Forests are often calming and strikingly beautiful places, with rivers, waterfalls, trees, and mountains to see and enjoy. However, many wild spaces can be dangerous, with wildlife and natural features that can endanger even experienced hikers. Others have been battlefields, burial grounds, and the sites of various crimes where the memories of the past tend to linger. Others still are the scene of unexplained phenomenon, from unidentified flying objects to apparitions and monstrous creatures.
This is a list of the most unsettling forests in the world, where a walk in the woods can be the most dangerous proposition.
1. Hoia-Baciu Forest, Romania
Locals warn against entering this Romanian forest because it may be a portal to another dimension. The Hoia-Baciu is situated within the so-called Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania where reports of UFOs, ghosts, and other phenomenon are common. Ghost hunters, parapsychologists, and others are drawn to the intensity of manifestations in this forest. However, many report dread and anxiety upon entering the Hoia-Baciu, with insomnia, thirst, nausea, and vomiting occurring as visitors spend more time there.
2. Pembrey Woods, Wales
This Welsh forest been a home for human civilization since about 400 BC. Despite its long history of the earthly world, it is most well-known for the ghosts of pirates that would lure ships into dangerous rock formations using deceiving lanterns on the coast line and then slaughter the occupants with hatchets and take all the goods from their ship. These hatchet men supposedly share the Pembrey Woods with lost airmen whose planes crashed while attempting to reach a nearby Royal Air Force air field, as well as the spirits of sailors whose ships sank long ago.
3. Aokigahara Forest, Japan
This Japanese forest is also known as the “Suicide Forest” because it is the world’s second most popular suicide location. In the more distant past, locals left the weak and disturbed here to starve to death. Since the 1950s, a rising rate of between 10 and 30 people a year have disappeared into the beautiful but haunting “Sea of Trees”. Spiritualists believe that these deaths permeate the haunting trees with malevolent energy, causing visitors to become lost. Volunteers regularly clean up the deceased that can be found in this vast forest.
4. Epping Forest, England
This ancient woodland near Epping in the UK has a long, rich history including Iron Age forts, Roman battles, and Saxon saints. However, the mix of woodland, grassland, heath, and bogs is closely linked with crime; infamous highwayman Dick Turpin had a hideout at High Beach and robbed people passing nearby. Due to its closeness to London, the Epping Forest is also a favored place to hide out or to bury murder victims. Many stories tell of ghostly lights, apparitions, and even a hanging tree on Hangman’s Hill that pulls cars towards it.
5. Freetown State Forest, United States
This stretch of land in southeastern Massachusetts falls within Bridgewater Triangle and has been the site of paranormal phenomenon since its purchase from the Wampanoag tribe in 1659. UFOs, luminescent orbs, giant snakes, thunderbirds, and even Bigfoot have been spotted in the Triangle, but Freetown State Forest is especially infamous for crimes, murders, and satanic rituals, along with potential Indian burial grounds. Locals believe the land was cursed by the spirits of Native American ancestors to be haunted until it is returned to their tribe.
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6. Pluckley “Screaming” Woods, England
In 1989, the Guinness Book of Records awarded Pluckley the title of “most haunted village in Britain” with its 12 reported ghosts. Also known as Dering Woods, Pluckley Forest is located just south of the village and is home to blood-curdling screams late at night. According to locals, the howls originate with an anonymous highwayman who was killed after a sword fight and pinned to a tree. The forest is also home to a ghostly horse drawn coach, a hanging schoolmaster, and several other apparitions waiting to spook you in the night.
7. The Pine Barrens, United States
This 1.1 million acre forest in New Jersey is home to the Jersey Devil. According to legend, after having 12 other, normal children, a Mrs. Leeds supposedly gave birth to the Devil himself on a fateful night in 1735. The creature was born an ordinary human child but quickly morphed into a monster with a goat’s head and hooves, a bat’s wings, and a forked tail. After killing Mrs. Leeds's midwife, it flew up the chimney and disappeared into the Barrens. Although once banished by priests in 1740, people have regularly spotted the Devil from 1890 onwards.
As deforestation remains a global problem, it may not be too long before even these otherworldly landscapes are no longer a part of our world. Fortunately for the Devil, the Pine Barrens are protected as a National Reserve and International Biosphere Reserve. However, other locations have faced issues related to tourist traffic, environmental degradation, and ecological changes. In short, if you want to experience these spooky settings yourself, there’s no time like the present.