In 2006, a horrific discovery changed a small, Southwestern town forever. Witness the events leading up to the discovery of the fabled “maggot men” and the calamitous aftermath.
In 1789, 9-year-old Benjamin MacMaster was tucked into bed by his mother. It had been a long day for them both. Young Ben sold cigarettes on the streets of Edinburgh while his mother, Sarah, worked as a washerwoman. As usual, Ben asked his mother to check under his bed for monsters. With a weary sigh, she complied. He then asked for her to latch the window even though it was an unusually stuffy night. Sarah did so, then sang softly to her imaginative young son. In minutes, Ben was breathing deeply, his eyes closed.
Ben was woken from his dreams by a tap-tapping on the window. Blinking sleep from his eyes, Ben looked and saw the silhouette of a man with a tall hat staring in at him through the window. The man’s face was completely hidden by shadows but his eyes shone with eerie, white light. The man was rapping on the glass with white fingers as thin as spindles. Ben lay under his blankets, frozen by fright. He was soon drenched in sweat. After struggling for several minutes, he found his voice again and screamed. At once, his mother came rushing into his room with a candle.
In tears, Ben told Sarah what he had seen. When Sarah looked out the window, she saw no one. It took her a long time to coax Ben back to sleep as he was beside himself with terror. And he only agreed to fall back asleep if she stayed with him and held his hand while she sang lullabies. When Ben was asleep again, Sarah left him. Though rattled, she wasn’t particularly disturbed, since Ben often had frightful and vivid dreams.
What did disturb her was when she was woken the second time by her son’s screams. Ben rarely had nightmares two times in a single night. Ben reported the same thing to his mother: a strange man with scary eyes that looked at him through the window. Ben had been woken up by the window coming unlatched. Indeed, when Sarah entered the room, the window was open, letting in a warm breeze
Truly disturbed now, she latched the window then roused her husband. Tobias MacMaster was sleeping off a large amount of gin. When he finally stirred and listened to his wife, he reluctantly agreed to check outside. Tobias walked around his family’s first-floor tenement but saw no sign of anyone having been there. Grumbling at his wife, he went back to sleep. So did Sarah, though she felt uneasy. Her son was truly terrified by something. However, Tobias told Ben to go back asleep and refused to let him sleep in their narrow cot, which was crowded enough with just Tobias and Sarah.
Sarah and Tobias were both woken in the gray hour before dawn by a piercing scream that struck both like ice water. They ran into Ben’s room to find the bed empty, the window open. A soft breeze passed over the rumpled sheets. Sarah ran outside, screaming her son’s name. But no matter how hard Sarah screamed or how many neighbors Tobias asked, no sign of their son was ever seen again.
This is the earliest story to involve Gadaichebairn, the terrifying child-snatcher of 19th century Scottish legends. Stories of the lanky, stove pipe hat-wearing kidnapper proliferated in the years after Benjamin MacMaster’s disappearance. No one could ever decide if the figure was a legend or in fact real. And if real, his exact nature was subject to debate.
Over the next ten years, as many as 100 children vanished from their homes in Edinburgh and its suburbs. In a city that was beginning to industrialize, its population swelling with each new year, people went missing daily. But these children were taken right out of their homes, the culprit never leaving a trace nor allowing himself to be seen, except in chance glimpses by bystanders.
Gadaichebairn could steal children from anywhere. Even through locked doors and windows. It didn’t even matter if the child’s room was at the top of a tenement building; Gadaichebairn could still reach them. Officially, all the cases involving Gadaichebairn were given various causes. Police said the children wandered off in their sleep; had been kidnapped earlier in the day; were simply out late and had gotten lost; or their own parents gotten rid of them and then blamed the fictional Gadaichebairn as a scapegoat.
In 1867, one family, having recently heard of someone being taken by Gadaichebairn, decided to have their daughter sleep in the bed with them. However, in the middle of the night, the girl was tormented by night terrors—as she had been for the past three, sleepless nights. Then long arms shot out of the darkness above her. The girl’s scream awoke her parents just in time to see Gadaichebairn, scuttling on all fours, their daughter tucked under one, long arm, disappear out the window. The parents rushed from their home, but saw no sign of Gadaichebairn or their daughter. They later learned that a steel worker, stumbling his way home after a long day of work, had thought he’d seen a tall man slip down into the sewers, a parcel of some kind clutched in his arm. The worker had thought it odd but was too exhausted to think about it until later.
Disappearances linked to Gadaicheairn ebbed and flowed in number during the rest of the 19th century. The 1800s and 1810s had the most number of reported unexplained kidnappings. The annual reports decreased until the 1850s and 60s, where there is another upsurge in missing children: as many 80 from 1858 to 1862. Gadaichebairn became something of a joke to the Edinburgh police, who took to naming him chief suspect of every crime. There was a city-wide investigation headed by Chief Constable Ernest G. Hardwick in 1864 to catch Gadaichebairn (or whoever was causing such a ruckus in the city) but apparently nothing came of it.
