Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Encounters with Gnomes

Author’s note: A June 2009 “From The Shadows” installment told the tale of “Tammy” whose family was terrorized by an evil, little gnome-like man on their property near the Tule River in Porterville, Calif. Her case is not as isolated as we may hope.

Dan Bortko’s family moved from Wyandotte County, Kan., to Liberty, Mo., in 1948 when he was about nine months old. His family didn’t know it, but something already lived in the house on High Street.

The house, a stucco bungalow built atop a hill in the 1920s, wasn’t the only structure on that site.

“There was a spring in the basement,” Bortko said. “The site of the spring was the site of a large farm from the 1860s through 1914. Our property was the part of a farmyard at some time.”

A barn still sat outside the two-bedroom house when the Bortkos moved there. In that house in 1952, Bortko saw something that has haunted in his mind since.

“I’ll call him a troll because that’s what he reminded me of,” Bortko said.

Regardless of the name – troll, gnome, dwarf, goblin – these diminutive, human-like earth creatures have littered cultural mythology across the globe. And they are known to approach, and sometimes abduct, children.

Bortko, 4, napped in the same room as his two younger brothers, both in cribs, when something roused him from sleep. As his eyes slid open, he realized he and his baby brothers weren’t alone.

“I had just awakened form a nap and was rubbing my eyes and saw what you would call a troll,” Bortko said. “It was an old man with a long beard, large nose, about three feet tall standing at the foot of my bed. And I was astounded.”

The little old man wore German lederhosen and held a smoking pipe in his hand. As the little old man stood looking at Bortko, he smiled through his beard, winked and disappeared through the closet door.

“The only thing I could mutter was ‘goss,’” Bortko said. “My mother came in and opened the closet door and on the top shelf was a toy rubber goose.”

Bortko knows he didn’t say “goose,” the word “goss” had something to do with his troll.

Although Bortko doesn’t think he saw the little man again, later in life his mother told him he often talked about someone no one else could see.

“As a child my mother said I had an imaginary friend and I called it by its name,” he said. “My mother said it sounded like a science fiction movie name.”

During this time Bortko remembers looking out his bedroom window at night and seeing people near the old barn in the backyard – little people.

“That’s what scared me,” he said. “There were fairy tales pictures on my wall. There was a man on the mountain smoking a pipe. And this reminded me of him.”

As a child, Bortko, now an artist with a master’s degree in photography from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, once tried to capture his little man on paper.

“I remember doing a drawing of a picture of a man’s face with large dark eyes,” he said. “And my brother Bill started crying. Every time he saw it he was out of his wits.”

Maybe Bortko wasn’t the only person in his house who saw the “troll.” He certainly wasn’t the only person of that era who saw it.

David Schwab, 52, grew up in Orange, N.J., and is familiar with tales of a similar entity. His friend Jerry saw one of these “trolls” in the early 1960s.

“I remember Jerry always talking about some kind of troll/elf/leprechaun-type critter with a rather long beard being on his steps,” Schwab said.

Schwab met with Jerry in December 2009 before his friend moved to the Philippines and asked him about the story.

“He said that when he was a kid, he was in his backyard and was startled by a small gnome-like man with a long beard, standing by his back porch,” Schwab said. “He said he had funny clothes on and a pointed hat and all.”

The entity, about two or three feet tall, just stood at the steps, staring at him. This wasn’t the last time the gnome made an appearance at Jerry’s house.

When Jerry was in his 20s, his five-year-old nephew took a nap in a converted bedroom his family called the ‘shower room’ because it had once been a bathroom, a showerhead still jutted from the wall.

“His nephew started crying and ran downstairs,” Schwab said. “He said that he was woken by a small man with a long white beard that stood and looked at him. Now that's weird.”

Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grandma’s Still Watching

A noise came from a dark corner in the basement of Bearcat Boogie Dance Studio in Maryville, Mo. A tinny sound, like muffled music from a cheap speaker.

Dance studio owners Dana and Dave Schmidt were in the building working on a garage sale when Dave heard the noise.

“My parents were working at their dance studio and my dad was down in the basement,” Keaton Schmidt said. “We’ve kept some of our old items – household items, some of our old toys – and he hears some soft music and he goes upstairs and talks to my mom. He thought it might be a car driving by.”

