I got my first ear infection at only two weeks old, and it was a sign of trouble for the rest of my childhood. I ended up getting several ear infections every year, and was stuck with permanent tinnitus. The doctor said I would outgrow the condition as I got older, but I kept getting ear infections into my teens and still occasionally get them as an adult.
When I was thirteen, I developed yet another infection and my parents took me to the doctor. He thought I was getting the things due to allergies, so he decided to prescribe me an antihistamine called Tavist. (Back in that time period this medication was not over-the-counter yet.) Little did any of us know this would set me up for yet another unexplained experience.
I had a very bad and unexpected reaction to the medication. Not long after starting the antihistamine, I became disoriented and moody. One day I simply walked away from the house and didn’t come back. I started down the highway and hiked miles from home. Next thing I knew, it was the middle of the night and I was in someplace I shouldn’t have been.
I had no idea where I was. The highway was dark and deserted, and I could hear crickets and critters in the thick bushes on either side of the road. Every once in a while, a car went by, but for the most part the road was empty. There were no houses or buildings anywhere near me, not even an electric light. The only light I had was from the moon and stars.
It took me a moment to clear my head and decide on a course of action. I decided that the best thing I could do was follow the road until I came to a house or business and call home. There had to be something along the way. I assumed that my family was looking for me by now and wondered if I was going to be in trouble, if I could even figure out where I was.
The central Florida night is a creepy place, especially when you are near swamps or lakes. I heard all sorts of night insects and birds calling in the darkness. Occasionally there was a loud splash that could only have been an alligator. As startling as it was, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before when camping in my back yard back home.
But the noise I heard next, I had never heard before and haven’t heard since. All of a sudden, in the thick forest to my right, a high-pitched bellow like the starting of a police siren rose into the night air. It then took on the tone of an air raid or emergency siren before rising to a crescendo that was very much like a pack of wolves howling. The sound became so loud that it rattled my teeth, and I cringed and ducked in the other direction as I hastened my steps. Eventually the noise wound down, sounding like a police siren again before disappearing.
I briefly wondered at what it was that I heard, but I never stopped walking. Something about the noise gave me the creeps and I didn’t want to investigate further. Perhaps there was a fire station in the woods and the firefighters were testing the siren, though why they would do this in the middle of the night, I didn’t know. I waited for the sound of fire engines starting up, but nothing moved.
Shrugging, I continued on my way. There had to be a gas station or restaurant along this highway somewhere, and they had to have a phone. I spent the next two miles trying to decide what I was going to say when I called home and how I was going to tell them where I was when I didn’t know.
I think it was about three miles down the road that the sound started again, this time on the opposite side of the highway and in the direction I was going. The moon reflected off a large lake and the sound appeared to be coming from the tops of the cypress trees above it. I looked but couldn’t see anything that could be producing the noise in the first place. There certainly were no buildings here and no poles that could’ve held a siren.
As the noise rose to its loudest and sounded like wolves again, I got the distinct feeling that I was in danger. As tired as I was at that point, I put on some speed and started running. The noise died down behind me, sounding like a winding down police siren again. I waited for the sound of something jumping after me through the treetops or pounding down the asphalt behind me, but nothing ever came.
The noise sounded again several minutes later, but it was much farther away from me this time. This didn’t stop me from running again, though. I didn’t know what I was hearing and I wasn’t about to stop and find out. I ran until my asthma took over and my knees wobbled. By this point I was at least a mile away from the howl site.
I eventually saw a light in the distance and was relieved to find a convenience store and gas station in the middle of nowhere. The nice man at the counter gave me a free soda and let me use the phone to call home. I think he knew something was wrong, though he didn’t say anything about it.
Mom and Dad came to pick me up and I was relieved when I saw the headlights of our pickup truck in the front windows of the store. On the way home, I told the story of the howl in the dark. Dad thought I’d heard a bull alligator growling down by the lake, but this made no sense to me.
Male alligators call to their mates in loud grunting, growling sounds, which I’d heard coming from the creek behind our house many times. They never howled like a siren. Furthermore, it was the wrong time of year for this mating behavior. I disappeared in September, not April. Also, if this was an alligator, it wouldn’t have been in a dry forest or up in the tops of cypress trees.
Many years later, when I told this story to a Native American friend, he had another idea. He told me it was the Great Spirit calling me home. Perhaps it was. After all, it was this howling sound that got me moving down the highway toward that convenience store. The store was set to close within half on hour of my arrival and may have been closed had I kept walking and not run for it. There was nothing else along that road for at least another twenty miles.
Then there is always the possibility that there was nothing out there in the first place. Could I have imagined the howling? After all, I was under the influence of a prescription drug that had caused me to wander away from home. However, at the time of the experience, I was alert enough to formulate an emergency plan. This does not rule out the possibility of a drug-induced hallucination, though.
I don’t believe I hallucinated. The only thing I can say for sure is that I didn’t hear an alligator and probably didn’t hear any ghosts or spirits. Something alive was out there, but to this day I don’t know what it was. Perhaps it was some type of night bird, tree frog, or insect. There is a lot of strange wildlife in the central Florida woods, some of which is little known by the general public. Whatever it was, though, it scared the crap out of me that night.
So how did this story end? Well, Mom and Dad brought me home and I took a bath to relieve my aching muscles and wash off the road dirt, then it was time to figure out what had happened. The only factor that had changed was the medication. Mom looked up the side effects the next day and there was a very rare one involving “mild disorientation.” However, my family is known for strange reactions to medications. They pulled me off the Tavist and the reaction, whatever it was, stopped.
It took me a while to trust myself after that, but I never ran into this problem again. It was very bad timing when this drug became over-the-counter within only a few months of my disappearance. Fortunately for the general public, such a weird reaction is unlikely.
So what do you think I heard that night? Have you ever heard anything strange in the Florida woods?