them deeper into the forest where they will turn the human into one of their own. I’m still unclear as to what that process entails, but I admittedly didn’t try very hard to learn. Even now it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this.

When I asked Odette why she was telling us these things, she said it was because several years ago, her son (Cam) hired a Kentucky boy to work on his crew. From day one, they warned Kyle of the various dangers, but he thought they were “hazing the newbie”. When his aggravation began affecting his job performance, Odette invited the whole crew to a barbecue in hopes the boy would take her words more seriously… Unfortunately, he chose not to attend.

Then, at roughly 3:00pm the following Tuesday, Kyle signaled a bathroom break to his supervisor and stepped away; he was never seen again. No one expected him to actually vanish in the middle of a shift, but concerns grew rapidly when twenty minutes passed without his return. Initially, they hoped he was only trying to scare them for revenge; Cam and three others searched for him while the rest continued working. Formal searches were conducted over the following weeks, but there was simply no trace.

There’s nothing Odette could have done, but she clearly feels a deep remorse for his loss. Our hearts ached for the poor woman; Hailey and I found ourselves “believing” in the Kushtaka purely to ease her mind, but after she left, we began discussing it between ourselves. As someone who wasn’t raised with Otter-man lore, it was extremely difficult to take seriously, so what did we do? We turned to YouTube, and we discovered Alaska is known for many creepy cryptids, and Kushtaka stories are definitely among them.

The History channel has a great show called Missing in Alaska, and episode ten has what we were looking for. It told of a writer who came down to research the legend for a book, but he vanished, too! That’s insane! I won’t go through the whole video, but while it was enjoyable – it didn’t convince us Otter-men existed. We believed the locals truly believed in them, and that was good enough – we decided to humor the legend as a show of respect. Honestly, it encourages safer practices in the wilderness, and that can only be a good thing.


Overall, our strategy worked well, though I was admittedly nervous starting the new job when I learned some of our work would take us through the Triangle. My coworkers’ stories didn’t help, but after the first month passed without incident – things got easier. The days began to bleed together as life moved on in a beautifully mundane blur, and eventually, I forgot about the legends completely… until late February.

The job should have been simple; clear some land, do some digging, and get home before something gets frostbite. It was the same routine as any other day except for one thing – Jason’s birthday. He was disappointed I had to work and didn’t want to open his presents without me. We FaceTimed long enough for him to rip some paper, but the signal dropped. Luckily, Hailey had the foresight to give him the iPad first, and I felt less guilty about his decision to wait for the rest.

I worked like a machine; I didn’t even stop for lunch. My mind was laser focused on getting the job done and making it home. That evening, in the gray light of dusk, we packed up and made the short hike back to our trucks. It had been a long day, and no one lingered to chat. I was 5-10 minutes down the road when I realized my phone was back at the site. I had propped it up in a tree when talking to Jason and forgot to grab it when my hands were free again. If it had been anything else, I would have left it for the next day, but not my phone.

No thoughts of danger entered my mind; why would it? I was just going back to a place I knew well, and it would only take a moment to walk in, get my phone, and be back on the road. I drove as close to the site as safely possible and found myself running the rest of the way; I don’t understand why I felt so rushed. There was no doubt Jason had been fully engrossed in his new tablet all day – his other presents weren’t going anywhere – yet there I was – running through the wilderness like a total fool.

It was almost completely dark when I reached my phone. I hadn’t thought to grab a light so I’m not sure what I would have done if it had gotten dark first. As I stood there trying to turn on the phone’s flashlight, I heard what sounded like a fox crying out. A friend had recently found one trapped in an old hunter’s snare, and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving if the same thing happened again.

I rushed off with my light pointed at the ground ahead. It made me nervous to leave the trail, but the cries sounded close by. I continued straight for twenty yards without seeing any sign of the fox. No matter how far I walked, it always seemed like it would be past the next shrub, but it never appeared. I must have walked 50-60 yards when the noise was immediately cut off – like someone pressed stop – and it suddenly began to snow. The weather out here is completely unpredictable, but that instance was strange even by Alaskan standards.

The howling wind was the only sound in the forest, and I had to move quickly. It doesn’t take long for flurries to become full-on snowstorms, and I didn’t want to think about what that could mean for me. I turned back the way I came as the snowfall increased, and the light began reflecting back into my eyes. The temperature was dropping rapidly, and my truck was the only shelter for miles. I opened the phone’s compass to ensure I maintained a straight line, but no matter which direction I pointed – it wouldn’t spin.

