According to everything that I’ve been told, this story is true. I was at the wedding rehearsal in the story, but I was only five and somehow I don’t remember any of this happening. But my father used to tell it after dinner at ghost story time, and I grew up thinking it was just a great story.
It was around 1985. The Gila National Forest stretches between Silver City and Lordsburg. It is protected by the government nowadays, but it wasn’t always that way. A long time ago it belonged to the Indians of the area, and small wars were waged between them and the settlers moving in. A lot of killing, kidnapping, and all sorts of other nasty stuff happened. It was known as the Killing Grounds to all of the residents in the area, and the name itself should imply that no sane person would want to be caught in those woods during the daytime, much less after dark. Sometimes people were known to go into those woods and never come back out, and people from around those parts have three ideas as to exactly what is out there.
First, and most popular with the locals, were ‘haints’ – the ghosts of dead people who simply couldn’t rest after the atrocities committed against them (which, by the way, makes some sense given the history of the place). The second, and most popular in its own right with those who had no belief in the supernatural, was the story that just maybe there were some Indians still living in those woods with a bone to pick. The last explanation, which most people in town never even wanted to think about as a possibility, was the one my dad proclaimed as the truth: he believed that what was hiding out in those woods was the Devil himself.
One day in early March, in Lordsburg, we were setting up for the wedding dress rehearsal of a family friend. Everyone was there and ready to go, but no one could find the best man. He had called us from Silver City (a twenty minute drive) to let us know he was almost there, but hat had been over two hours ago, and people were starting to worry.
We waited about an hour longer, and still he never showed up. Finally the groom, who was also the best man’s brother, called the police, not extremely worried, knowing that his brother’s truck wasn’t in the best running condition and the road he’d been driving was pretty deserted. He may have even had to walk.
The police agreed to send someone out to check on him, and indeed an hour later we got a phone call saying that they had found his truck parked on the side of the road. He had his sun visor up with the words NEED HELP, PLEASE CALL POLICE written on it, facing the road. Still, they had seen no sign of him walking down the road, and he had left his driver’s side door wide open, with the keys in the ignition. Stranger still, when the cop tried to start the truck, it started up instantly, so there seemed to be nothing at all wrong with it.
A few hours later, as it started getting dark, the police decided to do a search for him, as still no one had heard from him, and the circumstances were starting to seem pretty strange. They got their canine units and gave the dogs the scent, then let them lead.
The funny thing was, instead of staying on the side of the road, the dogs led them into the woods. After about a half a mile or so, one of the policemen stumbled. When he looked down to see what had tripped him up, he saw it was a small pyramid made from rocks, a little messy now because he had stumbled over it and upset it. A few feet ahead, he noticed a slightly bigger pyramid, perfectly shaped, and he pointed this out to the others.
They realized that it was a trail. The dogs had been leading them in the same direction as the pyramids, so this must have been where the man went, building these little pyramid-shaped piles of rocks every so often as he went.
Eventually, they ended up at a small convenience store, right outside the border of the forest, and asked the man behind the counter if he had seen the missing man. To their surprise, he said yes. He said of course, no one could forget a guy dressed in a tuxedo who came around asking for The Beast, and continued by saying that the man should be locked up because he’s crazy.
Of course, the police asked him what exactly he was talking about with this Beast thing. He responded by saying, “All he kept telling me was ‘I’m looking for The Beast, have you seen him? He’s been asking for me, and I don’t want to keep him waiting. I’ve left a trail for him to follow, and he’s supposed to meet me….’ He kept rambling on like that.”
Confused, the police stayed on the trail of the little pyramids, but after a few miles the trail stopped. When they tried the dogs again, the dogs could no longer find the scent. A larger search took place in the following days, but it turned up nothing.
They never found the young man who had walked through the woods that day. What happened to him? No one knows. Maybe he wandered too far into the woods, got lost, and died. That doesn’t explain all of the circumstances, but it certainly is possible. Then again, maybe it’s like my dad thought. Maybe he met someone in those woods, and maybe he made a bargain. Maybe, just maybe, he finally did meet The Beast.