Last week I asked for your “paranormal” experiences for this blog, and promised to start this little mini-series with my own experience. Time to act according to that promise. There are maybe 3 people I’ve told this story to before. For a long time, I felt ashamed of sharing it, for the usual reasons: ridicule, not being “taken seriously” again, etc. If you’ve lived your life learning you will notice that as you get older, you stop caring about crap like that. This actually happened – deal with it.
Back in 2005 I was 20 years old, and couldn’t wait to leave the small town I grew up in. There was nothing wrong with it, really: it was a perfectly nice, safe place to grow up in, with nature and rivers and lakes everywhere. But when you’re 19, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so I was desperate to take off and explore the world.
I applied to three universities, and was accepted to all of them. I chose the University of Turku, as the city has a reputation for art, culture and history. A perfect town for a geek like me. Plus, Helsinki seemed too big at that point.
As the day of departure from small-town Finland neared, I found myself getting melancholy. Surprising feeling, considering how desperate I had been for years to get out.
I decided to do a kind of “tour” of my favorite places before going off to college, a kind of “montage” of the places I had enjoyed as a kid. I figured this would be a nice memory to take with me to the hustle and bustle of university life.
I made my way to a local dam, ate a sundae at my favorite ice cream stand, visited the local bookstore and movie theater, and finally made my way to my family’s summer cabin in Himanka, a nearby county. “This’ll suffice”, I thought, and decided to head back home to continue packing. It was getting late, and the darkness of the evening was beginning to set in.
On my way back, while driving a secluded country road, I decided I’d do one more stop at a small fishing dock. The dock was located at a kind of bend in the river, and to get there from the road you needed to walk through a forest. The dock was not in regular use, so the forest leading to it had grown thick. I parked my car and made my way there. The sight was worth it; I’ve always thought nature looks more beautiful in the dark than it does in the brutal blare of sunlight. The river was moving slowly but assertively, the water making a beautiful meditative sound as it flowed past me. What a beautiful moment and memory to meditate on whenever my studies would get hectic!
Though I still think back to that moment fondly, what happened next I’d rather not remember at all.
As I was walking back towards my car through the dense forest, I was overcome with a sense of terror I can’t describe with words. This wasn’t the kind of “oh my gosh, I’m alone in a forest” fear – I grew up in the woods, and was used to playing there with friends, hiking and fishing etc.
I cannot stress this enough: I WAS NOT (and still am not) afraid of a random patch of forest at night. I’m a country boy – I’m more afraid of walking through downtown Helsinki at night. Plus, I had just spent 6 months in the Finnish military, where I had frequently stood guard alone at night in the middle of the darkest woods Lapland has to offer.
But that night, I felt like I was in the presence of the source of all the evil in the world. This wasn’t fear – it was mortal terror, like I was about to die any moment, like something devastating was about to get me at any moment. I started running like I was running for my life, and all the way back to the road I felt like something was RIGHT behind me, right at my heels.
When I reached the road and my car, my pulse was pounding like crazy. The feeling of terror immediately subsided when I was out of the woods, but I was still feeling the after-effects. I’ve probably never had that much adrenaline in my blood. I looked around for some cause for this, a bear or something. Nothing.
I thought that was enough nature for the night, and got in my car to finally drive home. That’s when the last (and arguably the weirdest) part of this mindf*ck took place.
My phone started ringing with a ringtone I had NOT set to it. The phone was a Nokia 3210 and my ring tone was a basic old school ringing sound called “Low”. This was not it. I later went through the ring tones and found that the tone it was ringing with that night was called “Valkyrie”.
When I picked up the phone to answer it, the screen said “Unknown number” (or something to that effect). I answered it. Silence. Nobody at the other end of the line, not even the sound of breathing or some background noise. The call then cut off.
I put pedal to metal and got the hell out of there wayyyyy faster than the speeding limits allowed. I remember that when I got home, I took a picture of the screen of the 3210 from the page where the time and info of the phone call was visible. This was back before smart phone cameras, so I literally had to get that photo developed. I’m not sure if that photo is still somewhere in my childhood home, but then again even if it is, what am I going to do with it? I took that photo in the spur of the moment, having just returned home from that horrifying experience, thinking that the photo would later help me understand what had happened.
Alas, 12 years later I’m still wondering.
Around 2010 I read a book called Daimonic Reality by Patrick Harpur. The book’s subtitle states “A Field Guide to the Otherworld”, and that pretty much sums it up: in the book Harpur builds a kind of philosophical and phenomenological framework for strange experiences throughout the ages, from ghosts and UFOs to fairies and spirits. I decided to write to Harpur with my experience. His reply was pretty interesting.
He sent me an article called “Landscapes of Panic”. In a nutshell, the article deals with experiences similar to mine, and attributes them to a pagan god named Pan – hence, the article speculates, the word “PANic”. If I remember correctly, this pagan god supposedly protects the woods, and will occasionally induce this sense of fear in humans to drive them away from the woods.
While I’m not entirely convinced that I was driven out of the woods by an ancient pagan god (why hadn’t he/she/it driven me out of there before? Why now?), the memory of the experience is still vivid in my mind. Maybe it was a random panic attack, or maybe the forest is alive with things we don’t understand yet.
In any case, the experience has been a big factor in motivating me on my quest for mysteries of all sorts, and is one huge reason why I long to hear other people’s “paranormal” experiences.
Tomorrow, it’s time for your stories.