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IN THIS EPISODE: It has several names all over the world such as the Bogey Beast, the Black Shuck, Hairy Jack, Padfoot, Striker, and more. But a phantom black dog by any other name is still a phantom black dog. (Phantom Black Dogs) *** Dalton Highway is already a scary road for those driving down the ice-covered highways of Alaska. The loneliness on the barren stretch of highway can go on for hours without seeing a single soul. But for one ice road trucker, that solitude would be interrupted by something terrifying and unexplainable. (The Terror On Dalton Highway) *** Hunters come across a strange note left behind by someone who claimed he’d been stuck in the wilderness for over a week and was out picking berries, but the hunters soon realized there was no one out berry-picking, for the person who wrote the note was already dead – and had been for over two weeks. (Into The Wild – The Death of Chris McCandless) *** Sometimes drugs can work too well – for example, a hair-loss prevention drug could turn your own children into hairy wolfman-like monsters! (Drugs Turn Babies Into Werewolves)
MENTIONED LINKS AND EPISODES FROM THE CHAMBER OF COMMENTS…
“The True Bigfoot Stories You’ve Probably Never Heard” episode: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/185
“Phantoms Behind the Wheel” episode: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/4776
“What’s At The Bottom of Skeleton Lake” episode: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/4848
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
“Phantom Black Dogs” by VintiJain for Unexplained Mysteries: http://bit.ly/2rhwm0C
“The Terror on Dalton Highway” by Blair Daniels for Thought Catalog: http://bit.ly/34wxqvQ
“Into The Wild – The Death of Chris McCandless” by Troy Taylor: http://bit.ly/2pOpUhd
“Drugs Turn Babies Into Werewolves” by Kashmira Gander for Newsweek: http://bit.ly/2PQXYDP
Background music provided by EpidemicSound and AudioBlocks with paid license. Music by Shadows Symphony (http://bit.ly/2W6N1xJ) and Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ) is also sometimes used with permission.
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
PHANTOM BLACK DOGS
A black dog is a motif of a spectral or demonic entity found primarily in the folklore of the British Isles. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal apparition, in some cases a shapeshifter, and is often said to be associated with the Devil or described as a ghost or hellhound. Its appearance was regarded as a portent of death. It is generally supposed to be larger than a normal dog and often has large glowing eyes. It is sometimes associated with electrical storms (such as Black Shuck’s appearance at Bungay, Suffolk) and also with crossroads, places of execution and ancient pathways.
The origins of the black dog are difficult to discern. It is uncertain whether the creature originated in the Celtic or Germanic elements of British culture. Throughout European mythology, dogs have been associated with death. Examples of this are the Cŵn Annwn (Welsh), Garmr (Norse) and Cerberus (Greek), all of whom were in some way guardians of the Underworld. This association seems to be due to the scavenging habits of dogs. It is possible that the black dog is a survival of these beliefs.
Black dogs are generally regarded as sinister or malevolent, and a few (such as the Barghest and Shuck) are said to be directly harmful. They may also serve as familiar spirits for witches and warlocks. Some black dogs, however, such as the Gurt Dog in Somerset and the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills in Connecticut, are said to behave benevolently. Some, known as guardian black dogs, guide travellers at night onto the right path or guard them from danger
In appearance the phantoms vary from region to region, but it is not uncommon for them to be described as calf sized, with saucer eyes and a shaggy coat. Phantom dogs are not always black however, the one that is supposed to haunt the area around Cawthorpe and Haugham in Lincolnshire, is described as white, but still has saucer eyes and is as big as calf. The Cu Sith, the traditional fairy dog of Scotland is dark green in colour, with a shaggy tail up its back. Black dogs are more often than not associated with a specific location such as an old trackway or lane, this is sometimes reflected in the name of the routeway, although not every ‘Black Dog Lane’ has a tradition of the haunting.
There have been some attempts at classification; the folklorist Theo Brown divided the black dog phenomena into three separate types A, B and C. (A) Being a shape-shifting demon dog; (B) being a dark black dog calf sized with shaggy fur; and (C) a dog that appears in time with certain ancient festivals in specific areas of the country. Katherine Briggs, the renowned folklorist, splits these further into mysterious demon dogs, the ghosts of human beings and the ghosts of dogs in their own right.
In local traditions the black dogs sightings are seen as death portents, especially those seen in ancient churchyards in the form of the Church or Kirk Grim (Kirk being the Scottish word for Church), which is thought to represent a folk memory of a sacrifice. The black dog that used to haunt Peel castle and a nearby graveyard on the Isle of Man, is one such grim, it is said to have scared a sentry to death. Other sightings from the South of England, have been related to coincidental sudden deaths. The next two accounts relate to actual deaths by a black dog over four hundred years ago, although it is likely both events were the result of ball lightning:
A weather vane in Bungay Market in Suffolk depicts a black dog and a flash of lighting, it commemorates an event on Sunday the 4th of August 1577. Between nine and ten in the morning while the parishioners of Bungay were at church, a fearful and violent storm broke out, which caused the sky to darken and the church to quake. Suddenly, in the midst of the storm, a black dog appeared within church. Lit by flashes of fire, it ran about the body of the church causing great fear and panic. It passed between two people kneeling at prayer, killing them instantly, and caused another man to shrivel up, severely burned, although he is said to have survived.
About seven miles away in Blythburgh, at around the same time, another black dog (or the same phenomena) appeared in the parish church preceded by the same thunderstorm. This black dog struck three people dead and left scorch marks on the North church door, which can still be seen today.
These two examples suggest phenomena related to the weather conditions, perhaps some form of little understood ball lighting, substantiated by the fact that one person was burned, and the scorch marks on the church door. It is difficult to make any snap judgements because of the long span of time involved from the recorded events.
Other phantom dogs are more benevolent and stories exist of people being helped from tight spots. For example Augustus Hare in his book ‘In My Solitary Life’ recounts a common tale he heard about a man called Johnnie Greenwood, of Swancliffe. Johnnie had to ride through a wood in darkness for a mile to get to where he was going. At the entrance of the wood he was joined by a black dog, it pattered beside him until he emerged from the trees, whereupon it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.
On his return journey through the wood, the dog joined him again on the dark woodland path, and disappeared mysteriously when he emerged. Apparently, some years later, two prisoners condemned to death confessed that they had decided to rob and murder Johnny that night in the wood, but the presence of the large black dog had stopped them.
Black dogs often seem to haunt ancient lanes, trackways, crossroads, old churchyards and prehistoric sites. Many of these places were associated with local superstitions and the uncanny, they are liminal places, where the veil between worlds was thought to be thin. The haunts of the black dogs are also features said to denote ley lines, it has been suggested that they represent some form of energy or natural phenomena moulded by the mind into an archetype of the black dog. A great deal of work has been done by earth mystery researchers to suggest that certain geophysical conditions may affect the human mind. These places were recognised by ancient man, and that is why black dogs (as some form of archetype) appear at places of ancient sanctity. This same theory has been applied to other unexplained phenomena.
Gallows sites (often crossroads) were also common black dog haunts, the black dog was often seen as the spirit of the executed criminal, such as the dog said to haunt a gallows site in Tring, Hertfordshire: An old woman was drowned for witchcraft at Tring in the year 1751. A chimney sweep was held responsible in part for the killing, and was hanged and gibbeted near to the place of the crime. A black dog came to haunt the place where the gibbet stood, and was seen by the village schoolmaster. He described it as being shaggy, as big as a Newfoundland, with long ears and a tail, eyes of flaming fire and long teeth. It is interesting to note that at first the black dog appeared as a standing flame. Flames and scorched earth being another aspect associated with sightings.
Black dogs are also seen as guardians of treasure, especially in Scotland. A black dog was said to guard treasure buried under a standing stone near Murthley in Perthshire, here we have an account of a black dog at an ancient site and as a guardian of treasure.
In summery it seems that the phenomena of phantom dogs is a complex mix of folklore, sightings, and local superstition, which has roots reaching far into the past. There are probably a myriad of different explanations for modern sightings, and a phantom black dog is a powerful archetype, incorporated into modern stories such as the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles‘ by Arthur Conan Doyle. We hope to delve into the mystery further in the future, including some of the many folk tales associated with them.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of sightings.
