09 Nov The Beast in the Woods
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"The Beast in the Woods"Written by
Estimated reading time — 14 minutes
I want to set down recent events in my life, because I’m afraid that this may be my last chance. To begin with, my name is Leon Cowles. I was born in Provo, Utah, although I have lived most of my life here, in Portland, Oregon. I’ve always been a rather intellectual person, preferring books and video games to basketball and football. In grade school I was a loner, and had few, if any friends. In middle and high school I began to read fantasy novels and mild occult books. At first just that wiccan fluff that, if anything, keeps people from learning anything of real importance or historical accuracy. Eventually I got into more intelligent and orthodox literature, such as carefully documented paranormal experiments and well research kabalic lore. In college (at the Institute of Jewelry Technology, in Paris, Texas) my reading turned to Poe, Borges, and Lovecraft. I learned a bit of Hebrew and Latin, to be able to read some occult books, who’s english translations I didn’t trust. I also learned the Futhark and Arabic alphabets to better understand various magical symbols.
After returning home and finding a job (as a jeweler for a local reseller) I started taking long walks in my spare time. I’ve always felt out of place in society and hiked through the local forests and mountains to be alone. The more isolated and untouched the better. The Pacific Northwest is fortunately rich in forests and wild areas to wander to my hearts content. Over time I became adept at finding excellent locations, sometimes shockingly close to civilization, yet somehow unnoticed everyone who passes by. I’ve even run across some ruins here and there, some amazingly close to town, but abandoned long ago, none the less. In a place that can be found on no city map, only ten blocks from my house, I found an abandoned water reservoir, along with several buildings, left to slowly decay many decades ago. Beneath Rocky Butte I found long maze of natural caves, totally untouched by anyone so far, not half a mile from two of the biggest freeways in the state. On an island in the Columbia river, that I swam to, I found an ancient farmhouse and barn, quietly decomposing for who knows how long. The places with ruins are my favorite, bringing a much more solid feeling to the sense of loss and past wonder that I feel about the world.
Not my favorite (due to high foot traffic some days), but certainly very close by for me is the famous Forest Park. The largest city park in the world, its more than eleven miles long, and several miles wide in some areas. It covers more than 5,100 acres. And as the name implies, its almost entirely covered in dense, old growth forest. It’s easy to lose your way along the many miles of winding trails, and more than once I’ve gotten turned around myself, despite my experience outdoors.
Forest Park is a wild and beautiful place in the light of day, but at night and in certain especially overgrown groves, were the dense canopy blots out most of the daylight, it has a sinister and feral reputation. Perhaps its dangers lie in its many fissures, canyons, and steep (and often wet) trails. Or just maybe it has something to do with certain ruins in its depths. There are also occasional reports of great cats (we have Mt. Lions in the area) who carry off small dogs and a local animals.
What is fact is that danger is present in Forest Park after darkness falls. Once every few years a body or two is found by hikers (or their dogs), often old, partially eaten, and badly decomposed. I remember in 1999 they found a number of bodies, arranged in some kind of strange diagram, over several hundred feet. Even this year, in 2008, they have found two corpses there.
My own incident at Forest Park began one early afternoon a week ago. I was going to go hiking in the southern/central region, on a few trails that I’d never been on before. I’d planned on being out until evening, so I brought along a lunch, iced tea, my mini-flashlight (one never knows when they’ll find a new cave or ruin), and notebook. I parked my car at the Lower McLeay trailhead and set off along the edge of the creek, heading into the park. Along my left the creek ended under a huge wooden lattice, that led into a huge sewer pipe and downhill, under the city, and into the Willamette river. There is a rumor that the Portland catacombs connect to that sewer pipe at some point.
Further along the creek is some kind of wooden walkways, raised twenty feet or so above the water, and connected to some old, crumbling masonry in and beside the stream. I’ve read that this used to be part of the original watershed that served Portland, and I guess that it was part of that. In the bed of the creek several ancient stone walls and pieces of brickwork can be seen to those with a keen eye. Beyond a bridge and a little waterfall, off the trail, up a hill and behind a huge pine tree a headstone with the name “Oliver” can be seen. No one has ever dug up the little grave, so no one knows who or what Oliver used to be.
