Search and Rescue Woods is an eight-part Creepypasta by Kerry Hammond, published on Reddit under the username searchandrescuewoods. It was originally posted to the Nosleep subreddit in August of 2015, with its final update being in December of that year. Currently, a novelization is in progress.
The story follows the experiences of its narrator, an unnamed SAR officer working in a national forest, as he recalls stories of supernatural happenings, strange disappearances, and mysterious staircases in the middle of the woods.
In addition to the core SAR stories, Hammond also wrote several additional companion pieces that, while not always being set in the woods or featuring the main SAR officer, expand upon the lore of the world featured in the stories. These include: "The Tunnel", "Late Night", "Anniversary", "Molten", and "Radio".
All eight parts (alongside "Late Night", "Anniversary", "Molten", and "Radio") were featured on The Nosleep Podcast.
A television adaption based on ideas from the series aired as a part of Channel Zero in early 2018 under the title "Butcher's Block." Some fans were disappointed by how little it resembled the original stories.
This series provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: Most of the stories contain death or injury of children, sometimes due to the mistakes of parents, other times due to supernatural forces.
- Alien Geometries: The flights of stairs that spontaneously appear in the middle of the parks, sometimes upside-down in gravity-defying ways, that serve no clear purpose and everyone just accepts and goes out of their way to ignore. Actually trying to climb the steps will, at best, cause you to zone out while realizing that everything around you has gone dead silent, which somehow causes the person you were looking for to become permanently lost, and at worst causes random parts of your body to inexplicably vanish into thin air, leaving you to bleed out from the trauma this causes.
- Allegory: Some readers interpreted "Radio" as an extended message that there would be more SAR stories. There were, but Hammond didn't say whether it was an allegory or not.
- Animalistic Abomination: The deer-like creature the SAR officer saw standing behind his friend when he went camping as a kid alongside the strange man that takes impossibly long steps and yowls like a cougar.
- Arc Words: "Don't touch them. Don't look at them. Don't go up them.", uttered not only by the protagonist but also a multitude of his fellow SAR officers.
- Black Eyes of Evil: In the first entry, a lost woman complains of a "big man with black eyes" following her.
- The Blank: One characteristic of a recurring creature throughout the series. He's also described as being able to conjure up a face when necessary, and inhumanly exaggerating his movements.
- Body Horror: All over the place, but seen the most graphically in "Anniversary", which gives us lovely images such as this:a boy walking upside down through the air, almost twenty feet off the ground, carrying his own spine in his arms like a baby.
- Body in a Breadbox: Victims of the forest are found under the ground, inside rocks, and floating twenty feet in the air. Sometimes still alive. And of course in those stairs.
- In a rare non-human example, the officer and his friend are called to investigate a terrible smell. The cause turns out to be a whale, of all things, in the middle of the woods. How it got there is never explained.
- Chrome Champion: The man the SAR officer's friend's daughter sees outside the window in "Molten" is loosely described by her as a man with a face half-melted and covered completely in shiny metal.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: The officer's slightly jaded reactions to everyday accidents in his field such as missing children, forest fires, and ripped-up animal carcasses can come across as Jerkass behavior to some. In his defense, he's used to seeing horrors on an everyday basis and does show unease and horror against unnatural accidents such as the man stuck inside a rock (and still alive) and the kid with thousands of holes in his body.
- Daylight Horror: the majority of the strange things the narrator experiences are seen in the daytime, while out on a search patrol. Played to interesting effect off the narrator's slightly jaded attitude toward the mundane horrors a search and rescue team member experiences. Deaths and injuries, hostile weather, animal attacks... these are a fact of life to the narrator. It's the things that don't make sense that bother him.
- Death by Falling Over: An old man being found dead is explained by "Old people fall all the time, it's no big deal". They try not to think too hard about the fact that he fell on soft ground with nothing to hit his head on, or how severe the damage was.
- Don't Go Into the Woods: The theme of the entire work.
- Everyone Knows Morse: The man on top of the tower in "Radio" communications his messages through semaphore. Luckily the SAR officer knows this and is able to translate his message.
- Eldritch Location: The woods are played up to be this, alongside the town where the missing boy scouts lived in "Anniversary".
- Ghost Town: The town where the missing boy scouts lived in "Anniversary" becomes this after all the strange sightings on the anniversary of their disappearances caused the townsfolk to flee, never to return. The area is so notorious builders refuse to tear it down and not even squatters will live in those houses.
- Hell Is That Noise: Used several times throughout the series to chilling effect.
- Humanoid Abomination: The humanoid creature(s?) that appear throughout the series certainly aren't human, but are trying to be. Not that they're very good at it.
- Infant Immortality: Horribly subverted in multiple tales, many of which are especially unsettling because they're so plausible.
- Long Title: The stories were posted on Reddit under the title "I'm a Search and Rescue Officer for the US Forest Service, I have some stories to tell". The Nosleep Podcast shortened it to "Search and Rescue".
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Very few of the events are overtly impossible - even some of the strangest could be chalked up to things like hoaxes, murders, freak accidents, and strange people doing strange things in the woods. The ones that defy explanation, however, gradually begin to push this possibility more and more into the realm of Scully Syndrome.
- Mood Whiplash: One of the only lighthearted stories, involving a coworker's encounter with a moose, is placed right before what the author describes as "by far, the scariest thing that's happened to me."
- No Name Given: No characters, not even the narrator, are given names. The narrator's fellow SAR officers are given initials when he talks about them.
- Nothing Is Scarier: All over the place. Much of the stories' horror comes from the fact that almost none of the terrifying things that happen can be satisfyingly explained.
- Surreal Horror: The nature of the Supernatural goings on in the series are capricious at best and downright utterly bizarre at worst. This is not helped by the fact that the eldritch horrors the woods harbour are content simply being weird if they're not kidnapping, murdering or doing god knows what to people.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: The emergency broadcast messages in "Late Night" offer a few of these.please avoid going between levels of your house stay where you are your children are not outside they are upstairs in beddon't look outside it's not themthey are not your children
- Uncanny Valley: Many of the encounters aren't overtly impossible or horrifying so much as strange and subtly wrong, like the backflipping man and the man with the too-large face.
- Voice Changeling: One episode recounts how the narrator hears a crying child, and he notices that it's the exact same sequence of sounds every time he hears it.
- Wendigo: An acquaintance of the author relates her experience of being lost on a mountain and subject to a primal desire for food over an inexplicable two day fugue state. Another SAR worker recounts a childhood run in with a tall, antlered creature while camping on Native American land with his family.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: A fellow officers response to the idea that implausible deaths in the park (such as drowning on dry land) might be murder is "But why go out of the way to do it like that? Why not just stab 'em and be done with it?"
- Wild Wilderness: The series takes place in an unnamed national park in the United States in an area with "hundreds of miles of thick forest."
- Would Hurt a Child: Many of the woodland entities target children.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Some of the forest monsters try this trick to lure victims into an ambush, the Voice Changeling listed above mimicked the sound of a missing girl in distress to try and bait the narrator and a colleague, before they realise the unnatural nature of the distress calls and book it.
- In "Mountain", the narrator recalls how, in a night with a couple friends at a cabin within said woods, he sees a man wearing cargo shorts and a tank top crawling towards the cabin from the treeline looking in pain and anguish, and the narrator thinks about helping the man, up until the narrator sees that his shirt is mingled with his skin, his legs a conjoined mess stretching back past the tree line, his neck elongated and contorted so that the head hangs upside down and his face frozen and warped into a sorrowful expression. He opts to go for the gun instead and almost shoots it before he comes back to find it gone.