Locked away in attics, basements, and dark corners across the world are stories of beings and beasts that hide in the night.
These are those stories.
This is the Sleepless in Suburbia Podcast
I’m Brooke, case manager for our team, and this is part 2 for the audio recap for Case 124: Nomads Wood.
A special thank you this week to new Patron, Courtney Rivero; your support is so appreciated and helps make our podcast possible.
If you haven’t listened to last Tuesday’s episode, part one of Nomads Wood, you’ll want to start there. I’m not trying to be super bossy and tell you how to have your spooky show listening experience. But if you start here, you’ll miss hearing about alien abductions and tube lights. So trust me on this one, hit pause, jump back to last week’s episode Case 124: Nomads Wood Part 1. I promise you’ll find us right here, still likely lost in the woods when you get back.
Back to the Woods
Now, where were we….. Oh, that’s right….
Trolls and Hell Holes, two things not easily forgot.
Leaving the swamp, we hiked for what seemed like forever, reaffirming in my mind that no amount of compass or GPS would keep me from getting lost in the woods at night.
Besides our impending need for a search and rescue team, something else was increasingly evident. The forest was uncomfortably quiet. In a forested area with no regular human activity, I hadn’t noticed a single sign of wildlife. No squirrels were jumping, scurrying up and down trees. No birds were calling out to warn the others of our approach. We’d been warned about snakes but hadn’t seen even the hint of one. Hours of hiking around, and we seemed to be the only mammals on site.
Ahead of us, the trees gathered closer and closer together, forcing us to weave in between oaks and cypruss’s. In front of me, Claire hesitated beside a massive oak tree, tracing her fingers across it’s bark. Turning, she examined another oak, only arms distance from the first. I climbed awkwardly over a mossy covered fallen tree, standing next to Claire, brushing off my jeans.
“What do you think this is from?” Claire asked.
“Hmmm?” I mumbled, rubbing at a brownish stain on my knee.
“Lighting?” She continued.
A burnt stip of bark darkened one entire side of the large tree. Across from it, several trees with the same scar. The depth of the burn was dark black, working to the surface; the bark went from black to ashen gray. The strip of charred bark stretched as far up the tree as the eye could see and when touched, the grayed ash crumbled to the forest floor.
“I don’t think that’s lighting,” Ford said, sandwiching in between us. “Typically, after a lightning strike, the tree’s bark peels away from the sap boiling and bubbling underneath it.”
Claire raised an eyebrow.
“I needed one more class Sophomore year to fulfill my full-time student requirement, so I took an arboriculture course,” Ford shrugged. “The burnt bark is far too wide for lighting and the type of burn; I wouldn’t expect to see the white charcoal looking pieces.”
Flakes of the bark snowed down to the ground under her touch. She continued, “And I can see half a dozen trees with these markings, lighting would snipe trees like this over and over in such a concentrated location.”
Moving forward to catch up with the rest of the group, I guided Claire with her shoulders, helping her avoid smacking into a tree while she scribbled down notes about the charred trees. Until I couldn’t any longer. The trees were so close together; we turned sideways to maneuver through. Claustrophobia tickled the edges of my anxiety. Another couple of uneasy steps twisting around trees and roots, and the entire space opened up.
Pru, Lo, Lark, and Connor stood in the middle of a large clearing. Below, my feet slightly sank into the exposed earth. Rich dark brown soil clung to my sneakers. The lush grasses of the forest gone, within the clearing, there wasn’t even a spec of plant growth. Just raw brown earth and on the opposite edge of the barren circle, a pile of stones or cement blocks. I made my way towards the pile, looking up into the encircling tree branches. They swayed back and forth, an occasional leaf falling towards the ground, but within the circle, my hair was motionless. Not even the hint of a breeze.
The pile of cement, upon closer inspection, was a well, approximately two feet wide with stone walls rising up from it’s depth about 3 feet. Besides giving me flashbacks to a podcast I’d listened to about Baby Jessica, there was nothing uneasy about the well. Other than the fact it existed in a barren circle in the middle of a densely forested uninhibited area.
“Welcome to the Hell Hole,” Connor said, stepping beside me, looking into the seemingly never-ending darkness.
“It’s location is weird,” I said, tracing my fingers over the cold stones. “But it doesn’t give me a Hell vibe.”
“Tell her what you found,” Lark’s voice came from behind me.
When the well appeared is unclear and who or what constructed it is even more of a mystery. The well was first documented in the mid-1920s, in a journal, written by a bootlegger using the woods as a hiding spot. Camping in the clearing, he wrote of tortured screams bubbling up from the depths of the well. After a restless night’s sleep, he packed up camp, moving on before sunrise.
Since then, accounts of supernatural happenings near the hell hole range from erie to absolutely terrifying.
A group of college friends road-tripping to spring break, pulled in the Nomads Wood Picnic area parking lot to stretch their legs. They decided to spend a couple of hours hiking the woods before continuing to the coast. Some time passed, when they found themselves walking into the grassless clearing circle. Quickly, they realized they weren’t alone.
On the opposite side of the clearing, six to eight figures stood in a circle around something. Mumbled voices carried softly across the bare earth; they couldn’t make out the words. The figures were tall, stretching upwards of 8 feet, with tattered black fabric tied around them like robes, including hoods, pulled up over their heads. Their mumbled chants, a language the friends hadn’t heard before.
The friends stood frozen, just inside the treeline of the clearing, trying to process what they were seeing. Slowly one of the robed figures turned from its chanting cohorts, hidden away under the hood, was a reptilian face. Gray scales covered the face, two nostrils sunk unto the center of the face where a nose would be, the orbital sockets were empty, and as scaled lips pulled into a snarl, revealing four rows of pointed yellow teeth. One by one, the other figures turned to them, watching them with eyeless faces.
Together the friends ran from the woods, thankful to be in the car, putting distance between themselves and the figures. That happened in 1999, each of the five friends claims to this day, to occasionally wake up in the middle of the night with an eyeless reptilian figure watching them from the shadows of their bedrooms.
In 2005 a bird watcher traveled to the bootheel hoping to catch a glimpse of a Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Western Kingbird. He began his day of birding in Nomads Wood. After hiking about an hour into the woods, he hadn’t seen any birds. Hiking deeper into the wood, he heard a cry for help. Following the cries, he emerged in a circular clearing, a few feet from the stone well. The cries grew louder as he made his way towards the well.
The well was dark, making it impossible to see far into the depths. Sobbing came from the darkness. The bird watcher dug a flashlight out of his backpack, shining the light into the well. At first, the beam illuminated nothing, but on the wall of the well closest to the man, red eyes stared up at him.
Frightened, the man turned racing across the clearing, glancing over his shoulder to see a six-legged animal emerge from the well. The animal was the size of a small dog, had six legs, was covered with jet black exoskeleton coming to a point with a barbed tail curled up at the back, its face was human-like with pupilless red eyes, a smashed nose, chewed lips, and a serpent-like tongue. As the man ran, the animal let out high pitched screeches and cries for help that resembled a small child.
He was chased the entire way back to his car, the animal stopping at the edge of the woods. At the Sheriff’s station to report the incident, the man was advised that armadillos can become very aggressive when humans approach their burrows. The deputy advised the bird watcher to stay out of the woods or risk being infected with leprosy by aggressive feral armadillos.
“Leprosy?” I asked, reaching for the hand sanitizer carabinered to my research pack. “We can catch leprosy being in the woods too?”
“Really the armadillo is the victim, humans gave it to them about 500 years ago,” Connor said, cleaning off his glasses lens on his shirt. “And to come in contact with that bacterium, you’d need to come in physical contact with the armadillo directly. Which I doubt you or it would let happen.”
I nodded, squeezing another drop of pumpkin spice scented sanitizer on my hand. Better safe than a leper.
“The stone well gives the illusion of being bottomless,” Lark said, peering downward. “Investigators have tried countless times to measure the depth, but the distance is still undetermined, as no one has reached the bottom. People believe this is either a beacon to those traveling from another galaxy or a portal from the depths of hell.”
“Where are the trolls?” Lo asked. “Do they come out of the well to hell too?”
They didn’t, Lark and Connor quickly informed us. The trolls appeared to have a claim on the entire space, and they looked nothing like 80s kids’ childhood toys. If you’re thinking troll, like what Lo described: pink frizzy hair, big brown eyes, silly smile, and a matching pink gemstone in the belly… you couldn’t be more wrong. As creepy as it would be to see one of those strolling towards you in the woods. The alleged trolls inhabiting Nomads Wood are far worse.
