How One Man Was Possessed by SHTF Survival

James Walton James Walton  |  Updated: August 17, 2019
How One Man Was Possessed by SHTF Survival

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Civilization is like a wave that builds out of the ocean. It swells and sometimes it collapses on itself. Then it crashes onto the beach. Finally, it recedes from whence it came and begins to build again. It’s hard for our modern society to understand SHTF Survival because they don’t understand this ebb and flow of civilizations over time.

I was reared in the hyper convenient, at arm’s length, suburbs of Philadelphia. You got what you wanted and you got it fast, so long as you could pay for it.

By 2010 I was living in Virginia, I fell for a southern bell. Still, I was about the opposite of an urban prepper. I had no SHTF plan and all of the emergency preparedness and zombie apocalypse talk was just outside of my reality. I left it in the fiction category.

Little did I know I was about to be possessed, literally and figuratively by SHTF Survival.

Upon buying our first home in Virginia we were doing our best to ship the mail back to its previous owners. It wasn’t a lot of mail but we were staying on top of it and felt it our duty.

Every so often a magazine would arrive with my neighbor’s name on it. It was called Cheaper Than Dirt. It was a very boring magazine to me because it was basically gun accessories. However, the back of the book was filled with survival gear.

The magazine would feature things like water filters, long term food storage, You could even buy gas masks and Gieger counters for nuclear emergencies. This blew my mind because it was thinning the barrier between this world of SHTF survival fiction and reality.

Hurricane Carter

My wife played ice hockey in college and I played guitar. Our relationship was not predicated on the strong protector and petite helpless damsel. Though I was working out more, I didn’t know how to fight or shoot.

To society, I was a married man and a homeowner at 25. In reality, I was still very much a boy from Delaware County.

Just before Christmas in 2010 we found out that we were having a child. By spring we knew it was a little boy.

At this point, I was receiving my own Cheaper Than Dirt magazine and I was really starting to research this world of prepping and survival. It was still a cold pool and I was not prepared to hold my nose and take that plunge.

Hurricane Irene smashed Virginia at the end of August 2011. We lost power for a week and there were trees down all over the place. Our son Carter was born just 3 weeks prior. We were new parents and we were unprepared.

At 25 years old I had experienced my share of failures. However, they all paled in comparison to the moment I was standing in my living room, in the dark, my wife was sweating and about as uncomfortable as a woman could be. My newborn son was swaddled in my arms, the formula running out and I was bludgeoned by reality.

We had help, we had family and we could go get more formula but my overactive imagination played through a disaster scenario, like an economical collapse, where we had to live off what was in our home. This was a simple inconvenience, a power outage. We weren’t living through nuclear war.

It was at that moment that SHTF Survival became more than a research project for me. I began to understand exactly why the man who lived here before me was receiving those magazines.

The Possession

What I neglected to tell you at the beginning of this story was that the previous homeowner was dying when we bought the home. It was a very interesting circumstance but the home was once filled with another family and we were now filling it with our own.

After Hurricane Irene, I began to inspect our home. I bought some tools, of which I had none. I even explored the crawlspace underneath the house. Braving the black widows and copperheads, I maneuvered through the space, between water pipes and happened upon a large metal chest.

I pulled this large dusty chest out from under the house and stared at it for a while in the backyard. It was every bit like finding buried.

As I opened the lid it seemed to exhale and the crawlspace dust escaped into the air. I felt like Abel Trelawny from Brahm Stokers The Jewel of Seven Stars. It was like the spirit of the man who lived there before I climbed into my body.

The box was full of things I had no idea how to use. Metal game traps, a variety of blaze orange garments, tincture of iodine, mess kit, tarps, a single person tent that took me a year to open and discover. This was a little chest of SHTF survival items.

Forget the Exorcist

From that day on the possession grew and grew. I changed so much from the man I was before Hurricane Irene that I would have trouble talking to that person, as I am today.

I write about SHTF Survival for a living, I believe all people need to set aside money and time for preparedness. My preparedness level and physical fitness have radically changed in that time.

As the intrepid commander at The Prepper Broadcasting Network, I coordinate around 14 pieces of preparedness content per week. These could range from starting your own prepper community to fortifying your stockpile.

This story is not about pride but, to me, it is truly about possession.

There is no other way for me to explain the radical change that overcame me. Maybe it wasn’t the haunting spirit of the previous survivalist homeowner. I could have been possessed by ancient genetics that kicked on in peril while holding my firstborn son at the center of calamity.

Whatever enigmatic force caused me to ricochet, I give it the highest praise. The path of preparedness is like a sturdy vessel on which we can ride the uncertain waves of civilizations ebb and flow.

Either way, prepping, homesteading, SHTF survival, or whatever else you want to call it, has made my life and my family’s life so much more fulfilling.

Best wishes,


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10 Responses to “How One Man Was Possessed by SHTF Survival”

  1. I was a prepper way before it became a ‘thing’. But I didn’t know it. My grandparents grew up during the Depression. The one lesson passed along was to always have a deep pantry. It got my parents thru tough times and helped me raise my own family. We’ve expanded beyond just food stores since. I could tell lots of stories, but it sure is nice not to be panicking when a weather situation or local power outage hits. And to know my now adult children can also handle such situations. Camping can teach you a lot

  2. Good article, great subject.

    We started prepping shortly AFTER TMI (Three Mile Island Nuke plant that “burped” in PA). My friends father was with the NRC, and he told him (and us) to evacuate a day before the govt said to evac the area for pregnant women and children (his wife was 8 months preg). Good, we evac’ed early. Bad, we evac’ed straight into the plume path from the reactor. Young and dumb. We’ve learned since then, moved to the country, raised a lot of chickens, ate a lot of peaches, threw away the TV. Best thing that we ever did!