Further still along the steep, rocky, and often slippery/wet trail (about one mile in) is the Witches House. This was once a public restroom, but in 1962 it was critically damaged by a storm and abandoned, rather than repaired. It’s now, by far, the best know (and most recent) ruin in Forest Park. It’s the stone walls and foundation of a small house, built into the side of a steep hill. The two “basement” rooms loomed cold, empty, and reeking of urine and pot, through the long open wall facing the trail and creek. At either side of the house is a stone staircase, leading to the large single room above. I climbed the stairs and looked through the open doorway to see what I would find today.
The Witches House has a very bad reputation after dark, and has it’s nickname for a reason. It’s said that witches and strange cults perform bizarre rituals here. It’s strange that although everyone knows about it, nothing is done to prevent it. But I guess no cop wants to hike at night, along a long dangerous trail without a damn good reason, especially when it would be difficult, if not impossible for backup to be called in, in under twenty minutes. The tall hills on either side of the valley also seem to have a confounded way of disrupting radio signals and cell phones in the area, so there isn’t even a guarantee that you’d even be able to get a call out.
When I looked in I saw that the cultists had been busy the night before; a red chalk diagram of Kabalistic origin still lay one the floor, a dozen burnt candles lined its parameters, and a now dry, garnet colored, fluid was splattered on the floors and walls. Amazingly, anyone who frequents this part of the park will know that this isn’t a rare occurrence. Outside the circle, near the corner of the room was written some hebrew symbols, arranged in what appeared to be some kind of appeal or prayer. I carefully set down what was written. After words I took a bit of time to translate, as best I could with my limited knowledge of hebrew, the symbols written on the walls.
It said roughly “We present an offering/sacrifice of blood in respect/awe/fear to you, mighty Qlippoth. May your hunger/anger be appeased/satisfied.”
The Qlippoth, in Kabalic lore, are demons utterly alien to this universe. They are neither truly alive or dead by our standards and seem to be ruled by different laws and physics than our own. According to lore, they existed before this world/universe, their own being destroyed during the creation of ours. To things of this world they are utter malignant evil, insane hated, and blasphemy given form (although they are said to be so mutable in nature that even attributing them forms may be inaccurate). Most Kabalists say they are only a myth, representing sin, and the few that believe in them (even Alister Crowley) would never try to bargain or make pacts with them, for they comprehend no alliances and seek only to destroy and consume truly living things. I wish now that I had taken the legends of the Qlippoth more seriously. But I thought of them only as legendary monsters like dragons and djinn.
After writing down that strange appeal I continued on, up the hill and away from the strange and evil little stone house. I walked for miles, winding this way and that through the hills and forest, enjoying the quiet and solitude of the day. Eventually I became hungry, and left the trail, slipping between the bushes and undergrowth. I moved about fifty feet off the trail and into a little clearing to sit down and eat.
While eating my lunch of sandwiches and iced tea a strange thing happened; something large moved in the vegetation, maybe forty feet away, off to my left. Thinking that it was a dog or deer, I stood up to look, but saw nothing. A moment later the commotion began again. I could now actually see the plant life being shoved aside and hear leaves and twigs being crushed. Whatever was making the noise had to be at least as large as a human, but I couldn’t see the thing at all. It seemed to be moving in an elliptical pattern, circling behind me and getting closer. After maybe two minutes the noise had moved in about a 90 degree arc, and was now behind me and thirty feet or less away. It still sounded quite large and was still totally unseen despite the plant life being no more than three feet tall. At this point I was quite alarmed and decided that I might not want to see whatever it was that was out there. I picked up my daypack and quickly moved back to the trail off into distance.
An hour later I had all but forgotten my brush with the unseen. It was starting to become dusk, although I didn’t have a watch on, so I don’t know the exact time. I had begun to circle around on the trails and head back toward my car, although I was taking a small, seldom used trail I had never been on before. As I was circling a little hill I saw some kind of small stone pillar, standing weathered and overgrown, off the trail to my right. Always fascinated by the possibility of examining forgotten artifice I went to see what it was.
