It was the summer of 1993, my friend lived back up in the mountains of East TN on an old road called Fiddler’s Branch in the Simerly Creek community of Carter County on the Unicoi County line. I used to go visit on the weekends and we would hike up into an abandoned mountain settlement called Clarktown. It was about a 5 mile hike up an old logging road at the time, we used to love to hike back up there and fish in the small lake and ponds in what was at that time an apple orchard. My friends parents had grown up there on the same land they lived on, his Grandfather lived about 1/8 of a mile up the road from them and he was an old mountain man that made his living in the hills trapping, digging roots and making moonshine. He used to tell us stories about the mountains and the ghosts that haunted Fiddlers Branch and the creature he called the “Wildman.” That he claimed roamed the hills. Of course we thought at the time he was just trying to scare two kids with his old stories that were probably told to him when he was a boy running those mountain ridges. It was not very long before we found out there was some truth to his tall tales.
One August morning after my Father dropped me off and talked to my friend’s dad for a while like they always did, Ken and I had our packs ready and our fishing poles packed ready for our 3-4 hour hike back to the ponds. With the dogs’ eager and ready to accompany us and our trusty .22 rifles at hand we started out for what we thought would be a normal day of hiking and fishing. We had had strange things happen to us before, heard strange sounds in the woods and we always carried our rifles when we ventured back into those hills. Mostly because of the threat of wild dog packs we had ran into before in the past. Little did we know, that day would be very different from any of our other hikes.
We had packed up our gear and was heading back to my friend house like we had done several times in the past, we had stayed a little longer than we had planned because we were catching catfish and releasing them back into the ponds. So by the time we got back out onto the logging road it was getting dark. We had walked maybe a mile, the sun had set down in behind the hills and there was very little light, we had a couple of old cheap flashlights just good enough to see maybe 10 feet in front of us so we were not worried. I had just bought a “bucket of bullets” that at the time you could buy at Wal-Mart, 800 shells for like $10, so we were set with our semi-auto rifles so we were not very worried about what we might stumble upon. But after it got good and dark we soon realized we were being followed.
We kept hearing rustling off the side of the trail in the thick under brush, the dogs were acting funny and soon we realized they had left us. They had never done that before. As it kept getting darker whatever it was that was stalking us became more aggressive and we were hearing low, God awful sounding growls and large sticks breaking not more than 20 yards from us. It was not long we realized there was more than one as the sounds were now coming from both sides of the road. We thought for a little while maybe it was a couple of aggressive black bear so we stopped and shot our rifles into the air maybe 10 rounds. As we continued so did whatever was stalking us. I thought I saw dark shadowy figures a few times in between the tress swaying back and forth, very tall shadows. Soon we realized this was no bears. We stopped and I think I was the first to shoot all 20 of my bullets in the direction of what I was seeing, thinking that surely had scared whatever it was off we continued, and so did our stalkers. We would end up walking a few yards and pretty good sized sticks started flying out into the road in front of us, we would stop shoot, reload and alternate so as to where one of us always had a full load of rounds in his rifle. As we kept going the aggressiveness got worse, rocks were being thrown now, and nothing in those woods threw rocks that we knew of and I just don’t see a man sticking around with bullets whizzing by him like mad hornets. This cycle of walk a few yards, stop shoot 20 rounds, reload and continue went on for about 3 hours. And did not let up almost until we were in sight of the house. When we got in the yard the dogs were there hiding under the porch.
We never knew exactly what had stalked us that night. About a year later my friend and I accompanied by 2 other friends went back up into the area to look around. It was January and we did make it to the orchard and discovered several deer carcass hanging in some trees about 15 feet off the ground, about as soon as we made the discovery it started snowing hard, so we were forced to hike back out, by the time we got out of there we had about 2 feet of snow on the ground.
I ventured back up there about a year after that I was going to take my 4×4 as far as I could go and hike in the rest of the way. I got about ¾ of the way there and came upon a Tennessee Wildlife Resource Officer, she stopped me to inform me all that land had been bought up and was now private property. Seeing I was trespassing with an assault shotgun behind my seat loaded for bear, I politely apologized and turned around and drove out of there. None of us has been back since.
I am in the process of trying to find out who owns the property now, I was told by another TWRA officer an FBI agent bought it up and was living back in there, I assume as it’s a very hard area to access and he probably has some major enemies. I am continuing to try and obtain permission to get back up there and do a proper investigation.