The music wasn’t from a passing car. When Dave went back downstairs, he found the noise came from a pile of boxes – boxes of Dana’s mother’s belongings.

“My mom had passed away and a lot of her stuff is in the basement of our dance studio,” Dana said. “I had tried to get my dad to come and get a bunch of stuff out for the garage sale, but he wasn’t ready to go through her stuff.”

Her father came to the studio that day to retrieve something from his late wife’s belongings. He brought his new wife with him.

“He got something and came upstairs with it and my dad just left,” Dana said. “He wasn’t downstairs but five minutes.”

When Dana’s father left, Dave discovered the source of the noise.

“He goes back downstairs and still hears it. In the far corner of the basement he can hear it in one of the boxes,” Keaton said. “What was making the noise was a little toy phone. My grandma gave it to me.”

Dave came upstairs smiling and holding the toy telephone that was still playing.

“He said, ‘it’s probably your mom because your dad was here with his new wife and she’s mad,’” Dana said. “My mom got that for Keaton for his first Christmas. It’s been down there for at least nine years.”

Dave and Dana tried to shut the telephone off by its on/off switch, but the phone wouldn’t stop playing music.

“We opened it with a little tiny screwdriver. The batteries were all corroded,” she said. “We couldn’t get the phone to shut off so we took the phone to Keaton.”

Keaton said the music played for another two hours.

“He has the phone and he thinks it’s neat,” Dana said. “I’ll ask off and on if it still rings. He said yes, not often, but it’s always in the middle of the night.”

One night the telephone started playing on a date that meant something to the Schmidt family.

“Pretty close to the anniversary of her death it woke me up one night playing music,” Keaton said. “It lasted about 10 minutes. It scared the crap out of me. But now it’s pretty nice to think Grandma was trying to tell me something.”

The telephone wasn’t the first or last message from Grandma. Before Grandma’s funeral, Dana’s daughter Bailey said she saw “Nana.”

“She came into my daughter’s bedroom,” Dana said. “Bailey said she’d come to the end of her bed and just stare at her.”

Thinking her daughter, upset by her grandmother’s death, was imagining things, Dana told her to stop talking about it.

“The third night it just made me mad. It was right after she died. We hadn’t buried her,” Dana said. “The fourth night she said, ‘Mom, Nana came into my room and stood at the end of my bed. I sat up in bed and said, Nana, you’re scaring me,’ and she disappeared and she hasn’t seen her since.”

But Dana knows her mother is still watching them.

“When my mom died from cancer she told me she’d send pennies from heaven and I’ve gone out to her grave and there will be pennies there. No one knows about this,” Dana said. “I’ve wiped out my windowsills and there’s been one penny in each sill. It’s always one penny, not two, not a quarter.”

The pennies appear everywhere.

“When my daughter is dancing, she’ll go on stage and get into her pose and there will be a penny on the stage,” Dana said. “I’ll take my pants out of the dryer and there’s a penny in the pocket.”

Although Dana didn’t save these pennies at first, she is now.

“We didn’t think much of it. It was just our imagination,” she said. “But the same thing happens to my brothers. They’ll find one penny on the computer. Or on their pillow. Just random places. Now we keep the pennies.”

However, no one in her family has been able to determine the significance of the dates on the coins.

“We always look at the date to see if they mean anything,” Dana said. “Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.”

But Dana’s sure they’re coming from her mother.

Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Glowing Eyes in the Darkness; Hoof Prints in the Snow

Wigwam Brook runs beside a parking lot in Orange, N.J., the shallow water traveling quietly through a world of asphalt and beneath a power station.

David Schwab, 52, grew up on Cleveland Street, across from the brook, and the parking lot that sat alongside Lakeside Avenue. Events from his youth are linked to that brook – dark events.

“I had a recurring dream that something was down in that brook,” Schwab said. “In the dream I arrive home one night with my parents and there is a crowd of people gathered with a spotlight of some kind shining in the water, and a feeling of fear, and what looks like glowing eyes down in the darkness.”

In the early 1970s, Schwab, two close friends – Jerry and John, and three or four friends of theirs he doesn’t remember well, sat outside Schwab’s house one February night when his dream came true.