The pillar was a basalt column, about four feet high, with some extremely weathered inscriptions on it. The style looked like art of the Pacific Northwest indian tribes. It seemed to be a picture of a hairy biped that was eating or rending small humans. It made me think of their legends of the Old Woman of the Forest (who some whisper was the same as the sasquatch), a huge, hairy ape-witch who would spirit off young children, never to be seen again. About forty feet away I saw another little obelisk, that looked identical to the one I just looked at. In between I saw a large, low circular block of concrete, and a couple of large, basalt blocks with channels cut into the tops and sides. I couldn’t decide their original purpose of the blocks. The concrete cylinder looked like an old cistern. I was maybe fifteen or sixteen feet across, but had recently been altered. The cement plate that served as a cap, and was almost a foot thick, had been partially removed. It had been lifted and slid to one side, leaving about a three foot gap to look into.
Peering down into it, with the aid of my flashlight, I could see that it was about thirty feet deep and badly damaged by the hands of time and/or vandals. Hand holds had be gouged into the inside wall, leading down to the cistern floor. A bed of moldering leaves and sticks covered the floor, which struck me as odd, since to cap appeared to have only been moved extremely recently, and it wasn’t late enough in the season for leaves to start falling anyway. I could also see two large holes in the cement tube, at the bottom, one on either side. One of the holes looked quite large, six or seven feet, while the other side looked quite a bit smaller, maybe four feet in diameter.
Having no fear of the dark, enclosed spaces, or heights, I began climbing down to further explore this new find. The odor of decaying plant (and possibly animal) matter hung thick in the air, along with the deep scent of wet earth. Both holes led into crudely cut rock and earth passages. I went into the larger one first and followed it back into the hill.
I’m not quite sure how long the passage was before it opened into a small chamber. Visually it looked like it must have been forty feet, or possibly more, but I completely passed through it in only seven steps, which should only take me twenty or twenty one feet. The little chamber was almost spherical, and looked to be about twelve feet across. It looked like the nest of some large animal, with a bed of dirty rags and pale sticks in one corner. I saw a couple of shiny glimmers poking out of the pile and bent down to examine them. The first was an impressive amethyst crystal, about six inches long, with many tiny black and red inclusions suspended inside it. The six sides, although they looked natural, had been polished and the base had been ground flat and polished as well. Some strange glyphs had been engraved into the six triangular facets that formed the point. Even with my fairly broad knowledge of runes and symbols, I was at a loss as to the origins of the symbols. They did look somewhat like the pictographs I’ve seen on Central and South American coins and calendars. The crystal had another quality that made it odd, unique, and sinister in aspect; whenever I’d look away, and could see the crystal with only my peripheral vision, the little red and black inclusions would seem to come to life and start moving, like miniscule fish swimming about in an aquarium. But as soon as I would look at it, they would stop and be just as I had seen them before.
As a jeweler I’ve seen a number of exotic techniques for creating illusions in gem stones. Some make it appear to be larger or brighter than they actually are. Some are cut in specific ways to conceal defects, reflect a double image, or even appear to move within the setting, but I’ve never seen anything like this.
Pocketing the crystal for later examination, I turned my attention to the other shiny bit, poking out from under a grimy rag. It was a watch from the 1980s, its spring band torn apart and its crystal cracked. A shiver went down my spine as my gaze returned to the pile and the pale sticks…
As I gingerly pulled one out to look at it I was horrified to see what I already feared, what I was holding was clearly a human arm or leg bone, snapped in half and many years old. Dropping the once human thing, I turned to retreat from this den of evil.
When I got back to the cistern I looked up expecting to climb back out to safety, but was momentarily paralyzed by fear when I saw something coming into the hole from outside. I shut off my flashlight and darted into the smaller tunnel to hide from whatever it was. It appeared to be a human figure, floating in mid-air, and descending past the concrete lid. It then abruptly fell into an unmoving heap before me with a sickening crunch/splat, quite obviously dead. It was a man, wearing torn and filthy jeans, an equally filthy flannel shirt, and worn and dirty sneakers. His eyes were open with a look of absolute fear that I’ll never be able to forget. His wild and unkept beard was a sea of red from what must have been a terminal throat wound.
Above I saw nothing. Then the lid slowly began to grate shut. I could see a ghost like shadow clinging to the gouged handholds in the wall with its feet and to the lid with its hands. It looked like a large black ape, with huge bat-like ears, a fanged canine like snout, and immense cruel claws on long ropy arms. As the lid slid shut it seemed to become more and more corporeal until just before all light failed it looked completely opaque. I sat still for a moment, hoping to escape it’s notice, when a huge weight fell invisibly before me, crushing leaves and sticks. I heard a sliding sound, like a giant rag doll being dragged around, then a nauseous crunching and slurping noise that I thankfully couldn’t see.