Like the boogeyman before him, the mere mention of Gadaichebairn’s name snapped most children into obedience. “If you stay out late, Gadaichebairn will snatch you away”. “If you’re lazy and don’t do all your chores, Gadaichebairn will come and get you while you sleep”. A popular—if morbid—rhyme from the 1830s shows how widespread the tales of the Edinburgh child-snatcher had become:
One, two, three!
Be sure to say your prayers ‘fore you sleep
Else the child-stealer will take you away
Four, five, six!
Do all ‘o your chores ‘fore you rest
Else the glow-y man will carry you away
Seven, eight, nine!
He’ll beat the naughty girls ‘till they weep
And work the lazy boys ‘till they protest
If you say his name, he’ll visit you soon
Now everybody: run away!
In retrospect, Gadaichebairn seemed to have been in it for sport. There was no discernible pattern to his kidnappings. He stole boys and girls, those belonging to families and orphans. There was no way to know if your child was next. Only the vivid night terrors heralded Gadaichebairn’s visit within the coming nights. Few accounts of what was contained in these nightmares survives to the modern day. Presumably, the children saw Gadaichebairn in their room or climbing through their window. It has been noted by experts that, according to all accounts, Gadaichebairn’s victims were all healthy children with no physical or mental handicaps. He is never known to have taken cripples, invalids, or sick children.
Theories of the fate of Gadaichebairn’s victims ranged widely. Some said he took them to the vaults to murder them; others said he was a predator and abused his victims; some more patriotic Scots said he was working for the English and sold the children to slavers. A theory that grew in popularity because of its outlandish nature was the one that said he spirited the children away to a nightmare world where they served Gadaichebairn until they were old and worn out, at which time Gadaichebairn cast them out onto the street to be beggars.
No one could ever agree if Gadaichebairn was a highly-skilled kidnapper or something else, something non-human. The idea that he came from an otherworld developed early on. Stories circulated of a barren estate, eternally bound in night, dominated by a Gothic manor house that Gadaichebairn called home. As you can see, Gadaichebairn had many of the qualities of older, Celtic fairy creatures. Some have pointed out the similarities between Gadaichebairn and a bodach, a boogeyman-like creature of earlier Scottish folklore that kidnapped misbehaving children.
Many people noticed Gadaichebairn’s appearance happened shortly after the completion of the Southgate Bridge in 1788. Many thought the infamous Edinburgh Vaults—the 19 arches of the bridge—were used by Gadaichebairn to store the bodies of his victims. Others thought the gateway to his home was in one of the bridge’s arches. In the immediate years following the completion of the Southgate Bridge, it turns out that all of Gadaichebairn’s early victims were children of the bridge’s workmen; Tobias MacMaster, father of poor Benjamin, was one such workman.
Gadaichebairn was never caught. Most of the disappearances liked to him are officially, unsolved. An amusing story from 1905 has a drunken maintenance worker, Woodrow Stork, shooting a man he took to be a mugger in the vaults. The man was never identified and the story says he sported a top hat. Many want to believe this story is true and that the man shot was Gadaichebairn. If so, then his long reign had a rather abrupt end. If not, then for all we know, Gadaichebairn is still out there to this day, slumbering in darkness. Perhaps he sated his desire to cause misery or perhaps his unearthly estate is full of weary slaves, their childhoods and lives stolen from them by a a cruel, tall man with glowing eyes and a stove pipe hat.
Ticket booths for American Expeditions—the Night Bus—appear in major bus terminals across America every night. Yet, hardly anyone has ever heard of American Expeditions. This is because the company does not exist.
Of course most travelers take no notice of these unusual booths, as they have already purchased their tickets. American Expeditions attracts the desperate and those who seek cheap prices above all else. For just $5 USD, you can buy a ticket to any city in the United States. And there’s always a bus that arrives immediately after purchase. Convenient, no?
I think so. Unfortunately for you and I, most riders on the “Night Bus” tend to disappear forever. Those who do reach their destination have a hard time recounting their time on the bus, as it all seems like a dream to them in retrospect. A small group of travelers though, have it worse and think that this is the dream and the bus is real.
Before getting into the details, I’d like to share some background information on American Expeditions. Information on the non-existent company is, as you can imagine, beyond hard to come by: even stories of the Night Bus take keen ears to uncover. However, after some serious detective work, I present to you as full a picture as I could gather of the fabled “Night Bus”.
Appearances by the Night Bus go all the way back to the early days of the United States interstate system in the 1950s. I found a verified magazine advertisement for American Expeditions from the early 1960s. It appears at one point, the company was real.
No public information or company charters have ever been found concerning American Expeditions in any state. The address given in the ad is now home to a contemporary office building belonging to a Silicon Valley company.
I have heard many theories about what happened to the company. Some claim that an AE bus passed near Area 51 one night and was caught in an experiment gone wrong, which caused the bus to vanish. The company was then shut down and erased from history by the federal government. It is true the bus company was based in San Francisco—it’s ad said that—and serviced the Southwest region of America.
