Posted on: February 26, 2015

There is something uniquely magical about forests, or wooded areas generally.  There is a patch of woodland near where I live here in Oxfordshire, which, although it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a forest, can still induce a distinct other-worldly atmosphere on some days.   Perhaps I was reared too much on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but there’s no doubting that some forests have earned themselves a reputation for having a spooky and unnerving atmosphere all of their own.

Here in England, one of the most famous is Epping Forest, which is largely famous for allegedly being haunted by the ghost of notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin.  If you’ve read David Icke though, you may also have come across it mentioned in connection with Satanic rituals, one – he said – involving former Prime Minister Edward Heath.

Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk is famous for being the site of Britain’s No.1 UFO visitation.  Just after Christmas 1980 a strange craft was observed to land in the forest, late on Boxing Night, by crew at nearby RAF Woodbridge.  Rendlesham’s UFO has been exhaustively chronicled elsewhere, but the forest has also played host to other mysterious phenomena too, such as phantom monks, strange owls, and an inexplicable shower of stones.  It has led some to speculate that Rendlesham may be a portal area (a doorway to another dimension).  If so, this doesn’t exactly seem to be unusual for forests!

Ballyboley Forest in Northern Ireland has many strange stories attached to it.  Local legend has it that it is an ancient Druidic site, and in the Middle Ages it became notorious for several inexplicable disappearances.  In more recent times the area has gained such a creepy reputation that it is said hardly anyone wants to walk there.  Two men who did venture into the forest in 1997 said they heard the distinct sound of a woman wailing in pain.  They left the beaten track to go amongst the trees to look for her, and found some of the trees smeared in blood.  The strange cry started up again nearby, and the men sensibly decided to leave.  One of the men glanced back, and said he saw four human-like figures standing watching them, all clad from head to foot in brown rags.  Other visitors to the forest have reported strange lights, shadowy figures, and an unnerving feeling of being watched.  Like Rendlesham, Ballyboley is said by some to be a portal to another world.

The Aokighara Forest, at the bottom of Mount Fuji, in Japan has the unenviable title of the “suicide forest”.  It is the Japanese equivalent to Beachy Head, or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  Since the 1950s approximately 500 people have gone into the forest to end their lives, averaging 30 a year.  Known as “the death forest”, locals claim they can hear the screams of the tormented deceased late at night.

ADDENDUM: there is a short film about Aokighara Forest on YouTube, which you can find if you do a search for “YouTube Aokighara Suicide Forest”.  In it a local geologist takes us on a disturbing walk through this deeply macabre place.  Children are warned not to come here, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s not uncommon to find corpses hanging from the trees, or find strange eerie items that people have left behind, including a horrid doll which was nailed upside down to a tree, with nails driven through it’s hands.  This has been taken as a sign that the perpetrator was laying a curse on society.  In the car-park nearby a car is shown which has been abandoned for months.  Rolls of tape, like the kind the police use at crime scenes, can also been found woven through the trees.  This is probably done by people who are “undecided” and may want to find their way back out of the forest again.  Traditionally, suicide was seen as an honourable thing in Japanese culture, part of the Samurai tradition.  Nowadays though a notice in the forest says “your life is a precious gift from your parents”, and urges people “don’t keep it to yourself.  Talk your troubles”.

If you have a phobia about dolls, you may want to avoid the Isla de Las Munecas, near Mexico City, which has numerous spooky-looking dolls hanging from it’s trees.  Legend has it that the doll collection began when a little girl was found drowned near here in the 1950s, her doll floating in the water.  The caretaker of the forest hung the doll from a tree, hoping to appease her spirit.  It didn’t work, so more and more dolls were hung.  People have claimed that the dolls move by themselves, and have even heard them speak.  The caretaker died in 2001, but since then visitors and tourists have kept the eerie ritual alive.

Many years ago I read a book by veteran ghost-hunter Peter Underwood, in which he claimed that there is a forest in Kenya where it is reputed that the trees move around by themselves, and where people have disappeared.  Unfortunately I gave away the book some time back, and I’ve not been able to find out the name of the forest.  I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere else.

The Black Forest in Pennsylvania, US, is now a popular area for hikers and backpackers, but in the 19th century a number of unexplained disappearances were attached to it. Native American Indians referred to this as “the forbidden land”. In 1865 a young boy went to get the cows in for milking in McKean County. The cows came back, but not him. In the same year Catherine Gray had gone out looking for lost cows when she too vanished. To add to the mystery the cows were never seen again either! Peter Handwerk, only 7-years-old, was tending a cow at dusk when it wandered into a wooded area near Germain in Porter Co. A passing neighbour saw him hurrying towards the cow and told him to let it go and return home. Sadly Peter didn’t heed the advice and was never seen again.

