Almost Missing: An Explorer's Nightmare
I've posted this one a few times before; it always gets lots of replies with people posting explanations and theories as to what happened. But even after considering them all, I still can't make up my mind. Either way, I still get chills thinking about that night; and if any of the wilder theories are true, I barely avoided a terrible fate.
Three or four years ago, I lived in Gatlinburg, Tennessee working as a hotel clerk. I liked to work the night shift because after a certain time, aside from the occasional check-in, setting up the next morning's breakfast, and answering calls, you really didn't have much to do. Most of the nights I would sit and read, or just watch videos on my phone.
One night, I think it was around midnight, I had pretty much just started my shift. It was the middle of the week and we were pretty dead, with only a few guests checking in or out the whole day. Anyway, until two o'clock in the morning, there was usually someone else there with me. Most of the time, it was my manager Frank. Frank was a go-getter, and took his job very seriously; he was always micromanaging me and making sure I wasn't slacking off. So as the nights progressed, I was always counting down the time until Frank went home. On this night, apparently, it was his last shift before a big, week long vacation he had planned. So he was even more uptight than usual; he had me cleaning everything, double-checking the inventory of room keys, counting the till, etc. I just couldn't wait until I could be alone, and relax in bliss.
Well, two o'clock rolled around, and I knew it was almost time. But instead of wishing me a good night and leaving, Frank came up to me and told me that the company needed to cut hours due to the low business. I assumed that meant he was going home early, but he told me that i could go home. So I asked him who was going to man the counter for the rest of the night, and he says "I am" (at this point he had already worked nearly a ten hour shift). So basically, the bastard was trying to squeeze in as many hours as possible before his vacation, and was not only sending me home, but was taking MY hours as well. Even better, I'm pretty sure his taking these hours would put him into overtime. I was understandably pissed, but he was my manager so I couldn't just tell him "no". Whatever. At least I knew I wouldn't have to hear his nagging for another week.
It worked out pretty well anyway, as I had found this place online that I wanted to check out. See, I loved to explore abandoned buildings. Urban spelunking, urbexing, whatever you called it, I couldn't get enough.I would usually go with my friend Maggie, but I didn't want to bother her this late as she worked first shift and had to be up at six. It wasn't a big deal for me to go alone, or at night; that was the best time to avoid cops, or hobos, or whoever else might snoop around abandoned places. And as for going alone, I always carried a pocketknife and pepper spray when I went to these places, so I wasn't terribly worried about getting mugged.
So I left Frank to his time-whoring, hopped into my shitty 1996 Jeep Wagoneer, and started heading towards this place. It was called "The Elkmont Clubhouses", and from the pictures another user on an urbexing forum had posted, looked like a bunch of abandoned cabins running along either side of a narrow road at the end of a campground. The campground was apparently still open, but there were some signs to try and stop people from going any further. Most urbexing locations were things like an old factory, or a hotel, a farmhouse, etc. So to find basically a whole abandoned neighborhood was rare and I was definitely excited.
So I got on 71 ,took it to a road called little river (a long, typical winding mountain road), and kept going until I saw Elkmont road on my left. I followed that road until I saw the painted signs indicating the actual campground to the right. I took a left here onto white river road, or something, and kept going about a mile further. I knew I was approaching a large loop where the clubhouses were, and right before I passed the end of the loop, a road with a "do not enter" sign on my right, I noticed a black SUV parked along the road. There was a white towel hanging from the window. I didn't think much of it and kept straight. Next, I reached a small parking loop for a trailhead,which was completely empty. I continued straight again and, after one more right, finally ended up at the prize. I idled at the end of the road, my headlights barely illuminating the two rows of cabins, one on either side. There was a parking lot close to my left, which looked overgrown with grass, but I didn't want to park there, preferring someplace more secluded in case the fuzz did show. The good thing was, the place looked just like the pictures I had seen.There were weeds and small trees growing all around the cabins themselves, and the road was partially covered with leaves. It was totally abandoned and didn't look like it got much attention.
I crept forward, looking for a good place to park, while also getting a quick glimpse at the rest of the cabins. I'm not gonna lie, it was eerie how they were completely pitch-black and kind of blended into the thick forest. I finally spotted a gap in the low rock wall on either side of the road, and a large enough space between two of the cabins to squeeze my Jeep. Right before I got to the gap, I thought I heard the sound of a car turning over and starting. Shit, I thought,the police had been waiting for me! I quickly turned off and pulled into the gap I had found between the cabins. I couldn't get behind them as there was a big tree blocking the middle, so I hoped that I would be well enough out of sight and he would just pass me by.
