The Men Without Faces

It’s important to note before I begin to dive into this story that I did not kill any of them. No matter how much you start to think I did – no matter how much I try to convince you otherwise, I will tell you now for certain that I did not kill anyone.

Although this story begins in several places, I think the best part to start would be when we actually arrived at Raspberry Springs. There were six of us: Tom, Lance, Adam, Brent, and myself. The camping trip had been Brent’s idea, but we’d all been eager to escape our monotonous lives for a few days, so the planning process went fairly quickly.

The Men Without Faces

The air was crisp, as it always is in the Uintahs, and the scent of pine carried on the wind was the perfect start to what was supposed to be a relaxing weekend trip but would soon become a waking nightmare.

We set up camp and as we passed a bottle of Maker’s Mark around the fire we told each other horror stories that we’d been told when we had been young boys out camping with our uncles and fathers.

After Tom had finished telling us the story that used to scare him as a kid involving a babysitter and a statue of a clown that wasn’t a statue at all, the stories fell silent for a moment. We listened to the crickets in the distance and the cracking of the fire as it devoured the dry pine branches we fed it.

“I’ve got one,” Adam finally said. “This one’s a little different though.”

The rest of us stared at him expectantly.

“This one’s true, at least I think it is.” He raised his hands up defensively, the bottle of liquor sloshing around in his hand. “Now before you all start giving me shit about it, just listen to the story.” He took a sip of whiskey from the half-empty bottle, then stared into the fire as he spoke.

“There are old Ute legends about the men without faces, but I don’t think for anyone for sure know where they came from, just like how nobody knows where bigfoot came from, although the stories of the indigenous people do their best. It’s a story my grandpa told me – that’s where I first heard of them.

“The story goes that there was a group of Indians that were kicked out of their own tribe for shameful hunting practices. The Native Americans were adamant about using the whole animal, as you know, and they believed heavily in being one with the earth, and they believed that disrespect of the earth was a capital offense. These guys though, maybe a dozen or so, hunted and killed for sport. They would kill a buffalo, for example, and cut out its heart and eat it raw and leave the body to rot to show their supremacy over mother earth and nature. They believed they were Gods of the land and dominant over all other life.

“One of these guys, the leader I think, was the chief’s son, and when the chief found out what his son was doing he was devastated. He set a trap with his best warriors and caught them in the act of ritualistic killing. He could have had his son executed right then and there, probably should have, but couldn’t bring himself to make the judgement, so instead he banished them from the tribe.

“These warriors were furious with the chief for kicking them out, and it wasn’t long after that the members of the tribe started going missing. Whole hunting parties would leave their homes and never return. Then as search parties were sent out, the bodies of these hunters were found with their hearts cut out. The banished men had started hunting people instead of animals and cutting out THEIR hearts to eat and show their superiority over the tribe from which they’d been banished.

“The chief got word of this and called upon a shaman who put a curse on the men to make them pay for what they’d done and to mark them for eternity so that they would be known for generations to come. This curse, as the story goes, removed their faces and left them to walk the earth forever, blind and speechless, unable to hunt or communicate with each other so that they would fall victim time and time again to the earth and would learn their place.

“But these men were smart and resourceful, and although they weren’t able to see or speak, they could still hear and feel and learned to communicate by knocking on trees and would hunt by the sounds they heard. They used their curse to become more lethal, more silent than they had ever been. They’re still supposed to be out there, somewhere, hunting lost men, but instead of just cutting out their hearts, the men without faces would cut off the faces of their kill as well and wear them on their own blank heads.”

Adam took another long pull from the whiskey bottle until Lance asked the question. “So, what about this makes it a true story? There are tons of Indian legends out there, man. This sounds just like one of those skin walker stories they’d tell their kids to make sure they didn’t wander off into the woods alone.”

“I’m getting to that,” Adam said. “When I was 12, I went camping with my uncles. The first night we heard a bunch of knocking like someone was hitting branches together, and on the second night one of my uncles went missing. They never found the body.”

He took another drink.

“I was sharing the tent with him that night. My uncle I mean, the one who went missing. It was me and him in one tent and my two other uncles in the other. I woke up ‘cause I heard that knocking. I’d heard it the night before as well, further away on the other side of the lake, but this time it sounded like it was coming from right behind me, on the other side of the canvass of the tent. I listened to for a while, waiting for it to go away, but it didn’t – it just kept getting louder and faster. It was like Morse code almost, with a strange beat but deliberate in a way I couldn’t understand.

“Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and I woke my uncle up. Part of me was afraid he would wake up and it would suddenly stop, or he just wouldn’t hear it, but as soon as his eyes were open, he was sitting up in bed. He tried to play it cool I think so he wouldn’t scare me, but I could tell he was scared. He grabbed the pistol from his bag in the corner of the tent and told me to stay there and stay quiet no matter what.

“He unzipped the flap of the tent and stepped out. I could hear him moving around in the dirt, could hear the shuffle of feet against the brush, but that was it. There wasn’t a scream, there wasn’t a shout, there wasn’t a gunshot.

“I sat there in terrified silence and waited in the tent until the sun came up and I heard my uncles getting up in their own tent. I told myself my uncle had gone and bunked with them or maybe had forgotten to tell me everything was alright before going to see about catching fish for breakfast. I told myself a lot of things to keep me going that night, but when my other two uncles got up and came to our tent and asked me where my other uncle was, I broke down.

“Rangers were called, search parties were formed, but we never saw a trace of my uncle again. It was like he had completely vanished off the face of the earth.”

When Adam’s story finished, the rest of us sat in silence for a few minutes, trying to figure out how best to approach the story. It was Brent who spoke up first.

“You know there’s plenty of stuff that could have happened to your uncle, right? You don’t REALLY think it was these faceless dudes, right?”

Adam sat silently, staring into the fire. He took a final gulp from the bottle and passed it to me. “I don’t know what I believe honestly. I grew up justifying the noises I heard and eventually came to terms with the idea that he probably wandered off, got lost, got hurt, and never made it back to camp. But it’s always bee there in the back of my head, you know? The question has always been there.”

Nobody else knew what to say. For some reason the solemnity with which Adam told his story was unsettling, and I don’t think I was the only one feeling that way, because soon after, Tom stood up and announced that Adam was the winner of the scary story telling for the night and that he was going to bed.

Lance followed him, then shortly after Brent did as well.

When it was only me and Adam left, I finally voiced my question.

“You really think it’s a possibility?”

“What?” He asked.

“The faceless tribe, I mean.”

He smiled at me and I could tell he’d had too much to drink.

“Nahh,” he said, swatting with his hand like my question was a bothersome fly.

“It was just a story. My uncle probably just fell down a gorge or something and got picked up by the coyotes.”

“Yeah,” I said, giving him a smile as fake as the one he was giving me. “You’re probably right.”

“I’m going to bed,” he said. “If you hear the knocking though, don’t leave your tent.” Then he stood up and staggered off to his own tent.

I poured some water over the fire and threw some dirt on the embers.

I knew Adam’s story was bogus, or at least I told myself that, but as I crawled into my own tent, I could have sworn that out in the distance, maybe on the other hill across from the river, I could hear a low thumping sound, like branches being struck against a tree stump.