Hoping to use GPS, I hunched down against a tree and turned off the light while trying to open Google Maps, but there was no signal – not even to send a text. To make matters worse, I only had 48% battery remaining, and I was now surrounded by solid, white walls of snow. It’s a miracle I didn’t lay down to die on the spot; if I weren’t a father, things might have gone differently… I don’t know. Forcing myself to leave the tree’s illusion of safety was extremely difficult; I was practically crawling when I continued my desperate search for the path.

The wind tore into me from the right; my beanie doubled as a face-mask, and thankfully, I developed a habit of putting my gloves in a coat pocket, or they’d be in the truck with my boots and earmuffs. The body loses the most heat through its ears and feet. The added layer of my coat’s thick hood helped protect my head, but I feared the worst for my numb toes. No expense is spared when it comes to the boots we wear out here. They’re knee-high, insulated, and clunky as hell – perfect for the job, but awful for the roads. Like most of the guys – I change into something lighter at the end of the day, and that’s why I was out there in a pair of regular Red Wings.

Even though my feet were too cold to feel it, I knew each step forward was filling my boots with more snow as their rims dipped beneath the surface. If nothing else, the sheer weight increase was enough to be sure. My mind was overrun with daydreams of a life on disability after losing my feet; I would become an alcoholic, Hailey would leave me, the kids would hate me, and I would move in with my parents. It was as clear as the air was white as I realized my hands were also going numb from clawing myself forward against the worst gusts of wind. I would have cried, but I’m fairly certain my tear ducts were frozen shut. My… ‘snow-balls’… were lodged somewhere between my lungs, but I’m trying to keep this PG.

I was on the verge of digging a hole behind the next tree I stumbled into when I froze in place at the sound of a familiar voice calling my name. It was faint over the storm – I thought I imagined it, but then I heard it again, slightly louder. It was my boss, Brian. I screamed so loud, my raw throat felt like it was cracking open, but I wasn’t going to waste my chance at survival.

My heart swelled with overwhelming relief when he answered my cries, and I pulled myself upright while impatiently waiting for rescue. The wind calmed slightly, allowing me to hear his footsteps; the sound was both beautiful and terrifying. He was approaching from my left – that meant I had been going the wrong way. My sense of relief was tainted with horror as my brain entertained several what if’s in the short seconds it took for Brian to come into view. A fierce gust of wind stopped him roughly thirty feet away, and he shouted, “follow me” before turning to lead us back.

The thought of reaching my truck – mostly the heater – pushed away the flood of worst-case-scenarios; there would be plenty of nightmares and therapy bills for those later. Staying low, I hurried forward to close the gap between myself and Brian, but he was picking up speed as well. That was fine with me, the faster we got out the better, but I was so focused on trying to catch up that I failed to notice we still hadn’t reached the path. Even worse, I was moving at a dangerous speed with only a dim light pointed ahead of my feet. Any misstep could have easily twisted my ankle or worse.

Eventually, common sense took control over mindless panic. “Brian, wait!” I shouted as loudly as my raw throat would allow, but he didn’t seem to hear me. I tried again and again as we continued to speed through denser foliage. My feet were getting tangled in vines, thorny branches were tearing my coat, and I knew something was wrong… I should have known much sooner. Finally, I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, and resumed moving as fast as I dared – fully aware I would not survive a fall.

My encounter with the… figure I called Brian played through my mind in a split-screen fashion alongside Odette’s warnings of Kushtaka taking on the appearance of friends to lure victims deeper into the forest. The only thing capable of pulling me from those thoughts was the horrifying sound of Brian’s voice calling out. “What are you doing? That’s the wrong way!”

I know it’s always a mistake to look back, but that’s exactly what I did. On the first glance I only saw an enormous, black shape dart past a tree and vanish from sight. My heart skipped at least three beats before I could force myself to move; the shape I saw was a minimum eight feet high, and there was a dark undertone in the voice that yelled, “come back, we’re trying to help you!”

It sounded so close when it spoke that I stumbled and couldn’t help casting a quick glance to my right. I didn’t think it was possible to feel more frightened than I already was, but the image of a giant, hairy, disfigured face was seared into my mind as I struggled to regain my footing. It was poking its enormous head from behind a tree; I can still see it clearly now, and there is little to no hope of forgetting in the future.

