Maykool Acuña spent nine days lost in the rainforest—possibly due the machinations of an evil tree sprite—but was kept alive by a group of helpful monkeys. National Geographic, whose reporter was embedded with the team searching for Acuña, has the highly improbable story. Acuña was inside Madidi National Park in the Bolivian Amazon with a tour group when he disappeared without a trace. The owner of the tour agency says the 25-year-old Chilean was acting weird and refused to participate in a ceremony honoring Pachamama, or Mother Earth, at the agency's lodge: "His face just didn't look normal." Acuña stepped away from the group for five minutes and vanished, becoming the first person to go missing inside Madidi in 15 years.
The group searched the rainforest for hours and couldn't find a single track belonging to Acuña or any sign he'd even ever been there. Park rangers believed Acuña had angered Pachamama, who in turn allowed him to be spirited to an alternate dimension by a no-good sprite named Duende. Rangers searched the park for 10 hours a day, but they also hired two shamans to retrieve Acuña from whatever dimension he was being kept in. After nine days, Acuña was finally found—dehydrated, swollen, and covered in bug bites—less than a mile from the lodge. "I want a Coca Cola," he told rescuers. Acuña says he survived by following a group of monkeys, who dropped fruit and led him to shelter and water. Acuña doesn't know what compelled him to run into the rainforest without his sandals, phone, or flashlight, but rangers believe they have an answer: Duende. Read the full story here. (Read more Amazon rainforest stories.)