A Presence in the Woods
I’ve got an uncle who’s sort of a recluse. His name is Bud, and he lives in a log cabin on a plot of land in the backwoods of West Virginia. He’s a bit of a hillbilly, but he’s a decent guy, and he’s never been known for making up bullshit stories. What I’m about to tell you is something that happened to him—and later, to me.
Sometime back in the late 90s, Bud was in need of money. He owned a good bit of acreage, and to make ends meet he agreed to sell some timber from his property to a nearby mill. The offer was decent and would help him pay off some bills. But the price he paid for that trade was something he came to regret.
As Bud soon learned, the timber he approved to be cut down encircled a previously undiscovered Native American burial site. He was completely unaware of the site until the men cutting down the trees came across a large mound in the earth that had been covered over by dense foliage. They stopped cutting immediately and showed Bud their discovery.
At this point, I know what most people would think: Don’t mess with it. But the fact was, Bud was in dire financial straits and was facing foreclosure on his home and land. So, after brief consideration and asking the men to do their best not to disturb the mound, he gave the okay for them to continue.
Two days after the timber was cut down and hauled away, something came to Bud in the middle of the night.
He was dead asleep, with one arm hanging over the side of his bed. At about three in the morning, he was awakened by the sensation of something tugging at his fingertips.
He sat up in bed wide awake. To hear him tell it, the first thing that went through his mind was that a raccoon had gotten into the cabin and scurried under his bed. This wasn’t exactly a common occurrence, but it was also not entirely out of the realm of possibility, especially as deep in the woods as Bud lived.
But when he turned on the light and searched the room, there was nothing there.
He shrugged it off as a dream and laid back down to sleep. In the morning, he woke to find the front door of his cabin standing wide open. Naturally, this set Bud off trying to figure out if someone had broken in while he was sleeping.
He checked for signs of forced entry and spent the better part of the day making sure none of his belongings were missing, and searching around outside for signs of any intruders. Bud had been a tracker during the Vietnam War, and a pretty good one at that, but aside from random animal tracks on the ground outside, he could find no evidence that any humans had been there.
The following night, at around exactly the same time (three in the morning), Bud was again awakened. This time, he distinctly felt something tap him on the shoulder.
Already on edge from the previous night’s incident, he shot up in bed and went for the loaded handgun he kept by his bedside.
When he reached for it, something in the dark grabbed his wrist.
He jerked his hand away, staggered off his bed, and flipped the light switch. Again, there was nothing there. But this time, Bud sensed a presence in the room. He described it as the sensation of having someone standing just inches from his face screaming, but not being able to see or hear them.
Bud stood pressed against the wall for a good five minutes before finally gathering up the courage to move. He got his handgun and once again went through every room of his cabin, fully expecting to find someone inside. And once again, there was nothing.
He left all the lights on and went back to his bedroom, all the while feeling as if someone—or something—was watching his every move.
Next, Bud did something that I would never have guessed he’d do. He tried to communicate with it.
To this point he hadn’t been hurt, just startled, and there was nothing to indicate that the presence meant him any harm. And so he sat down on his bed, held his arm out, and said aloud, “If there’s someone here, do that again.”
The invisible hand that grabbed his wrist was ice cold. He told me that it felt like a human hand against his skin and that it didn’t grab him hard enough to hurt him, but enough for him to register that it was real and not some figment of his imagination.
This is probably a good place to mention that Bud has always been a pretty religious guy, like a lot of people in his area. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it explains why he did what he did next.
With the hand still curled around his wrist, Bud said out loud: “If you’re a good spirit, let my arm go.”
The answer he received was unambiguous. The entity tightened its grip around Bud’s wrist and pulled.
At that point, Bud freaked out. He jerked his hand loose, ran out the front door, and spent the night in the cab of his pickup truck. He waited until after sunrise before going back inside. When he got inside, it felt as if the presence had left.
Although he could no longer explain it away as a nightmare, there was nothing else Bud could do. His nearest relative, my mother, lived three hours away, and he wasn’t the type of guy to impose on others. So he did the only thing he could do: He tried to forget about it and move on.
