A while back, I reported on an extremely popular topic on Reddit’s NoSleep sub, where many creepypastas and other viral legends are born and/or evolve into new forms. That particular thread involved a series of tales allegedly shared by an anonymous Search and Rescue officer — going by the handle searchandrescuewoods — who recounted several frightening and unexplained incidents experienced or reported by himself and other SAR officers in the unnamed woodland region within his jurisdiction.
These stories included horrific sightings of “The Bear Man” and “The Goatman,” invisible stalkers, black-eyed children, levitating beings, ominous voices from the trees and other hallucinatory visions, as well as multiple bizarre deaths and unsolved disappearances. [You can learn about all of them on this lengthy NoSleep thread, which stretches across eight separate posts to date.]
But while those accounts were surreal and nightmarish enough, the story that seems to have stuck in readers’ minds the most (and which has inspired the most spin-off stories and fan theories) is the SAR officer’s alleged discovery of a set of “mystery steps” in the heart of the forest — a staircase of white stone that seemingly leads to nowhere.
The story of these mystery steps has caught fire so intensely that CHANNEL ZERO creator-showrunner Nick Antosca has incorporated it (and other elements of the creepypasta) into the new season of the critically-acclaimed SyFy series.
[If you’re reading this, you probably know that the series’ first two seasons were also based on legendary creepypasta tales: CANDLE COVE and NO-END HOUSE, respectively. Click those titles for more reporting on the source material.]
The “SAR officer” thread has expanded massively since I first reported on it back in 2015, and as of today it’s one of the most talked-about and widely-shared subjects in the creepypasta community. The true identity of user searchandrescuewoods has also been revealed to be author Kerry Hammond.
BUTCHER’S BLOCK expands on Hammond’s mythos to include the story of deeply troubled sisters Alice & Zoe Woods (Olivia Luccardi & Holland Roden), who move to the title town in an attempt to make a fresh start… but find themselves entangled in a twisted mystery involving the mysterious Peach family (genre icon Rutger Hauer plays the deceptively charming patriarch) and a nightmarish wilderness full of dark and deadly secrets… including those ominous steps.
As you can imagine, Hammond’s subsequent updates cover more of these “secret stairway” sightings, including this account from “a fellow officer”:
My buddy has been an SAR officer for about seven years… and he had a very similar experience [to mine] when he first encountered the stairs. His trainer told him almost the same thing mine did, which was to never go near, touch, or ascend them. For the first year, he did just that, but apparently his curiosity got the better of him, and on one call he broke away from the line and went to go check a set of them out. He said they were about ten miles from the path where a teenage girl had vanished, and the dogs were following a scent. He was on his own, lagging behind the main group, when he saw a set of stairs off to his left. They looked like they were from a new house, because the carpeting was pristine and white. Making sure his radio was on, he slowly climbed the stairs; he said it was terrifying, because the way they’d been stigmatized, he wasn’t really sure what was going to happen to him.
He got to the top with little event, and he stood there looking around. But, he said, the longer he stood on the top step, the more he felt like he was doing something very, very wrong. As if someone was going to come and arrest [him], or shoot [him] in the back of the head, at any second. He tried to brush it off, but the feeling got stronger and stronger, and that’s when he realized that he couldn’t hear anything anymore. The sounds of the forest were gone, and he couldn’t hear his own breathing. It was like some kind of weird, awful tinnitus, but more oppressive.
But the eeriest part seems to have happened after that encounter:
[My friend’s] trainer was waiting back at the welcome center after the search ended for the day. He said his trainer had this look of intense anger, and he asked what was wrong. “You went up [the stairs], didn’t you.” My buddy said it wasn’t phrased as a question. He asked how his trainer knew. The trainer just shook his head. “Because we didn’t find her. The dogs lost her scent.” My buddy asked what that had to do with anything. The trainer asked how long he’d been on the stairs, and my buddy said no more than a minute. The trainer gave him this really awful, almost dead-eyed look, and told him that if he ever went up another set of stairs again, he’d be fired. Immediately.
But that’s far from the end of the story. In a later update, Hammond shares a testimonial from a former SAR trainer he names “E.W.”, who encountered the same staircase while searching for a missing boy named Joey… but the search was disrupted by a strange anomaly:
When we do searches for people, we search in a grid pattern, and we search every “box” of the grid incredibly thoroughly. What E.W.’s team noticed right away was that a very strange pattern was emerging. Dogs in alternating boxes were picking up Joey’s scent, but losing it when they overlapped with another box. If you think of a checkerboard, Joey’s scent was being picked up in random black squares, but never in red. This, of course, didn’t make any sense, because how could the kid bounce from area to area without leaving a scent in each place he passed?
E.W. and his partner pass into a new box of the grid, and E.W. notices a set of stairs about fifty yards away. He wants to investigate, but his partner oddly refuses, only saying that he never goes near any such stairs in the forest — as if he’s been trained to avoid them — so E.W. examined them on his own:
They were small, kind of like stairs into a basement. I went over and I could see that there was something lying on the bottom step, sort of curled up. My heart sinks, because of course you always hope for the best… But I knew right away that it was [Joey], and that he was dead.
The author claims the cause of the boy’s death was unknown, until E.W. checked with the county coroner weeks later, and learned the horrifying details:
The kid’s organs were like swiss cheese. Quarter-sized holes were punched clean through just about every single organ this kid had, aside from his heart and lungs. But his colon, his stomach, his kidneys and even one of his testicles, were full of these clean holes… as if someone had taken a hole-punch and punched holes out of everything. But the kid didn’t have a scratch on him, no entry or exit wounds.
The officer said his friend left him with a grim, ominous final warning about the woods.
“He tells me that there’s bad things out here,” he writes. “Things that don’t care if we have families or lives, or that we can think and feel. He tells me to be careful, and he walks away.”
There are many more related stories — far too much to repost here — so be sure to check out Hammond’s entire eight-part Reddit thread, and the author’s continued posts on Tumblr, which he intends to compile into a book.
Here’s the trailer for CHANNEL ZERO’s third season, BUTCHER’S BLOCK, which premieres tonight on SyFy: