When it comes to spooky locales, the claustrophobic, dimly lit atmosphere of a regular forest is unsettling enough. Adding restless spirits into the mix in an exercise in unending terror.
There are famously haunted forest from all around the world. Mexico's Island of the Dolls. The Hoia Baciu Forest in Transylvania. England's Epping Forest. The suicide forest in Japan. But what of the woodsy horrors right here in the United States? America's most haunted forest can be easily found in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Spanning more than 5,000 acres, this forest is a publicly owned state park. While it has its fair share of sunlit clearings and beautiful paths, Freetown Fall River State Forest also comes with a dark and mysterious past. While it sits at the heart of numerous supernatural rumors, plenty of actual crimes and tragedies took place within its bounds.
In 1978, the body of 15-year-old Mary Lou Arruda was found tied to a tree in this forest, the victim of a man named James M. Kater, who had kidnapped her from the nearby town of Raynham two months before. In 1980, the area was in the grip of the Satanic Panic, and reports from locals about Satanic cult activity in the woods reached the police department—reports which many believed were linked to a string of killings and apparent animal sacrifices at the time. A homeless man was killed in the forest in 1987, after being mistaken for an undercover officer. In 2001, two men were found dead, pumped full of bullets. The shady paths have been the site of numerous reported assaults, as well.
But it's not just the human horrors that haunt this forest. The Freetown Fall River State Forest is part of the infamously fabled Bridgewater Triangle, a 200 square mile area in southern Massachusetts that is allegedly a magnet for the strange and paranormal. This so-called cursed forest has definitely been at the center of several odd tales.
In 2006, there were reports of aggressive dogs running amok in the area. Later that year, an escaped emu was seen attacking visitors. In May of 2016, several common paths were found to have thin wires stretched across them, seemingly for the sinister purpose of decapitating people on motorbikes.
As for the supernatural, there are tales of UFOs, ghosts, mysterious light orbs, strange disappearances, violent poltergeists, and giant snakes. Even President Ronald Reagan claimed to have seen strange lights in the forest sky. Some people believe the dark energy of the forest drives people to commit suicide. Others believe the old legends of the Wampanoag native tradition, which talk of creatures known as Pukwudgies that stalk through the trees.
Within the forest is a granite structure known as Profile Rock, which seems to depict local Wampanoag historical figure Chief Massasoit. Local legend states that a man's ghost can be seen here, sitting on the rock with crossed legs and outstretched arms.
Another landmark of the forest is Assonet Ledge, which is the site of several ghost tales. Many say they've seen indigenous spirits weaving in and out of the trees, the victims of a 17th century war against the Puritans. Another tale follows the tragedy of a young girl who would meet her forbidden lover on the ledge. After he stopped coming, she threw herself off the cliff to her death, leaving her spirit to linger behind on the rocks.
Whether you believe these otherworldly tales or not, the Freetown Fall River Forest has been home to every kind of horror from rampant fires to gang activity to unexplained disappearances. Clouded with grief and history, this Massachusetts tourist spot holds just as much mystery as it does history. And if you don't mind taking a step into the area's dark reputation, it's a beautiful place to hike, bike, and wander. Just be sure to leave before nightfall...