Though exact descriptions vary from witness to witness, there are some similarities. The trolls are small, all under one foot, with heads disproportionately large for their bodies. Affixed to the sides of the large heads or batwing like ears and a large pointed nose that droops down into a point. Their large eyes have been noted as being bright golden brown or green. Some accounts claim that at night the glowing brown or green eyes of trolls are seen watching people from the trees. The trolls’ bodies are stick skinny, but muscular, with sharp claws coming from their long fingers and toes.
The troll creatures seem curious with an honorary streak, but can turn aggressive if threatened or perhaps if they get bored. They’ve been known to throw rocks and sticks at hikers and steal items from backpacks sat on the ground. On the more combative side of things, there are accounts of them cutting ankles and legs deeply enough to require stitches and even poking holes in tires of vehicles parked in the picnic area parking lot. Local lore advises those venturing into Nomads Wood to bring treats like shiny objects, small snacks, and balls of soft yarn or string to leave for the trolls.
Once in the good graces of the troll inhabitants, you may experience easier travel within the wood. Some legends suggest the trolls may offer some level of protection from the other more sinister creatures lurking in the woods. But, if the trolls don’t take a liking to you, you may find yourself under attack from above and below.
“Lo remember to pack some troll snacks in the research packs for tonight,” Claire said.
Connor pulled a ziplock bag from his coat pocket, “They really like popcorn,” he said, dropping a handful on an unevenly cut tree stump.
We had trolls, aliens, demon lizard creatures from a portal well to hell… but that wasn’t all we could be dealing with inside the forest.
Other Haunted happenings
- People hear the voice of loved ones, both living and dead, coming from the swamp and densely treed areas.
- Faces appear from the fog right in front of someone walking through the woods and then vanish as quickly as they appear.
- Orbs are seen moving from treetop to treetop
- Child’s laughter is heard on the banks of the swampy area.
- Phantom figures show up in the background of visitors’ pictures.
- Batteries on research equipment and cellphones drain
- People have physical symptoms:
- Rashes on the inside of the arms, legs, and behind their ears
- Intense pain behind the eyes
- Panic Attacks
- Spotty Vision
- Terrifying screams
- Shadows watching people from behind trees
- Alien Encounters Including:
- Light anomalies
- Strange sounds from the clouds
- Figures appearing from the sky
- UFO sightings
- And voices talking within people’s minds.
- Trolls have allegedly:
- Scratched and bit people.
- Stolen items from bags, lunch boxes, and even pockets.
- Thrown rocks, acorns, and sticks.
- Are seen scurrying across the forest floor.
- Expect gifts and get moody if known are given.
- Slashed tires.
- Pulled chunks of hair from dogs out on hikes with their humans.
- Cloaked figures are seen walking through the trees
- A disembodied torso with two arms has been seen on several occasions in the middle of the swampy area.
- In the woods, people lose chunks of time.
We’ve collectively had bad ideas, like mine, to split up during the Windom’s West Bank Hideaway investigation or Ford’s talking me into putting the demon peek-a-boo doll in her sister’s shower. Nomads Wood very possibly would go down as our biggest “what have we gotten ourselves into moment” yet.
However, despite my fear of being lost for eternity in the forest, Ford’s fear of snakes, Claire’s fear of well, everything, and Lark’s fear of no running water for an entire investigation….. We were eager to start our investigation into the mystery of Nomads Wood.
But we had one small detail to iron out.
“If shit hits the fan,” Lo said, typing at a laptop that looked capable of hosting a space shuttle launch. “Hit this button on your GPS device; it will send an alert to the computer, allowing me to dispatch another team to assist you or notify the Sheriff’s Station if needed.”
Claire dug through her research pack’s battery kit. “And if the walkie talkie dies like it always seems to. Then what?”
“Then I use the OR options and call the Sheriff’s Station for backup. And I included two whistles in the pack, in case you drop one while getting chased by troll lepers.” Lo smiled, briefly glancing up from her computer screen at Claire’s narrowed eyes. “What?”
“Real easy to joke, when you’re just sitting in the SUV all night,” Claire said, tossing the battery kit pack in the backpack, yanking the zipper closed.