I’m not sure how long I ran, but it felt like an eternity. All I can say for certain is that I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and, eventually, I heard several voices calling my name from multiple directions in the distance. To say I was skeptical would be a vast understatement, but I didn’t know what to do. Every move felt fatal. What if they’re Kushtaka – or one of the several other cryptids I’ve heard about? What if they’re real people, but I run away? What if the first monster catches up while I’m standing here?

Hoping it was reasonable to assume monsters wouldn’t have flashlights – I decided to shout a tentative cry for help and run towards the first light I saw. Unfortunately, that cry turned into the high-pitched squeal of a teenage girl when a branch snapped directly behind me – in complete darkness. I surged forward – not sure if the snag at the bottom of my coat was real or imagined – and a dozen shouts rang out in reply. In seconds, spotlights were pointed in my direction, and the sound of weapons being prepared to fire was sweet, sweet music to my ears. I screamed, “it’s behind me” several times before collapsing, but I didn’t need to say more; everyone understood my meaning perfectly.

I was later told the Kushtaka probably left when it heard all the other people. As I thought, Hailey called Brian when I didn’t come home, and he took care of the rest. They all raced back to search for me; apparently there’s no point in wasting time with police in those weather conditions, and I’m grateful they didn’t. There’s no doubt I was close to the end.

After I collapsed, they zipped me into a sleeping bag Tommy had the foresight to bring from his truck, and basically carried me out of there like it was a body bag. I wasn’t too far off in the direction I was traveling, but I wouldn’t have found the trail. Even without the possible Kushtaka encounter or psychotic break – whichever you choose to believe – there’s no doubt I would have died out there if they hadn’t found me.

I had to spend a little time in the hospital because of the frostbite. It’s a very difficult healing process, but, miraculously, I’ve gotten to keep all my fingers and toes! I’m mostly ok now – but my sense of touch isn’t quite what it used to be in the worst places. There’s absolutely no circumstance that will ever get me to step foot into the wilderness alone again. In our original budget, we planned to live here for 4-5 years, but that increased with the unexpected living costs. I’m not sure if I can last that long…

Hailey and I have decided to call our families tomorrow in order to discuss possible options. If we could find jobs beforehand and arrange a place to stay while we look for a new house – it may be possible to leave sooner. We don’t plan to tell them about the Triangle – they would be deeply concerned for our mental health. We’re extremely unhappy, and I regularly work near dangerous wildlife; those are facts. I’m sure there are more, but those are enough.

I’m ashamed of how stupid it was to put myself in that situation at all, and it must be obvious to others. I can guarantee every person in our tiny town heard what happened that same day, but not one has questioned me about it. I don’t think I could say all of this if they did – not face-to-face – and I’m sure they know that, too, but writing it out like this… I don’t know, I kinda do feel a little better.


Well, that’s really all I have to say besides – thanks for doing what you do. Even if you don’t use this for your channel, I just appreciate that you took the time to read it. If I wasn’t trying to move away from this frozen wasteland, I would definitely be supporting you with more than likes and shares. Keep up the great work, and best wishes to you and your family!

Horror Fiction

The National Park Service is Hiding Something

🚨ATTENTION🚨

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 binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

I’ve been a fan for a long time and knew you had to hear this! Last week, my cousin from Alabama disappeared. We weren’t close, but his brother went missing last year, and his parents couldn’t handle going through his things. Mom and I flew out to help and found some crazy stuff on his computer. He posted two audio recordings to the Park’s website – both of which were immediately removed – but the files were still on his laptop. Honestly… I don’t know which is more disturbing, but I can tell you one thing, Nate was no actor. I’ve transcribed everything in hopes you might read it. Thanks for the amazing work you do, keep it up!


[feedback] Whoa, hold on. [tap, tap] Okay, it’s working now. [clears throat]

[hesitant] Hello, my name is Nate; I’m twenty-six and I’ve been a Park Ranger in Alabama for almost a year. If you’re hearing this, I’m either dead or missing… [light cigarette] hopefully, dead. I recorded this message three days ago, but didn’t make it back in time to cancel the upload. This is a confession, a warning, and a farewell. Please, don’t look for me.

I was the black sheep in my family. There’s no excuse or trauma to blame; my parents were great, my older brother, Eric, wasn’t a bully. I’m just… a lazy klutz, if I’m being honest – and why not – there’s no reason to lie. Most people won’t believe a word of it anyway – hell, I barely do.

