In scary movies, dreams, novels, and the liveliest of imaginations, the "disappearing into thin air" trope is common: lonely and abandoned abodes, structures, or towns vanish mysteriously, without a trace, often accompanied by fuzzy fog and hushed music. Apparently this happens in real life, too - according to people on Reddit who shared their true tales of encounters with places that later vanished. They wrote about gas stations (lots of gas stations), restaurants, cabins, waterfalls, tombs, and even bakeries that were there one minute, then gone immediately, or days later when they tried to return.
The reason for these mysterious disappearances might have a logical explanation in some cases, but most have a sure tinge of the paranormal. We can attempt to figure it all out, or just let our spines shiver (in a positive way) to consider that because so many people have experienced this phenomenon, these secret places surely exist, even if we can't explain why.
From Redditor /u/todaystrash:
I have been an avid horsewoman my entire life. The barn I grew up riding at was in a rural area and situated on a few hundred acres of undeveloped land... I spent a LOT of time out in those woods and saw a whole lot of nature happen out there. It's as close to perfect solitude as you are going to get in western New York.
In my late teens, I had a horse who was a pretty damn great guy, but I had put him up for sale as I felt I was ready for a more challenging animal and could not afford two horses... One lazy summer morning, I packed a lunch and headed out for a long meandering ride in the woods... I wasn't feeling terribly ambitious that day and intended to head to a man-made pond I knew near one of the border farms to have lunch and read for a bit before heading back... [A]bout halfway there I decided to take an alternate route that led along a pretty tree-lined ridge and turned off the main trail.
I have no idea what happened when I turned into that cutoff, but the woods we walked into were not my woods. They weren't creepy or weird or wrong, but they were different. I was immediately disoriented; nothing looked familiar, [and] I couldn't pick out any landmarks or trails. I was weirded out enough that I turned around to go back to the main trail, but the trail back was just... gone. I couldn't have been more than 30 yards from the main trail, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it, or any way back to it. We traveled back that direction for far longer than we'd been walking in, and I finally gave up and just gave my horse control of the aircraft, figuring he'd find his way toward home eventually. He immediately took a hard left, which should have been taking us parallel to the main trail and in the general direction of home, and 10-ish minutes later, he walked us into a clearing.
It was a meadow with a perfect, serene pond in the middle. The meadow was short, tidy grass, like it had been mowed recently, but there were no obvious routes for any sort of mower to get in or out. The pond was weirdly clear - most of the... water in the area [was] very swampy, but this... was clean and fresh smelling. The wildflowers around were not any I'd seen before. I assumed it was some farmer's personal zen place and didn't think too much of it. I hopped off, let my buddy loose to graze, ate my lunch, read for a bit and enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon sitting there watching the dragonflies and frogs and [spending time] with my horse, generally feeling peaceful and content. It was really a storybook setting, and I remember thinking how weird it was that no one from the barn had ever mentioned this incredibly beautiful place that was so close to home.
I packed back up a couple of hours later and remounted, and headed back the way we'd come in... As we left the clearing and went back into the woods, I immediately felt at "home" again, and I found the main trail right where my internal compass said it should be... It didn't make much sense to me that the main trail was STILL that distance back when we had traveled what felt like a mile in that direction, but I honestly thought I'd just been daydreaming and meandered off course when I'd turned around. We got back to the barn with no issue and I headed home that night feeling very grateful to have had such a wonderful, peaceful afternoon with my equine friend, knowing that he was going to a new home soon.
The next day, I mentioned the meadow and pond to the barn owner, and she looked a little confused. Her family has been there for generations and she told me she didn't recall any such area anywhere near the barn, nor did she recall anyone else mentioning such a place. I told her she had to see it, and we tacked up and headed out.
Couldn't find it. Not that day, and never since. The owner shrugged me off, but I'd spent six hours out there SOMEWHERE, and the damn place wasn't more than 30 yards from the main trail, and near a well-used cutoff to another well-used trail. I made it my damn mission to find it, and spent the next two weeks scouring the area. In the 20 years since, I have NEVER been able to locate it. I have poured over satellite images of the area. Nothing. So far as I can tell, it doesn't exist. When we turned off of the main trail that day, we went somewhere else.