It wasn’t just disappearances that were odd around the Black Forest. In 1882 Fred Murray saw a flock of giant birds with 16-foot wingspans fly over Dent’s Run in Elk County. A farmer claimed to have caught a huge bird that he had caught feasting on a dead cow. The bird was described as being over 4ft tall, and of a grey colour. We are not finished with the disappearances either. It would seem that in 1898 it still wasn’t safe to be tending cows here. A little girl was out looking for a cow at Carter Camp in Clifton Co when she vanished.

The magic around the Freetown State Forest in Massachusetts, USA, is of the very darkest, most disturbing kind.  Native Americans have long held the area to be sacred.  Located in the notorious Bridgewater Triangle, an area known to be a hotbed of paranormal activity, the Freetown State Forest has been the site of several murders, allegedly linked to a Satanic cult operating in the area.  In 1978 the body of Mary Lou Arruda, a 15-year-old cheerleader was found tied to a tree here, after having been abducted from her home at Raynham.  James M Krater was tried four times for her murder, each time the verdict being over-turned, until 2000.  In 1996 it was stated that police had with-held information relating to cult activity in the area.

In 1983 a baby was found dumped in a trash can at a forest stop.  The bodies of a homeless man and prostitutes have also been found here.  A man from nearby Fall River (usually known as the home of “40 whacks” alleged axe-murderess Lizzie Borden) was found severely beaten in 1992.  He claimed to have been molested by a Satanic cult.  In December 2005 a naked man, suffering from multiple knife wounds in his abdomen, ran out of the forest, and urged the occupants of a nearby house to call the police.  He never stated who it was who had attacked him.

In the spring of 2006 a pack of domestic dogs (alive but aggressive with fear) were found dumped in the forest, and in 1996 hazardous waste was also dumped here.

Other odd happenings reported here are of motorists, driving through the forest at night, claiming to have seen dark shapes suddenly appearing and keeping pace with their vehicles, and of their car-lights inexplicably not working.  One motorist claimed to see an old lady staggering towards him, covered in dirt, as found she had been buried, and forced her way out of her grave.

An area of the forest known as The Ledge has also become notorious for suicides.  One young man killed himself in front of his girlfriend here, even though he had no known history of depression or anxiety.  There have been 18 confirmed suicides in this area.  Those who’ve resisted the urge to kill themselves here have reported a feeling of being taken over by despair.  One YouTube video I saw on this described this area as “a magnet for negative energy”.

It was also in The Ledge area that US President Ronald Reagan was said to have seen a UFO in the 1980s.  “During the 1980s the UFO began to follow Air Force One, thus prompting fighters to be scrambled”.

As if all this isn’t enough the forest has also been home to a Bigfoot sighting, cattle mutilations (often linked with UFO activity), and a phantom hitch-hiker, said to be that of a red-headed farmer.

The Freetown State Forest is pretty intriguing.  So is the Hoia Baciu Forest in Romania, known as the World’s Most Haunted Forest.  Reading a list of the unexplained phenomena and mysteries surrounding this place I was reminded of Clapham Wood in Sussex.  Reports of ghosts, UFOs, missing time, disappearances, and people being taken ill here all remind me of that Sussex wood.

The forest, covering one square mile, and situated near Cluj-Napoca, is named after a shepherd, who reportedly disappeared here, along with his herd of sheep, never to be seen again.  The forest’s sinister reputation isn’t helped by it’s odd-looking trees, some of which seem distorted, like strange human beings.  In the late 1960s the area got a reputation as a UFO hotspot.  A biologist, Alexandr Sift, snapped several pictures of a UFO here.  On 18 August 1968 a military technician, Emil Borea, also photographed a UFO hanging over the area.

Since then people have frequently reported being taken ill here, complaining of strange rashes, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and scratches.  On one occasional a paranormal team for the Syfy Channel headed here, and one of the team was found knocked to the ground, his arms covered in scratches “like clawmarks”.  Before being knocked to the ground he said he had heard female voices and giggling nearby.   Others have also reported hearing ghostly female voices here.

On TripAdvisor I found a couple of reviews from visitors to the area, who said they hadn’t personally witnessed anything unexplained, but that the forest had a unique magical beauty all of it’s own.  There is also the “panic” phenomenon, whereby people out in isolated parts of the countryside can suddenly be assailed by a strange inexplicable sense of panic, nowhere more so than with forests I suspect.



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