I put my hand on the key to kill my vehicle, but before I could turn it, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A shadow that was clearly a person darted off to the right, back between two cabins further down.I thought it was weird at first, but a second later decided it was probably just another explorer. Despite this, my hand didn't turn the key, something just didn't feel right. I began to question if it had really been a cop car I had heard, as the parking lots and turn-offs had been completely empty and it sounded close enough to be somewhere in the loop. And if it was the explorer's car that I had just seen, why were they leaving him? I don't know, It just started to really creep me out. Now I definitely didn't want to kill my car and get out; I decided to wait a few more seconds with the headlights off and then do another loop to make sure everything was good.
I left the engine running, and cut off the headlights, which I knew wouldn't do much if a cop did pass by, but whatever. I was immediately swallowed by the darkness, with the only light coming from the dash. The next minute was the longest of my life, partly because I thought I would hear sirens at any second, and partly because I knew there was some mysterious person very close by, snooping around. I cracked the window so I could hear better, and immediately heard a bunch of twigs snapping and leaves crunching. It sounded like a whole herd of deer were walking through the woods, the only strange thing about it was the sounds were coming from opposite sides.
This only creeped me out more, and I honestly didn't even care if there was a cop behind me or not. I cut the lights back on and nearly had a heart attack. Just outside of the treeline, no more than fifty feet away, were 4 people, dressed in black hoodies and jackets, spread out around my car. They were slowly walking towards me. My heart fell to my stomach and I switched to reverse, gunning it. As soon as I did, the people broke into a run.
I was in full-on panic mode; I didn't even flinch as my right tire backed over the stone wall, jolting the entire car. I turned hard left until I was back on the street, facing towards the end of the loop, and floored it. My tires spun on the leaves, then finally gained traction and I rocketed away. I nearly pissed myself as I passed the rest of the silent cabins -there were nearly a dozen more people in all black emerging from between them, running at my car. I didn't have the ability to form coherent thoughts at the time, I was so scared I was shivering; I realized later on it was because I couldn't bring myself to think about what would have happened if I hadn't cut my lights on when I did.
I rounded the curve and approached the stop sign, the exit on my left. As I swung my car around, it illuminated the black SUV I had seen earlier. But now, it was parked across the road, blocking it. My already sunken heart dropped down through the floor of the jeep. I knew I had to get the hell out of there, so I surveyed the scene for maybe three seconds, determined the gap on the right was wider, and went for it. I slowed down and crept around the SUV, expecting an army of shadow-people to jump on my car from all sides. But instead, I hit a large rock; the sound of plastic scraping faded into the roar of my engine as I pushed the pedal down further, praying my tire would gain traction and get me over. The whole right side of my car rose up as the engine screamed, and then slammed back down, jostling me again. I was now mostly past the SUV,so I turned hard left, trying to avoid hitting the rock with my back tires. I half-succeeded, and a short bounce later, I was back on the road. I took one last look behind, and saw the people standing on the other side of the SUV, in a group on the road, barely lit by my taillights. I only spared a second, though, because what I really wanted to do was GTFO. And so I did, taking it way too fast down the mountain road until I got back to 71.
By that time, I had calmed down enough to think about what had just happened. I told myself it was just a group of teenagers screwing around, but only so I would feel better; I never fully believed that. Anyway, I went immediately home and, even though I knew I was safe, stayed up until the sun rose. Then I thought it safe enough to sleep.
Life went back to normal after that, until about a week later when I decided to look into Elkmont to see if I could find anything explaining what had happened. I didn't find much at first, besides the one poster's story on the urbexing forum, which had nothing out of the ordinary. But the next day I stumbled upon a list of people that had gone missing in the greater smoky mountains area over the last fifty years. The writer called it the "Greater Smoky Mountains Cluster". Basically, over a dozen people have gone missing in the Clingman's dome area over this time period, under mysterious circumstances. Shit gave me chills when I first read it. Some of them were obvious suicides, but others weren't so easy to explain. If you want more info, search "missing 411 Tennessee" on youtube.
I still haven't been able to decide what those people wanted, but the info I gathered from my research and the suggestions from people as I've posted this story just makes my experience all the more terrifying.They've ranged from a demonic cult, to a cursed ghost town, an organized human trafficking ring, and even aliens. Even though they recently opened the Elkmont cabins to the public and touched them up a bit, One thing is for certain -I will never go back to that place, day or night.