Posted in big bend, chisos mountains, distinguishing of spirits, evil, haunted, spooky

Hiking in the spooky Chisos Mountains- discerning of spirits

By Elizabeth Prata

I don’t often talk about personal experiences on this blog, because frankly, I don’t think most people are interested in me, lol. We are all more interested in Jesus, and His soon return.

I was thinking today about a few times in my life when I felt fearfully spooky for no reason. These occurred before I was saved. However, all my life I could feel the emotional and spiritual temperature of a room. When I got saved by His grace, the Holy Spirit delivered to me the Gift of Discerning of spirits, also known as the distinguishing of spirits (1 Cor 12:10). So now I can use that ability He planted in me from birth to His glory as a child of God

Discerning of Spirits is discussed by Alexandra Clair on her blog. Her definitions of terms in my opinion are scripturally apt and well-written to boot. So what is discerning of spirits?

“In simplistic terms this means that one has an awareness of the unseen world and its influence and workings, both godly and evil, as people or circumstances are impacted, led, opposed, or guided. … People with the Spiritual Gift of discernment have sensitive antenna, a God-planned innate ability, to probe beneath the superficial exterior to get at the truth. They may not initially understand the reasons why they feel uncomfortable even as others are on board supporting a person or plan. And yet, they have discerned that there is a spirit at work here that is not quite right. They are being moved by the Holy Spirit to take the next step, to investigate and question, to “test the spirits.” …

“Persons with this gift use intuition balanced by knowledge of scripture to spot a disingenuous person or false teaching. They sense when others have been deceived by experiential or “new age” encounters and can counsel on the perils of occult involvement. They can investigate claims of miraculous healing to know if this is truly a touch from the divine or a person claiming power that only belongs to God. They can investigate conflicts within the church body facilitating peace and resolution, Christ-centered intervention, intercessory prayer and deliverance.” …

“They have a deep abiding confidence in the power of God to change circumstances and people, balanced by a healthy and cautionary insight into the reality that may present as wrong or even malevolent.”

In the mid 1990s, my husband and I traveled by VW camper van across country. We took three months to travel from Maine to Key West, across Texas to San Diego, and then north to Carmel, CA before running out of time. We especially loved the Big Bend region and the National Park at Big Bend, Texas. It was spectacularly beautiful! I recommend everyone visit there once in their lives.

One of the campgrounds we stayed at was high in the Chisos Mountains. It is at elevation 5,400 feet. My husband and I took off on one of the trails to hike and enjoy the view in the clear desert air.

As we walked up and up, my feet slowed and slowed. I was not out of shape or tiring- in body. It was that my soul sensed something wrong. As we ascended higher on the trail, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I began to hyperventilate, and not from the elevation or the exertion. It was a panting kind of fear. Finally, my brain was screaming STOP and my feet would go forward no more. I refused to budge and inch. My husband and I turned back. He was totally perplexed but supportive.

For the first time in many years I thought about that moment. It all came rushing back to me. Was I crazy? Irrational? What WAS that spooky feeling? I looked up the Chisos area in Google and plugged in the search term “spooky.” This is what I found.

Big Bend Mysteries
From Winter Texas Online
“‘Chisos’ in native language means ghost, or spirit, and most native people avoided the pristine mountains like the plague, believing them to be alive with the spirits of the dead. Standing in the primary campground of the Chisos Basin and listening to the wind whistle through the desolate range, you can easily understand their reputation and the many myths and legends associated with them.”

Spooky Days, Frightful Nights- the Haunted Big Bend Region of Texas
From Texas Less Traveled

The Big Bend region has always been a spooky place, dating at least as far back as when the relatives of the pit-dwelling Anasazi roamed the region and only traveled through the Chisos Mountain region with great respect and much apprehension.”

“But it’s not just what you see in this mythical land that can bring a chill to the back of the neck and make the hair stand up on your arms. It’s what you can’t see, or what you thought you saw, if even for a fleeting moment. At times like these you can easily understand why those ancient travelers through the area did so with great care and caution. According to their legends, it’s not the harshness of the environment or the hostile bands of bandits and renegades that troubled the region most, but the spirits of the mountains and the witches that live near the river. To the natives, the region was terribly haunted.”

“Today, you don’t have to look very far to find strange tales about the region. Not far away are the famous Marfa Lights, and on more than one occasion similar lights have been seen throughout the national park. Other strange events and encounters that are told often around Big Bend campfires are stories about moving, human like figures in the desert at night, but investigation the next day seldom reveals any footprints or other signs.”

(Above, me in the Chisos Mountains of the Big Bend National Park, with traveling cat.)

When we traveled to Chisos at Big Bend, we had no idea of its reputation, and I still had no idea until today.

Now,  there is no such thing as ghosts. When the body dies the soul goes either to heaven or to hell. However, demons do haunt the world, (Matthew 12:43-44). After all, satan is the god of it. (2 Corinthians 4:4). They roam and prowl as does satan, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).

I believe it was the presence of evil that I’d sensed there on the trail, and by the looks of the history of the place, I was not the first one to sense it.

I’ve written one other time on the blog about sensing evil. It was when the first strange humming noises started to emerge. I’d written

“Traveling in Scotland was amazing. I loved it. I’ve always been spiritually sensitive, and I noticed that in Scotland, land of standing stones, Celtic Druids, foggy moors and crumbling castles, that the veil felt particularly thin. It wasn’t the Godly I was feeling nearby, but the eerie or demonic, particularly in standing stone circles. It is a place where legends of giants still persist. Other places where I felt that was the Salton Sea in California, and Gray, Maine. Did you ever feel that, a place that gave you the willies for no reason?”

I can’t wait for the pure air that I’ll drink into my soul in heaven. Can’t you? God’s holiness and Christ’s righteousness will permeate and saturate the heavens and we will never feel, experience, or sense evil again! But meanwhile, if you have the gift of Discerning of Spirits, no, you’re not crazy when you sense something off. It is the Spirit speaking. If you do sense something, refer to scripture and appeal to the Spirit in prayer for insight. That is the best way to go. We can’t go forward based on feelings and intuition, but the Spirit will lead, through the scriptures. I hope never to feel that spooky fear again. I can completely understand the verse in Luke,

people fainting from fear and the expectation of the things that are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:26).

I felt like fainting in fear on the Chisos Mountain trail, and it wasn’t even the Tribulation yet in which the Luke verse refers, where all those who have not trusted in Him will have to endure through a terrifying time. Jesus is the surest way to safety. He saves us from the bondage of sin now and soon, one day, He will release us from its presence forever.


For further reading-

If you have the gift of Distinguishing of Spirits, I feel your unease. There is very little written about it and what little there it is distinctly unhelpful, as it veers to easily into the paranormal or the just plain silly.

Got Questions has a good essay on the gift-

What is the spiritual gift of discerning spirits?

John MacArthur discusses it in this sermon, The Permanent Edifying Gifts Part 3 

Pastor Tim Challies wrote about the Gift of Discernment in three parts, herehere and here.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.