Sunday, August 21, 2011
The Beast of Tar Road.
This was a very wild area with every type of flora and fauna that the Appalachian Mountains could provide. My cousin and I would walk for hours hunting, hiking, exploring, or just getting away from the world for a short while. It was during one of these many autumn trips that my cousin decided to tell me about ,"The Beast of Tar Road".
We had just stopped for a short break from hiking when he asks if I had every heard of such a thing and, of course, I had not. He goes on to tell me that local legends say that this beast is no natural thing. Black as a murderers heart and as silent as a shadow when it needed to be. It would stalk the road at night letting out unearthly howls and screams to any it would come near. People would find the bodies of animals along the higher paths such as squirrels, rabbits, even deer. They were mauled almost beyond recognition. The mark of great tooth and claw very visible on the bodies but not a bite of meat missing. Just shredded, masticated, and ruined.
"No natural animal would just kill for the pleasure and not eat....what kinda of creature doesn't eat what it kills?" he asked rhetorically.
Some thought it a huge bear...others a cougar....still others imagined it as something not of this earth.... something much more sinister.
It was getting late in the evening and darkness was overtaking the woods, so we decided to head back down. As we turned and took the first few steps, we heard the most spine chilling screech from the path, untraveled, behind us. Not quite human. Not completely animal. This was something full of rage and hate...and it was CLOSE! It went on and on, continually for the span of several heartbeats before it ceased. I can still hear the sound of it as it echoed off the trees around us.
Of course we froze in our steps. The coldness of fear creeping into our hands and feet. We did not move for several minutes as we scanned the treeline for movement. We never saw a single thing and it was deathly silent. Not a single crunch of leaf, brush of a twig, not even the chirp of the ever present birds was heard. We glanced nervously back and forth to one another but never once did we speak. No sign of what had caused that sound was visible to us. Even though we could not see what had made the howl, I had the distinct feeling of eyes watching us from the shadows. Slowly we turned and headed back down, quickening our pace as we moved further from the place which the howl had originated.
Several times we stopped suddenly, thinking we could hear the sound of heavy,stalking footsteps in the darkening forest behind us, but we never could be sure. The crunching footfalls would seem to stop as we did. Either that or our fearful minds were playing tricks on us.
A full 45 minutes later we saw the warm glow of a street lamp, signaling the end of our nightmare and the promise of salvation. Soon the gravel road turned to asphalt and we both breathed a collective sigh of relief as we moved to the imagined safety of civilization. The sounds of the natural world flowed over us. Cars, a barking dog, and barely audible music drifted to our ears.
Smiling at me, my cousin finally broke the silence we had kept for the last leg of our journey.
"You think that was The Beast?" he pondered out loud.
No sooner had those words fell from his mouth when a second horrid scream filled the night. This sounded much closer than the first one. It was coming from no farther than 50 yards behind us, just beyond the street lights reach. It was the same screech from earlier. A sound that still fell somewhere between human and animal. It was still angry and hate filled, but you could also discern that it had hints of frustration as the call trailed off into nothing.
It was at that moment I saw the eyes. Two green points of light staring back at us from the mouth of the road! They were about 4 foot off the ground and a hand span apart. I could just make out a furrowed brow over the glowing orbs as if it was frowning in anger at us!
I don't think I have ever run so fast in all my years. Never once did I look back for fear that I would see those eyes directly over my shoulder! We made it safety back to his house, unnerved but no worse for wear. We told our families about our encounter, but they mostly dismissed it as youthful imagination and soon even we stopped talking about it.
That is until pets started disappearing. A dog here, or a cat there. Soon it was a constant thing to lose animals in the vicinity of Tar Road. Although we never said it aloud, we knew what had happened to them all.
Soon we heard tales from others about how they had ran into something on the road. How they had been followed out of the woods with something howling at them all the way. We heard accounts of people finding horribly mutilated deer or other animals on the less traveled trails.These stories continued for several years until we heard that a local man had shot at and presumable killed a large, black, panther like creature high up on Tar Road one night. I never knew the man's name as we got the story second hand ourselves.
As the man's story went, he was following a deer trail at dusk when he heard a blood curdling scream. He described the same howls that we had heard years back. This screaming thing kept perusing him through the forest as he tried desperately to get to safety. He was close to exiting the woods after almost an hour of being stalked by this creature. He claims he was lucky enough to catch a glint of the creatures eyes as he turned once.He proceeded to fire off 4 rounds from his rifle at it. In the burst of light from the bullet's discharge he was able to make out a huge, black, feline creature that turned and ran, howling, back into the night. In the darkness he could not track it and found nothing more than a very large amount of blood where he had shot at the beast. The man surmised that nothing could have survived after losing that much blood.....nothing of this world that is.
Years passed and the story faded into legend and camp fire tales. No more pets went missing. No new stories of the howling beast were told. Apparently the hunter had killed whatever creature had stalked those woods.
I never went back to Tar Road after our encounter. I don't believe my cousin did either. The desire to explore those woods had left me, seemingly forever. We rarely ever speak about the beast unless it's around a bonfire or we are telling ghost stories to friends and family. We even admit that young, over-active imaginations could have lent a lot of color to our encounter that day. For the most part, The Beast of Tar Road had faded into the past for me.
I cannot recall what made me think of this story but while I was working in the yard a few days ago, it came flooding back to me in vivid detail. Later on I was driving back from town when I decided to drive by my cousin's old neighborhood for a glimpse of nostalgia. It was getting late in the evening when I turned down the street that would take you to the entrance to Tar Road. I noticed several signs on a lamp post there. The same lamp post that had offered me and my cousin a beacon of hope so many years ago. I could not quite make out what all of them said so I parked my car to the side of the road and got out for a better view. As I got closer, I could see signs of all shapes and sizes littered the wooden surface of the post. Some were on large poster boards, some on typing paper, others on crudely cut card board. Most were hand written, some were more professionally done with a computer and printer. There were a few that looked old and weathered and still others were fresh and crisp. While they were all different, they all had the same type of message.
HAVE YOU SEEN MY DOG?
Reward for safe return of our dog Lucky!
PLEASE CALL IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS GERMAN SHEPARD!
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I swear, at that very moment, I could feel eyes on me as if the darkening woods were watching me! With one quick glance at the entrance to Tar Road I jumped back in my car and made my way home.