In 1993, Whitley Strieber realized that a mysterious young man was lurking around his cabin in New York. When the Striebers heard sounds of movement in the woods around their cabin and caught whiffs of cigarette smoke throughout the summer of 1996, they decided he had become a permanent fixture. On several occasions, Whitley discovered piles of cigarette butts beneath trees close to the cabin.
Strieber suspected the man was a human-visitor hybrid because, although he had all the physical characteristics of a human being, he exhibited the “same testy, frantic affect that characterized the grays that I had previously encountered”, as Strieber explained in a Q&A for his novel Hybrids. This affect was so exaggerated that Strieber thought the boy suffered from some mental illness, probably schizophrenia. He also entertained the thought that the guardian was a failed genetic experiment of the visitors, perhaps left behind to watch over their “asset”.
He first mentioned this person in an online journal entry of April 14, 2008. “In 1996, the visitors posted a guardian in the woods behind our house.” This guardian looked like a child who had grown to adulthood with ever entering puberty, and his erratic behaviour, combined with his stunted stature, led Strieber to think of him at times as a “sinister chainsmoking dwarf.” Incredibly, there were indications that the guardian sometimes entered the Striebers’ cabin and spent the night in a guest room. The rest of the time, he evidently occupied a series of crude little sheds he built in the woods around the cabin. Strieber sensed that he was not only shy, but that he found people too emotional and too unpredictable for his tastes. He was unhappy.
This was not the first unusual boy Strieber had seen near the cabin. Before Communion was published, he actually saw a black-haired young boy, roughly 11 years old, standing inside the cabin, but the child literally vanished before he could say anything to him. Weeks later, his son reported a “strange kid” on the private road that ran in front of the cabin. Strieber saw that it was his disappearing boy, this time on a black bicycle. He wore a bizarre shirt that looked like it was made from knife blades. When Strieber approached him, he disappeared in the direction of the woods without making a sound.
In 1993, he had his first encounter with the guardian. He saw what he took to be a young boy sitting beneath a tree on his property, smoking a cigarette. But when he approached the youth and told him to be sure he extinguished his cigarette, he saw that the “boy” had a wrinkled, weathered face. He was wearing a tan jumpsuit, not dissimilar from what the visitors sometimes wore. And the “cigarette” was really a small silver wand, something Strieber had seen in the hands of visitors on several notable occasions. The “boy” didn’t say a word; he just growled.
Strieber believes the visitors stationed this peculiar little guardian in the woods to protect him from human enemies. Ironically, though, he found the guardian frightening and his chainsmoking repulsive.
Just why would he need a protector, anyway? As Strieber explains it, locals were growing very alarmed by his presence in the area, and by the spooky things he seemed to bring with him (keep in mind that this cabin was not the same one where Strieber had his initial experiences, but a second cabin he and Anne had built in the early ’90s). The neighbours were distressed by the appearance of bright lights in the sky, and some held the opinion that the visitors – and Strieber along with them – were demonic in nature. Their cabin was broken into at least twice (not by visitors this time); one of the burglars made off with a check for $5000. Then, starting in 1994, the Striebers received anonymous phone calls warning that some area residents were plotting to harm Whitley, perhaps even murder him, and pass it off as a hunting accident. This part of the story strikes me as rather unlikely, on a practical level. Who in their right mind decides to kill a neighbour just because he has some weird, paranormal experiences? It seems more likely that Strieber’s caller was trying to scare him out of the area.
In the late ’90s, the Striebers suffered severe financial setbacks that forced them to sell their cabin and move to a small, rather drab apartment in Whitley’s native San Antonio. It was a depressiving, discouraging time for them. Their new neighbourhood was a typical urban setting, a world removed from the quiet and isolation of their cabin.
One night, Strieber detected the familiar odor of cigarette smoke. A short time later, a neighbour told him that a boy about 12 years of age had been lurking around the building, even climbing up an exterior wall that had no toeholds whatsoever.
Strieber caught a glimpse of the guardian dashing away from his apartment one night. Thereafter, he would lurk in the shadows every night, smoking and watching just as he had done in New York.
Then, in broad daylight, Strieber saw the guardian striding down the street with a cigarette in his mouth, looking enraged. That was his last sighting of the guardian. Who (or what) he was, and why he followed the Striebers all the way to Texas, is a mystery.