  3. i grew up farming and sawmilling and from the time i could read i was studying my grandfathers engineering text books (he was a self taught engineer and held in high regard by most of the qualified engineers where he lived) and have been into prepping and survival since i was young. I am self taught blacksmith, saddler, carpenter, and also getting into sewing and making own clothes etc in part because i have trouble finding clothes i like that fit (6′ tall woman). sadly my partner is not interested as much as she claims she supports me in it i feel mostly she holds me back. she is not willing to make any sacrifices to get ahead and be more self sufficient. i am close to the point where i am over it

  4. I guess I was a prepper without knowing it, we lived in upstate NY for about 25 years and loved the land, the snow, and the feeling being able to care for ourselves and our children. We learned how to prepare for for snow storms, ice storms and anything nature threw at us; along with financial ups and downs, I learned from my neighbors and more or less mimicked what I saw and was told “how to get along in the north country” as they referred to living 4 mile off the Canadian border. I learned that being snow or iced in with no power for 19 days didn’t didn’t have to be a major disaster more like a minor inconvenience. I had learned right from the start the first year about getting a generator, putting everything we would need (or so we thought)into to our farmhouse and barn, I learned to can, dry, knit,sew, and over those years my knowledge of living on your own increased and a few million other things became our way of life, by the time SHTF came into being stocking up became a way of life my best advice to newbie preppers is, it becomes your JOB and in the end you’ll be glad you did.

  5. Hi James, isn’t it shocking when true reality slaps us in the face!!!
    Jake and Sylvia, if I may suggest a book by Tess Pennington called “The Prepper’s Handbook” as a great place to start.

  6. Hello James,

    How do we find the “get-ready-and-get prepared” things you write about?
    Having just read this article…we are where you were!!! We now feel a strong need to do something to prepare!

    • Starting out is not hard. First, focus on having three days’ food, water and necessities set aside. Items can (and should) be products with at least a two-year shelf life that you use already. Gradually expand to five days and then to 10 days worth.

      Not enough emphasis is made on storing water. It is hard to have too much. However, I spent a week without power and tap water (and with almost no gasoline.) You need potable water, but also you need water for other uses such as cleaning. Ignore those people who are picky about the type of container you use and storage life. 90% of the water you use can be non-potable. I took daily showers using jugs of water, cleaned dishes with non-potable water, and since my elderly mom stayed with me, we used enough water in the toilets to keep them clean. (I was fine with going in a dug latrine, but she was not, and I do have a septic tank.)

      For non-potable water I store water in used cat litter containers that have been cleaned out and have a little bleach added. I also have some bottled water and jugs of water. Animals do fine with the non-potable water. I had a few glasses as well, and suffered no ill effects.

      While I had a lot of water on-hand, by the fifth or sixth day, I needed to make a decision — do I continue using lots of water to maintain a normal lifestyle, or do I start to conserve it all to use for hydration over a long term? Fortunately, at about that time, some gasoline supplies reached the area, power was restored to a few stores, and supplies started coming in, and stuff was available.

      One last bit of advice — don’t bother with a generator. I used over a hundred gallons of gas to keep a refrigerator running at my mom’s house to preserve a hundred dollars worth of food. (She had a stockpile of gasoline.) My neighbors kept theirs going for two or three days, but in the end, they all eventually ran out of gas and just threw everything out.

  7. James, I feel your “obsession”. I started reading post-apocalypse books and have read over 500 and can’t seem to pull myself away from them, except for a good Jack Reacher, Mitch Rapp, etc. I especially love the minutiae, like gun types, gear…looking up everything I haven’t encountered on the internet sitting beside me (iPhone). Hell, I even research field dressing every type of animals on YouTube. We won’t discuss preps but that’s all part of it, as well. It seems I watch mostly survival type shows on TV.
    My main concern is ‘how does an older man with several dependents, living in the frickin’ desert of Vegas, knowing their is no where I could go quickly enough (large city) and inundated with gangs… survive’. Shelter in place involves: no cooling in the summers, not enough personnel to mount a defense (totally believe the bad guys will take over…first stealing everything they can by force, then forming larger and larger packs. And this is only short term. I could go on for days with every different scenario possible but none of it bodes well for us. Hopefully we never have EMPs, CMEs, asteroids, Caldera eruptions and we are just imagining the worst. But if any of the aforementioned actually occurs…I don’t see any solutions but to get out of here first and find a community willing to defend itself against the violent growing hordes that don’t want to grow their own food but are determined to take yours. Unfortunately, I couldn’t begin to get my family to decide to move on “that which may or may not happen in our lifetime”. But it certainly could…
    Thanks for you article

    • Preparedness does not always mean being able to survive for years following the apocalypse. I know I will die within a few weeks (or days) after my supplies of heart medications run-out. Instead of trying to prepare for the worst POSSIBLE situation, prepare for the worst LIKELY situation. I work-out and exercise as I am able, and can survive at home for a few weeks without outside resources, but that’s about it.

      I don’t intend to be mean, but if I were a member of a fit, healthy, trained and properly equipped group of men and women intent on survival, I would not let anyone such as you (or me) join. As Clint Eastwood said, “A man has got to know his limitations.”

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