In Thornton, near Bradford, Jim Craven Well was the haunt of the ghost of ‘Peggy wi’t Lantern’ and ‘Bloody Tongue’, a great dog with red eyes and a huge tail. The well is now gone. Meon Hill has both a phantom black dog and a ghostly pack of white hounds. The death of George Walton in very curious circumstances on 14th February 1945 was accompanied by a black dog being hung in a nearby tree. Walton had seen a black dog on nine occasions – the last time it changed into a headless black woman. His sister died shortly after. Although strongly contested, Walton’s death has many overtones of the ritual sacrifice of a ‘cunning man’. During the Second World War at Brook House, Snitterfield (which used to be the Bell Brook Inn) a big black dog was seen. It ran over the tilled earth of the garden without leaving footprints.
Very old people of Warwick used to say that the castle was haunted by a black dog. The tale has the hallmarks of a time-encrusted tall story. The local version claims it all started when an old retainer there, a woman called Moll Bloxham, sold milk and butter from the castle stores for her personal gain. One Christmas she overdid this, and the then Earl of Warwick, getting wind of it, stopped her source of supply. Furiously angry, she vowed she would ‘get them haunted’. She apparently succeeded and returned in the form of a big black dog. In due course the clergy were called in to exorcise the ghost with bell, book and candle, but for a time they were entirely unsuccessful. Then one day, so it was said, a huge black dog sprang from Caesar’s Tower into the river below, and so ended the ghost story. At Alveston, Charles Walton, a ploughboy, met a phantom black dog on his way home on nine successive evenings. On the final occasion a headless lady in a silk gown rushed past him, and the following day he heard of his sister’s death.
A black dog has been said to haunt the Newgate Prison for over 400 years, appearing before executions. According to legend, in 1596, a scholar was sent to the prison for witchcraft, but was killed and eaten by starving prisoners before he was given a trial. The dog was said to appear soon after, and although the terrified men killed their guards and escaped, the beast is said to have haunted them wherever they fled. A black dog is said to haunt Ivelet Bridge near Ivelet in Swaledale, Yorkshire. The dog is allegedly headless, and leaps over the side of the bridge and into the water, although it can be heard barking at night. It is considered a death omen, and reports claim that anybody who has seen it died within a year. The last sighting was around a hundred years ago.
On Dartmoor, the notorious squire Cabell was said to have been a huntsman who sold his soul to the Devil. When he died in 1677, black hounds are said to have appeared around his burial chamber. The ghostly huntsman is said to ride with black dogs; this tale inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his well-known story The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Cù Sìth (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: kuː ʃiː) is an enormous, otherworldly hound, said to haunt the Scottish Highlands. Roughly the size of a cow or large calf, the Cù Sìth was feared as a harbinger of death and would appear to bear away the soul of a person to the afterlife (similar to the manner of the Grim Reaper). Supernatural dogs in the legends are usually completely black, or white with red ears. The Cù Sìth’s coloration is therefore highly unusual because of its light green color, although it may be derived from the green color often worn by Celtic fairies.
DRUGS TURN BABIES INTO WEREWOLVES
This story is a bit different than my normal fare, but it is so bizarre I decided to share it anyway – just out of pure curiosity.
More than a dozen babies in Spain have been diagnosed with so-called “werewolf syndrome” after taking contaminated medication, according to officials.
The infants took a preparation of omeprazole, a drug used to treat conditions caused by excess stomach acid like heartburn. The batch was contaminated with minoxidil, a medication for baldness, according to a statement from the Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare.
Manuel Fuentes of the Official College of Pharmacists of Granada explained to Granada Hoy the drugs are different to the omeprazole capsules taken by thousands of adults. As children can’t swallow capsules, pharmacists must prepare special omeprazole syrups.
The condition faded after the children stopped taking omeprazole, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health. Parents who have a preparation for babies containing omeprazole should visit their pharmacy to check it is not from a contaminated lot. Anyone who notices excessive hair growth after using the drug should visit a doctor, they said.
On July 11, the Spanish Agency for Medicine and Health Products regulatory body released an alert relating to one batch of omeprazol, official documents show. By August 6, the body had recalled 22 lots.
Before the July recall, the health department was notified of 13 cases of the condition known as hypertrichosis. They later learned of three new cases in the southern Spanish province of Granada, prompting the second recall, El Pais reported citing health officials.
The Spanish pharmaceutical firm Farma-Quimica Sur distributed the 22 batches of the drug, and imported the active ingredient from Indian firm Smilax Laboratories Limited, documents show. Farma-Quimica Sur and Smilax Laboratories Limited did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.