“It was late winter and there was still some snow on the ground that was starting to melt,” Schwab said. “It was about 10 p.m. and we were just hanging out talking and stuff. It was an overcast night and I noticed something moving in the sky.”

Through the clouds Schwab saw a dark brown spindle-shaped object with a light on each end float just above their neighborhood.

“I pointed it out to the other guys and we all wondered what it was,” Schwab said. “It was darting back and forth in the clouds.”

The boys watched what they were sure was a flying saucer skim over their heads and saw it sink low over the railroad tracks.

“A block from us was the old Erie Lackawanna freight line,” Schwab said. “By this time it was rarely used, and me and my friends used to go walking on the tracks all the time. When a train did come, it moved very slowly. So we decided to go check this thing out.”

The boys grabbed sticks and other objects – Schwab picked up an aluminum tent poll – and walked toward the tracks.

“We were like an angry mob looking for the troll,” Schwab said.

They walked down Lakeside Avenue and up High Street. At this point the tracks ran alongside Wigwam Brook. The backs of buildings lined one side of the tracks, the brook and beyond that back yards lined the other. The boys walked down the railroad tracks, gripping their makeshift clubs, their way guided by the light of a far off street lamp.

“As we were walking we thought we saw this object go back into this area,” Schwab said. “This was a very strange feeling, like it wasn’t happening or something.”

As they walked farther down the tracks, they saw a “disk-shaped object about 20 to 25 feet in diameter.”

“The object. It was either on the ground, or right above it,” Schwab said. “It was hard to see in the dark, but something was there.”

Then the boys saw the prints in the soft earth, muddy from the melting snow.

“A series of small, hoof-like prints,” Schwab said. “They looked like parentheses and were open in the front and back. They were staggered left to right like a biped would leave tracks. They were about three inches long and two inches wide. This is a city, a suburb of Newark, N.J., so there is not a lot of wildlife to be had. We had possums and raccoons, and that’s about it for exotic animals.”

Schwab and his friend John took a few steps closer to what they’d determined was a spacecraft, but a splash in the brook stilled their feet.

“At this point in the brook was kind of a dirt island. The water was only a few inches deep,” he said. “I looked down to where I heard the noise and to my horror saw two small things standing upright like a person.”

The creatures were about four feet tall, dark and covered in hair.

“They were standing in a posture like they didn’t want to be seen or make any noise,” Schwab said. “Like a tip-toe posture with their arms slightly raised by their sides, and they were slightly leaning. One was just behind the other.”

Although Schwab couldn’t make out facial features in the dim light, he could see something that chilled him. Something from a childhood dream.

“They both had very large glowing green eyes, round, but much larger than human eyes,” he said. “They didn’t seem to be reflecting light like an animal, but were glowing.”

Schwab froze, staring at the creatures in horror.

“What are those things?” John asked from his side.

As David and John stood, staring at the entities that stared back at them, one of the other boys yelled, “Where’s Jerry?” David turned and looked, but Jerry wasn’t there.

“Jerry was gone,” Schwab said. “I think someone might have said, ‘they got Jerry,’ and we all ran like hell out of there and back to my house.”

Jerry’s house sat in the middle of the block on Lakeside Avenue on the way to Schwab’s house. When they got to Jerry’s house he was there, sitting on the front steps, out of breath.

“We asked him what happened, and he said, ‘something grabbed me on the arm and I turned around and saw this hairy thing and ran,” Schwab said. “At this point we did not discuss what we had seen with each other. It happened too fast. We then spend some time wondering what they were and comparing what we saw.”

The next morning, Schwab went back to the area. The hooved footprints as well as the boys’ footprints remained – so did something else.

“Back where we thought we saw the disk was a large circle melted in the snow down to the dirt,” Schwab said. “The snow was maybe an inch deep.”

He went home and, as he mixed plaster in an old coffee can to make casts of the hoofprints, John showed up.

“We went back together,” Schwab said. “We went to the spot and poured some in a couple of the prints, one in the snow and one in the dirt.”

When the boys went back the next day to retreive the foot casts, someone had destroyed them.

“I went back with John again and they were smashed to bits,” Schwab said. “John started going on about how there were kids who walked along the tracks breaking plaster in the snow. Yeah, John, right. I’m sure he did it, but I have no idea why.”

