The following short story was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event–Creepypasta: A Literary Reading of Web Horror. Please enjoy.
Back in the early 1700’s, there were some weird reports coming out of the mountains in the Catskills. Every once in a while, a missing person’s clothing would appear on some odd figure made of branches and twigs. Sometimes, tufts of hair, or little patches of skin were found on these figures. Every couple years, a hiker or camper would go missing and people would just chalk it up to hungry bears, or someone getting lost, or even murder. The kicker was that no bodies were ever found.
Then, in the 1760’s, a whole settlement of people vanished on North Settlement Road. Doors and windows weren’t forced open, dinners were still on the tables, and some candles were still lit. The only thing different about the place was the lack of people, and these weird stick men outside of each house. A couple days after the place was found deserted, a few officials went up there to take a look around. This time, the stick men were gone. People blamed the Native Americans in the area, but the Natives blamed vadātājs (pronounced va-da-tevs) an evil spirit. Of course, no one believed them, and forced them from their own land for the disappearance of so many.
Later, towards the 1800’s, these occurrences started to become more isolated, a person going missing every couple years, finally ending in 1893. In the 1940’s, a hiker went missing on Hunter Mountain in the dead of winter. No one thought much of it, they just figured he wasn’t prepared to deal with the snow. When the thaw came, they sent a search party out where he was last seen. 20 minutes into their search, they found it, the first stick figure in nearly 50 years.
This caused quite a stir in the towns for miles around. The police didn’t know what to do, so they ended up calling it a rumor and telling the public that the missing hiker’s body was found. They couldn’t, however, explain the sudden increase of the stick men on the outskirts of each town, and even in a few backyards. It was obvious that many were man made, like the ones that were held together by tape, or the ones that had faces painted on poorly, but there some that looked different. They looked like they were held together organically, and their faces were carefully carved into squares of bark on top of their slender stick bodies. They stood by themselves, or they leaned against trees.
In the 1950’s, the police launched a full investigation into the matter. The only thing they could find were more stick people deeper into the forest. The farther from civilization they got, the more intricate the figures got. Some had moss beards, others looked like they carried canes, and some even had primitive tools. Once they realized that it was a wild goose chase, the party turned around. On their back, they noticed some of the figures were turned around. Figuring that some of the figures had been placed that way by whoever made them, they kept walking. The missing rookie officer wasn’t noticed until the party was back at their cars; they had figured that he got spooked and high tailed it out of there. A week later, he was still missing, and then a few days after that, a new stick man popped up, sporting a tattered policeman’s hat. The police went on high alert, claiming there was a murderer on the loose. Nine months later, nothing had happened concerning missing people, the missing policeman, or the stick people, so the cops had to drop the investigation.
In the late 1970’s, a few houses on back road in Elka Park were found empty and a single stick man was discovered at the end of the road. It was a dead end in more than one sense of the phrase. The families were few and far between, totaling five houses and nine people. Three went missing, all living alone.
Another investigation was held, resulting in an in-depth examination of the New York branch of the Bruderhof Cult. At first, it yielded no results. An undercover agent was sent in, it became apparent that a small group had broken off from the core beliefs and formed a secretive religious group around the Latvian devil, vadātājs (pronounced va-da-tevs). Being known for their craftsmanship, these cult members crafted stickmen in honor of vadātājs, hoping that he would manifest himself through them, like he had in the past. Once these members were labeled dangerous and suspects for the disappearance of many people, they were apprehended. Three days after the 18 members were incarcerated, 17 were found dead in their cells, while one was babbling incoherently in her cell. Doctors rushed to her aid, but it was too late. The self-administered poison was already in her system, and no cure was easily attainable. Moments before her death, transcripts from 1977 report that she focused on the doctor tending to her and harshly whispered “You know when you’re in the woods and you feel that you’re being watched? Or when you hear leaves rustle or twigs snap, yet there isn’t anyone there? When you hear whispers on the wind or when the forest falls silent? The stick people are coming. They grow their numbers with the missin…” She died mid sentence.
After the incident with the renegade Bruderhof members, no stickmen were seen, and no missing persons reports were filed. Through the turn of the century, still no incidents were publicized, and it seemed that the towns of the Catskills were free from the stickmen terror.
In 2006, a Latvian family moved to the start of the dead end road where three people went missing back in the 1970’s. In 2010, still nothing stirring up trouble for the mountaintop. Late in the summer of 2014, six stick men were seen posted on the side of the road, all of them within 200 feet of the Latvian family’s house.