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A creepypasta story written by Kerry Hammond under the name searchandrescuewoods. Each part of the story is a collection of brief anecdotal tales told by a Search and Rescue Officer with the United States Forest Service. They can be summed up simply: The forest is more dangerous than you know. And avoid the staircases. 

You know, the standard advice I have for most creepypasta is to just say, go read it. They're short, they're creepy, they're fun. They won't take you long to finish, and telling too much of the plot will spoil the whole thing, so just go read it. That advice doesn't entirely work for "Search and Rescue Woods." It's long -- eight parts long, plus five companion stories that fill out more of the story. It's a bit of a time commitment to read through all of them. 

"Search and Rescue Woods" is also mostly plotless. It's a long string of incidents, some experienced by the narrator, many told second- or third-hand. They're connected through the focus on professional search and rescue operations in national forests, but that's it. Aside from the narrator, there are few recurring characters. There aren't even any recurring villains -- other than the staircases. 

So what's it about? Well, each episode is a collection of short anecdotes about search and rescue operations. In the first episode, these range from a heartbreaking recounting of a mother's grief when her child is killed in a freak accident to the unusual, but possibly mundane problems with canine tracking, to frightening stories about unnatural encounters with bizarre creatures in the woods, which, even if you considered them simple hallucinations suffered by injured people, would still be considered some of the most horrifying things anyone had ever experienced. 

And at the end of the first installment, we finally get to the staircases. You see, there are staircases out in the woods. Miles into the wilderness, miles away from the nearest road or house, just stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Staircases -- worn-out ruins, carpeted stairs, spiral stairways -- leading up to nowhere. They look entirely normal, except for the ones that look entirely abnormal, the ones that defy gravity and physics and logic. The other search and rescue officers will tell you not to worry about 'em, they're normal. But don't go near them, don't look at them, don't think too hard about 'em, and never, ever, ever touch them. And God help you if you actually climb them. 

Each episode includes similar content -- weird disappearances and deaths and mysterious and frightening occurrences in the forests, often with some new information about the ominous staircases. Deer-headed men with floating eyes. Things that look like humans but aren't, making incongruous sounds in the nighttime. Children murdered and their bodies strewn about the treetops. People without faces, creatures with forms that can't be precisely seen, something impersonating the voices of lost children to lure rescuers to their deaths. 

What really makes this series of stories work so well is not merely that they're incredibly creepy and unsettling, but that their realism makes them even more believable and eerie. The simple fact is that a lot of people go missing, die, or disappear in the wilderness, and these mishaps can happen very suddenly. If you've ever been in the woods, you know it can be very easy to lose your bearings when you're in unfamiliar terrain, and if you have kids, you've probably lost track of them at least once when you turned your back on them at the wrong moment. These things happen and they're utterly understandable. The inclusion of entirely mundane accidents and deaths just emphasizes this -- there really are people who die after stepping in unexpectedly deep snowdrifts, or get killed by an angry moose, or step on the wrong clump of loose soil at the edge of a cliff, because sometimes nature is so much more deadly and insane than a supernatural creature could be.

But when you add the supernatural -- when you add inhuman and insane and alien intelligences that torment the lost and the innocent, either because of malevolence or hunger or boredom? Stay on the trail. Stay in your tent. Ignore the voices from the trees. Or maybe just vacation at Disneyworld this year and play it safe. 

"Search and Rescue Woods" was adapted as the third season of the Syfy channel's "Channel Zero" series, where it was titled "Butcher's Block." While the program was fairly well received, it had very little to do with the original story. Meanwhile, Kerry Hammond is reportedly writing a full novel based on the tale. 

Part 1 of "Search and Rescue Woods" can be read here. 

for reQuest 2019
("Jet-Poop: node a favorite internet rumor/spookypasta.")

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