Health officials told Granada Hoy the product was contaminated in Asia. Officials stopped Farma-Química Sur from manufacturing, importing, or distributing drugs in July.
Hypertrichosis is characterized by excessive hair on any part of the body, when compared with those of the same age, sex and race. In rare cases, the condition is inherited rather than caused by a drug as it was in Spain. Only 50 such cases have even been reported.
The condition can also be triggered in cancer patients, where hair can appear on bodyparts including the eyelids and nose. It unclear why this happens. Malnutrition in those with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa is also associated with hypertrichosis.
The only currently available treatment for forms of the condition not related to drugs is removing the hair, including by shaving, waxing or performing laser removal on the area.
THE TERROR ON DALTON HIGHWAY
I’m an ice road trucker.
Every winter, I drive my semi up the Dalton Highway in Alaska to deliver supplies. Other drivers complain about how isolated the road is, but I love it. Driving through expanses of snow-covered wilderness, surrounded by nothing by the stars… it’s the dream.
Well… it was the dream. Until the night of January 17th, 2017.
I was driving the stretch between Coldfoot and the Prudhoe Bay oilfield, around midnight. It’s the loneliest part of the highway – 200+ miles with no gas stations, restaurants, no cell phone reception. No traces of civilization at all.
Then my headlights rolled over a truck.
It had skidded off the road and flipped on its side. From the distance, I couldn’t tell if it was fresh – or a week-old wreck the recovery crews hadn’t picked up yet.
“Hey! Jim!” I yelled.
He was back in the sleeper. We drove together and took turns, so we didn’t have to stop for the night. Besides, it was always safer to have a second person if we ran into an emergency.
He poked his blond head out. “What?”
The wreck rapidly approached. It was dark – no headlights, no fire, no lights on in the cabin. Just a metal husk breaking the otherwise monotonous Alaskan landscape.
“Poor fella,” he said, reaching for the cup in the holster. A long slurrrp echoed from behind me. “This road gets mighty nasty sometimes.”
“Maybe we should stop. See if they need help.”
“Nah. It’s an old wreck. Look how dark it is.”
Uneasiness settled in my stomach. I’d always felt safe driving up the Dalton highway–because fellow truckers were so helpful. Once, when I’d gotten a flat, no less than three stopped in to make sure I was all right.
It was like we were all part of an unspoken brotherhood, looking out for each other.
I stomped on the brakes. The truck screeched to a halt.
“Hey!” Jim protested. “We’re stopping?!”
“Sorry. I need to make sure no one’s in there.” Leaving the headlights on, I swung the door open, and pulled myself down.
“Wait, wait! I’m comin’!” Jim called after me, pulling on a coat.
I didn’t wait for him. Instead, I walked ahead, ice crunching noisily under my boots. The cold wind bit into my exposed face, and I grimaced.
“Hello?” I called out, into the darkness.
“Anyone there?” I called again.
“See? No one there,” Jim said, coming up behind me. “Stopped for nothin’.”
I ignored him and walked towards the cabin. It was facing away from us, pointed towards the forest in the distance.
The trailer was nondescript–no logos or color–but the back hatch was open. Rolled up just a few inches.
Jim called out behind me: “See! They removed all the supplies already, left the hatch open. This thing’s probably been here for weeks.”
“Okay, I get it,” I called back, annoyed. “I just want to check out the cabin, alright? Humor me.”
“Humor you! Peh! We’re wasting precious time, Danny.”
I ignored him and walked across the frozen plain, my boots crunching loudly through the snow. I rounded the corner and came upon the cabin.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
It was a mangled mess of metal. The hood was crunched like a tin can. The side view mirror dangled limply. There was no windshield–just a misshapen hole, where it used to be.
Through it, I could make out the driver’s seat. It was horribly buckled and bent, conjuring awful images of what the driver must have looked like.
“Hello?” I called through the window. It looked empty, but just in case.
All was silent.
“It’s empty, huh?” Jim asked, a wild smile on his face.
“Yeah. And I don’t think the driver made it,” I replied, my mouth suddenly dry.
“The highway, she takes ‘em good, sometimes. Nothin’ we can do. Just the circle of life and all that.”
Great. Jim was waxing poetic, now. “Okay, Jim,” I said, cutting him off. “Let’s get back on the road.”
