Let me be clear: I do not believe in paranormal phenomena. Ghosts, spirits, apparitions, spooks; call them what you will, I think it’s hooey. However, I know some perfectly sane, grounded, intelligent people who disagree with me. It’s like arguing politics – generally, I just don’t go there.
But on Halloween afternoon, I saw something I cannot explain.
It was a sunny, crisp, late-autumn Saturday. After taking care of some household chores, I loaded my old dog Lucy into the back of the car and drove down to Steuben, to the lovely Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge. It was also the first day of deer season, and although the refuge is off-limits to hunters, both Lucy and I sported a little blaze orange, just to be on the safe side.
We left the Subaru in the parking area, checked out the map on the visitor kiosk, and headed down the trail to Birch Point. I kept Lucy on her leash, as the kiosk instructed, partly because I am not a total scofflaw and partly because I remembered all too clearly the last time I was at Petit Manan. It was probably 15 years ago, and my good dog Sparkle Plenty, unleashed, tore off into the underbrush and had a horrific encounter with a porcupine that traumatized us all for a week. I wasn’t about to repeat that lesson with Lucy.
The trail led quietly through open fields scented with sweetfern and into a shady, mixed-wood forest of young spruce and fir, studded with slender white birches and big old yellow birches. Along much of the trail, there was very little understory, so I could see quite far into the trees on either side. There had been no other cars in the parking area, and I saw no one the trail.
We had been walking briskly for perhaps 30 minutes, headed for the tip of the point. The trail had grown more rocky and rooty, so I was watching my feet and thinking that it would be nice to see some sort of wildlife, when I heard a crackle and rustle off to my left. I immediately turned my head in the direction of the sound.
I saw a shape, about 40 feet away, moving quickly and smoothly through the trees. It was pale and shining, as though lit from within or by the slanting sun. It looked like the shape of a person – slender, upright, with two legs moving it along in the same direction I was walking — but with no visible detail of clothes or a face, just that shining, pale form. I saw it clearly for about two seconds, which is actually a pretty long time to look at something, before it faded into the trees and was gone.
My first instinct was to snug up Lucy’s retractable leash, because my logical brain assumed the trail must take a sharp turn just ahead and that some fleet-footed trail-runner would come pounding toward us. But the trail continued on without a turn, and no runner came. There was no more sound.
We continued walking toward the point. I reflected on what I had seen. Could it have been a deer? It would have had to be a rare albino animal to glow so palely. And what about that upright form, those two legs, and no real shape to its head? And why was there no more sound as it moved off through the carpet of dry leaves and fallen branches? Could it have been nothing more than sunlight angling through the trees and reflecting off … what? Leaves, in this coniferous wood?
Although I could not make sense of what I had just seen, I felt sure I had seen something. I didn’t feel frightened or anxious, just curious. Lucy seemed completely unconcerned – a further argument against the deer theory. We finished our walk to the point and took the same trail back to the parking area. I kept a sharp lookout in the trees, but saw nothing unusual.
We did encounter two very real, substantial humans walking toward the point, apparently out to enjoy the fine afternoon, as we were. I considered telling them about my encounter, but thought better of it.
After all, what would they think? I hardly know what to think myself. I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical explanation. I just can’t imagine what it is.