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We’ve all seen the signs: no trespassing, keep out, warning. Most of us have ignored these signs at one point or another. We assume they’re erected for the purpose of ownership, as in “stay off my property”. I remember hanging out in a cemetery in high school after dark, and I recently checked out the old Questhaven property locally here by where I live. If you haven’t heard of it, you should do a quick internet search, but that’s beside the point of today’s witness statement. The point is, perhaps we shouldn’t make assumptions about the reasons for these signs. Maybe they really are placed for our own protection, as our witness today has learned for herself.
This witness statement was folded into thirds, as if it was included inside an envelope. The front page had a yellow sticky note on it, and written on that sticky note, it said “Ron, I thought of you when I read this. I’ll let you know if we find anything.”
Witness statement of Monique Rivera, Wednesday, April 19, 2017, recorded by California Highway Patrol Office, Ian Partridge.
Officer’s notes: I found Miss Rivera on highway 76 just after 7:00 a.m. this morning. She had been laying down on the shoulder of the highway, and as I was passing by, she had climbed to her knees and began waving her arms. I barely noticed her due to the amount of dirt covering her causing her to blend in with the environment. She appeared severely dehydrated, had an ankle injury, and I suspected she was in shock, so I called in paramedics and took her statement at the hospital. The following is her account, which I have forwarded to local law enforcement:
On Saturday night, my boyfriend, Miguel and I went hiking up to the observatory. There’s a moderate trail that we would take sometimes. You can drive up to the base of the trail, hike just over 3 miles with some elevation gain, and the observatory is at the top of the trail. We both love going up there to see the stars, and Saturday was our 6-month dating anniversary, so we planned a romantic hike and a picnic.
We got to the trail around 3:00 p.m. and reached the observatory by 4:30. We knew the trail closed at sunset, so we left the observatory around 5:30 and started making our way down, stopping at a nice panoramic spot for a while to have dinner. Miguel packed a blanket, a bottle of wine, and apparently he had made some tamales with his cousins. That’s how we met, you know. I live in his neighborhood and he came knocking on my door one day, asking if he could pick some leaves from my banana tree in my front yard. When I asked him why, he said it was for one of his family recipes. That weekend, knocked on my door again and gave me a grocery bag with about 10 tamales in them. I invited him in for a conversation and the rest is history.
After we ate and had a couple glasses of wine, the sun had begun to set, we packed up our belongings and started making our way down the trail back to the car. Maybe it was the wine, but we had been extra flirty with one another, and he suggested we find somewhere off the trail to pull out the blanket and mess around. I remember noting that we were not supposed to be on the trail after sunset according to the sign at the trailhead, and that I was worried about getting towed. He was kind of making fun of me saying nobody in their right mind would drive a tow truck all the way up here to tow someone from a desolate parking area, and it completely made sense.
We were concerned that there might be other hikers on the trail behind us, so we decided to get away from the trail and find a secluded area to throw the blanket down. We found the perfect little hill where if we just walked on the other side of it, we wouldn’t be visible from the trail, and we’d be far enough away that we could make a little noise and not be noticed. So we headed in that direction, toward the top of the hill. Once we were at the top, we scoped out a nice clearing on the other side with some flat ground without trees.
As we started walking toward it, we heard a really strange sound, almost like a weird insect that I had never heard before. We just ignored it at first. After laying the blanket on the ground, the sound seemed like it was getting closer, and louder. Whatever was causing it couldn’t have been more than 10 feet beyond the treeline. We sat in silence for a moment, confused. It was definitely not something either of us were accustomed to hearing. Then we heard some branches break really close to us. As we stood up, whatever it was stopped making any sounds.
We looked at one another and talked about feeling weird about making out there unless we took a look to make sure nobody was there, so we started walking in the direction that we heard the noises. I grabbed his hand as we passed the treeline, and when we got to the approximate location where we thought we heard the noises, we looked around. We were both breathing heavily. We didn’t see anything at first. But then we heard a noise above our heads. As we looked straight up, I saw what looked like a giant tree branch that was pointed straight down at us. I continued scanning the area at first, looking for a bird or perhaps a squirrel in the tree, but then the branch moved.
