A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?
Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character.
A secret MLM (pyramid) company that offers eternal life, but in fact it transfers the life forces of its members to those position "above". If you get high enough, (meaning you get enough new members) you start to enjoy the benefits. Maybe a willing sacrifice is much more effective for the transfer. But no one says, that a suddenly unwilling member, threatening to tell the authorities, may not loose it involuntarily... thus start people to vanish, and aged corpses are deposited somewhere safe.