Woods shock refers to a persons mental state after the realization that they are lost. Its the effect of taking someone from their normal environment, and putting them into a situation where they do not have the slightest idea where they are at. The degree, or level of woods shock varies from person to person. The effects range from fear to all out panic.
Living in a city, people have streets, and street names to keep them oriented. We know where we are at because this street connects to that street, and so on. When a person has been raised in the city or town environment, they become accustomed to knowing the street layout and how to get from one place to another.
In the wilderness, there are no street signs, or names of roads. This lack of normal guidance (no street or roads) has certain profound psychological effects on people that become lost in the wilderness.
Very little research has been done on “woods shock” as it can only be studied when a person is lost. When the search and rescue team finds the person, the woods shock goes away and the person returns to their normal mental state.
Children who have been lost in the woods overnight, were rarely able to describe anything about their experience. The children simply could not put their experience into words. The children that are able to describe being lost, said they hid from monsters at night (remember these “monsters” for later in this article). Adults who spent the night lost in the woods, described hearing wild dogs, coyotes or even wolves. Adults said they heard sounds that came from a type of K9, even though there were none in the area. Some adults also described frequently hearing voices in the night.
Sometimes the lost person mistakes the rescue dogs for wolves and will hide from the search and rescue teams. So that might explain some of what the lost people heard. Children will see lights and voices in the night (which is really the search and rescue teams with flashlights calling the childs name), the children will sometimes think that the lights and voices are monsters and will hide from the rescue teams. In the childs mind they are seeing “monsters” in the dark, but in reality its the search and rescue parties.
Even though there are several levels of “Woods Shock”, only three are going to be discussed.