Made this account purely to participate because I have a recent weird experience. This story is from about two months ago. I have no clear explanation for what the hell happened and it took me three attempts to work myself up to remembering it in enough detail to write it down. Here goes.

My husband and I are moderately unambitious hikers. As in, we enjoy going for a bit of a hill climb in the morning and then visiting a local brewery or something in the afternoon. In about mid-August of this year we decide to head over to a nearby civil war battlefield (we live in Virginia, about 85% of our parks seem to have been civil war battlefields so this is not considered a strange thing to do at all). A friend of ours and her two kids is visiting from PA so we invite them along.

The group is composed of me, the husband, our friend who I’ll call Sara and her two children. Tyler who is 14 and Alicia, 11. We set off on one of the marked trails but it’s more difficult than we had planned. We scramble up and down about three heavily wooded hills (about 40 degree incline up and down) on trails that are eroding pretty badly thanks to all the recent rain. We stop at the bottom of hill #3 (looking up at hill #4 from a bridge over a creek) to catch our breath. Sara and the husband are both trying to stay positive. Alicia is huffing and starting to whine and Tyler clearly thinks we’re all idiots and wishes he were anywhere else (admittedly he’s a 14 year old boy so he’s always seems on the verge of this attitude).

While Sara and the husband are working to rally the troops I’m retying my boot and craning my neck to see if there’s a secondary trail that’s a bit less vertical we could follow. At which point I see him. Now it should be noted that we have seen no other hikers until this point. That is a little unusual as this park is not far from town (it’s accessible through a neighborhood and we’d seen several dog walkers on the way in). However, we’ve taken what is clearly more of a nature trail than the flatter, better maintained ‘historic’ trail to the battlefield and cemetery. So I’m not initially concerned by the appearance of this new person. Quite the opposite actually. I’ve been worrying for the past 30-40 minutes that we’ve lost the normal hiking trails and have been mistakenly following temporary stream cuts over hill and dale.

In my newfound enthusiasm I wave at the figure, who is too far away from me to make out features except they are wearing what I think are dark long trousers and a long sleeve shirt.

As I do my husband says, honey, who’re you waving at? I turn and say, that guy, pointing at the top of the hill. But he’s no longer visible. I shrug it off, thinking he must have started down the trail.

We finally make it to level ground about 20 minutes later. The trees are even beginning to thin out as we walk along a long ridge. We stop for another breather/water break at the first historical placard we’ve seen in the park. As Sara reads aloud about general whomever and his exploits in 1860-something I notice Tyler standing about five feet away looking back down the path. I wander over to check up on him.

Who’s that? He asks me as I get close, pointing down the trail.

He’s acting weird. Tyler says. I remember feeling my scalp shrink up a bit under my hair as I say, trying to sound unconcerned and like the responsible adult in the situation, weird how?

Tyler says, I think he’s crawling or something. Look.

Now I really, really don’t want to look. But there’s still a possibility that Tyler may be fucking with me because he’s bored and 14. So I look. And I don’t see whomever Tyler is pointing at for a minute. Until I look at the ground near where the trail levels off at the top of the hill. Where there’s a dark, man shaped thing laid out on the ground. Kind of belly crawling. This is the point where I realize two things. 1. I cannot make out any features of this person, not clothes, not a face, nothing. They are just uniformly dark, like they’re perpetually in shadow. Even while they are crawling across the sunnier parts of the trail. 2. We need to not be in the woods anymore.

As I turn to Tyler to tell him to move for the visible battlefield area (where there are also several tour groups and dog walkers visible) my husband, Sara and Alicia suddenly join us, having noticed we were not participating in the historical marker read-along.

The husband asks me what’s up. And I say (quietly so nobody panics), we need to head out, that guy is creeping me out. My husband squints down the trail and says, what guy?