It’s important you understand I’m not a paranoid loon locked in a basement; my world revolves around logic and facts. I never believed in Santa or thought a monster was under the bed – not once. This is so you understand I’m not exaggerating; I don’t scream “ghost” when a door slams, and I don’t see things from the corner of my eye.

Each denial you’re about to have – I had; each question you’re about to ask – I asked. I’m going to start at the beginning, but even then, it may not be enough. That’s okay; you can believe me later. If you ever find yourself lost in the woods, something you learn here just might save your life.

It began in April of ‘21; my drinking was out of control, and I was on thin ice with my boss and girlfriend. It felt like I was past the point of no return, idly waiting for the end. Looking back, it sounds pathetic – I should have stopped drinking; I could have apologized to Jen when it mattered, we would have— [sigh] well… shoulda, coulda, woulda, am-I-right?

Let’s put aside the lies I told in order to continue drinking and focus on the key details. As you can see, I’m a straight shooter; I’m not here to bullshit, so I’ll admit – I deserved to get fired. Bartending is a horrible career for a budding alcoholic, and I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner. Unfortunately, Drunk Nate couldn’t understand that, and he made a scene…

Normally, if someone breaks a window and steals a $600 bottle of scotch – police are contacted; when you live in Nowhere, AL – parents are called, and money is exchanged. Unfortunately, it was the last straw for Jen; my stuff was packed and waiting when I finally stumbled home. Not that I remember – that’s just what I learned upon waking in my childhood room.

These events were what led to my exceedingly fragile sobriety. If I didn’t want to spend life asking “Do you want fries with that?” I had to work with my brother; no one else would take me. Park Ranger life suited Eric; he was made for the outdoors. Me – not so much, but it meant a place to live for the summer. They like having staff on site for the busy season, though people with families are generally displeased with the idea.

A few white lies and blatant acts of nepotism later – I was starting my first day on the job. I was exactly fourteen days sober when Eric gave me the grand tour – and I do mean grand; we barely covered our territory before quitting time. The whole first week was dedicated to learning my way around; he didn’t start easing me into the weird stuff until the second week, and that, friends, is where this story really begins.


Happy Trails

Remember, at this point – I’m still a barely-functioning alcoholic desperately resisting temptation every second, and I didn’t play it off well. Eric saw me struggling and did his best to help; he tried to distract me with shoptalk – I was expected to know a few basics – but even he was bored. It didn’t seem unreasonable to think he would stretch a few details to get my attention.

Until then, my lessons consisted of which hikes and berries were dangerous; now, it was what to do when someone goes missing. Not “if” mind you – “when”. How often do you think people disappear in a state park? Not lost – missing – as in never seen again? Because I thought two per year was an extreme guess, but it was insanely naïve.

Last year – in our park alone – 138 people vanished. It was hard to wrap my head around that number; how could so many disappear in one place without being all over the news? Well, a couple things contribute to this, but the answers are far from satisfying.

Our statistics are nothing compared to the bigger parks – which would make sense if those places were getting the expected attention, but they’re not. Some of their numbers are triple ours, yet there’s hardly a word to be found! There’s a surprising amount of reasons people won’t report a disappearance, but those with active warrants or lacking citizenship are the most common. Personally, I’d prefer jail or deportation, but [light cigarette] to each their own. The point is – even if we ignore those – there’s more than enough to justify an investigation. You’ll learn the rest as we go; I have much to say and precious little time.

Eric saw my skepticism and showed me the Lost & Found cabin. Some of the stuff in there dates back to the ‘70’s; that’s fifty years of missing people’s crap! Inside, he went to the more recent finds and opened a bin labeled “D. Hill 7/19”. It contained reports from the Dylan Hill disappearance. That July, a family of four drove up from Montgomery for a week of camping; their son was nine and the girl, six. They checked in on a Sunday morning and chose the campsite closest to the welcome center; families always do because it feels safer.

On the third day, Mike Hill rushed into the office – frantic – saying his son disappeared. He and his wife were adamant Dylan vanished; he wasn’t abducted, he didn’t wander off – he vanished. Sherri was preparing lunch while Mike watched the kids. They were never out of sight until Dylan ducked behind the tree-line of a particularly dense area. Even before his sister caught up – Mike was on his feet. When interviewed, he said it was the darkness of the thicket that initially bothered him. There were dense patches everywhere, but none so dark as where his son entered.

