Lost in Ontario
The Toronto Star has published a Canadian Press account of a 'Third Man' encounter involving a woman lost in the wilderness in northwestern Ontario. Read the story here. Here is the CP account:
Lost and alone in the vast forest of northwestern Ontario, Valerie Cain somehow managed to stay calm — and alive - for six gruelling days.
She says she suffered heartbreaking setbacks, and one very strange hallucination, but kept focusing on one task: survival.
"I don't profess to be an expert at all, but I think keeping your wits about you is the best survival tip. Don't panic," Cain told The Canadian Press from her home in Keewatin, Ont., where she has been recovering with the help of friends and family.
Cain, a 45-year-old ultrasound technologist, got lost July 12 while driving to Red Lake, where she was scheduled to fill in for a colleague. She saw some rapids off the highway, parked her car and started walking through the forest to get a better look.
"It didn't take more than 10 minutes walking before I looked behind me and there was really no trail behind me anymore," she said. "I headed in one direction that I thought was headed either toward the highway or toward my vehicle, but it was neither."
"I was kind of in the middle of nowhere."
Cain was actually walking deeper and deeper into the thick woods, with dense trees scraping her arms and legs. She had only a few cherries and some crackers with her, and no water. She knew she would have to drink soon, but when the sunlight started fading, she decided to settle down for the night underneath some trees.
The next morning, she continued walking, looking for any sign of civilization. She saw a clearing in the distance and found a riverbank. There was no sign of anyone, but she now had water to drink, and figured someone might come by. Fortunately, she had a lighter on her - left over from a smoking habit she has been trying to kick.
"I stayed there for two nights and built a campfire ... in hopes that one, I could stay warm and, two, that somebody would see the smoke."
"I walked in both directions up the shore ... but it just seemed to go on endlessly. I'd get to one bend and it would just continue on to another one."
Cain would hear sounds - birds, mostly, and an occasional airplane that was much too high to see her.
Meanwhile, back in Keewatin, Cain's friends and family were desperately trying to figure out what happened to her. Ontario Provincial Police launched ground and aerial searches, but had no luck.
On the fourth day, Cain decided to brave the river's strong current and cross to the other side. She had been a lifeguard as a teenager and felt confident despite being weak from lack of food.
Once on the other side, she heard a noise that sounded like it could be coming from a logging operation and saw a clearing in the distance.
She approached it, only to find that it was another bend in the river. This time, however, the current seemed much faster.
She walked along the riverbank in one direction. It was then that she saw her first sign of civilization in four days - some cabins in the distance. Her spirits soared, but only temporarily.
"I yelled for help and waved my arms toward the building that was there."
There was no reply. Cain says she was heartbroken, but determined. She knew her best chance was to wait there in case the cabin owners came by.
Soon afterward, her mind started playing tricks on her. She saw a man on the other side of the river. She was convinced he was real.
"I had about a three-hour, I don't know what you'd call it, a hallucination of sorts with a person on the other side of the river, who was telling me he was going to come and get me," Cain said.
"He just couldn't get across or whatever ... so I just kind of moved back into the bush and laid underneath some trees and went to sleep for the night."
Cain now figures she was suffering from so-called "third-man" syndrome, a condition in which people who are in danger of dying feel the presence of an unknown person urging them to carry on. The syndrome was the subject of a recent book by Toronto author John Geiger.
On the fifth day, Cain didn't move, waiting for someone to come to the cabins. No one did.
On the sixth day, she decided she had to find food. Despite her weakening condition, she prepared herself to brave the river's current.
"I got into the water and sat on a big rock, shivering, and I looked up again, and there were two vehicles in the field. "
"I just screamed at the top of my lungs for I don't know how long, and these two men appeared, towing a boat."
The men brought her to the cabin and called police.
"It was a thrill to be in a warm place and among people, and out of there."
After a brief hospital stay, Cain is recovering at home and getting her strength back. She's thinking of returning to work soon, and is grateful for search-and-rescue teams, police officers and others who searched for her.
For the time being, she's had more than enough of the great outdoors, and has told her partner she wants to stay put.
"We had discussed camping this summer, but I don't think I'm going to go. Right now I'm preferring my own bed and pillow."