Over the course of the next several days, however, the events in Bud’s home began to escalate.
Every night, he was awakened by the same unseen visitor. The occurrences only lasted for a few minutes, but each time, Bud found it impossible to go back to sleep. He tried sleeping on his couch, thinking that maybe the phenomenon was somehow tied to his bedroom. But when he did, it followed him.
These “visits” weren’t limited to random taps and touches. Sometimes, his bed would shake violently and the covers would be ripped off of him. Other times, various electrical appliances in the cabin would be turned on, and eventually Bud took to unplugging everything before he went to sleep.
For some reason, nothing out of the ordinary ever happened during daylight, so he began to stay up all night and sleep during the day. But this was a solution that only exacerbated his stress.
Two weeks after everything started, Bud visited his church and talked to his minister, who seemed to be able to offer no help or suggestions. He hit Bud with the typical questions—had he been drinking, or doing drugs, or dabbling in the occult?—none of which were the case. And while the minister humored him and offered to pray for him, he stopped short of accepting an invitation to come over and experience the happenings for himself.
In the third week, Bud started hearing the voices. He described them as deep, guttural growls that always sounded as if they were coming from a different part of the cabin. If he was in the kitchen and he heard them coming from his bedroom, he’d go into his bedroom and suddenly hear them coming from the kitchen, or the living room.
He said the voices sounded as if they were saying something, but he could never understand them. On rare occasions, he would hear the voices coming from the woods outside.
When Bud called my mother to tell her what was going on and get her opinion, she immediately took him seriously and invited him to come stay with us over the weekend. If nothing else, she said it would give him a break and let him catch up on his sleep.
I was in my teens at the time, and I was totally fascinated by everything he told us. By the end of Bud’s stay, I had talked both him and my mother into letting me come spend the night at his place.
Most people would say I was crazy, but think about it! The opportunity to experience something that proves the existence of the paranormal was too enticing to pass up. So I packed an overnight bag and made the drive back to West Virginia with Bud.
I’d only ever seen his cabin in pictures, so I already had an idea of what I was in for. But I have to say, hearing about everything he’d been through and now being in the very setting where it was all taking place was both exhilarating and terrifying. The place looked like something straight out of a horror movie, and as we pulled up I wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into.
While it would be cool to say that we busted out a Ouija board and tried to commune with the spirits, I knew that was out of the question. Like I said, Bud was a religious guy and he probably wouldn’t have allowed it anyway. I also had a feeling it wouldn’t take long for something to happen.
I was right.
We were sitting in front of the TV in his living room when it happened. The sun had gone down a couple of hours earlier, and we were trying to decide if we should stay up or just turn in for the night when the knocking started.
At first, I thought it was Bud messing with me. I told him to knock it off, but when I saw the expression on his face, I knew he wasn’t responsible. His eyes were wide and his mouth was hanging open. It would have been funny under different circumstances, but considering the stories he’d told me, there was nothing humorous about it.
Something was rapping on the floorboards directly beneath our feet. It didn’t happen just once or twice. It was a repetitive, urgent knocking. I looked at Bud’s feet to make sure he wasn’t making the sound, and he looked at mine. The surprised and fearful expression on his face told me this was something new.
I asked him if this had happened before, and he shook his head no. I asked him if he had a basement I didn’t know about, and again he shook his head.
We got up and backed away from the sound. I could actually feel the floorboards vibrating and buckling under my feet.
The knocking increased in volume and intensity until it was a full-on pounding. I thought about the possibility there might be someone under the cabin playing a joke on us, but before I could suggest checking it out, another series of knocks started on the wall. The thing about this wall was that it didn’t face the outside of the cabin. This was the wall opposite Bud’s bedroom.
I darted quickly around the corner and looked inside. The room was empty, but the pounding continued.
We were so freaked out that we just stood together in the center of the cabin practically holding hands like a couple of terrified schoolgirls. Bud’s a tough-looking guy, and seeing him that scared only made me more fearful.