Over the next weeks, Park Rangers assisted with Search & Rescue operations while doing their best to comfort the grieving family, but they knew it was too late; the ones who seem to vanish into thin air are never found.

You probably think what I thought – that the parents were responsible and coached their daughter to lie, right? It’s technically possible, but the kid was six; I read the transcript from her interviews, and kids aren’t that good at lying. Even if one could keep a straight face – they couldn’t handle a convoluted story, especially not for several weeks under intense pressure.

When asked if she or her brother had met anyone else at the park, she claimed someone with “backwards arms” and “long feet” stood outside their tent the night before. Eventually, it was determined she saw a man, but her imagination invented a monster after losing Dylan.

It seemed like a reasonable explanation until I heard similar reports from other guests. It’s not always a kid, and there aren’t always creature sightings, but when there are, it’s always with the same description. People from all over have described an emaciated animal with long, canine-like feet, no hair, and strangely bent arms – or possibly wings, but I’m jumping ahead a little.

I didn’t believe a word about monsters; I thought it was a gag for newbs. My first personal experience was two weeks later when a woman went missing. It was June 5th, and I had just moved into a staff cabin the week before. Being sober was still a bitch, but there were whole hours I didn’t think about drinking. Having my own place helped immensely, but Bethany Anderson almost pushed me clear off the wagon.

This is what made me understand lives were resting in my hands; if I missed a sign or clue… [shudder] I wasn’t built for that kind of pressure. My focus should have been on her, but it was on a rabid monkey relentlessly clawing my back. That’s also the day I found an AA group; if nothing else, it worked for fear of returning.

Beth and her boyfriend were camping for a long weekend, but they got separated on a hike. Grady claimed they were only apart for a few minutes, but when he walked back to join her – she was gone. The trail didn’t diverge at any point, and everyone she knew agreed that she wasn’t the type to wander off. Her partner believed a tall, deformed man took her. There were several times on the first night when they heard rustling nearby; they assumed it was an animal, but each time they tried to discern the source, it stopped – like someone didn’t want to be found.

That night, Grady crept out of their tent to relieve his bladder and saw a dark shape standing several feet away. It was so thin, he thought it was a tree – especially with the awkward angles of the protruding limbs. Then, it bent drastically near the base and leapt into the trees. The man possessed enough sense not to investigate. When he later relayed the events to Beth, she disregarded it as a dream.

After enjoying a normal morning, she convinced Grady to go on that fateful hike. He hasn’t meant to walk ahead. She was next to him moments before, and thinking she stopped for a photo – he turned back right away; unfortunately, it was already too late.

Obviously, the police thought his entire story was fabricated. If there was any way he could have known about those other cases, I’d think the same – but these people were from Florida! They weren’t locals who happened to know a few stories, and they damn sure didn’t hear in on the news!

It was a miserable two weeks before Search & Rescue left, and four more before the Anderson family flew home. I’ll never forget the sound of the mother’s wails; I heard it in my sleep – and not in a metaphorical way – her cabin was close enough to literally hear it. That’s when I got serious about my training. Maybe there was nothing I could’ve done, but if there was a chance to help the next one, then yea, I was ready to get off my ass.

Cue the training montage; I worked harder than I’d ever worked in my miserable life! The funny part is that’s what got me past the worst drinking urges. I don’t think the cravings will ever fully stop, but I experience entire days without temptation.

By August, I felt like a real Ranger; I was trusted to work without supervision, and my co-workers no longer saw me as Eric’s screw-up little brother – I was part of the team! Life was too good, I should’ve known disaster was coming.


[light cigarette] On Friday, August 13th, everything went to shit; I think the date was coincidental considering how often it happens, but you never know. It was my last two weeks living at the park, and if I didn’t find an apartment soon – I’d be back with my parents which is obviously not ideal.

There’s a kitchen in the welcome center where we have lunch, and that day, I ate with Eric and Teri; she’s a been a lifer and could fill a book with all the strange shit she’s seen. The main reason I didn’t have an apartment yet was laziness; the research alone is a long, tedious process. I avoided it by asking if anyone knew of a good place to rent, and surprisingly, Teri did.

It was a small house only ten minutes away, but the landlord was leaving town the next morning and wouldn’t return for three weeks. Instead of living with my parents for a week like a reasonable person, I was an impatient asshole. The world would end if I didn’t immediately get those keys, and – as usual – Eric went out of his way to help. He was scheduled in the welcome center with Teri, but she agreed to cover for him.

