Brent Swancer May 24, 2021
There are places on this earth that seem to hold close to them mysteries that make them seem as they are realms unto themselves. Mark Twain National Forest covers 3,068,800 acres of pristine wilderness in the southern half of Missouri, in the United States, mostly within the Ozark Highlands, sprawling out over 29 counties and comprising around 11% of all forested land in the state. In other words, it is immense, and known for its streams, natural springs, and countless caves. It is a popular place for off-road motorcycles and ATVs, as well as camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. It is also a place of dark legends and mysteries, including tales of witches, lost treasures left behind by the Atlanteans, ghostly phenomena, mysterious disappearances, and other strange phenomena. Some of the weirdest of these are the many reports of bizarre beasts said to prowl the forest here, so let’s look at some of the odder of such stories of strange creatures wandering the gloom of this wild place.
One of the most commonly reported creatures from Mark Twain National Forest are what are alternatively referred to by witnesses as “Hellhounds” or sometimes “Werewolves.” There have been many reports of people encountering very large, black canine creatures that witnesses insist are not bears or normal dogs. These creatures are typically described as being massive, about the size of a large St. Bernard, often with wild, tangled fur, a long tail, and glowing eyes. They will sometimes dart in front of vehicles, peer at hikers from the trees, or even chase cars, and no one is quite sure what they could be. One account was related to me personally, and indeed serves as the report that inspired me to look into this weird location in the first place.
Mark Twain National Forest
The witness claims that he had gone to the park to do some hiking along the extensive trail system there, and explains that it was broad daylight at the time of his incident. At the time, he claims that he had not come across any other hikers and that at one point the forest became incredibly silent, all of the chatter from birds and other animals suddenly muted to leave him in an uncomfortable zone of quiet. As he continued along, he says that he heard something going through the brush off to his right side, which sounded large enough that he feared it was a bear. He says of what happened next:
Whatever it was, it was big. I could hear it pushing through brush and branches. I looked into the trees to see what it was but could only see a dark shape, which I was sure was a bear. It was only when I came to a meadow that it came out into the open. What I saw was a very large, black, dog-like creature. It looked sort of like a very big Malamute dog, but it was all black and thickly built, I mean this thing was jacked. Its head was hung real low, the back sort of hunched, and it was so eerily quiet that I could hear it making this horrible chuffing noise like I’d never heard any normal dog make. It knew I was there for sure, because it raised its head a bit and looked right at me. I thought I was done for, that it was going to attack me, but it just snorted and then loped off into the trees again. I am telling you, that was no normal dog, it wasn’t a bear, I have no idea what it was. I later learned that the park had a reputation for Hellhound sightings, so was that what I saw?
I have no idea, to be honest, and I told him as much. What was going on here? What did he and others like him see? Who knows? Another very strange account of something bizarre in the woods here comes from the site JakeTrostPhoto. The witness says that he had gone to the park to photograph the night sky at one of its lakes in November of 2019. He took a small forest road dotted with potholes in his vehicle until he came across an old abandoned campground overgrown with brush and weeds, which was his destination and from where he planned to hike to the nearby lake. He got out of the truck and took a look around, and as he did so he heard something splashing in the lake beyond the tree line. He shone his light down there couldn’t see anything unusual. The sounds stopped, and he assumed that it had just been a deer or some other animal, but at this point he had the very unsettling feeling that he was being watched. Undeterred, he continued on foot along a trail that led to the lake, but things would quickly get harrowing. He says of what happened next:
The walk seems like a mile, even though it is maybe 1/8th mile to the lake. As I approach my shooting location, I noticed the lake has a thin sheet of ice over it. How could whatever was splashing in the water not have broken this thin ice? My imagination was certainly not going overboard. I was not getting lost in my own thoughts. I am a very rational human being. But this, without question, made me feel a bit vulnerable. Repeat, like I was being watched. I hear splashing again. The same splashing I heard before. This time, across the lake. I must add, this lake is small. More of a large pond really. My headlamp just barely reaches across. I look up to where the splashing was coming from—nothing. Nothing there. No visible ripples in the water. Oh ya, it is covered in ice, of course there wouldn’t be. But wait, the ice is thin enough surely it would have broken from whatever was splashing around. Nope. Wrong. Still covered in ice.
A chuckling laughter comes from over the ridge just to my left. Coyotes, that’s all. Nothing to worry about I always hear those when I’m out. They stop their yipping and howling. A loud splash, as if someone threw a soccer ball sized rock into the lake. My headlamp picks up nothing. Then, a chuckle I can’t put a finger on. Not coyotes, not human, is it a beaver or something maybe? I’ve never heard a chuckle like that. It is maniacal. A splash again, and a chuckle. It almost sounds hyena-like to me. But still not quite hyena. I’ve been to Africa on safari, I’ve heard hyenas. Not a hyena, but close.