Another version of the story has it that a man named Jerry Benjamin, a scientist involved with the Manhattan Project during the war, got aboard an AE bus with a large briefcase. When the bus was out in the deserts of southern California, Benjamin opened the briefcase and detonated the inside device which caused a massive explosion.
Whatever the case may be, American Expeditions popped up but just as quickly disappeared. Over the decades however, stories of it and its ghostly Night Bus have surfaced. The Night Bus has recently become a very popular subject among paranormal enthusiasts, much like UFO sightings and abductions.
Like UFOs, there are people who claim to have ridden on the Night Bus and survived to tell about it. the first thing that struck me after reading through travelers’ accounts and hearing some in person, is that it appears there is only one “Night Bus”. Everyone describes the same bus—a white 1960s-era passenger bus with blue stripes and the company name on its sides. There is no designating number or ID. The driver seems to be the same person as well. He is described as a short man in his 60s or 70s. Gray-haired with watery blue eyes and large glasses, he wears overalls, a bow tie, and a cap.
Another constant is the desert landscape that passes by outside the windows. No matter where the passengers started from or where they are going, they always see deserts outside. Occasionally too, they see cities far out in the desert like oases of lights. The cities seem strange though: they appear as clusters of skyscrapers and high-rises, radiating with light, but they end abruptly. There are no suburbs. It is like the downtown of a large city, New York or Los Angeles, was cut out and dropped in the middle of a Californian or Nevadan desert.
The Night Bus carries passengers from any location in the United States to another in a single night. That is what self-claimed riders of the bus say. In 2006, Andrew Smith missed his bus, leaving him stranded in Chicago. It was late: around 10 at night. He knew that missing his meant he had missed his flight back to northern Virginia. He was low on cash too. That was when he noticed a ticket booth. A sign by the booth advertised low fares and an incoming arrival. He purchased a ticket to Baltimore for five dollars; immediately an old, retro bus pulled up to the designated terminal.
He reported all the experiences I’ve described above: desert landscapes passing by, even though he was going from Chicago to Baltimore; The little, old driver cradled in his large seat seat; and a sense of timelessness. Andrew describes how tired he became once he boarded the bus. He desperately wanted to sleep, but kept himself awake. Andrew is a veteran of the Marine Corps and is used to sleep deprivation. he also doesn’t like falling asleep while traveling. The bus made a stop at a hotel. Andrew had no idea where they were—empty desert surrounded them on all sides. This hotel is another recurring element of the Night Bus story.
The American Travelers Overnight Bus Stop & Hotel filled Andrew with two extremes. He wanted desperately to go inside, get a room, and collapse on a soft bed. Yet at the same time he wanted to stay far away from the hotel. There was something sinister about the large building and its blocky construction. It had too many windows; Andrew felt many eyes watching him from the windows. Inside the lobby, he saw the figures of the bellhops in uniform. There was a strange, unkind look in their gaunt faces that made Andrew decide to stay on the bus. A handful of passengers got off and went inside. Later, Andrew had a gut feeling that they would never leave that hotel.
Other travelers have reported similar experiences with the hotel. A strong combination of allure and terror. No obvious sign of alarm can be given about the hotel. People simply report a feeling of dread when they look at the building. No Night Bus rider has ever stopped at the hotel. Presumably those who have are there still, which is what Andrew believes.
Andrew could not tell me when exactly the desert gave way to the outskirts of Baltimore, but it happened so seamlessly he didn’t even think about it until later. When the bus pulled into the station, Andrew checked his watch. Sure enough the trip had only taken the night: he had gone from Chicago to Baltimore in 7 hours. At the time, Andrew was too exhausted for this to have any affect on him. Andrew was so tired, he wasn’t prepared at all for the shock that awaited him in Baltimore.
Sure, he had arrived home in record time, yet it wasn’t his time that he arrived in. Andrew had left Chicago in the year 2006, yet the clocks and newspapers in Baltimore said it was 1985. The local fashion and models of cars showed Andrew that this was true and not a hoax. When he turned back to look for the bus, it was already gone.
Andrew Smith, born in 1971, served in the Marines in the Gulf War and the American invasion of Iraq. He went missing in 2006. His parents were both dead and he was divorced, and had no close family or friends. His disappearance took a while to be noticed.
A man named Andrew Smith, a native of Baltimore, claims to be the same man. Andrew turned 68 this year. He lives with his wife and has three grown daughters.
From Andrew Smith’s story comes one of the biggest elements of the Night Bus story: the difficulty of passengers in reaching the right place and time. From other stories it is gathered that one must order a ticket and tell the driver where and when you want to go in precise language, otherwise you might end up in a completely different year—or even a different world as one man claimed.
Joe Garcia arrived home in San Francisco two days early thanks to American Expeditions. He arrived at his home on Russian Hill. His wife came to the door to greet him—except the woman wasn’t his wife. Joe was married to a woman named Theresa; this woman was named Becky. She knew him and tried to give him a kiss. Becky clearly thought they were married. Joe was stunned. When he regained his senses, he thought he’d made a mistake. But the house was his: it was the same building with the same address.