When we finished the last task, I was an hour ahead of schedule, but before I could feel too relieved, our radios crackled to life; there were multiple reports of a bear near Campsite C. They wanted us to investigate, and if that was my worst delay – everything would have been fine.

We drove to the location figuring the animal was long gone but couldn’t risk tourists crowding one for a selfie. After scanning the area, we left the trail and advanced slowly; we only needed to ensure it wasn’t loafing nearby. It made sense to spread out, but there was no more than 15-20 feet between us; plus, I glanced over often to match his pace, and it was never difficult to see him.

Not until he vanished, that is… I still don’t understand how it happened. How can he be there one second, and gone the next?! I called his name, but there was no answer. Bear forgotten, I walked to the last place I saw my brother. I had always felt safe at work – like Rangers were off limits to the misfortunes that fall upon our guests. We’re only here to restore order afterwards – a maintenance crew, if you will – but when my eyes fell upon the void left by Eric’s absence, that illusion crumbled.

It was foolish not to radio for backup. I ran blindly into the forest without caution nor care. It’s a wonder I didn’t disappear as well, but I felt like my only hope was to find him immediately – before a report solidified the event as real. Deeper and deeper I barreled through the woods, ripping my clothes and scraping my arms in the process. I mistook my shock for reason and continued screaming for my brother.

I’m not sure how long it took to reach the clearing with the strange snowman rock, but seeing it was like waking from a trance. I had no clue where I was; the full weight of my situation sank in, and my stomach lurched painfully. Eric was likely dead, our ATV was abandoned at Camp C, and I would return alone, beaten, and without an explanation for… anything. Even if other Rangers believed me – I’ve seen firsthand how badly the police need closed cases.

That’s when I learned the radio was dead, and my phone was in the ATV. When something genuinely terrifying happens – the resulting fear is so intense that the possibility it could grow worse is unimaginable. It can always be worse; that much, I guarantee.

Wandering aimlessly is the worst thing you can do when lost. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stay put while your world is ending. I tried retracing my steps, but nothing looked familiar. Eventually, I rounded a curve to see my path blocked by what I thought to be another strange rock formation. It was big, and trees grew around it to form an almost hidden alcove; had I approached from a different angle, it would’ve been invisible.

Unhappy Trails

There was an almost… hypnotic quality; it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t place what. I was so consumed with identifying this foreign, yet familiar shape, I didn’t realize my feet were taking me closer. My knees went weak as I saw only part of the formation was rock; the rest was… flesh. The realization only came as its top half suddenly stood to its full, breathtaking height. Before, it was merely crouching behind the boulder; now, it was staring into the depths of my very soul… I could feel it inside of me.

My limited reserve of composure evaporated as I fled into the forest once again. The urge to look back was intense, but I resisted. With a loud, guttural roar came the clear sound of flapping wings; the image of that thing soaring above was enough to keep me going well beyond my normal limit. I didn’t notice the familiar surroundings until I emerged onto a trail near E Camp.

I was quickly spotted by a fellow Ranger who informed me it was almost 7:00! That’s when I noticed how low the sun had sunk, and how close I was to being lost out there in the dark. Eric was still missing obviously, and search efforts were already underway. I was forced to recount my story to the police before speaking with friends. Despite what they suspected, the evidence was only circumstantial, and I was asked not to leave town. Mr. Davis, my boss, believed me and was kind enough to let me keep the cabin while I wait for the other place.

My parents were an absolute wreck and also allowed a cabin while the search continued; everyone put in an extra show of effort just for them. Watching Mom suffer is the hardest part of this madness; if she loses me too… I can’t think about that. None of this concerns them anyway. The parts you – whoever ‘you’ are – need to know happened after I finally made it home that night; well, Saturday morning, technically.

The unexpected knock at my door was timid but frightening. It froze me in place while I imagined that creature waiting on the other side; had Teri not called out, I wouldn’t have moved. It had started to rain, and flashes of lightning lit the sky; I invited her in and fetched a clean towel. She dried off while the coffee brewed, and we talked for hours as the storm raged outside. Not only did I recount my story, but she told me much more about the disappearances than Eric had. I’m not sure if he knew or not; it’s possible he didn’t want to scare me more than necessary.