“Who’s making jokes?” Lo asked, looking at me.
I put my hands up in front of me in surrender. I wasn’t touching that exchange with a ten-foot pole.
This investigation, Lo curated six research packs, one of each society member in the field and one for Connor who’d asked to accompany us on our investigation.
Our Research Packs supplies included:
- Digital Voice Recorder
- Digital Camera
- Full Spectrum Video Camera
- Complete First aid kit
- Nomads Wood Map
- Avon skin so soft bug guard
- Off Bug Spray
- Walkie Talkie
- Battery Kit
- 2 – LifeGuard Whistles
- Snack Kit containing – granola bars, fruit, and Nutella sandwiches
- Pocket Knife
- Hand Sanitizer – because leprosy
- Handheld GPS device cable of providing longitude and latitude positioning
- Troll Treats – popcorn, pennies, and really soft yarn leftover after my abandoned crocheting hobby attempt.
No one was heading out into the woods alone, our only solo team member; Lo locked safely in the car with every piece of technology imaginable. With Connor’s knowledge of the woods, we decided to divide Nomads Wood into three investigation sections.
Pru/Connor would investigate the Clearing and Hell Hole.
Lark/Ford would wander through the middle portion of the woods between the swamp and the clearing.
Claire/Me would investigate the swamp area.
These are our experiences.
Unlike outdoor investigating in the past, as we single file, ducked our way through the opening into the woods, we were greeted by odd silence. No insects buzzed around. Not birds chirped as the sun dipped below the trees—no sounds of life. The only noise besides our breathing and footsteps was wind and the occasional rustle of tree limbs rubbing together. Even after hours in the woods in the daytime, the strange silence never felt normal.
By the time Pru and Connor made their way to the clearing, the sun was a distant memory, leaving in its absence a chilly moonless night.
“Want to start at the well?” Connor asked, heading across the clearing.
Pru jogged to catch up, “Seems like the point of most activity.”
Digital recorder set on the ledge of the well, the two took turns asking unanswered questions. They were just about to call it a night when light moved in the woods just beyond the well. “Flashlight,” Pru noticed.
“The lights an off-color to be a flashlight,” Connor said, his voice more of a question than a statement.
Slowly the light weaved its way through the densely packed trees. Shifting low, almost rolling along the ground, then higher near the top branches of the trees. It stopped hovering just inside the clearing. The light twisted over itself, stretching and contouring into an elongated sunken-in face with two sharp skeletal horns. The disembodied eyeless face lingered, suspended in midair, without a body.
“Oh my god,” Conner whispered.
“God?” A voice hissed, and then laughter echoed through the clearing.
The glowing gaunt face’s lips pulled into a sneer, revealing stained brown teeth broken into jagged points. Moving forward so abruptly, the pair hardly had time to react. “Run,” Pru shouted over a loud screaming building up behind them, grabbing the recorder.
Thankfully Pru thought of the recorder before fleeing the circle clearing; it captured this.
PLEASE LISTEN TO EPISODE FOR AUDIO EVIDENCE
That, *sigh out*, needs no explanation.
Ford and Lark opted to work their way to the furthest point from HQ and work their way back investigating on the return trip. Stopping every 10 min or so along their hike to places a treat near the ground for trolls that may be watching them travel through the dark.
A few popcorn kernels on the root of a tree.
A penny on the mossy soil.
A bow tied in the soft yarn placed on the white bloom of a Queen Anne’s lace flower.
They took turns placing items, so they could both earn troll points if they were indeed being watched. When they hit the farthest edge of the woods, tipped by muddy swamp water, they turned, working their way back to lo. Both held flashlights, Ford carried a digital recorder, and Lark manned the map, occasionally checking the GPS to ensure they were heading in the correct direction.
Lark was the first to hear it, “ssshhh,” she whispered. “Do you hear that?”
Ford came to a stop beside Lark, flashlight beams lighting up and casting shadows across tree trunks and bushes. The sound came again, a rustle rustle of something working its way through underbrush or leaves. Lark squeezed Ford’s elbow, pointing to the left, where a shrub danced back and forth.
Ford took a tentative step towards the movement, the flashlight beam shaking softly. Under the weight of her next step, a stick snapped, sounding deafening in the soundless woods.
