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Early loggers looked out for legendary ‘Hidebehind’

Kevin Collier • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:32 PM

Col. Amos Norton built a lumber mill on the river between Lloyd’s Bayou and Boom Road. The following year, Hopkins Mill, at Mill Point and on the shore of Big Bayou (which later was named Spring Lake), was constructed. The White & Friant Mill, among others, began production and operated until the end of the Lumber Era in 1890.

The saw mills created a boom in employment. But, at times, loggers would fail to return to camp, seemingly having disappeared. Workers began looking over their shoulders for a creature that supposedly existed only in legends, one they called the “Hidebehind.”

A Hidebehind was said to be a nocturnal creature that preyed upon humans that wander woodlands. It was credited with the disappearances of early loggers.

As its name suggests, the Hidebehind is noted for its ability to conceal itself. When an observer attempted to look directly at it, the creature hid behind an object, usually a tree. The creature accomplished its narrowness by sucking in its stomach to a point where it was so slender that it could easily hide behind any tree without being seen.

Their victims, usually lumberjacks, were dragged back to the creature’s lair to be devoured. The creature reportedly feasted chiefly upon the intestines of its victim. Tales of the Hidebehind may have helped explain strange noises in the forest at night.

Early accounts describe Hidebehinds as large, powerful animals, despite the fact that few have ever seen one. But, recent sightings may suggest the creature of lore is still on the prowl and hiding in northern woodlands.

In 2000, a 14-year-old boy,  his brother and a friend were crossing through a wooded area, headed to a lake about one mile from their Indiana home. “I felt a very strange feeling, like I was being watched,” the now 28-year-old man recalled. “I was also afraid to look behind me. I picked up my pace — and, as I did, I heard a rustle of leaves in the woods almost at the same pace I was walking.”

The frightened boy took off running and became separated from his younger brother and friend. He paused halfway up a trail.

“At first, I didn’t see anything, so I relaxed a little, still looking in the woods for someone,” he recalled. “That’s when I saw it.”

Peering from behind a tree, about 50 yards back, he saw a thin, black, hairy creature with huge red eyes. The description matches the rare eyewitness accounts of a Hidebehind.

“The creature only had its head and hands sticking out from behind the tree, and it was staring right at me,” the eyewitness said. “I sprinted home and found my brother and friend at the house.

“I firmly believed what I saw was real,” he continued. “But, as the years passed, I thought maybe it was a figment of my imagination.”

That was, until a second encounter in 2007. The man, his younger brother and a friend were driving through a wooded area one night and noticed about seven or eight deer in a frozen pose out in a field.

“They were scared,” he recalled. “That’s when I noticed two huge, glowing red eyes off to the side of the woods.”

His brother didn’t witness the creature, though his friend did.

“I now firmly believe there is some kind of creature that stalks in the woods,” he said.

There’s little doubt, whether legend or fact, that stories of the Hidebehind became fodder for campfires at Grand Haven and Spring Lake logging camps. Likely, more than a few superstitious lumberjacks kept an eye out over their shoulder for safe measure.

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