Inside, the house was clearly his, yet things were different. The rug in the living room was a different color—green instead of brown. The countertops in the kitchen were granite instead of concrete. And there hanging on the wall were pictures of Joe Garcia with Becky and children that weren’t Joe’s.
Joe’s reaction obviously distressed Becky. She brought down their four children—except that Joe had two children, a girl and a boy. After knowing for sure this was the right address and that was him in the pictures, Joe tried to settle in with his new family. Except that as he tried to go about his days, things about the city were different. He worked at a different job. The mayor of the city was a different person. Even some newer streets and buildings were changed—or missing altogether.
After eight months, Joe could take no more. He wanted to go back to his real family. He distanced himself from this alternate family. This was too much for Becky. Joe had been acting strange for almost a year. She overdosed on prescription pills three months later. Distraught, Joe left everything behind. While wandering the strange streets of this altered San Francisco, Joe remembered he had known a girl named Becky in high school. She had had a huge crush on him, but had committed suicide because of troubles at home.
Joe Garcia wandered into a bus terminal and spent his last five dollars on a Night Bus ticket. He wanted to get out of the city and hardly cared where he went. After a restless night, Joe was dropped off in Augusta, Maine. After earning enough cash for a plane ticket at a fish processing plant, Joe flew to San Francisco where he found an ongoing police search into his disappearance and his real wife, Theresa, waiting for him.
Time and space appear not to be a barrier for the Night Bus. The highways the Night Bus traverses are made of more than asphalt.
However, if you happen to lose your ticket while onboard, then you will never really be able to leave the bus, as Rosie Hendricks has experienced for the past five years or so. Rosie Hendricks lives in a rundown trailer home in Montana. She suffers from an incurable form of insomnia. Her many doctors claim it was brought on by stress and deep-rooted psychological problems. Rosie tells a different story.
Rosie Hendricks bought an AE ticket because it was the cheapest. She was fleeing a life of prostitution in rural southern Texas to go to Montana. However, while on the bus, she dozed off. When she awoke, she found her ticket was gone. When the bus stopped, the driver just looked at her with his sad, watery eyes when she explained her ticket had been taken.
She was allowed to leave and soon she was settled into her new Montana life. But every single night she woke back up on the Night Bus. The same empty desert and eerie cities, radiating with electric light, passed by. Just when the sun started to show on the eastern horizon, Rosie woke back up in Montana. She often found herself outside. She quickly discovered she walked in her sleep. In fact, locked doors wouldn’t even keep her contained.
Each and every night, bus stops at the American Travelers Hotel. Rosie, like the others, finds the place frightening just to look at, yet its allure has grown on her over the years. She told me in the interview that she has become fascinated by what might be inside and she might one day finally get off the bus.
After five years of this, Rosie Hendricks is in poor health. Nights give her no rest: her mind is always on. It has gotten to the point where Rosie believes this life is the dream and the bus is real. She believes this so much, she has taken to doing life-threatening stunts in an attempt to truly wake up. She once leapt off the bridge near her house into a shallow river. She was rushed to the hospital with two broken legs and internal bleeding. However, Rosie did miraculously survive and walks around quite fine. She treats life around her with dream-like serenity, taking nothing seriously.
So, the Night Bus. Is it real or just a myth? Like UFOs, it is hard to say for sure. After speaking to passengers of the bus, I cannot just discount it as a myth. What do you think of it? It is a legend? A victim of a government experiment?
Some have claimed the Night Bus is a modern American Charon, the ancient greek ferryman of the dead. Like the obol coin paid to him, so the Night Bus requires a mere $5. The old bus driver has been likened to Charon himself. Could the Night Bus be a ferry taking unwitting travelers into a sort of “underworld”. Might that explain what the American Travelers Hotel is? Perhaps what makes it so frightening and yet alluring is that the hotel is a gateway into another world or another mode of existence.
Who can say for sure. Tell me what you think.
Since the fateful year of 1966 when detective Owen Clarke foiled Alan Rhys, Owen moved quietly to the Welsh countryside. He married and lived with his wife Lily on a farm. The victims of Rhys coped with their traumatic experiences in different ways. Stewart and Amanda Tindle lived with their loving grandparents. Though both children suffered recurring nightmares, they eventually resumed a normal pattern of life. They became, for the most part, ordinary teenagers.
Reagan Jones, who had been four when she and her family were kidnapped, was eventually taken from her relatives and moved to an orphanage due to reports of drug abuse. Reagan was changed from her time as Rhys’s prisoner. She spoke to no one, suffered terrible nightmares, and ate little. As she grew up, it became clear to her caretakers that she would never outgrow her trauma.
Caitlin MacDonell fared the worst. She moved back to Glasgow and attempted to pick up the threads of her old life. However, she failed to hold down a job and changed boyfriends just as frequently. She took to drinking heavily to cope. Eventually she moved to America and was last seen with a group of hippies in rural Oregon.
