Pig Man in the Woods
For a ten year old kid, the worst part of getting lost in the woods in a Northeast winter is the darkness.
At first, it seems bearable. You’re bundled up in a warm, heavy parka gifted by mom last Thursday and you think;
“Hey, it’s going to be okay.”
At least, that’s what I told my best friend Sean. He was older than me, maybe by about four years, and I wanted to prove I wasn’t scared. Only a kid would think of something stupid like that after everything that had just happened. The snow was coming down steadily now, in white waves that made it nearly impossible to see. At least three inches had piled up on the hard ground in the past hour and we hadn’t seen a path or Nick in at least a mile. The only reason we stopped running was because Sean fell.
“Unless… do you think he is looking for us?” I stammered, quickly receding my bravery.
“Our parents probably haven’t even noticed we’re gone yet,” he said, groaning pitifully as he tried to stand on his twisted ankle.
“I wasn’t talking about them,” I whispered back.
But he was probably right. We had come up to the Reserve on a trip organized by the parents in our neighborhood back home. For them, it was an opportunity for divorcées to get drunk in the woods and share a sleeping bag. For us, it was an endless empire of exploration, possibility, and… I don’t know. Kid stuff.
Sean and I had devised a plan for the weekend a week before we even got to the woods. Once our dads conked out on their fourth or fifth Twisted Tea, we would sneak out and meet somewhere behind the tents. From there, the woods were the only logical next step. The only reason Nick was even in on the plan was because we caught him listening in at the top of the basement steps during our nightly planning. We dragged him downstairs and tied him up, where he of course threatened to rat unless he was included. We caved.
As soon as we got there, the plan went swimmingly. Our dads ganged up with a few of the local moms after dinner and told the kids it was lights out. We faked an extended argument that ended with a promise of fishing in the morning by them and our muttered agreements. Had to make it look real.
After exactly twenty minutes, I slid out of my tent in the pitch black and tapped a log behind Sean and Nick’s tent five times, as discussed. Immediately after, the brothers emerged noisily and arguing.
“Do you ever stop crying? Should have brought warmer pants, I told you. Every fuckin’ time…” Sean bickered, nearly as loud as the drunk giggling taking place twenty yards away in front of the fire.
“Shut the Hell up,” I whispered frantically. “Let’s go before we get caught and grounded.”
We circled around the camp, searching for a path into the woods, all the while eyeing our parents to ensure they weren’t looking our way. Soon enough, we realized there wasn’t much of a path, but the trees were far apart enough. With an apprehensive look to Sean, I reached down and grabbed the best branch beating stick I could find. The other two followed suit and we set off into the darkness. When we were maybe twenty feet in, darkness enveloped us.
I used my stick to feel the air five feet in front of me for trees or other unseen obstacles. After a quick argument, we grabbed onto each others jacket sleeves just to make sure we didn’t get lost.
Luckily, we did think to pack one smart thing – a decaying plastic flashlight. It bounced along happily with each step, shifting between the small of my back and a now crushed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But we were nervous our parents would see the light in the blackness and call the whole thing off before it even began, so when we felt confident enough that we were out of visible range of the tents, I pulled it out and turned it on. By that point, our camp must have been a mile behind us. We could no longer hear the giggles and guffaws or see the fire.
We cheered… quietly.
After another quick argument between Sean and Nick about what to do with our new found freedom, we settled on a round of truth or dare in the wilderness. The first dare was on me.
“Matt, we’ll keep it easy to start. I dare you to go two hundred steps into the dark and wait one minute, then come back. No walking stick,” Sean announced.
I snickered, a bit relieved that I had landed the first and easiest of the dares. I murmured an agreement and set off on my nonchalant march into the blackness. I couldn’t see a thing and I dropped my branch as per the rules. When the first tree hit me in the face like a wall, I naturally shouted in surprise, which drew a restrained chuckle from the idiots behind me. At least they were getting along now.
Eventually I hit the step count, called out to the guys and waited for the full minute, counting it off in a raised whisper I knew only they would hear. As I hit thirty seconds, I began to hear heavy, weighted footsteps behind me.
“Guys… Is that you?” I called out.
The footsteps sounded closer now. I heard leaves dried crack underneath them.
“What are you talking about? We’re still over here!”
“I’m… I’m coming back.”
I started to jog – which quickly turned into sprint as I heard the bushes to the right of me rattle. Soon after I nearly knocked Nick off his feet as we collided.
“What’s your problem?!” Sean shouted, stepping between me and his brother like I threw a punch.
“I heard something and I ran. Must have been an animal. Let’s find a better place for the next dare.”
He slugged me on the arm and called me a wimp… but he seemed spooked as well. We walked for another mile or so before we came across the perfect spot. There was a narrow creek that ran through the center of open clearing. From here, we had far better visibility than we did in the trees as the sliver moon reflected off the rushing water. We sat down in a triangle, making sure each of was watching one direction with the flashlight in the center.
All the while, each of us openly claimed we weren’t scared at Sean’s insistence.
“We can turn back if you babies want to,” he repeated.
Because it was my dare last, I was the one to pick someone next. I decided to keep it tame and dared Sean to tell a scary story that was ‘X-Rated’. I knew this would work only because more talking only fed Sean’s big ego further. He started in immediately with something he had definitely found on the Internet.
“One night, three kids were out on a moonless New Jersey night quite like this one…”
Seemingly in response, the trees at the end of our clearing quivered loudly. There was no wind, but we could all hear it.
“Nick, what do you see?” Sean asked, clearly too afraid to turn around.
“There’s… nothing there. The bushes are just moving-g…” he stammered.
