My mapping project started to find missing planes and ended with me nearly dead in a car accident fleeing from some kind of monster.
Weeks have gone by since Kylie’s house went up in flames, taking whatever the hell that thing was with it. I was on edge, having trouble sleeping, finding myself hiding in my room with the rifle and .45 by my side. I was searching the internet for anything I could find on the occult no matter how insignificant. Anything from ways to protect myself, ward my house, or interpretive dances to ward off vampires.
Well I found jack shit. But, after time went by waiting for something to happen, anything to happen, I started to find myself moving on. I’ve spent so much time looking into strange areas each time I was on the road for my job that I found myself yearning for a good old-fashioned mystery. So, on my way back from California I decided to stop in Phoenix for a short vacation.
Arizona is home to the Superstition Mountains, and one of the most famous legends of the Southwest. The Lost Dutchman’s Mine is said to be the largest untapped goldmine in the area, lost since the 19th century when the man who discovered it turned up dead.
Thousands of people a year end up searching for this mine around the Superstition Mountains, and I figured why not try my luck at it. So, with that, I packed up my camping equipment and set off. Typically when I go backpacking I stay out 2 to 3 days. Any more time than that and I get a bit bored if I’m by myself or have little else to do. Not to mention, carrying provisions for a week by yourself in addition to all the other gear required kind of becomes a pain in the ass.
This trip a fair amount of my weight carried was water. For lighting I carried a headlamp, a small but powerful LED flashlight, and a few flares that I keep in my truck. I also brought my digital camera and notebook, to take pictures and help document my days. I thought about leaving the .45 in my car, but at the last-minute shoved it into my backpack. Just habit at this point I guess.
Approaching the mountains though, you can see that the area is beautiful and doesn’t feel very foreboding. It’s picturesque, and it’s easy to imagine a western film using the area as a backstop for a wagon train filled with optimistic settlers looking for a new life out on the frontier.
When I arrived the wagon trains had been replaced by cars and RVs filled with families looking to stay overnight at the well-furnished campgrounds, complete with power and water hookups and near restaurants within walking distance, trying to escape their established lives out west. Not that I fault them for that, after all I appreciate anyone that tries and get out to see nature every once in a while. It’s always good to see that our explorer-filled heritage is still alive and well, regardless of if the areas been mapped or settled.
I set out at around 7 in the morning, before the worst of the sun came up and turned the area into the dry blasted days Arizona is known for in the summer. I figured I would hike a ways up, set up a camp to store my supplies and then hike around a bit before returning to my site to make dinner and settle in.
After hiking for a few hours I set up camp near a crevasse at the base of the mountain. It was good ground, shielded from wind by some rocks and by the natural dip of the land. It also gave me a nice view of the surrounding area and the city in the distance. By this time it was about 2pm, so I ate some food and stashed some of my gear in my tent and decided to hike around the area. Today I would just mess around and take pictures of some of the flowers I found. My sister is an interior decorator and she likes it when I send her pictures from my travels. I doubt she’s ever used any of them, but if one day she tells me she decorated someone’s office or house and snuck in one of my pictures I will admit I’d be pretty proud of myself.
Since I had planned this trip, I had let her know in advance where I was going and sent her a text message when camp was set up, just in case anything happened to me and I broke my ankle or something. That is one thing I want to stress, anytime you go camping, regardless of if it’s by yourself or with a friend, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and how long. You would be amazed at how many of the people in the mysterious disappearances database I had worked on would have probably not gone missing had they just mentioned to someone where they were going before leaving.
Anyways, the weather forecast said it would be clear for the day, with a small storm rolling through in the early morning. My campsite was in a good position to not be flooded, so I felt pretty comfortable about making it through the night. I set out with a bunch of water, a bit of food, and my light in case I somehow stumbled upon the mysterious abandoned mine or any opening to below the mountain.