Owen tended to his farm and did investigative consulting work on the side, helping PIs and greenhorn police officers with difficult cases. Though never forgetting the Rhys case, Owen had put it behind him. He was content to have caught the man and freed his victims. The island of Anglesey returned to its former state of slow, rural life without the disruption of kidnappings, fires, and police sirens. The locals happily shunned the memory of Alan Rhys.
So when on January 1, 1970, locals discovered a strange monument on the summit of Y Gwrach, people wanted to believe it was the work of local hooligans having fun. The monument was wicker covered in yew bark. It was shaped in the likeness of an elongated human figure with antlers. The statue was very abstract in style, and many observers though it was horribly made. In his long, crude fingers, the statue held a torc and a stone.
Police quickly took the monument down and blamed it on kids pulling a New Year’s prank. However, the rumor did start to circulate around the island that it was a sign that Alan Rhys’s vengeance was coming. Rhys had at this point been in the grave four years. To those paying attention, the next few months were a time of suspense as they waited with held breath for the first strike.
When a break-in was reported in Cumar, no one panicked. Though unusual on the rural island, no one was alarmed. Initially anyway. When police arrived at the house of Catherine Llewelyn, they found a first-floor window had been smashed from the outside. Catherine herself was nowhere to be found. The neighbors who made the call said they heard the window shatter and saw movement inside the house. They were unaware Catherine was missing and were sure she had been home. Catherine’s bedcovers were thrown back, as if to suggest Catherine had leapt out of bed in a hurry. Yet there was nothing to indicate a struggle has taken place.
Police investigators thought that someone or something had broken Catherine’s downstair window. Catherine, who was nearing 70 and lived alone, was probably so frightened that she fled from her house and got lost or had been met by an accident in the dark woods around her house.
Those islanders who remembered Alan Rhys knew that Catherine Llewelyn had been critical in turning him in. In pubs and around dinner tables, the people of Cumar and Anglesey whispered of Rhys’s return from beyond the grave. Who was next—or if anyone would be next—was anyone’s guess.
Soon on the heels of Catherine’s disappearance, five more people disappeared from their homes around the island in the span of a three weeks. The scene was always the same: a downstairs window or door smashed open and the victim gone without a trace.
The police realized quickly that these people were being kidnapped—six people vanishing from their homes in the middle of the night was too much of a coincidence. No trace of the culprit was ever found. They were clearly dealing with an expert body-snatcher.
Over the next month, ten more people went missing from their homes. The victims all lived in different towns across the island—though three were from Cumar. The only connection between the cases aside from the same crime scene was that they all happened around or during the full moon.
Fear of Alan Rhys’s wrathful ghost swept through the countryside. The North Wales police department kept the news from spreading to the mainland, though Anglesey newspapers ran headlines declaring Rhys’s vengeance.
After three months of increasing numbers of disappearances, the police were at a loss. The third full moon since Catherine had seen more than a dozen people go missing from their homes. Panic threatened to take hold of the island’s population. A small breakthrough happened when investigators found a human femur in a gully near Y Gwrach. However, they were unable to determine who the femur belonged to.
The chief constable for North Wales decided they needed all the help they could get. So he called on the man who had brought Alan Rhys down: Owen Clarke. You may recall that Clarke had been forced to resign after he caught Alan Rhys.
Owen heard the phone ring late one Friday evening. He said when interviewed later that he got a gut feeling what the call was about as he was walking toward the phone. He answered and heard the familiar voice of Matthew Dulvey, chief constable of North Wales and his former boss. After hearing the situation in Anglesey, Owen hung up the phone, put on his coat, kissed his wife goodbye, and drove to Colwyn Bay on the north coast of the country. Owen was debriefed in person by Dulvey and signed on as a private investigator.
Clarke confessed later that he had mixed feelings about the case:
“The minute I heard about the break-ins, the kidnappings, and the peculiar nature of it all, I knew I had to help somehow. It all felt connected to Rhys. I don’t know how: the man was dead; I watched him hang. But maybe he had accomplices. The whole Rhys case left us with a lot of unanswered questions. Of course this meant that I had to work for the same men who had fired me. But I swallowed any resentment I had and focused on the task at hand.”
Owen Clarke returned to Anglesey in midsummer 1970. He immediately got to work. All the disappearances were marked on a map of the island. Owen wracked his brains, trying to see a pattern in it all. While he worked, another full moon came and went, bringing with it another round of missing persons. These were added as new dots on the map.
That’s when a a revelation struck Owen. He noticed where the disappearances were not. The coastline was for the most part not affected. An idea started to form, though it was still foggy. Owen had another revelation. All the people were taken from their homes at night. No vehicles were ever spotted anywhere near the targeted homes, meaning the culprits traveled at least some distance on foot.
Owen calculated where someone could hide, yet still reach all the affected towns in a night’s journey. He drew a circle on the map several miles in diameter. Y Gwrach sat very close to the middle of the circle. It wasn’t an exact measurement, nor was this theory conclusive, but given its history, Owen knew he had to check out the strange mountain. He would at least be able to rule it out as a place of interest.