Ford froze as did the bush, looking over her shoulder at Lark, she said, “Do you think it’s a snake or armadillo?”
“I doubt it; we haven’t seen as much as a squirrel since we got her,” Lark said, shaking her head.
Behind them, another bush rustled in the night. Together Ford and Lark moved toward the trembling shrub, on high alert for an animal to burst towards them. With just a step or two left, it went still.
“Look,” Ford gasped.
Sitting on top of decaying fallen leaves were three pennies in a triangle formation. Quickly Lark pulled the digital camera from her pack, snapping a single photo before her attention was pulled to the right. This audio clip captures what grabbed Lark’s attention from the oddly placed pennies.
PLEASE LISTEN TO EPISODE FOR AUDIO EVIDENCE
It sounds to us like something hitting a tree trunk. What did you hear?
Through the darkened forest, they worked their way closer and closer to Lo at HQ, finding piles of popcorn gone. It’s hard to confirm or debunk this as supernatural activity. We know that animals weren’t seen, but that, of course, doesn’t mean none were present. Lark and Ford also couldn’t rule out wind blowing away the popcorn and yarn bows. But an inspection of surrounding ground didn’t reveal the missing troll treats.
Back at HQ in the safety and warmth of Lo’s world, Ford found this on her digital recorder.
PLEASE LISTEN TO EPISODE FOR AUDIO EVIDENCE
Neither team member remembers hearing laughter during their investigation.
For a long while, the swamp and paranormal activity were stagnant. Claire and I sat a handful of feet from the water edge, recording audio, and scanning the night sky through tree branches. The quiet made Claire restless, no longer able to simply sit, wait, and watch, she resorted to packing the bank.
Each lap, she ventured further away from my seated post on the folded blanket. Each pass took longer for her to walk back to me. Then, after a long while, she didn’t cross between me and the water. Glancing at my watch, it was 12:04 am. I strained to see into the moonless night. 12:07 am.
Where was she?
12:09 am, it had been well over 10 min.
Breaking Claire and my agreement to only use flashlights while navigating, I clicked on the jumbo flashlight I’d borrowed from Michael’s camping gear.
The wide bright beam reflected off of fog snaking towards me around the trees, reaching skyward from the swamp. I shivered, pulling the gray pom beanie further down my ears. Panning left to right; the forest within the light was empty.
Research pack slung over my shoulder, I turned on the research pack flashlight, setting it on the blanket to help me find my way back to the starting point. Just in case I wandered too far away. I headed in the directions I’d last seen Claire.
“Claire,” I called into the night. My voice sounded small in the fog pressing inward around me.
I shined the light along the water, no ripples, nothing moved in the murky gloom.
“Claire,” time and time again, I called her name.
With the swamp at my right, I turned, the navigation beacon light looked like the smallest penlight in the distance. Panic tugged at the edges of my logic, the memory of tears streaking down the freckled face of the little girl from camp Sunny Smiles burned through the forefront of my mind. Despite the chill in the night air, it felt heavy with humidity as I gulped it in.
The tug erupted into full-on terror as my directional light began rising into the air, before spinning so fast the light blurred into a spiraling circle. At full sprint, well-scared asthma girl kind of high-speed jog, I lumbered towards the circling light. Terrified, it would vanish. I was just about there, the light raised even higher, just a few more feet. Then it disappeared.
A yell escaped my lips as I continued hustling to the best of my ability forward in the dark. No, I thought. Not again, this wasn’t what got me. Another step and my foot rolled abruptly forward, both feet thrusting skyward as I landed flat on my back against the damp earth.
I coughed, sucking in the air that was knocked out of me, blinking I took stock of my surroundings. The beacons flashlight that had caused my fall sat at least 20 feet away from the swamp bank. The once neatly folded blanket lay in shred across the grass.
Clicking the side button on my walkie, I said, “Lo, it’s Brooke.”
Lo’s response was nearly instant, “What’s Shakin?”
I bit my trembling lip, willing myself not to cry. “I lost Clair,” I finally choked out.
“Ping me your coordinates like I showed you in setup,” Lo said, voice all business.
I dug my palms into my eyes, sitting up.
Pru’s voice broke the silence, “B you have to breathe, we’ll find her.”