The pounding went on for about five minutes before it suddenly stopped. In its place came something that I can only describe as a loud snorting sound. It was coming from the direction of Bud’s bedroom and sounded like an enormous pig grunting and snuffling.
Then everything fell silent, as if someone had muted the world. Another five long minutes crept by, this time without any further disturbances.
We both began to relax, and I can honestly say that if that had been all that happened, I probably would have found the nerve to stay the night. But right about that point, I started to feel a peculiar itching in my nose. Not at the end near my nostril, but deep in my sinus cavity.
The itch got more severe, and it felt like there was some kind of bug burrowed up there, moving around. I tried blowing my nose, and that didn’t do anything. My eyes were watering, and pretty soon it felt like there was a hot pinprick underneath my eyeball.
I began to panic, and Bud immediately told me to grab my bag and get into his truck. The moment we walked outside, the pain in my nose vanished, but there was no way I was going back in there again.
It was too late at night to make the long drive back to my mother’s house, so we drove out to the highway and Bud put us up in a motel for the night. He drove me home in the morning.
Needless to say, I never went back—and the experience was so psychologically traumatizing that it had a lasting negative impact on my relationship with Bud.
After waiting for some time to pass, Bud called and apologized for ever having entertained the notion of bringing me into his home knowing what I would experience there. I told him he didn’t have to apologize, that it wasn’t his fault. I reminded him how I’d practically begged him and my mother to let me spend the night. Still, I don’t think Bud ever forgave himself for putting me “in harm’s way,” as he put it.
As the weeks and months and finally years ticked by, we communicated less and less. It was an easy thing to let happen. I felt a need to put distance between myself and that experience, and talking to Bud only kept it fresh in my mind. In fact, it was Mom who pointed out that anytime I spoke to Bud over the phone, to wish him a happy birthday or something, I would have horrible dreams later that night.
The nightmares weren’t always about Bud’s place. No invisible ghost hands reaching out to grab me and pull me under the bed, no disembodies voices whispering into my ear or anything. For the most part, the dreams I had were totally unrelated. But they were always horrible. And they would stay with me for days.
I felt guilty that I’d come to associate my uncle with the most terrifying things my mind could conjure, but what could I do?
I’m certain that if Bud had had the means, he would have sold his property and moved away, but life isn’t like it is in the movies where people take off when terrifying things start to happen. Sometimes you have to suck it up and make the best of things. Even if that means being forced to share your home with unseen entities.
Mom kept in close touch with Bud over the years, calling once a week to check in on him, but she never told me what they talked about, and I didn’t ask. The only thing I know for certain is that Bud never left; he lives there to this day. How he’s managed it all this time, I have no idea. The phenomenon couldn’t have simply gone away—as far as I know, these kinds of things don’t just end—and if it had, I’m sure my mother would have told me by now, if for no other reason than to help me with the fears that still linger all these years later. So I’m left to assume, in the way you always do about things you don’t have the courage to look too closely into, that it’s still going on.
Then last week, Mom called to let me know Bud isn’t doing well. He’s in his eighties now and having trouble taking care of himself. She says she’s trying to convince him to sell the cabin and move in with her so she can take care of him, but considering the fact she’s not far from her eighties herself, I can’t see that working out very well.
More than anything, I’m terrified of having to help out. I still live close enough to Mom to be there in a half hour if she needs anything—and if Bud moves in with her, I’ll be all out of excuses. It sounds horrible, I know, and I feel like the world’s worst nephew for hoping Bud stays where he is. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s possible that the phenomena could follow him if he leaves.
And if that is possible, what will happen when Bud dies? Will the passenger that’s attached itself to him simply go back where it came from? Or could it jump to the nearest person, passed on like some otherworldly virus?
I doubt anyone can answer those questions. Would it even matter if they could? The fact is, Bud never had any children of his own. I am the closest he ever came to having a son. Although it’s been years since we’ve seen each other, some bonds are unbreakable. And I believe that if Bud’s burden is ever passed on to anyone else…that someone will be me.