Supposedly the Superstition Mountains don’t actually have any gold in them, but that really didn’t stop me from planning out just how big the yacht I’d buy would be. I figure I could hire a crew, and go hopping around the Pacific looking for far away islands and diving to known wreck sites. Maybe make a documentary about my travels. Even if I was rich I’m pretty sure I’d just use it as an outlet to keep travelling.
Needless to say I didn’t find gold that day. I was happy finding some beautiful desert flowers, and although I’m not remotely an expert photographer, the lighting was perfect enough where even my mediocre skills made the picture look like a masterpiece. While trying to figure out how to balance my camera on some rocks to get a timed picture of me in front of the mountain, I found faint petroglyphs carved into the side of one of the rock formations.
The faded white lines showed stick figure people hunting animals and having some kind of ceremony. I didn’t really understand them, but it showed all manner of people wearing elaborate headwear with bull horns and antlers secured to the top. I set up my camera and took a picture, and then saw something in the corner of the glyphs that made even less sense to me. It looked like a storm cloud, with a stick figure floating next to it. However, the lines used to draw the figure were skinnier and longer. Almost like it was emaciated. No other animals or people were clustered around this figure, like it had been purposely isolated by whatever artist carved the scene.
I snapped a picture of that too, however looking at it was making me feel a bit nauseas. Chalking it up to dehydration and pushing the paranoia to the back of my mind, I drank some more of my water and decided to head back to camp to rest. It was going to start getting dark soon anyways, and I needed to scrounge whatever brush and wood I could find to make a campfire. Luckily there was no brush fire warning in effect so campfires were allowed.
After cooking dinner and settling in for the night, I used my headlamp to light the tent while I doodled in my notebook and went over a map of the region trying to plan my next destination. At about 11pm the wind began to pick up, and I figured that the storm may have moved into the area a bit early. I exited my camp to check the guy wires of my tent I had anchored to rocks I buried under the sand, and noticed that the lights from the city weren’t visible anymore. In addition to the mine, it turns out the Superstition Mountains are also famous for quickly materializing sandstorms. My campfire had burned down to just glowing embers at this point, but I buried the coals to keep them from blowing into the side of my tent. I brought what remained of my gear inside, and threw the emergency blanket I had over my tent to help protect it from the sand that was about to blast into the side of the mountain. I didn’t imagine it would help too much, but my tent is expensive, those foil aluminum blanket things aren’t.
Secure as well as I could be, I settled into my sleeping bag and put ear buds in, playing some music I had stored on my phone. Springsteen if you were wondering, it just felt right listening to some classic rock while alone in the desert. I was drifting off to sleep when the sandstorm finally hit and woke me up. The sand pelting the side of my tent sounded like hail on a corrugated metal roof. My phone began to flicker and the sound cut off on my headphones. The screen still showed a 75% charge, but as soon as I checked it the screen went black. I reached for my headlamp and switched it on, but nothing happened.
I checked all of my electronic devices, and none of them were switching on. I changed batteries in my LED lamp, and it remained dead.
That was when I heard it. Barely perceptible over the sound of the sand tearing against the tent was a steady noise. It sounded deliberate and paced. I tried to let my eyes adjust to the darkness and search for the source, and realized it was directly above my head. It was the sound of someone running their finger down the side of the tent. The impression in the nylon was pointed, like a sharp talon or bony claw tracing lines into the outside of the fabric. As quietly as I could I grabbed my knife and one of the flares out of the bag. I had no idea what I was doing, but I slipped out of my sleeping bag and slid my hiking shoes on. I started to dig through my backpack for the .45, having trouble in the darkness.
My fight or flight response was broken by the soft words echoing just outside my tent’s door.
“Please let me in, I’m so thirsty.”
The voice trailed off, a harsh broken whisper against the wind. I didn’t answer. I tried my phone again but it wouldn’t switch on. I’m not ashamed to admit, but I actually started crying.
“Please help me, do you have water?”
The fingertip impression above me expanded as though he put his whole hand on the tent. The width of the palm was just shy of a foot long.