“It’s just a raccoon and you’re just being a crybaby – as usual,” he said with regained confidence. “I’m continuing, I barely even got to start. Anyway, three kids were out in the woods…”
Sean continued his story for a few minutes… but his voice drained out, for me at least. I was focused on the bushes in the side of the clearing only I could see. In the distance. The bushes were moving. But there hadn’t been wind all night.
In a flash of no more than a second, movement exploded in a flurry of leaves as a shape burst into my line of sight. It had to be no more than a quarter mile away, but it was tall. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but it looked to be a man. And yet… the way he was running was almost animalistic.
He was sprinting at us full speed like his life depended on it.
As he approached the hill above us in mere seconds… he fell to all fours and trotted the distance giddily.
I raised my voice to yell but found my voice catch in my throat.
“Guys,” I choked out quietly.
In a moment, the man was no more than twenty feet in front of me and behind Nick and Sean…but I was the only one who could see him.
He stood to his normal posture casually and brushed the light dirt off his black turtleneck and pants. At first, his clothing actually seemed normal enough. Like an athletic midnight jogger who had lost his way. But something about his face didn’t seem quite right… and I couldn’t see it clearly in the darkness.
“Guys….” I said again, louder now.
The man soon realized he had an audience when he saw me looking at him and heard me whisper. His response was just as terrifying now as it was then.
In the absurd and almost laughable way a circus clown would when teasing guests, he then slid to the right and slightly forward, creeping along on his tiptoes like he was a cat quietly hunting a mouse. With each side step forward, he closed the distance between us more as long, stringy, black hair swung from his shoulders and his obscured head like wet dreadlocks.
As he got closer, I saw the problem with his face. He wearing the skin of a dead and slaughtered pig head like a mask.
”GUYS!!!” I shouted, standing up.
When he was a mere five feet behind Sean and Nick, he paused with his gloved hands held neatly behind his back.
“What are you complaining about now kid, I’m trying to tell a story here!” Sean yelled back, infuriated and oblivious.
The man cleared his throat and spoke in response. His voice was a guttural muffled noise with an accent that creaked and groaned like old floorboards.
“Are three tiny little piggies lost in the woods?”
Nick and Sean nearly jumped out of their skin. They stumbled backwards, turning around quickly to see who was behind them. Sean got away, but Nick didn’t.
The man lunged forward and grabbed the poor kid by his arm, pulling him back effortlessly as he pulled out a small hunting knife and tossed it up in the air before catching it with a choked laugh.
“Give one, get away,” he said with his rusted voice.
“Give me back my brother you fucking freak!” Sean retorted defiantly, searching for his branch beating stick as he crawled back further.
The pig man laughed again; a cruel giggle that came through heavily through the slits in the pig’s noise and led to a curt cough.
“Give one, get away,” he said again.
After he did, he shallowly sliced Nick’s arm with the hunting knife. The poor kid cried out as his dark red blood dripped and pooled in the white snow.
“I’m sorry,” the pig man whispered quietly.
With that, he grabbed Nick by the hair and pulled him along like a rag doll as he inched towards Sean and I.
“It’s time to run now. Give one, get away,” he said again said slowly, clearly growing impatient.
“Give one, get away.”
“GIVE ONE, GET AWAY.”
Sean and I booked it for the tree line the moment we felt the man’s hot, disgusting breath inches from our face. Nick seized the opportunity and tried to follow us, but he was yanked back again angrily. He fell piteously to the snow and screamed out for us while the man watched us patiently and silently.
”Guys, please, please!! PLEASE NO. PLEASE NO. PLEASE NO. Please don’t leave me!!!”
I’ll never forget that voice for as long as I live.
As we got to the edge of the clearing and into the woods, I turned back and looked for Nick and the pig man, but they were too far away in the darkness.
We found a trail almost immediately, even with Sean’s sprained ankle. When we got to the camp we screamed for the adults to wake up and help Nick. They called the police and park rangers immediately.
Within a half hour, twenty squad cars with flashing light were packed onto the narrow road road in front of our camp. We all searched through the night. We were able to bring them to the exact spot Nick was taken almost immediately with the help of searchlights, but by the time we arrived, there was no sign of him or the man in the pig mask.
All that was left was our testimony and collective footsteps in the snow; which were obscured here and there by the clever monster that took him.
One thing that the police could figure out in the daytime, before the snow quickly melted, was that the pig man took Nick into the creek on some sort of small raft he hid in the bushes a few hundred yards away from the abduction sites. Once they got in the water, it was impossible for them to be tracked or for dogs to pick up their scent. Nevertheless, a search party was organized throughout the vast woods the next day and in the following weeks. Nick was only eight years old. Posters with his picture were tacked to every traffic post and tree with a view in the state. News stations and papers ran coverage of his disappearance for a couple of days almost everywhere, but after absolutely zero leads, his case lost interest in a couple months when others popped up nearby.
No one ever found him. and to this day the man in the pig mask is still unidentified. The abduction is still unsolved and the case is still open, though no actual leads have materialized in years. During that time, Sean and I have both undergone endless therapy to come to the terms with the fact that what happened was not our fault. Some of it has worked, some hasn’t. But even through a pill induced begrudging acceptance… I cannot live much longer without at least warning you, the folks listening to my shit, of a few facts I know to be true.
If you are a kid, or if you have kids, please don’t go camping alone… anywhere in the Northeast United States. If you must; travel together and always bring a better weapon than a stick. Please, just… be wary. Because while I know the Pig Man has to still be out there, I may die without knowing what he did to my best friend’s brother.