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kbatku
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PostThu Jul 17, 2008 10:32 pm 
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OK, here's the deal..
.



STICK INDIANS


New Year’s Eve, 1991 my wife and I were walking in to Boulder Cave at about eight or nine PM.  There was very little snow on the trail - just a skiff.  It was a clear, brilliant night - no moon but crisp stars and the occasional cloud.  It was dark, but we had flashlights and warm clothes and we walking in to meet some friends and spend the night at the cave to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  If you were wondering, we were bother sober, having met a few years earlier in AA.


Back then the USFS wasn't worried about bats and you could hike into the cave at any time of the year. Now it closes in the fall to preserve some near-mythical bats that may or may not live in the cave. No one has ever seen these bats except for scientists, and they are probably just pulling our legs.


As we made our way up the trail, well made, not very steep, winding through the darkened pines, we could hear children’s voices in the distance, like a schoolyard, or a playground, or a yard full of happy children running and yelling and laughing far far away. At first, we tried to think of what it could be - maybe someone in a cabin, or people staying at Camp Roganunda, but on our way in we'd seen no cars or tracks or sign of anyone else in the area. 


Roganunda was closed down tight, and no camps, lights, or fires off in the distance or by the road. What was a large group of children doing playing loudly in the distance, up a canyon, in the middle of the woods, on New Year’s Eve?


It couldn’t be sledders, because there was barely any snow, and it was way too late for a group of little kids to be frolicking unsupervised in the woods. It was weird and didn’t make any sense, but we kept hearing it.



There was an odd, consistent quality to the laughing children noise - it faded in and out of hearing, just on the edge of being there, carried by the wind as if from a great distance, funneled and shaped by the mountains and trees and streams until it found our ears, then back out again, to be lost for a moment, only to return.


Laughing, yelling, calling, shouting, playing children…fading in and out as we would stop and listen till it went away then walk a few dozen more yards only to stop and listen again.


We said "Do you hear that? Do you hear that?" and would wonder to each other what it could be?  On and on as we walked up the trail, the children haunted us - laughing and screaming and yelling just beyond reason and hearing, like sound waves coming through the flames of a campfire, ghost voices traveling on the crisp night air.


Anyway, we got to the cave and told our friends about it and puzzled together, but forgot about it after a while and played our flutes and listened to New Age Music (on a "boom box" with cassette tapes!) and burned candles and talked philosophy and mystery and deep meaning around the fire until the wee hours of the morning.


It was a wonderful time.


Walking out, something had changed, subtly. The woods seemed a bit ominous. Maybe we were just tired. But, as we made our way down the trail, my wife spotted something odd propped against the base of a tree.


It was meant to be found - I think - by us - I believe.

We thought (at the time) that it had been left for us by whoever or whatever made the laughing noises.  As older and more cynical as I am now, I can still believe that is, or could be, true, though it certainly wasn’t the work of children

The object:


It is impossible to adequately describe the object. My mind stubbornly refuses to remember it as a whole. I remember the details of its construction and its size and general shape.  My wife says it was a “man”, a figurine of a human.  I have to believe her because when I try to picture it my mind draws a blank.


Its construction was like nothing I’ve ever seen before or since. It was a small abstract figurine, woven of tiny sticks, moss, pine needle and lichen. The “bears hair” moss had been braided in individual strands into tiny ropes, which wove in and out of bits of lichen and tiny tiny sticks around some bigger sticks smaller than the diameter of a pencil.


The main framework of small sticks was lashed together with what looked like the inner bark of cedar, woven into braids and tiny ropes. The workmanship was so intricate and subtle and bizarre that as we picked it up and looked at it, we are at first amazed, then just a little bit shook. It was unworldly yet complex and woven and weaved from woodland materials seeming gathered at random with great skill, assembled with patience and practice by tiny nimble hands, for what purpose we had no idea.



The damn thing was weird.  It was easy to dismiss the laughing children as a natural phenomenon, the wind, our imaginations, or just some strange, inexplicable happenings that had a perfectly logical explanation.  The figurine was real - and it wasn't on the trailside on the way up.


And, no one else had been to the cave while we were there - no cars, footprints, no marks in the snow - nothing.


I put in in my pack, took it home and kept it for a while, broodingly examining it closely for clues about I don’t know what. The thing was creepy and full of bad magic, and after a while I threw it away.


FAST FORWARD


This incident got filed away in my memory and I gradually forgot about it, mostly.  A few years later in the mid-1990s I got a job working for a local Tribe.  This job involved lots of down-time and my Native co-worker and I would talk about life and stories and such.


One day, I casually recounted this series of events and when I got to the part about the laughing children his head snapped around and he became alert and acutely interested.  He quizzed me about every detail, and I recounted the story as I've told it here.


