The sound left chills running down her spine and a deep, cold pit in her stomach.
The forest was vast and she had already wandered so far. If something was out there, would she even be able to find her way back? Another screech rang in her ears. Whatever it was … it was close.
Emily adored the forest for two main reasons. First, it was away from humans – mostly the ones that judged her love of Goth and other quirky interests.
Second, it was a place her mind could roam free. The dark woods were full of stories and a source for unbridled imagination. She had no idea that an unforgettable event was awaiting her.
Emily knew exactly what she was looking for, but she didn’t know exactly where it was. The man had written that the site could be found around 30 or 40 miles off any common hiking trail in the national park.
She recalled the words that the Search And Rescue Officer had confessed and a delicious thrill coursed through her veins. She was looking for the staircase.
Hidden deep in national parks around the world, people have reported finding abandoned staircases. They are found in places where no man has ever appeared to live – just a staircase, no other structure.
Some are made from brick or cast iron. Some are in ruins. But some of the staircases are as sturdy as if they had been made yesterday, so the story goes…
When Emily first read about the staircase that was found close to her home in West Virginia, her heart began to race with excitement.
An anonymous Search And Rescue Officer had posted his strange experience on Reddit: “I don’t know if this is true in every SAR unit, but in mine, it’s sort of an unspoken, regular thing we run into,” he confessed.
“On just about every case where we’re really far into the wilderness, I’m talking 30 or 40 miles, at some point we’ll find a staircase in the middle of the woods,” he continued. “It’s almost like if you took the stairs in your house, cut them out, and put them in the forest.”
There was something eerie and unnerving about stumbling upon something so out of place in the middle of the woods. Emily was determined to see the staircase for herself.
According to Reddit, one SAR officer had even seen staircases that were “…flipped upside down. I guess it would be like if you had a dollhouse, and the stairs were a separate piece. Now take that, flip it upside down so the top step is stuck in the dirt, and put it out in the woods.”
Emily, wildly intrigued, continued her search – heading further into the heart of the woods. But something else was waiting for her.
The plan was simple – spend the day wandering off the beaten path in hopes of finding it. She would let the stress of the work-week melt away and come back with a much-needed wave of rejuvenation.
It was only a few steps along the trail and she could already imagine little fairies or gnomes peeking out from their little houses at her. A faint sound came through the brush.
It was a high-pitched shriek, like metal against metal or the old escalator in the rundown mall no one went to anymore.
If it was a bird, it was the weirdest bird she had ever heard in her life. Still, curiosity pulled at her feet and she wandered towards the sound.
The thrill was high and almost palatable, like the takeoff of a plane mixed with first-date jitters. She was Emily the Explorer – seeker of strange noises.
With each step through the thick underbrush, the sound grew more complex. But something then popped into her head that made her stop dead. It was something she had read on the news.
A girl had gone missing a few weeks ago – gone for a walk and never came back.
Emily suddenly became very aware of her surroundings. But that was in town, not the forest. So she was okay. Right? Besides, girls don’t sound like metal … and now deep, guttural rumbling.
Emily stood frozen in the middle of the shadowy, pine-scented clearing.
To anyone, she would look like a witch in her natural surroundings – and that was just fine by her. But the vibrations that crawled along her skin didn’t feel normal at all. Fantasy melted away and reality began to set in. There was something out there with her.
Every step closer was slow and careful. She held her breath as if the tiniest sound would signal her location and a monster would jump out and snatch her.
She thought of the missing girl and decided to do something risky. She cupped her hands to her mouth and called out a clear, loud “Hello?”
The forest went still. As if her words had magically put everything to sleep.
Fear crept through her bones and the high of exploration melted into the falling sensation in the first drop of a rollercoaster. Suddenly, a loud echoing BOOM made her knees buckle. Whatever it was, it was close.
Their air smelled of wet earth and decay. The wind sat cold on her skin.
But despite the dread, she still felt herself moving forward. Boom and another boom mixed with the squeal of metal. The rumbling turned into a deep growl. Something was out there with her. And it was below her.
It would have been enough to make her flee – to run away like someone in a horror movie.
But, just a she was about to turn, a new sound joined the mix. It was whimpering. Like a hurt animal. She now knew what she had to do. Emily ran through the area until she found the source.
There, in the middle of a deep hole of illegally dumped garbage, was a big, black dog.
Its long fur was matted badly and she could see the chain had been on it for a long time. The boom was it jumping against sheet metal and the screeches from the rusted car door it was tied to.
It wasn’t a monster. But whoever had left the dog there was definitely one!
She slowly moved towards it and offered the malnourished animal a stream from her water bottle. The growls instantly stopped. It crouched on the ground and whined. There was no question as to what she had to do next.
It was a slow process. But through a calm voice and plenty of pats on the head, she was able to lead it out of the forest and to her car.
Next was a visit to the vet and a call to the police. Whoever had done this had to pay! When news came back about the dog, she had already made up her mind.
There was no one to claim it. But it didn’t matter.
Emily was already prepared to adopt him. His dark coat and big grin were adorable. The adventuring Goth witch had traveled through the mystical forest and found herself a familiar. It was the best walk of her life. But what about the mysterious staircase? Did she go back and find it?
“I came across the set in rural West Virginia. I don’t think I was quite 40 miles deep but at least 10 or better. I thought maybe a house had once stood there but there was no cellar or other debris that would indicate a home was there before,” Emily wrote.
“Just a set of stairs with a base that went up maybe one flight – 16 so steps if I remember right. And sturdy. Could barely shake them. I didn’t climb up though. Worried it might break or fall over and I was alone.”
Another Reddit user spotted some in Michigan. “An hour east of Iron Wood there is a clearing in the forest that has stairs,” he confessed.
“I was hiking and exploring with my cousins and we stumbled on a clearing about half a football field long. Had a few staircases but not against trees, just standing in the open”.
“They looked like stairs from a normal suburban home. Kind of old though,” he continued.
“The older cousin decided to investigate. He walked to the stairs to see how they were being held up, couldn’t find anything which weirded him out. He made us all leave. Grass didn’t grow near the stairs either.” So, why are there stairs in the woods?
There are several theories about what the stairs may actually be. Perhaps they are simply the foundations of fleeting and long-lost settlements, particularly from America’s 1800s gold rush.
Some sturdy staircases from that era have survived two hundred years of weather, rot, and erosion whereas wooden structures did not. But other Reddit users have more sinister theories.
A user named ‘oektem’ had a foreboding warning for those who come across the staircases. He writes: “Stairs in the woods are a thing where I’m from, but we know that we shouldn’t go near them and avoid them when we run into one. That’s what I’ve been told by my family”.
Perhaps they aren’t stairs at all, but a pulpit for a preacher, holding some kind of dark clandestine gathering. Perhaps they are a gateway to another dimension… or to hell. Nobody knows.