Years later, Schwab heard stories about the dark, hairy, glowing-eyed entities near the brook from friends who had no connection with his encounter – he’s convinced they are real.

Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Voices Not His Own

Daniel Natal’s aunt heard him call to her from somewhere in the house. She walked from room to room, searching for him, but couldn’t find him – because he wasn’t there.

This incident marked the first time a member of Natal’s family heard a disembodied voice, but it would be far from the last.

“The second instance was related to me by a cousin who said that he heard me calling him from his upstairs bedroom,” Natal said.

Natal’s voice kept saying, “In here. In here.” As Natal’s cousin followed the voice, it led him to his bedroom closet. He opened the closet, but Natal was not there. He found Natal outside playing basketball.

Natal read a February “From the Shadows” that featured the story of a Lawson, Mo., family who often experience the disembodied voices of family members; they determined their incidents to be a form of telepathy.

“I’ve experienced extremely similar phenomena for some time,” Natal said. “In my own case, the facts don’t lead me down that path. It would appear to be far, far, far more complex.”

Unlike the Lawson family, Natal’s experiences with disembodied family voices moved from a simple beaconing to a conversation.

“This is where the pattern departs, and does so chillingly,” he said. “About six months after the first instances, I received a phone call from a friend in Idaho. She informed me, to my dismay, that she had just gotten off the phone with me.”

Natal hadn’t talked with this friend in eight months.

“She expressed skepticism, thinking I was pulling some prank,” Natal said. “I was adamant, though. I had not phoned her.”

However, she was just as adamant he had.

“But I just got off the phone with you,” she told him.

“Maybe it was someone who sounded like me,” he suggested.

“I think I would have been able to tell the difference after a 20-minute phone-conversation,” she said.

The thought of someone posing as Natal capable of holding a 20-minute telephone conversation with a friend shocked and somewhat frightened him.

“Whatever was imitating my voice had done so now for an extended period,” Natal said. “That event happened about 10 years ago, but the phenomenon hasn’t stopped.”

A number of years after the Idaho telephone call while Natal spent the weekend with his cousins in another city, his wife heard his voice in Center City Philadelphia.

“My wife reported that she heard me call her in broad daylight as she walked on the sidewalk,” Natal said. “She thought I must have come home early because someone with my voice used her nickname.”

His wife felt a hand touch her shoulder and, when she turned to greet her husband, no one was there.

“She found herself alone on the sidewalk, with the closest pedestrian being about 50 yards away,” Natal said. “No one was possibly close enough to have placed a hand on her shoulder.”

When they moved from Philadelphia to South Carolina, the phenomena followed them.

One day, as Natal lie in bed trying to drag more sleep out of the morning, someone poked him.

“Let me sleep,” he said, but the pokes continued. He opened his eyes and, through the open bathroom door, he saw his wife giggling to herself.

“The thing is, my wife doesn’t giggle,” Natal said. “And the time-lapse between the poking and her position in the bathroom didn’t allow sufficient seconds for her to have moved away so far. Something was definitely off, but I ignored it as I went back to sleep.”

This happened sometime after 10 a.m. When Natal finally got up from bed and walked downstairs to find his wife, it was around noon.

“Why did you keep poking me?” he asked her, then described the poking and giggling event.

She insisted she couldn’t have poked him; she hadn’t been upstairs since she woke at 8 a.m.

And the events continued.

In late winter 2010, a telephone ringing in the upstairs hallway shook Natal from sleep. He looked at the clock; it was 3 a.m.

“The first ring dislodged me from sleep,” he said. “So I was wide awake for the second, third and fourth rings.”

The rings bothered him. The rings belonged to a much older telephone – something Natal didn’t have in his house.

“A paranoid father, thinking a burglar might be in the house, I sat up,” he said. “Just then I heard someone answer the phone. It sounded like me. It was my voice.”

Natal checked the house, no intruders, nothing out of place, and his family still slept. It’s left him wondering what has intruded into his life, imitating him, imitating his wife.

“What the hell is going on? Inter-dimensional lapses? Mischievous imps? Mind-energy projected outward to create doppelgangers?” Natal said. “Whatever it is, it isn’t isolated to telepathy and assumptions of family-members coming home. It’s something far, far more complicated.”

Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,