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COUNTY: Gila County
NEAREST TOWN: Crown King/Payson
NEAREST ROAD: I-17/AZ260
OBSERVED: I have two incidents I'd like to relate. They both took place in Arizona, but were in locations miles apart and were separated by years.
I was born and raised in Colorado and have been an outdoorsman my entire life. I have camped and hiked in just about every state west of the Mississipi no matter the weather or season. And most of the time, I've been by myself. I've always preferred camping and hiking alone. Most of the time, weather depending, I rarely use a tent when alone. I've been that way since I was 16. I once lived in a VW Bus for a year travelling throughout Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, British Columbia, Oregon and Northern California, mainly camping in remote areas I found by exploring logging roads, two-tracks or what have you. I'd explored much of Utah and Northern Arizona mainly by myself. I know the outdoors and the animals which inhabit it.
I've been a BF believer since I was 13 when I first saw a still from the Patterson film in a Readers Digest. I've read numerous books on the subject (John Green, Rene Dahinden, etc.) and during each of my travels through the PNW I've always kept alert for any signs or sounds, but I've never seriously expected anything.
I was married in 1988 and my (now ex) wife and I moved to Arizona in 1990 because of a work transfer. We immediately set out to explore Arizona. In 1991 on a camping trip in the Bradshaw mountains I was awakened about 1:30 in the morning by a sound I did not recognize. Where we were camped was on a level spot about 40 yards off of a forest road. I'd backed the truck off of the road and we carried the gear further off the road to a point where the land dropped to a steep slope to the west. On the other side of the forest road was a ridge that sloped steeply up from the road to the east. It was in a transition zone between forest and desert. There was sparce timber and a lot of scrub pinons.
The sound that awakened me was coming from the ridge overlooking our campsite. It was a high pitched noise repeated over and over again at irregular intervals of perhaps 30 seconds to several minutes. As I listened, there was a return call coming from the slope below our camp. Whatever they were, they were calling back and forth to each other. I laid there for about half an hour listening to the exchange. The sound from the top of the ridge would move back and forth as if it were pacing in wide swings along the ridgetop. At times you could hear a large intake of breath. The sound from below also moved, but I couldn't get a feel for how it was moving.
I'd been listening to the sounds for about half and hour when my wife (never much of a camper) startled me by asking me in a very concerned voice what the noise was. I didn't know she was awake. She aparently knew that I was. I told her I didn't know, which surprised her. I suggested that maybe it was some kind of desert night bird or something, but she didn't accept that and as we listened to the two different calls she grew more and more nervous. At one point we heard a little trickle of rocks down the slope above us and she had had enough. We waited until the sound above us had moved away again and made a sprint for the truck. We spent the rest of the night in the truck. Just before daybreak we could hear the sounds moving off into the distance (to the north) both above and below us. After the sun had come up we went back into the tent and slept for a while. When we woke up I looked at our campsite and I could see that there was a trail that came down the slope across from our site, went across our site, and down the slope we were camped on top of. I did not go up to the ridgetop as it was very steep and my wife did not want me to go or leave her alone.
When back at work I asked around if anyone had ever heard sounds like that and what it could have been. No one could explain the noises.
Several years later I found this site and during the course of exploring the site I found the sound recordings and played them. The recording titled "Scream," 1998 from Columbiana County, Ohio sounded very familiar to me, but I wasn't sure. So I got my (ex by then) wife and went through the WAV files leaving that one til last, and watched her reaction to them. When she heard that particular recording she visibly paled and her mouth opened. She said that was exactly what we had heard that night, only there were two of them calling back and forth.
That recording is the most similar thing I've heard to what we heard that night. My ex-wife is adament that was the sound we heard that night.
The other incident occurred a year and a half ago. I was participating in a group camping trip northeast of Phoenix by the Mogollon Rim. There were about 20 people there and the first night was a pretty raucous evening. About 10:30 I got fed up with the noise and partying and I put my backpack on and told the woman I had gone with (she also was trying to sleep) that I was heading out and that I'd be back in the morning. I walked out of camp and about three quarters of a mile down a trail that dead ends near the rim. I didn't think anything about it. I didn't use a flashlight as it was a beautiful night and was starlit enough to see my way. After I'd been walking for a while and the noise of the group had faded out I began to feel uneasy. For no real reason. Just began to feel, un-nerved. I take a pistol with me camping, but I'd left it locked in my truck because there were children there also.
I found a level spot next to the trail and bedded down for the night, which passed uneventfully except for the palpable feeling of uneasyness which I convinced myself was paranoia. I've had the jitters before on solo camping trips and convinced myself that's all it was.
The following night camp was a bit more subdued. After dark, as there were fire restrictions in place, everyone pooled their lanterns and we gathered in a large circle talking and chatting. The weather was extremely calm and the air was absolutely still.
It was not long after we'd gathered that the odor came into camp. The closest thing I can equate it to is the stench of a meatpacking plant. It came out of nowhere and there was no reason for it being there. We'd been there for a day and a half and had not smelled anything until that night. At first, for me, it was highly curious. It would drift into and out of camp with varying degrees of intensity. The rest of the crowd was unconcerned about it and seemed not to care, making jokes about it and laughing it off. There was another woman friend there who had been a firefighter for the forest service who was mystified by it also, suggesting that maybe it was a bear or something. I've been relatively close to bears before and I hadn't smelled anything remotely like that before.
All of a sudden it dawned on me what it could possibly be, having read numerous reports regarding the stench of BF. And this smell fit the descriptions perfectly. It was rancid. And it seemed to move. I began pacing the perimeter of the camp with a flashlight shining it off into the woods, but never saw or heard anything.
Anyway, I guess the woman I'd gone with noticed that I seemed agitated and asked me what was up and I guess my reaction startled her. She and I had been camping together for about 3 years after my divorce and she had never before seen me afraid and in fact getting up in the middle of the night to investigate noises had become a routine with us (which at first frightened her terribly but after watching a herd of elk move through a draw near one of our camps in the middle of the night, a couple of head of cattle on another camp, and a small herd of deer with fawns on yet another camping trip, she's gotten to the point where she likes to see what is out there in the dark). She told me later that she could not have ever imagined me being afraid in the outdoors.
But that smell totally un-nerved me. I tried not to show it with the group there, but she and the firefighter lady saw it in me. At one point they asked me if I was going to hike out again and (they both told me later) that the vehemence of my "no freaking way" startled both of them.
The odor stayed around the camp for several hours and then inexplicably disappeared. By the time we were heading to the tents there wasn't a trace of it, but I had been completely un-nerved, especially when thinking of the feeling I had experienced on that trail the previous night. That uneasy feeling is apparently common during BF encounters.
And I still am. I now find that the thought of heading out by myself scares me to death. To the point where I haven't gone out solo since that night.
Which is one of the reasons I'm writing this. I know the fear I feel is psychological and may be based on nothing. But I feel that I know what that smell was. Nothing I know of smells like that. Nothing that will come around a large group of people anyway. I desperately wish I'd seen something that night so I would know one way or another.
I've debated about submitting these incidents, but I finally decided that writing about them might be cathartic and help me get over this irrational fear I've developed. I know that most of what I have written is inconclusive and is largely subjective, but it was real enough for me to scare me right out of the woods. A place which used to be my source of oxygen. And now my curiosity about all this has me wanting to go back and find out what the hell is out there. Especially after reading about the Arizona sightings.
I apologize for the length of this largely uninformative submittal, but sharing this seems to have made me feel better. At least for now. Thank you for your patience.
OTHER WITNESSES: 1991 - My ex-wife. We were sleeping.
1999 - About 20 people smelled the odor. Socializing.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: 1991 - About 1:30 a.m. Dark, clear, dry, warm (Arizona weather).
1999 - Odor appeared immediately after sundown (2000/2030 hrs)and lingered in varying degrees of intensity, in different parts of the campsite probably until around 2200/2230 hrs)
ENVIRONMENT: 1991 - Hilly, ridges, scattered timber, pinons, scrub. Near-desert conditions.
1999 - Forest.