He was a reticent guy, but he told me point blank that we'd run into "Stick Indians" and explained briefly what Stick Indians are.


Warning: Do not bring up the subject of Stick Indians with a Native.
It is a forbidden subject.  Trust me. Natives don't like to talk about Stick Indians.  It’s impolite to bring them up in conversation.  Please don’t.



Briefly:
  The true nature and physical attributes of Stick Indians are unknown.

No one to my knowledge has ever encountered a Stick Indian and survived to talk about it.  So the myth as recounted to me and what little I can find to read about them is that Stick Indians are small, vicious and cunning - semi-man like but about three to four feet tall and very skinny, with elongated arms and legs and sharp teeth, and claws on their hands and feet. They live in deep forests, and are occasionally heard but never seen.


The "laughing" that we heard is how they lure victims out into the forest, where they become disoriented and lost as they attempt to locate the "children" playing in the woods.  If the victim is an adult, the presumption is that they are attacked and eaten - and whatever remains after the Stick Indians fed are never found.  The person becomes permanently lost.


If the victim is a small child, the Stick Indians turn them into another Stick Indian through some dark Stick Indian Magic. This is how they get new recruits.


There is much more to the legend and much more to say that others have told me since, but it is getting late and some things are best left unsaid.  For a long time, I didn't feel like I should carry tales, or hazard the risk of upsetting Natives by speaking these things aloud.  So, until now, I've kept these events mostly to myself.


I respect the forest, mysteries, the natural world and Indigenous Peoples and honor their beliefs. The story of Stick Indians would be just another interesting tale for me if I hadn't experienced them myself (maybe). As such, I was privileged with the information I describe here, and believe I relayed as honestly and accurately as I am able.


Maybe it wasn't real, and maybe you don't believe me, or maybe there is an explanation for it all that makes sense - but know this:


As a practical matter, warn your children.   Tell them not to follow the sound of children playing when they are in the woods.  Tell them is they follow the sound of children in the distance they might get lost and never come back. 


Like other legends and myths and tales, there is a kernel of truth at the center, and some truths are bigger than others. For me I don’t know what to think about what happened to us, I only know that it did.
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Magellan
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PostThu Jul 17, 2008 10:36 pm 
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Thanks a lot.  Why do I have to read this at 1135pm when I am heading to bed?  paranoid.gif
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seawallrunner
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PostThu Jul 17, 2008 11:11 pm 
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interesting story.

I'd dismiss it as a story if it had not been told to me in the last two years, by two separate people who do not know one another, to whom this happened in two different areas of british columbia. both of these are difficult hikes.

now - neither of the stories included the eyes.gif on the trail but both of my friends heard the laughing kids, the voices trying to lure one out of the tent on a blustery night? oh yes.

there is a lot that we see in the rational world, and a lot that we sense in the world that we cannot see. too bad you felt the return was ominous. perhaps they were laughing because you were joining them, and the mood became ominous because the spirits were sad to see you go.

and heck, these make great stories when you are trying to scare your tent mates silly on a stormy night.
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kleet
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 7:48 am 
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My dad grew up in Harrah and my mom grew up in White Swan.  I know something about this subject. Not sure I agree with you posting it.  That is all I am willing to say.

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Ace
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 8:21 am 
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That's a story i'm telling around the campfire tonight.  Forgive if I tell it in the first person.  It works better that way. tongue.gif

My friends were getting tired of me telling the same Hogman story every year.
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slave524
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 10:56 am 
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I heard about these from a Lummi friend of mine when we were exchanging ghost stories one night
It is interesting hearing the same thing from a tribe on the other side of the mountains!
Though I think they are probably just Chupacabras  tongue.gif
Usually if I hear kids in the woods I steer clear anyhow
Noisy little brats  biggrin.gif
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MidLifeHiker
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 11:54 am 
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Wow,
I haven't heard the term "Stick Indians" since I was a kid growing up in Wapato.  We use to camp in the mountains between Topenish and Goldendale, west of Satus pass.  My grandparents use to warn us about getting lost in the mountains while camping because the Stick Indians would capture us and we would never be found.  This was 40 years ago.  My grandfather use to tell us lots of stories.

Your story brought back many of the good times we had camping.  We never camped is "real" campgrounds, but went cross country in jeeps until we found a cool place to camp and fish.

Mark
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 12:39 pm 
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kleet wrote:
Not sure I agree with you posting it.

Personally, I don't think there's much harm in his post (which, btw, I enjoyed reading) because a google search of "Stick Indians" results in this number of pages: 3,610
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jimmymac
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 12:39 pm 
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Sights and sounds are only energy until our brains convert them to something that has meaning. Disruption of the energy reaching our brains, or disruption of our brain function can mess with the interpretation.