Maybe it’s a testament to my selfishness that I only cared about research when it concerned my own brother, but it never occurred to me before that moment. Teri showed me more subreddits, YouTube channels, and podcasts than I could count as she explained something people refer to as the “Missing 411”. I’m going to do my best to pass that knowledge on to you, though there’s not enough time to read every piece of evidence I’ve uncovered over the last several months. The best I can do is point you in the right direction, but hopefully anyone who hears this will decide to stay the hell away.

If one types “Missing 411” into Google, a plethora of films and documentaries appear; a cursory glance leads one to believe these are fictional horror stories. If you skim a few articles, it starts sounding like some grand-scale human trafficking ring, but if you’re willing to take a deep dive something much more sinister rises to the surface.

To put it simply, monsters – or some prefer “Cryptids” – are real; if you can’t accept that basic fact by now, there’s no point in listening to the rest. You can’t look at the Missing 411 as a whole; that’s a rookie mistake full of false leads and deadly misconceptions. Yes, as records of the missing are gathered from across the globe, there are many commonalities, but this is not a singular mystery with a singular answer; it is a collection of thousands, probably millions!

Every case must be considered individually to determine what’s at fault; it’s common for large forests and mountain ranges to house multiple creatures. Whether this be Skinwalkers, Wendigo, Dogmen, or – as in our case – Vetti, it’s vital to prepare for the right creature. Please understand those are just a few examples; it would be impossible to list all the known Cryptids. That’s why the best course of action is to avoid them completely.

[alarm clock] Damn, I’m almost out of time; I must tell you about the Vetti before it’s too late. Teri and the other lifers were only able to identify it two years ago when she found one of the missing. She was alone in a remote area of the park when it happened. Some kids left their trash behind, and a chip bag was tangled in the bushes just off-trail. When she retrieved it, she noticed a candy wrapper a little further in – so she got that, too. Then she saw a water bottle, and it wasn’t until the following soda can that she realized how far away the litter had taken her.

Realizing her mistake, she turned back to see Jason Fuller – a Ranger who disappeared six years prior – blocking her path; he was injured and filthy, yet not a day older. Teri struggled to avoid the word “zombie”, but that’s exactly what it sounded like until she relayed their brief conversation. He claimed to have escaped captivity and asked her to return with him so they might help the “other hostages”. Teri said pure malice exuded from him in waves. Too frightened to refuse, she asked him to lead the way.

The thing wearing Jason’s skin gave a sick, evil grin and walked past her. She held her breath as his rotting stench wafted in her face, and the moment his back was turned, she fled. The sound she describes coming from him was eerily reminiscent of what I’d heard only hours before. She was barely able to make it to her ATV before he was on her heels.

She reported the incident at base-camp, and the old-timers filled her in just like she did for me – except she had provided a missing link in their information. Knowing what hunts you can be the difference in life and death. That night, twenty-seven men went into the forest; only sixteen returned, but Teri was told she wouldn’t see Jason again.

There are hundreds of Cryptids with information available, but we got stuck with a rare one. Most monsters are born as what they are, but Vetti are created. They begin as humans; when someone suffers unimaginable anguish – the type bred from years of brutal torture or a life of enslavement – they become consumed with fury and hatred. When they are finally granted the sweet release of death, their souls are doomed to wander the Earth as vengeful spirits. They know nothing but the desire to share their endless pain with others, and that pain is like catnip to Harpies. Yes, Harpies are real, but I don’t have time to make this a double creature-feature; you can research those for yourself.

Information on what the Harpies do after locating the spirit is vague, but whether it merges with or transforms the spirit – the end result is a Vetti. These things exist purely to cause misery; they should be avoided at all costs. Destroying one is extremely difficult, but barring a few exceptions they normally hunt alone. Their bloodlust isn’t the most dangerous aspect of these creatures; they can do much worse than kill. No one is sure of the commonality between victims, but on rare occasions – such as with Jason Fuller – the corpses are possessed.

I know my brother is dead; that’s not why I keep studying and searching. I need to confirm Eric’s body isn’t being used, and to put whatever I do find out of its misery. If I die in the process, so be it, but I’m taking that thing with me. If I can take it down with hollow points, I’ll let fire take care of the rest. I have a shovel, two cans of gasoline, plenty of ammunition, and a few blades for good measure. If I don’t make it back, I’m sorry; I wish I had been a better son and brother.


Posted one hour later:

Sorry to worry anyone who heard that… unusual message before; I was rehearsing for a play! Everything is fantastic here. Please come for a visit, and let me show you around our beautiful park. Remember, ask for Nate!