Nattväsen

In the fall of 1989, in the quiet Swedish town of Hälsingfors by the Tiveden forest, children began to disappear.

Within a span of five weeks, eight children, all under the age of seven, went missing while playing by themselves outdoors at night. After fruitless investigations within the community, the local police organized search parties into the adjacent forest. Immediately, they found clothing and toys among the underbrush, which they followed as far into the woods as the dense growth would allow. But no child was ever found, nor ever any evidence of violence or struggle.

As the weeks passed, the well-educated community began to recall, in private whispers lest they be ridiculed, a forgotten local folklore: the story of the nattväsen, the night creatures. In the old days, grandmothers would tell stories of the animal-entities of the forest to curb the curious child from venturing close to the woods. The stories never described these creatures, but spoke of them emerging at nightfall from the Tiveden, forest of the gods, to visit imaginative, adventurous children that were no older than seven, play with them, then lead them into their forest.

The eight children were never found, but as the community hastily tightened security, no more went missing. And in a few years, the incident had all but faded from the collective memory.

In 2017, the Swedish ambient music duo Carbon Based Lifeforms added a new track to their European tour, called Nattväsen. It contained an audio recording of the Hälsingfors Chief Inspector de-briefing after a failed search party, and the words of a dementia-afflicted local old lady who claimed to have been taken and returned in her childhood by the night creatures.

The unfamiliar narrative was regarded by the concert crowds as meaningless space-filler in an otherwise instrumental format, and drew scant attention.

But one night, in a small EDM den in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn club district, Namio Takaki, a Japanese anthropology exchange student who had grown up near the Aokigahara suicide forest, found himself unable to ignore the lyrics. As the band kept playing, first disbelief, then years of near-extinguished trauma broke forth and rose steadily upward through his chest, until he had to scramble his way out through the crowd to the parking lot to be able to breathe again.

 

The following pages contain an account of my personal journey into this mystery, of how I flew too close to the sun in my three years of travel and investigation to unravel a global enigma, and came back from the edge of human reason and the natural laws that purportedly hold this world together.

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