As I refocused on the part that was moving, I realized it was no branch. It was a huge insect head, which looked a lot like a praying mantis. I was speechless, and too shocked to make a noise. I looked at Miguel and he was still scanning the canopy looking for something else. That’s when I grabbed his arm tightly. He looked at me in confusion, so I pointed directly at its face. I could tell the body was suspended upside down from a branch at least 20 feet above our heads, which would have made this thing at least 10-12 feet tall. It must have been holding onto the branch above with its feet.
Miguel still didn’t see it at first. It was the exact same color as the pine tree it was suspended from, and its skin, or exoskeleton, or whatever you call it. It looked just like the bark of the pine tree, as if it was painted on in the same pattern. It must have been some kind of camouflage. I could tell when Miguel finally recognized the thing in front of us as something other than a tree because he flinched. When he did, two antennae unfolded from the thing’s forehead, and small pincers where its jaw was begun quivering.
Miguel said, “fuck this, let’s go” and grabbled my wrist. We were attempting to move slowly while we backed away, watching this thing. Its head moved to follow us, and we didn’t get more than a couple of steps away before the pincers spread apart, revealing the thing’s mouth on the inside. It began spraying a foul-smelling liquid from a small canal on the bottom of its mouth. It looked like tar. I remember feeling Miguel’s hand let go of me. He had taken a majority of the spray directly, and I was getting hit with splatter that was bouncing off of him. When I turned my head to look at Miguel, he had already hit the ground. It was only a split second before my vision blurred and I became extremely dizzy myself. I too fell on the ground, and before I completely lost consciousness, I remember seeing the forest floor speeding by and Miguel and I were being dragged through the woods.
When I came to, my head felt like it was going to explode. I tried to call out to Miguel, but my voice came out muffled. There was something over my mouth and face. I started crying and quickly realized my tears were running up onto my forehead instead of down my cheeks. I was hanging upside down somehow. I tried to move my hands, but it was difficult. When I tried to move my head to look toward my hands, it was met with resistance. I couldn’t see, and remembered getting sprayed with that liquid, some of it hitting me in the eyes. I wondered if I had been blinded. Something was confining my whole body, placing pressure on my skin as I attempted to move. It felt rubbery… and viscous.
I began to panic, breathing harder and harder until the material begins going in and out of her mouth with each breath like a plastic bag would. Panic set in for a moment until I was able to grab hold of the filmy substance with my teeth and was eventually able to bite a hole into it. Like a balloon, a giant hole snapped open in the stuff, instantly allowing the cold, damp air to hit me in the face, and I realized there was nothing wrong with my vision, though it was a little blurry at first. I could see that she I was in a dimly-lit cave, underground somewhere.
I was dangling upside down in some kind of cocoon, which began slowly turning the more I wiggled my body to try to get free. All around me, there were dozens of other shapes suspended from the ceiling. They look like sleeping bags but in various shapes. I tried to wiggle my body more furiously in an attempt to get free, and as I did, my cocoon continued turning and my vision became clearer. I too, had been suspended in one of those put sleeping bag things, which made me wonder if there were other people in them too. I focused on trying to spin completely around, looking for any sign of Miguel, but all I saw were motionless cocoons in the shapes of mostly animals. There were deer, what looked like dogs, smaller ones about the size of rabbits or skunks, and even a few human-shaped ones. I knew one of them had to be Miguel.
Eventually I was able to get an arm free, which allowed me to rip the material in front of me, and ultimately fall to the ground. When I hit the ground, I heard a pop in my left ankle. I didn’t feel pain at the time, but quickly realized when I attempted to stand that both of my legs were asleep. I tried to stand, but had no feeling in my legs below my knees. I began screaming for help, and continued to look around for Miguel. I couldn’t reach the cocoons from my position on the ground, but as I looked around the cavern, I noticed a tunnel at the periphery. There was only one, so I thought that would be the way out. I looked around for the creature too, but didn’t see anything.
Then I noticed something else. Opposite the tunnel, on the other side of the cavern, there was a larger object suspended from the ceiling. I realized that the only visible light in the entire cavern was emanating from it, just a faint yellow glow. The outside of it was covered by the same rubbery material containing the other cocoons, but it was much larger in size. It was suspended by 7 or 8 rope-like attachments unlike the sleeping bag-shaped cocoons, which were suspended only by one. And it was roughly about the size of 3 or 4 adult elephants. It was pulsating, and I could hear a muffled chittering sound coming from its direction, similar to the one I heard in the woods. Only this time, it sounded like there were dozens of them.