Epilogue: My horse [perished] suddenly a couple of weeks later, a day after literally saving my life while we were out on the trail looking for that damned impossible meadow. No joke. I have no explanation for that meadow, but I don't think I get to go back there. I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I honestly think it was his place and he was sharing it with me before he left for good. I am not the sort of woman prone to that sort of flight of fancy, but I know what I saw and what I felt, and I know the place doesn't f*cking exist out there anymore.
From Redditor /u/__celli:
I was driving from Dallas to Tuscaloosa. Left at midnight and drove straight through the night with two friends passed out sleeping. It was probably 4 am and I had a quarter of a tank of gas, which translates to about 100 miles. I saw that the nearest town was about 90 miles, so I was pretty worried about making it.
Before I hit that town, I ran into a tiny town that wasn't on the map. A few houses, a gas station, a convenience store, and that was about it.
I walked into the gas station and handed the guy $50 so I could fill up. He was a really tall, skinny black guy - like "skin wrapped around bones"-level skinny. Probably 6 foot 5 inches at least. And he just had this eerie look about him.
He looked at me, leaned over the counter, scanned the outside, and looked back at me. He handed me my $50 back and a hat and said, "Look, you look like a nice young fella. You don't want to be out here at this time of night lookin' like that. Put the hat on, get to your car quickly, and get gas at the next town." (Based on the way he said it and how he pointed, "lookin' like that" was about being white, I think, but I'm not positive).
I was super confused and just said, "I don't have enough gas to get there; that's why I'm here. I didn't even know this place existed." He responded, "It doesn't. Here, there's 2 gallons left in this can. Just drive another 15 to 20 miles out and use those 2 gallons. But please, you need to move now."
At that point I stopped questioning him and left. On my return trip, it was daytime. So I wanted to stop back in and return the can with 2 gallons in it. But wouldn't you f*cking know? Couldn't find the goddamn little town again. It's like it disappeared over the weekend.
To this day, I refuse to stop in small towns that aren't on the map. I have no idea what that gas station employee was trying to save me from, but he pushed me out of there with some urgency and even gave me free gas to do so.
From Redditor /u/tdasnowman:
Cyberjaya, Malaysia. I was opening a call center, so working nights to match US hours. Our typical lunch spot was closed for a few days. One guy said he knew a place close by. We piled in his car and off we went into the jungle...
At that time if you headed toward [Kuala Lumpur], it stayed pretty urban or suburban; you headed some other direction, it got dark fast. We were out on these roads [where] streetlights go from regular intervals to what seemed like one every 5 kilometers, [and] it quickly became obvious the driver was lost. He stopped looking for a place to eat and was outright just looking for the way back to the office. Then we saw this house, with a counter where the car park should be, just lighting up the jungle around it. We pulled in mostly for directions.
Turned out this was a random little Mamak stall [outdoor food stall] built onto [someone's] house. They operated for the farms in the area [and] were in the process of shutting down, but stayed open to feed us. Out in the middle of the jungle I had some of the freshest and [best] Indo-Chinese food. They were even able to give us directions to get back to the office area.
We tried to find that spot again like a week later, and thought we reversed the directions, and [found] nothing but trees.
From Redditor /u/growlinterrupted:
I went to an all-girls Catholic school. It's a very big school (around 2,000 students, K-12) located on top of a mountain and surrounded by some sort of forest. When I was in second grade, around 8 years old, my friends and I liked walking around and exploring different places in school, the woods nearby (which was off limits), the pond, and other school buildings and facilities.
One day, my friends and I stumbled upon an area that looked like a series of tombs; there were maybe 20-plus tombs in there, some open, some closed. We don't know how we got there, but we were curious little sh*ts, so we went closer to see. As we got closer to the tombs, an old man holding a broom came out of nowhere and surprised us. He said he was the caretaker of the place, and that's where the old nuns of the school were laid to rest. After that, he told us we shouldn't be there and not to come back. So we left.
Now comes the weird part. After leaving the area, my friends and I found ourselves in an unfamiliar place. Seems like we were lost. We were getting nervous, but just decided to keep walking until we found someplace familiar. We walked for, like, 10 minutes, then one of us saw one of the school buildings, which made it easy for us to get back to our classroom.
Turned out we had been gone for four hours, and the school guards and teachers had been looking for us. As we explained to them that we just walked around and saw the tombs, the teachers and school guards gave us weird looks and said there was no such place.