Another pattern was made clear to Owen. The kidnappings had no motive other than the act itself. The victims ranged widely in age, gender, and location. Even the time between kidnapping was random. Sometimes it was a day, sometimes five, between kidnappings. Sometimes there were two on the same night. It seemed to Owen rather like a predator randomly picking off any prey it thought would make an easy kill.
Owen went with twenty police officers and dogs to Y Gwrach during the next full moon. Every other available officer patrolled the island or waited at the entrances of affected towns. Owen and the police scoured the mountain as clouds gathered overhead. Rain fell from the clouds in torrents. The police told Owen to call off the search. He refused and continued to look for any sort of clue.
Then something strange happened. Owen said it best in his interview:
“I can’t tell you what happened exactly, but when the clouds parted for a moment, revealing the full disc of the moon, I looked down from my perch and saw a cave down below. I swore there hadn’t been a cave there when I had climbed up. I hunched over to shield my map from the rain and shined my flashlight down on it. There were only two caves on the map, and they were both on the other side of the hill. I decided to go down and check it out. Who knows, maybe our culprit was hiding in there?”
“I entered the cave and was glad to be out of the rain. I shone my flashlight around. It was a deep cave, unlike the others, and I couldn’t see the back. This kept going down in the Witch’s guts. I walked further and further in. I quickly figured there was nothing in there, but I had to make a thorough check, just to satisfy my own curiosity.”
“Well, maybe a dozen yards in, this stench hits me like a slap to the nose. It was like a rotting corpse, but so much stronger. Like a whole room of rotting corpses in the middle of a hot summer. I knew something was in the cave. I turned a corner into a larger opening and then I see it: a mass of gray and white flesh. I thought for a second it was some dead animal, but then I noticed it was moving up and down. Then I saw the blue eyes staring at me out of the shadows.”
“It was some kind of hideous giant thing, like something from a child’s fairy tale. I can’t say—even now after all these years—what it was. Though there was something in the eyes that reminded me of Rhys. However, I don’t remember Rhys looking like that. Nor smelling that bad.”
Owen confronted this monstrosity, the strangeness of which froze Owen where he stood. The thing was hunched over because of the low ceiling, but was probably eight feet tall or more when fully erect. After his mind had enough time to process what he was seeing, Owen drew his revolver and opened fire. Owen claims to have emptied his gun into the creature, yet his bullets only had the effect of making the creature angry.
The thing let our an ear-splitting howl. Owen had to drop his gun to cover his ears. Then the huge, gray hands shot out and grabbed Owen. They flung him around the cave. Owen hit the wall, breaking some ribs. As he lay on the ground, a fist came down and smashed his head against the ground. Blood ran down Owen’s face.
The giant towered over him now. The white lips opened to reveal slab-like teeth which descended toward Owen. Owen reached out and grabbed something hard. When he held it up he saw it was a skeletal human forearm. Owen jammed the bone in the open mouth. As the creature reeled back, Owen crawled desperately for the cave opening.
A hand shot out and grabbed his ankle. Owen reached out, grabbed his flashlight from where it lay, and shone the beam right in the creature’s eyes. The giant reared back and howled once more. This gave Owen enough time to crawl out of the cave and into the torrential downpour.
He was found the next morning in a delirious state in a thickly-forested gulch. Owen Clarke was taken to Colwyn Bay for medical care. When he regained consciousness, Owen babbled about the monster he had found inside Y Gwrach. His superiors feared he had suffered some kind of schizophrenic episode and kept him confined in the hospital. His mentally stability had already been questioned by some after how he handled the Rhys investigation.
Owen spent two weeks in and out of consciousness as surgeons drained fluid from his head and set his broken ribs.
In Owen’s absence, Anglesey was at the giant’s mercy. More and more people—now near a hundred total—were yanked from their homes. Thunderstorms drenched the island with rising ferocity. Cows and sheep were found mauled to dead in fields. The island’s medical offices were filled with people troubled by insomnia and night terrors.
Most of these visions shared a common element: a terrifying, antlered figure with blue eyes who attacked dreamers and demeaned their obedience.
After a month and two weeks in the hospital, Owen Clarke decided he’d had enough. He knew what was happening at Anglesey: the severe storms were reported in the local news. Owen checked out of the hospital and drove to his house, where he picked up his Remington shotgun. Then he drove all the way down to the Tower Colliery in southern Wales. His father had worked there and Owen still had family friends there.
As arranged, an old friend left three sticks of dynamite in a place where Owen could find them. Owen then went all the way back to Cumar. He waited a week until the next full moon. He stayed in an inn under a false name. The police had not given him permission to leave the hospital, so Owen had to be incognito. When the full moon rolled around, Owen returned to Y Gwrach.
When he reached the summit, Owen walked past the frog pool. Something glittering under the water made him stop. He looked closer. There, lying at the bottom of the pond was a sword, shining like silver. In all his previous times climbing up and down the hill, Owen had never seen the sword. He wondered if it too was revealed in the full moon.