That’s when I noticed it.
The snow around the truck was undisturbed. No swirl of frantic footprints from the rescue team. No tire tracks from police cars racing to the scene. No grooves from the body being dragged away.
The cabin was empty… the driver had most likely perished… and no rescue team had come out?
“Why aren’t there any prints around here?” I asked Jim. “If the rescue team came out…”
“Must be weeks old, as I said. Pro’lly snowed ten times since they got him and the supplies out. Covered the prints right up.”
“I guess you’re right.” That did make sense. Now that I took a closer look, there weren’t any skid marks in the snow from the truck, either. Defeated, I turned and walked back towards our truck.
“Wait — what’s this?”
I turned around. Jim was crouched in the snow, trailing a finger across the ground.
I walked back over and crouched beside him.
There were several overlapping trails of footprints. They began at the back door of the trailer, weaved through the snow, and ended somewhere in the darkness of the plains. And they looked fresh. The edges were sharp and clean, not softened by the wind or snowfall.
“That doesn’t make any sense. We’re in the middle of nowhere. Not a single soul for miles around.”
“Then who made these prints?”
“I don’t know…”
“Let’s find out.” Jim walked over to the back door, and with a grunt, pulled it open.
The metallic sound reverberated through the trailer, echoing against the snow. I pulled a flashlight from my pocket and flicked it on.
“What the hell?”
The trailer looked… lived in.
Empty glass bottles glinted in the light, stacked up in a line against the wall. Clothing was strewn everywhere. In the right corner, they were piled up with a blanket to form a rough bed.
“There’s nobody for two-hundred miles, at least,” he said with fascination, pulling himself up into the trailer. “What the heck is going on here?”
“Hey, wait,” I called after him. “We shouldn’t–”
“Tools back here, Danny,” he called out, his voice echoing in the metal box. “All kinds of knives and spears and stuff. I s’pose that’s how he gets his food. Hunts it down.”
I stepped onto the lip of the trailer and hoisted myself inside. The air was musty, damp, and cold–though warmer than the outside. The floor, which was really the side of the trailer, was tilted at a slight angle.
I glanced around. While there were many household items I recognized–knives, shears, clothes–there were some I didn’t. A black medallion, emblazoned with a strange symbol next to the ‘bed’ area. A stone bowl and stick that resembled a mortar-and-pestle.
“Danny, take a look at this.”
I turned the flashlight towards him–and jumped back.
White bone. Twisted mouths. Sunken eye sockets.
More than a dozen animal skulls, all lined up in a neat row at the back wall. The first was tiny–the size of a mouse head. They grew progressively larger, the last ones looking like they belonged to deer, caribou, moose.
And painted on the ground, under our feet… was some sort of symbol. A circle with strange characters all around it. Like letters from an unknown language.
“This is freakin’ creepy,” Jim said. “Wish I brought my camera.”
Despite my thick jacket, a chill went up my spine. “Come on, Jim. Let’s go. Like you said, we’re wasting time. We’ll get to Prudhoe late, and–”
“Oh, now you care about wasting time?” His blue eyes met mine. “You’re just a scaredy-cat, that’s what you–”
We both froze.
The sound had been faint. But in the absolute silence of this Alaskan wasteland, it was more than just a random sound. More than the wind, the forest, the Earth could produce.
“You hear that?” Jim whispered.
We listened, but there was only silence.
“Okay. Let’s get outta here.” Jim said, taking a step forward.
We walked to the front of the trailer, our footsteps shaking the metal. Then we jumped down, into the snow.
My blood ran cold.
A man stood in the darkness.
Dressed head-to-toe in black, tattered clothing. A hood veiled his face in shadow. And a knife glinted in his right hand, catching the light of our headlights.
We broke into a run.
He bolted forward. Crunching footsteps rang out behind us. Growing louder by the second. My lungs burned in the cold air, but I forced myself forward.
My hand fell on the metal handle of the truck.
I dove in. Jim followed me a second later. Click, click, click–he madly pressed the lock button. I turned the key, and the engine rumbled underneath us.
“Drive!” Jim yelled, panting.
My headlights flashed over the man. He stood still in the snow, staring at us with wild, blue eyes. Gripping the knife tightly.
And behind him… more figures materialized around the fallen trailer. All wearing black, hooded clothing. They remained still, their heads turning to stare as we pulled onto the highway.