Hoping that the nightmare fiend before me was adequately distracted, I began to slowly and blindly move back into the smaller tunnel. Unfortunately, with all the rubble of the shattered cistern wall about me, I nearly slipped and had to catch myself with my hand, making a small but audible slapping sound. The crunching and slurping instantly stopped and the giant ragdoll fell to the floor. A sniffing sound and the crunch of leaves a step closer than it had been moments ago. I knew it had found me and my mind momentarily snapped. I would attack the unseen thing and at least not go down without a fight. I silently picked up a large rock, I think about the size of a brick, and switched on my flashlight, hoping to catch the living nightmare by surprise. The surprise was mine though; all I saw was the discarded corpse, now even more reddened than it was before. Where was the black horror? Was it hiding in the cistern beyond my field of vision? Then another step was heard, crunching leaves and twigs, even closer to me. I saw the leaves stir but couldn’t see the monster. Unable to understand where it was or how to fight it I threw my stone missile, with all the strength and fury of my adrenaline flushed body. All at one, the rock struck the air and deflected off to the side, a small spray of foul black fluid fell to the ground, and an unearthly scream of pain and rage began not ten feet in front of me.
I turned and ran. As I turned to retreat I saw, from the edge of the flashlight’s illumination, a huge ghostly ape clutching its face with a giant feral paw. I fled as fast as I could to wherever the tunnel led. My attack momentarily stunned the thing, I think, and it was unable to maneuver its huge bulk through the small tunnel as quickly as I could. The tunnel wound about and descended over a huge distance, miles I think. It eventually broke through another concrete wall, and into a wide drainage sewer, one side definitely ascending and the other descending. I could no longer hear the black fiend behind me, but I wasn’t going to take chances. I pulled off my day pack, taking only my notebook, and tossed it down the sewer in the descending direction, just at the edge of the water. I hoped this might mislead the phantom ape and buy me a bit more time, should it reach the wider sewer before I was able to find a way out. I ran off in the opposite direction, taking care to step only in the water, to help conceal my scent.
The sewer tunnel was about seven feet in diameter, with water flowing in a channel along the bottom. The water looked fairly clear and clean, accept for the occasional leaf of two. Little salamanders and crayfish scuttled out of my path as I went, making me pretty sure I was in the sewer below the McLeay trailhead. After maybe a quarter of a mile I began to see a lighter patch in the darkness. Another minute and I was at the sewer mouth, under the giant wooden lattice I had seen earlier that day. Night had come to the overgrown valley while I was trapped underground. Accept for the gurgling of the little creek, all the world seemed as still and quiet as a grave. Fortunately escape was possible for me through the wooden wall; near the middle of the lattice, just above the level of the water, a large rock was wedged between two of the beams. I was easily able to squeeze through this slightly enlarged gap, being both thin and flexible.
Now I was only a thousand feet from my car. I climbed the lattice back up to the trail, now exhausted, and kept moving as quickly as I could toward my goal. My pants were ripped in several places and my hands were covered in scratches from the speed of my desperate flight, but I was at least alive. I climbed back into my car, drove home, and collapsed into a deep, dreamless sleep. Somehow I sleep better when under stress (I don’t know why, but I do). I thought I was safe. I thought that the nightmare was behind me.
A week later and I was starting to feel better. In the mean time I had done some reading and research. I have decided that the thing I saw was a qlippoth. Ruled be the laws of an extinct universe, it seems that it reacts to light differently, being visible in darkness, rather than light. If those indian columns are any indication of how long its been around, then I would guess that it’s probably unaging and may not even be able to be killed at all. However I’m sure that something as vile and violent as that isn’t around and active all the time or the body count would be in the hundreds each year. Perhaps it can only be alive at certain times or under certain astrological conditions. I don’t know. The amethyst baffles me. I can’t be sure what connection it has to that qlippoth horror. It may be the thing that binds it to this world, like a golem’s phylactery.
But its not over. Earlier today,when I was looking into my backyard I saw the bushes being moved through, and something stirring the fallen leaves on the grass. I watched carefully and know that it was no mere wind or neighborhood cat. I know It has come for me, or the crystal, or both. I smashed the crystal moments before I started writing this. Now all I can do is wait and see what happens.
Credit To – Leein Cowles
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