Owen waded in to retrieve the sword. Owen later said that, “I don’t know what made me stop at that moment to pull out the sword. Maybe I’d been too fascinated by King Arthur as a child. Maybe God told me that I needed the sword to defeat that monster in the cave.”
Owen climbed down the east slope of the hill. There was the cave in the moonlight. Owen walked inside, shotgun in hand, the sword tucked through his belt. The giant with Alan Rhys’s blue eyes was waiting for him. When Owen turned the corner, a gray fist and the reek of death rushed at him. He ducked, firing his shotgun. The creature recoiled, yet the blast had not damaged it visibly. Rolling to avoid more blows, Owen fired blast after blast, aiming for the eyes. At last, the monster howled as it shielded its eyes. Owen dropped the gun, pulled the sword out, and ran the thing through the chest.
The giant roared in pain as black blood showered Owen. The creature tried to rise and grabbed Owen, but he rammed the sword in deeper and then leapt back. Owen ran to the cave mouth, lit the three sticks of dynamite, and tossed them at the approaching giant. When Owen turned to run, his half-healed ribs sent pain shooting through his side. Owen flinched and stumbled. The blast picked him up and threw him into the air.
Owen landed hard, breaking a leg. his left eardrum had ruptured and his left side was covered in burns. gritting his teeth against the pain, Owen looked up the mountain. The cave was gone. Tumbled rocks stood in a heap where it had been. Owen limped to his car and drove back to the hospital.
Clarke later said concerning the giant:
“I don’t know who or what it was. I still don’t, not to this day. And I can’t say I want to know. It wasn’t a man that’s for sure. It looked like a great big corpse with sharp blue eyes. Whether it was Alan brought back by some trick or that god of his—Nodens I think—I don’t know. I’m just glad it’s gone. It was unnatural.”
The storms, the visions, the kidnappings, all of it stopped that night. The police officially blamed the storms on a freak occurrence and the kidnappings on hooligans, who had been killed in a shootout with the police. The shared nightmares were silently swept under the rug. Owen was publicly commended for his actions. When he told his side of the story to police officials, Owen was ordered never to speak of it to anyone.
Owen Clarke passed away in 2017 at the age of 89. He died peacefully in the company of his loving family. Months before his death, he told a select group of friends and family his side of the Alan Rhys affair. These friends and family later told us about Owen Clarke’s incredible story.
The cave where the creature lived was never found. The case was quickly buried. With the death of the giant, the specter of Alan Rhys lifted for good. Anglesey became a sleepy little island again. And the town of Cumar a sleepy little town.
The only “loose end” to this story is Caitlin MacDonell’s child, which was conceived during her time as Rhys’s captive. No matter how much digging I did, I couldn’t find so much as a rumor about it. What orphanage it was sent to, its gender, or who—if anyone—adopted it is unknown. Somewhere out there, the child of Nodens’ promise lives on. Perhaps they don’t even know the incredible circumstances to which it was born.
Just this year, in 2018, someone bought the house of Alan Rhys. The thing at this point was a ruin. A legal liaison came to the town council of Cumar and offered them a generous deal. The liaison never disclosed who he represented.
My theory is that perhaps it is Caitlin’s child who bought the house. If this is true, why he or she did so is a mystery. Surely it can’t be a sentimental wish to preserve the place of their conception. Any plans they have for Rhys’s old home will be posted later if they occur.
For now, the infamous “Cumar Killings” are finished. Case closed. They were Wales’s strangest string of crimes, yet no one today knows about them. Even the natives of Anglesey never speak of Rhys or Clarke.
Like the giant in the cave, the Cumar Killings have been buried, forgotten. For now.
Forests have long been breeding grounds for frightful tales. And no wonder. The trees that press close, the thick canopy that casts an all-day shadow, the hush that settles over everything, the snap of a twig nearby, and the ease with which travelers loose their way make forests alien places. Like the fathomless sea, we cannot see its deepest heart. And like the sea, sometimes monsters rise from their depths.
Haber Forest in Alberta, Canada has been home to supposed monster sightings since at least the early 19th century, if not before. Haber Forest is a 22,000 acre wilderness in north-central Alberta. It is named after Jeremiah Haber (1702-1776), an English explorer for the Hudson’s Bay Company who built outposts and villages along the Peace and Athabasca Rivers. It wasn’t until 1814 that Haber Forest was mentioned officially in a report about a caravan of settlers on their way west. The caravan vanished after last being seen headed toward Haber Forest. Though remains of their wagons were discovered years later, no trace of the forty-seven men, women, and children were ever found.
Other caravans and travelers went missing in Haber, earning the place a sinister reputation. Rumors began to circulate of a terrifying monster that lived there: the so-called “Haber Forest Raptor”.
Named after birds of prey, the Raptor was blamed as the source of thunder and blood-chilling, shrieks heard by numerous travelers in Haber. Partial skeletons of animals as large as grizzly bears have been found throughout the forest, but particularly near Thunder Bluff. Chipewyan tales, heard by early Canadian settlers, helped give rise to the Raptor legend. The native Chipewyan people of northern Alberta always avoided the forest.