That’s when I knew I had to leave, but I was still worried about Miguel. When I was able to stand, I began jumping up to slap a few of the human-shaped cocoons in hopes that one would start moving around. That’s when I realized my ankle was in pain. I was only able to reach a few of them, smacking what would be the peoples’ heads, but none of them moved. I probably only got half-way through the human-looking ones when I heard a popping sound, and the chittering got louder. As I turned to look at the giant cocoon, I saw a smaller version of the mantis head I had seen previously begin to poke its way through the membrane.
At that point, I knew that if I didn’t leave and try to get help, Miguel may not stand a chance, or anyone else that was in there if, in fact, there were others still alive. I didn’t know how long they had been there, but I got the hell out of there as fast as I could. I tried running, but couldn’t move more quickly than a fast walk with the pain in my ankle. The tunnel probably went more than a hundred yards before I started to see daylight. As I made my way toward the light, the wall came alive. I saw movement to my left and by the time I was able to turn my head to see what it was, the giant mantis had grabbed me by the shoulder and picked me up.
With my feet suspended off the ground, it pulled my face close to its own. The skin now had what looked like a cave rock pattern, and it had changed colors to mimic my surroundings. It opened its mouth, and extended an odd-looking appendage about the diameter of a drinking straw that was forced into my nose. It pushed and pushed, as I writhed in pain, screaming, until I heard a crunching sound from between my eardrums inside my head. Immediately following this sound and an even sharper, more intense pain, I felt an odd sensation. It first I thought I was going to pass out from the pain, but quickly realized I didn’t feel any. A rush of information and emotion came into my mind. It’s hard to explain, but in that moment, I felt like I was having someone else’s experiences. I know it sounds crazy.
After a few seconds, the appendage slipped out of my nose, being trailed by a stream of blood, and the thing gently lowered me to the ground, turned around, and started skittering down the tunnel in the direction I had come from. I made it out of the tunnel, and from the looks of it, I was guessing it had to be early afternoon. I was in the middle of the forest, somewhere on Palomar Mountain. It was a clear day and I could make out the coastal communities to the West where the sun was looming.
It took me at least a couple of days to walk, and eventually crawl, with my swollen ankle to the side of the road. I reached the shoulder of the highway in the dark morning hours and passed out, but I knew it was just a matter of time before someone would drive by and hopefully spot me. A lot of people ended up driving by once the sun came up, but you were the first person who noticed me, even though I had been trying to wave every car down that I could. I just didn’t have the energy to get up, and my ankle was so swollen and painful that I couldn’t stand. I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink in what seemed like days.
What’s most concerning to me now, though, is these thoughts I keep having. I am supposed to do something. Though I’m incredibly worried about Miguel, I am even more concerned about what that thing did to me. It wants me to bring others to it. It feeds off of people and animals, and there are more of them underneath the mountain, dwelling in the caves. They can come out to hunt, but a majority of their food source is derived from luring things to them. It’s like a conscious thought that I can’t suppress. Even I feel the need to return. On one hand, I’m worried for anyone who might go there in search of Miguel or anyone else, but on the other, I can’t just leave him there to die!
At this point in Miss Rivera’s statement, Officer Partridge notes that she became inconsolable and would make a decision with the consultation of his superior at CHP. There were no other statements recorded directly from the Highway Patrol, mainly because they believed the jurisdiction should be overseen by local PD.
Included with this witness statement, with the same folded pattern of the statement itself, were a few other items. There were three missing persons reports from the same area, around the Palomar Mountain trail and the observatory, and there were two written medical reports with Monique Rivera’s patient identification on them. It appears they were reports from both CT and MRI examinations of her head, dated the day following Officer Partridge’s statement, and presumably from that very hospital stay. There were highlighted sections on each of these reports.
The CT scan found a small subdural bleed in the brain, as well as inflammation overlying the sphenoid bone at the base of the brain. An MRI was recommended. The MRI report confirms a small bleed, but not new. It mentions it being old in one area and clotted in another. Also highlighted were the words “moderate enlargement of the pineal gland with no evidence of trauma in the surrounding tissue. Enlargement noted is typical of post-surgical procedure but without the typical, identifiable scarring pattern as seen with most post-op neurosurgery. Origin of enlargement unknown. Follow up with patient’s physician to inquire about previous history of surgery and/or international travel.”