I pushed the button on my GPS.
The logical thing to do was wait. Stay put until someone joined me to search, but I’ve never been known for making the most logical decisions. She wasn’t along the swamp, or I would have caught up with her, the next best place to start looking, into the heart of Nomads Wood.
“If anyone can hear this,” I mumbled to no one but hoping someone heard it. “Help me find Claire, please.”
Into the woods, I panned the jumbo light side to side. I tried scanning the ground for hints of footprints to help guide me where to go. Towards the left, a sound carried through the night, a quick thunk thunk. Shifting course, I walked towards the noise. Again, thunk thunk, closer, I adjusted slightly towards the sound. The Flashlight beam flickered as another thunk thunk even louder. I took another step, then thunk thunk so loud, I reached out touching the tree directly to my right.
Glancing around, eyes working their way up the tree, I blinked rapidly, not grasping what I saw. How in the actual crap had she gotten here.
Claire’s feet kicked back and forth through the air. Her eyes gazed skyward; a melodic hum filled the air around her. The relief washed over my body so strong, my legs nearly buckled beneath me. The questions kept me standing.
I stared up at Claire, who sat unaware of me, on a tree branch several feet in the air. When did she learn to climb trees?
“Claire,” I called, getting no response. “Claire,” I tried again.
At the tree trunk, looking upward, there were no branches low enough to the ground for me to grab. If I couldn’t reach limbs to pull myself up to her, how had she gotten up there?
“I got her,” I yelled into the walkie. “I’m pushing the GPS button thingy now.”
“I’m in route,” Lo breathed heavily. “Stay put.”
My glowing watch face let me know it was just after 1 am. She’d been gone for nearly an hour.
“How the hell,” Lo said, walking up behind me, flashlight fixed on Claire.
“She hasn’t stopped humming since I found her,” I said.
Our plan to get her down resembled a rescue plan from a cartoon. Just a quick climb on my shoulders and I’ll hoist you up, sort of rescue.
“A little bit more,” I said through gritted teeth, “Almost there,” I strained upwards, fingers barely reaching the branch.
Pulling, I kicked my feet widely, weak muscles crying out, as I hoisted myself the rest of the way up on the branch. Wobbling, I took a seat beside Claire; her eyes still cast upward to the blanket of stars.
“Claire,” I shakily touched her shoulder, “Hun?”
Slowly her head turned to look at me, “What are you doing here?”
I laughed, “I think the better question is, what are you doing here?”
Her eyes darted around, and she swayed briefly, taking it all in. “Come on,” I said softly, unwieldy, dropping down the tree with Lo’s help. Together we helped Claire safely to the ground.
“I was watching this ball of light grow brighter from over the trees deeper in the swamp,” Claire shook her head, pressing her middle and pointer fingers into her temples. “Then the tree, it doesn’t make sense.”
“It’s okay,” I wrapped my arm around her shoulders. “Let’s head back to HQ.”
“May I see?” Connor asked, gesturing to Claire’s left arm.
Claire nodded, sliding off the left arm of her purple hoodie, shivering as the predawn air touched her bare shoulder. Slowly she rotated out her arm, revealing a tiny white scar looking triangle an inch or so from her armpit.
“It’s there, isn’t it,” her eyes brimming with tears shifted around to each of us. “Like the interviewee?” The last three words a whisper.
Like Angie and the Interviewee, Claire lost a chunk of time. However, her lost time was less than an hour. After seeing the light through the swamp, she can’t piece together what seems to be wiped from her memory—that section of her recall, a cavernous vortex of nothingness. We will reach out to specialists for support with reconnecting those wiped memories. Until then, we’re just reassuring Claire that it’s nothing to be scared of.
Honestly, I have no idea how scared she should be. But…. until we know something concrete, we’re holding tight to the positive side of things. Combined, we have enough experiences to confirm that something paranormal is happening within Nomads Wood. Because of Claire’s encounter, we will keep Caser 124: Nomads Wood open, at least for the time being.
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Until next week, stay away from Barstow, bye everyone.
If you’re looking for another spooky show to enjoy during this most haunted of seasons, we highly recommend you give the podcast Ghosty Girls a listen. Here’s a little piece of what you can expect from Jess and Anna.