The Raptor remained a thing of folklore through the 19th and 20th century. It wasn’t until 1982 that a trio of University of British Columbia students set out to prove once and for all the existence of the Haber Forest Raptor. Douglas McGovern, Martin Denis-Claire, and Phoebe Milson drove to Haber Forest with cameras and camping gear. Their plan was to camp in the forest for a week and record any and all traces of the fabled Raptor.
Four days later, the trio had packed up and driven back to Vancouver. They blamed bad weather for ending their adventure prematurely. All three were shaken and showed no interest in going back. They all claimed to have heard horrible shrieking—like the call of a giant raven—in the night. During the day they heard thunder, even when the sky was clear.
Fortunately, they had managed to take a number of photographs and some video footage. Their pictures showed swaths of forest where the trees were felled as if by a tornado. Like many travelers to Haber, the trio noted the number of tall trees which had their tops snapped off and the gashes, several inches deep, found on felled trees.
The trio claimed to have sen a giant shadow swoop down on one of these clear areas and carry off a full-grown buck. They were unable to take a picture, as it too fast. The sight horrified all three members of the group.
It was this incident that drove them form the forest, they claimed later.
Since the trio had been unable to record tangible proof of the Raptor, its existence remained a mystery. Skeptics explained that the damaged trees were caused by the severe wind storms which sweep through occasionally. The incident of with the buck was blown off, as the group had no actual proof except their own testimonies.
Ever since the disappearance of the forty-seven settlers in 1814, Haber Forest was home to a string of disappearances throughout the rest of the 19th century and the 20th. Of course, the mostly likely explanation for these are the severe storms which wrack the forest in autumn and winter.
The most noteworthy of the recent disappearances is that of Luke Bendell in 1995. An American and amateur rock climber, Luke had driven up to Haber Forest to climb Thunder Bluff, a 1,000-foot cliff and tallest peak in the forest. When Luke failed to return home, local authorities were alerted. Some of Luke’s gear was found scattered at the foot of the bluff. Luke’s body was later found in the forest some thirty yards from the cliff. While investigators were at first baffled by the distance of the body from the bluff, it was clear that a long fall had been the cause of death. Eventually, they reasoned that Luke had fallen while making his ascent, not been killed immediately, crawled into the forest, and then died from his injuries shortly thereafter.
Of course there are some who believe Luke was a victim of the Raptor, who had picked Luke up and dropped him to the ground, explaining why his body was far from the cliff. Others try to explain it by claiming Luke committed suicide by leaping from the top of Thunder Bluff. One of the investigators, who has remained anonymous, does claim that they are skeptical of the official cause of death. The amount of scattered gear and the distance of the corpse from the cliff just didn’t add up. There were also reports of lacerations on the body, which have since been explained as being caused by branches which Luke hit on his way down.
Interest in the Haber Forest Raptor died down during the later half of the ‘90s. It remained a popular legend in Alberta, but the rest of the world soon forgot about it. That is until 2008 when hiker and native Albertan John Cotter posted a strange video to his YouTube channel. Here’s the video:
John claimed he was hiking around Haber Forest when he heard the unnatural sounds. John is an experienced hiker and wrote that he had no idea what kind of animal could make those sounds. If this video is real, this proves that something lives inside the depths of Haber. John’s video rekindled interest in Alberta’s fabled monster.
In 2010 several photos were posted to a now-defunct cryptozoology forum by a man who claimed to be a park ranger for the province of Alberta. Though the originals were taken down soon after, I have saved versions here:
The setting appears to be Haber Forest. As you can see, there is something flying in the distance. If these photos are real, then they are the best visual evidence of the Raptor to-date. However, the man never revealed his identity, so it is unknown who actually posted the original. And the pictures are so grainy, it is impossible to say conclusively what we are looking at. If it is a bird, it is a strange-looking one.
The Raptor has had the same description—with only minor variations—for more than a hundred years. Canadian settlers told of a human with enormous wings and talons for feet. Some versions described it as having a naked body and a shriveled head with a beak, like a vulture’s head. Others said that feathers covered most of its body and that it had fangs instead of a beak. People guess that, for a human-sized being to fly, it would have to have a wingspan of at least 40 feet. The huge wings would explain the booms of thunder associated with Raptor sightings.
An interesting connection that people have made is the similarity between the Raptor and thunderbirds of the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest, Great Plains, and the Great Lakes region. This mythological creature made thunder by the beating of its huge wings. Many omens were associated with the thunderbird. It could be that the Haber Forest Raptor is the progenitor of these myths, or—as some have put forward—the Raptor is the last remaining member of its kind, a species of human-like bird creatures that used to live in southern Canada and the northern US.
Whether a myth, a supernatural being, or a remnant of some prehistoric race, the Haber Forest Raptor will continue to haunt Alberta. Stories, like this one, will continue to be told about it. Perhaps one day, we will find definitive proof of its existence. Until then, Haber Forest will be shrouded in mystery and legend.