I look. Dude is still there, he’s paused in the belly crawling and is kind of concealed by some brush (also he’s still looks like he’s in shadow) but he’s visible. The guy crawling toward us. I say, sure that this will convince my suddenly unobservant husband that shit is not right. The husband squints right at the guy, clearly does not see him, and looks at me confused.

Tyler, proving that all my bad assumptions about teen boys are wrong in his case, sensibly decides that he’s not going to wait around for the adults to sort this out. He takes his sister’s hand (which I have NEVER seen him do btw and I have known this kid since he was 10) and starts walking quickly toward the sunlight and non-shadow people. Sara follows them immediately without a word to us. At which point the man-shadow starts crawling towards us again.

I’m done, needless to say. The woods, which had been feeling very cool and nice on a hot August day, now seem clammy, cold and inexplicably quiet. I drag my husband along with me without explanation as it’s clear he still isn’t seeing the crawling man or whatever the hell it is.

We make it out into the maintained, sunny battlefield area almost at a run. I do not look back until we are well clear of the woods and in glaring sunlight with many non-shadow people nearby. I cannot see the man in the trees. The tree line we have just emerged from appears extremely dark in contrast with the bright, sunny field.

But I can’t shake the feeling that he’s still back there, just past where I can see. I don’t want to freak everyone out more, especially Sara and Alicia(both of them are notorious scared-y cats, like Sara almost threw up in terror on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World once and Alicia is just like her mom). So I don’t say anything. I just watch the woods very closely as we explore the battlefield.

The biggest problem now is that to get back to the parking lot we have to go back into said woods. Luckily the trail from the historical area is not the one we were on and is much wider, flatter, shorter and full of people. I make the executive decision to behave like a heard animal and manage to chat our way in amongst one of the tours of civil war buffs. We all walk off together toward the parking lot without incident but I do note that Tyler is again sticking close to his mother and sister and is not objecting to having to move at our new groups’ slow pace.

Once we get to the car everything seems fine. The cicadas and peepers have started back up and the oppressive feeling is gone. It’s just the Virginia woods in August again. We wait for most of the group to climb into cars as we say our goodbyes. We’re toward the end of the que following one couple in a big SUV down the one gravel road out of the park. Suddenly the SUV slams on the breaks and we almost rear-end them. And then they sit there in front of us, on the only road out of the park, for no discernable reason, for several minutes. Finally, the chorus of annoyed horns behind us seem to snap them out of it and they start driving again. We follow and, as they exit the park, they pull over.

My husband decides to check and see if they’re okay, because he’s a genuinely nice person. He pulls up and rolls down my window. The driver rolls his down and my husband asks if everything’s okay. Sure, the driver says, but boy that guy crawling across the road about scared the life out of me.

At which point I hear Tyler say hell no from the seat behind me. I can feel sweat popping out along the small of my back despite the A/C.

My husband says, what man? The SUV driver, who I think looks pale and kind of freaked out but that could be me reading into the situation, says, you didn’t see him? A guy in dark clothes army-crawled across the road in front of us, you didn’t see him go into the brush on the other side of the road?

No, says my husband.

I’m on the verge of hyperventilating at this point. Seeing this, my husband wraps up the conversation with a comment like, huh, so weird. Well, if everything’s okay then we’ll just be going. Then he rolls up the window and drives damn fast out of that neighborhood.

We compare notes that afternoon (carefully so as to keep Alicia and Sara calm). Tyler and I saw the shadow man (whom Tyler independently described as a man shaped shadow) crawling toward us on that last ridge. Sara would not admit to seeing anything though she seemed extremely uneasy for the rest of the day and would not let any of us mention it to Alicia (but again, she might have just picked up on the vibe of the rest of the group). My husband didn’t see anything but did note how quiet the woods had been for the last five to ten minutes of our hike.

I have not the slightest clue if what we saw was a very messed up person trying to scare us (if so, mission accomplished) or something supernatural. But I can tell you I will not be hiking that particular park any time soon.