Then they were left in the dust, as we sped forward into the Alaskan wilderness.
We called the police–but by the time they made it out there, the truck had been cleaned up. It was just an empty old wreck. No animal skulls, no strange symbols, no sign that anyone ever lived there.
I haven’t driven a truck up the Dalton highway since that night. I still deliver supplies, but to other parts of Alaska. Never again will I voluntarily drive up that cursed road.
But, sometimes, I hear about disappearances along that highway. A lonely trucker, here or there, vanishing into thin air. His vehicle left behind, parked on the side of the road.
And I know he didn’t just get lost on that lonely stretch of highway.
He was taken.
INTO THE WILD – THE DEATH OF CHRIS MCCANDLESS
On September 6, 1992, a pair of moose hunters came across an old, rusted bus, just outside Denali National Park in Alaska. The bus was a strange sight in the middle of the wilderness but, over the years, it had become well-known to hunters and hikers. It was often used as a stopped point for travelers and trappers who visited the area.
What was not a usual sight was the crumpled note that had been fixed to the door of the bus. A handwritten letter – scrawled on a page torn from a Nikolai Gogol novel – read:
“Attention possible visitors. S.O.S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and took weak to hike out of here. I am all alone, this is no joke. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you.
Chris McCandless, ? August”
But Chris was not out picking berries – he was inside of the bus. He had died 19 days before, sparking a years-long investigation into his life by Jon Krakauer that was turned into the heartbreaking book, INTO THE WILD.
Despite the in-depth account of his travels, though, what we know about Chris’s life in the Alaskan wilderness is relatively little. He kept a diary that detailed the events that led up to his death, but the weaker he got, the less sense the entries made. His death still remains a mystery.
What we do know is that Chris hitchhiked to from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, in April 1992. The last man to give him a ride was a local electrician named Jim Gallien, who dropped him at the head of Stampede Trail on April 28. Gallien later said he had “deep doubts” about Chris’s ability to survive in the wild, unforgiving wilderness. Chris, who had been using the name “Alexander Supertramp” on the road, didn’t seem to have the appropriate equipment for survival, but insisted he would be fine with his light backpack, meager rations, several books, rifle, and the pair of Wellington boots that Gallien gave him.
Chris ended his hike at the old bus, deciding that it would make the perfect campsite for his adventurous summer. For the next 113 days, he lived in the bus, surviving off a 9-pound bag of rice that he’d brought with him, as well as local plants and small game like squirrels and game birds. At one point, he managed to shoot a moose, but the meat went bad before he could figure out how to preserve it.
Chris’s diary entries described the food that he ate, and, despite his inexperience, he did pretty well. However, the last month of entries told a different story.
After three months, Chris decided to return to society. He packed up his camp and began the trek back to the trailhead and the highway. Unfortunately, the trail that he had taken to the bus was now flooded from the snow melt that had flowed down from the hills. Unable to cross the flooded river, he returned to the bus in despair. From there, the journal entries became bleaker and he wrote less frequently.
One week before his death, he wrote his final entry, which read only “beautiful blue berries.” From then, until day 113 – the last day of his life – his entries were only marked with slashes.
On the 132nd day after Chris had been seen alive, his body was found by the moose hunters. One of the men who read the note entered the bus and found what he thought was a sleeping bag filled with rotting food. Instead, he found Chris’s body.
The cause of his death has been debated ever since. It was initially assumed that he had starved to death. His ride supply had run out and, the hungrier he got, the harder it was for him to find the energy to get up and hunt. In the end, park rangers believed, he simply wasted away.
However, John Krakauer came to a different conclusion. Based on journal entries that detailed his food sources, Chris may have eaten the poisonous seeds of a wild sweet pea, believing they were something else. Under ordinary circumstances, the seeds might not have been toxic. The poison in them is usually rendered ineffective by stomach acid. However, if he had eaten the seeds as a last resort, his digestive system may have been too weak to combat the poison.
The hunters who found Chris’s body also found a camera, which contained dozens of photographs taken by McCandless of his journey, including self-portraits. If anything, the photographs deepened the mystery. In them, his physical deterioration is obvious, though the intent behind them is not. His body was wasting away, evidently right before his eyes, yet he continued in solitude, only asking for help when it was too late.