About this time a shooting chill blasts up my back into my neck. My back to the trees, something behind me was watching me. I could FEEL it. It feels as if something is piercing me, staring into my soul. I muster the courage to snap ONE photograph. Then another real quick. Just a few exposures to get SOMETHING for my time. I hear something swimming out ahead of me, coming toward me. Not a single ripple in the water, nothing but a layer of thin ice. A loud splash just a dozen feet ahead of me jolts me and follows up with a flutter as if a bird launched itself out of the water and flew toward me. With my hand on my knife, I yell loudly as said subject seems like it was going to collide with me. And in a split second, it’s over, gone. Quiet. Deafening quiet. With chills I’ve never had before rushing up and down my spine, I grab my camera gear and rush back to my truck. I vow never to return to this place again. My takeaway from this is that the forest is a deep and big place. Some things happen out there that are unexplainable. I’d suggest you keep an open mind whenever you go out into the forest.
It is a strange account to be sure. There is also the account of Reddit user “DubiousCircle,” who went for a trip with his father to their hunting cabin in the middle of Mark Twain National Forest with no clue as to the strange experience that awaited them there. After they arrived, they fired up the generator and went about setting out deer blinds in the area. The witness says that as he finished setting up the blind, he was overcome with the sensation of being watched, and then heard a loud crashing sound as it ran off in the opposite direction. He convinced himself it was just a deer or some other animal out there, and when he told his father about how spooked he had been they had a laugh about it and made dinner. However, this would soon prove to be no laughing matter. At around 9 pm they settled down for the night and went to sleep, but they were rudely awakened at 1:30 am by the sound of something crashing against the cabin. It had sounded like someone had hurled a large rock at it, and when they both woke up to listen, they heard nothing more. Spooked, they gathered their firearms and a spotlight to go outside and investigate, but they didn’t see anything. They eventually went back to sleep and woke at 5 am to try out the deer blinds, splitting up to man their respective stations. From there things would get pretty strange, indeed.
The witness says:
I had been sitting for a while and hadn’t seen anything other than a few rabbits and tons of squirrels. The sun was starting to set and I was about ready to hit the trail back to the cabin before the dark set in. The sun was far enough down that the woods were semi dark and eerie, making odd silhouettes at the shadows edge. As I was contemplating climbing down, I heard a rustle coming from the brush to my right. I looked over hoping for a big buck, but immediately froze in fear. Standing no more than 25 feet from me was a HUGE upright creature, covered in reddish brown hair, staring right at me. Its face looked so human, but this was no human. It had an odor like old coffee grounds or garbage or some such. It was roughly 7 feet tall or more. Huge and massive. I can’t even emphasize enough on the size of this thing. It could have ripped me to shreds without even breaking a sweat. The deer stand was about 9 feet up and it could have walked up and yanked me out of it. I was terrified.
It turned and walked off into some thick brush and I lost sight of it. I took my chance and hopped out of the stand and made haste back towards the cabin. As I was walking, I was completely freaked out and scared to death. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my head. I was starting to calm down a bit as I thought it had gone off in another direction when I heard a limb break, not too very far behind me off the path in the brush, at the shadows edge. Then I heard some more rustle. It was following me. I started to run and I heard it keep pace with me, just out of sight in the darkness of the woods. I was really regretting not bringing the 4-wheeler. I heard it getting closer, panicked and against my better judgement and a decision I would immediately regret, I turned and fired a shot in the direction of the noise thinking maybe I could scare it. It started screaming. Loudly and unlike anything I have ever heard. It made my heart skip 10 beats. I just turned and started sprinting as fast as I could. It was screaming and it sounded like it was knocking down trees as it was coming after me. I heard it come out and cross the trail and go into the woods on the other side of the trail, still gaining on me, screaming and wailing horribly the whole time. I never turned around to look. It sounded like this thing was close enough to grab me and I was certain that it would catch up to me and rip me to shreds before I ever reached the cabin. My heart was pounding out of my chest, complete and utter panic and terror set in.
Then I heard the sound of the 4-wheeler. I kept running, this thing is behind me screaming and wailing the most awful noise i have ever heard and bashing through the woods, I’m still full sprint and I can hear the 4-wheeler at top gear heading in my direction. Just as i was certain this thing was going to grab me my dad appears on the 4-wheeler, he looked just as freaked out as me. I jumped on the 4-wheeler and he hauled ass back to the cabin, the whole time I could still hear it screaming behind us. I didn’t look back. By the time we got to the cabin, it had calmed down and the screaming had stopped. We quickly gathered our things, opted to leave the stand and blind and hauled ass out of there. On the way home my dad told me as he was approaching me on the trail, he saw the creature on the trail maybe 20 paces behind me chasing after me. When it saw him on the 4-wheeler it ducked off into the tree line. I believe if my dad hadn’t shown up, I wouldn’t be here typing this story. We talked about it a little on the way home and then never spoke of it again. This is the first time since that I have spoken of it to anyone. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I can still hear it wailing and screaming and it sends shivers down my spine. I haven’t been in the woods much at all since then and have never once went back out to the cabin.
What is it about this forest that attracts to it such oddities? Is there some quality to this place that serves to facilitate such incidents? Are these creatures inhabitants of our world, or are they perhaps something else, lingering on the border between our reality and another? Whatever the case may be, Mark Twain National Forest certainly seems to be a place full of mysteries, and perhaps a place worth checking out if one is so inclined. Just be careful out there, you never know what you might find.