Recently, I was headed back to the car after a night of summit solitude. Since it was a Saturday, I was expecting to encounter other hikers headed up as I headed down.

Rounding a bend, I spotted a young WTA worker resting a ways ahead. Her trim frame was parked on a small trailside boulder. She was leaning forward with her elbows resting on her knees. In front of her stood a white, five-gallon bucket. She was a welcome and familiar sight on what was a pretty horse-stressed trail.

She was looking down the trail, opposite my direction. So as I approached, I felt obliged to issue a greeting to avoid startling her.  I soon recognized that no such greeting would be necessary: the hot, rutted trail had instantly become a hot, rutted and once again lonely trail.

Who needs drugs when there's "recreational dehydration?"

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kbatku
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 3:17 pm 
Stick Indians....
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kleet wrote:
My dad grew up in Harrah and my mom grew up in White Swan.  I know something about this subject. Not sure I agree with you posting it.  That is all I am willing to say.

I know what you mean. They aren't something you talk about. As for Googling "Stick Indians" - I did prior to posting the story and there is very little on the subject.

Lots of pages with "stick" and "Indian" in them - mostly from Stick Games and a bunch from the Indians baseball team.

I found this one Stick Indian Lewis & Clark Memorial  Pin but the explanation of what a Stick Indian is doesn't jibe with my story:

Quote:
Traditional stories place Stick Indians in the mountains, where they help lost hunters by whistling to lead them to safety. Always present, the Stick Indians look upon the activities of the tribe, reminding people to honor native traditions and maintain a favorable relationship with nature.

Those are apparently the happy, cheerful Stick Indians - kind of a Native American Leprechaun (?). I guess they could have cousins who are nasty and unpleasant ( don't we all?).

Also this:   
Quote:
"The Ste-ye-hah' mah or Stick-shower are a mysterious and dangerous people whose general habitat is the lofty forest regions of the Cascade Mountains. They haunt the tangled timber-falls, which serve them as domiciles, or lodges. They are as large as the ordinary Indian; their language is to mimic notes of birds and animals. Nocturnal in habit, they sleep or remain in seclusion during the day and consequently are seen only on very rare occasions. Is under the cover of darkness that they perform the acts which have fastened upon them the odious appellation 'stick-shower'. It is then that they thrust sticks through any opening of the tepee or hunter's lodge, or shower sticks upon the belated traveler. The Indian who is delayed or lost from the trail is very apt to receive their attention.

He may hear a signal, perhaps a whistle, ahead of him. should he follow the sound, it will be repeated for a time. Then he will hear it in the opposite direction, along the path he has just passed. If he turns back, it will only be to detect the mysterious noises elsewhere, leading to utter confusion and bewilderment.

When the traveler is crazed with dread, or overcome by exhaustion and sleep; it is then that the Stick-shower scores a victory. Regaining his head, or awakening from slumber, the wanderer is more than likely to find himself stripped of all clothing, perhaps bound and trussed with thongs. He is fortunate to escape with his life." km

    Where Bigfoot is conflated with the tiny, aggressive Stick Indians.

Strange things happen in the woods, and once this happened to us, that's all I'm saying.
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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 7:15 pm 
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Huh. I found this little potbellied fellow trailside on my birthday a couple weeks ago and took it as a good omen for some reason that he let me photograph him.  The arms/legs are short and squat so maybe he's the Stick Indian antithesis?  Then again, the grin is a bit toothsome and devilish...

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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 8:04 pm 
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That one looks more like a small petrified elephant.  A remnant of Hannibals herd that wandered from Italy, through Asia, and eventually crossed the land bridge.   Descendants of the original herd can still be found in mountainous coastal regions of North America.

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PostFri Jul 18, 2008 9:52 pm 
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In hindsight, I should've taken into consideration others might take away something completely different.

So to clarify:
(Click on image to see anatomy tags.  Kinda.  Sorta.)
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jenjen
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PostSat Jul 19, 2008 6:43 am 
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This isn't something the Nooksack talk about - other than to warn friends to be careful of whistles and children noises in the woods.

I respect their beliefs too much to pry.  And I trust their deep knowledge of the forest.

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PostSat Jul 19, 2008 4:56 pm 
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I like the night walkers, the menehunes of Hawaii.  Friends over there tell stories of waking up at night, being trampled in bed, and bowing and facing away to show respect.  Mysterious lights at night, processions walking where no one should be.  There's a story that the Hilton Waikaloa on the Big Island is built on an ancient road, more ancient than the King's Road, the elders told them they better be careful about building the hotel on the road - they listened, moved some buildings and actually built up the path through the Hilton to keep the menhune happy and moving.

Not so menacing as Stick Indians, but lots of things out there worth respecting.
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