“Open the door, come outside and drink with me.”
I unsheathed the knife and clenched it in my hands like a holy relic. I had given up on finding the.45 and tried to stay as quiet and still as possible. The thing outside my tent placed its other hand on the opposing wall. I realize now after experimenting with my tent at home that the thing had to be at least 12 feet tall to do that with ease, not to mention in proportion to the hand print.
The sandstorm pounded onwards as I shivered on top of my sleeping bag. The thing waited there for what must have been minutes, but felt like hours.
Finally, it spoke.
“If you won’t come outside and join me, I’ll have to come inside for a drink.”
The zipper on the tent began to tug upwards, and my hand shot over and yanked it back down. Looking back now, it seems silly that I placed so much emphasis on that zipper. Even though I was in a collapsible tent with only a paper-thin layer of fabric protecting me against the outside world, I somehow knew deep down that the door was important. There was an unspoken rule between me and the tall man outside. The walls stay, either I have to come out, or he has to come in.
The zipper was torn from my hand instantly, as the thing yanked upwards and reached its other hand into the gap in the door. My eyes had adjusted well enough to the darkness to see its spindly fingers, sunburnt and stripped raw by the sand, sliding slowly into my tent. Its fingertips ended in claw like nails where the flesh was desiccated and shriveled.
After what felt like eternity the primal side of my brain took over. It spoke to me on the most basic level. I knew that this thing was wrong, and was going to kill me.
One time while hiking in Montana I ran into a grizzly bear. I was frightened of it, but it was still an animal in the forest. It did a bluff charge and I nearly shit myself, but in the end it left me alone and we went our separate ways. The animal side of my brain kicked in then too. But that was different.
The bear was just a regular animal, operating on nothing more than instinct. The thing reaching into my tent, well I knew that there was a sinister intelligence behind it. A malevolence that didn’t intend to let me go my separate way if it had the choice.
Before I even realized what I was doing I plunged my camp knife into its hand. It sunk into the bony arm and the temporarily pinned the things hand into the bottom of the tent. Without making a sound it wrested its hand free of the ground, and resumed its slow reach towards me. I slid backwards to the other side of the tent and the arm kept pushing through the opening. It was already about 3 feet in and hadn’t even reached its elbow.
I panicked and threw my flashlight at it, notebook, anything I could. The first unlit flare I chucked ineffectually at it before I snapped back into focus. The second flare I wrestled from my pack and struck it. The burning magnesium instantly began throwing sparks at the side of the tent, and I jammed the searing flame into the top of the creature’s palm.
Over the wind and the sand, louder than the whisper, was a primal shriek of pain. Its arm ignited like a bundle of dry kindling as it yanked itself free of the tent. With the lit flare still gripped in my hand, I zipped the door and the instantly the sandstorm stopped. I didn’t fall asleep for the rest of the night. When the flare burned out, I grasped the other one, ready to light it, until the sun came up.
As soon as dawn broke forced myself to slowly open the door and survey the area around me. My knife was lying a few feet away from the door, in a pile of what looked to be oversized arm bones. They were cracked from the heat of a fire, but no trace remained of the rest of the body.
I want to say that I hunted it down, killed whatever it was out there in the mountains, but honestly I don’t even remember the hike back to my car. Somehow in a panicked daze I was able to pack my equipment up and find my way back. I snapped out of it when I was trying to unlock my car with a broken key fob. In my other hand I grasped the unlit flare.
I’m not going back to the Superstition Mountains, and I hope to never seen that thing ever again. All of my electronics I had on me, including my cell phone and camera had to be replaced. When I took them in to get checked they said the circuit boards had been fried, same with the key fob. I’ve decided against camping anymore, and the few times I’ve been asked to go with friends I’ve gently turned them down. They stopped asking why, but I don’t want to scare them when we’re huddled in a tent and the storm picks up, and they think they hear a voice on the wind.