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The Cursed Forest of Transylvania

Forests can be inherently spooky places. The trees with their twisted branches that can block out the sun to cast deep shadows upon the underbrush, the strange, unidentified sounds that sometimes emanate from the surrounding wilderness, the chilling howls echoing from far off in the distance, all of these elements can conspire to create a truly unnerving experience. For the most part, there is usually no real danger present and this eerie feeling is all in our minds, yet for one sinister wood in Transylvania there may be more to that prickling hair on your neck than just an active imagination. Long holding the image as the legendary home of vampires, ghouls and werewolves, the Transylvania region of Romania also has the distinction of harboring one of the most haunted, cursed, and indeed spookiest forests on the planet; a dark, sinister woodland full of all manner of unexplained phenomena and bizarre, unexplainable events.

Hoia-Baciu Forest lies west of the city of Cluj-Napoca in the Transylvania region of Romania, in an area that is actually not particularly remote and is fairly well visited and popular with those seeking outdoor recreation. The area is has also become popular among researchers from all corners of Forteana due to its unusually high amount of strange phenomena. Although the forest itself is a mere 1 square mile (3 square kilometers) in area, it nevertheless has a long history as a cursed and forsaken place, and also boasts a full spectrum of weirdness including ghosts, apparitions, spectral entities, disembodied voices, mysterious disappearances, unexplained physical effects on visitors, UFO activity, and magnetic anomalies, among others. It is hard to imagine anywhere else on earth that has concentrated such an intense amount of bizarreness into such a limited area of land, and this has earned the area the nickname of “The Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania.”

Hoia-Baciu Forest

Hoia-Baciu Forest

Locals have a long tradition of avoiding and fearing Hoia-Baciu Forest. Indeed the name of the forest itself derives from an unexplained occurrence. Legend has it that a Baci, which is the Romanian word for “sheep herder,” once guided a flock of sheep into the forest and never returned. Despite an immense search for the missing herder, no trace was ever found of the man or any of the 200 sheep he is said to have been with. It was as if they had just stepped off the face of the planet. The area quickly gained notoriety in local folklore as a place from which none returned. The people of the area also believe that the forest is the lair of the ghosts of peasants who have been violently murdered, and it is said that if one enters here with their own murderous thoughts, the forest will show that person for what they really are before exacting punishment. This ominous reputation as being a haunted, cursed place has long kept the people of the region from going anywhere near Hoia-Baciu Forest, and for a long time it was considered taboo or bad luck to even speak of it.

It is not hard to see why such legends and folklore have taken hold. The atmosphere of Hoia-Baciu Forest is certainly menacing, with its ancient, gnarled trees that are often said to appear to have screaming faces twisted into the bark and some of which display odd burn marks or mysteriously charred trunks. It is said that electronic equipment is prone to malfunction here and that compasses have the tendency to go berserk as soon as the forest is entered. There is also a thick, intangible air of dread pervading the murky forest. One of the most commonly reported occurrences of visitors to the forest are the inexplicably intense feelings of unease the place evokes, and it is not uncommon for people to experience a heavy sense of anxiety, excessive thirst, the sense of being watched by unseen eyes, fear, sudden, potent panic attacks for no discernable reason, and a strong desire to flee even in the absence of any particular danger.

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Visitors have also reported extreme migraine headaches or feeling disoriented, nauseous, dizziness, having a sense of lost time, or of having unexplained sharp pains in various parts of the body. There have been accounts of people in the forest losing consciousness only to wake up in a different area with no sense of how much time has passed or what had occurred during their period of unconsciousness. Others have described having powerful memories of their past come crashing into their mind, only for the memories to fade upon leaving the forest. On other occasions people have reportedly experienced astral projection, with their consciousness floating about as they look down upon their body upon the forest floor, only to come suddenly crashing back into their physical form. There are additionally many accounts of people feeling unexplained physical sensations such as sudden gusts of cold, tingling, tickling, or electric shocks. On occasion there have even been those who have entered the forest and suffered bizarre physical injuries such as nose bleeds, bruises, rashes, scratches, welts, and even burns for no apparent reason at all.

This pervasive cloud of foreboding, the feelings of being watched, and the mysterious physical sensations and injuries inflicted by unseen forces seem to tie well into the ghostly stories surrounding Hoia-Baciu Forest. A wide variety of apparitions are commonly spotted through the gnarled trees, and travelers tell of often hearing disembodied voices or laughter. Faces are known to suddenly flash into existence in front of startled visitors, in addition to appearing in photographs upon being developed when nothing out of the ordinary was seen when the pictures were taken. Disfigured, distorted faces have also been known to materialize out of the trees themselves as if they were growing or blooming from the branches and trunks. There are occasional reports of a thick black fog seeping through the trees and underbrush, as wells as glowing eyes floating about. EVP activity has also been reported in Hoia-Baciu Forest, with eerie unidentified voices emanating from the ether over radios or even cellphones.

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One of the most common forms of ghostly activity reported here is the presence of flickering, dancing lights that cavort among the trees and have no discernable origin. Often these orbs will blink into and out of existence without warning. These mysterious orbs of light have been studied by paranormal investigators using a range of scientific equipment such as infrared cameras and thermal detectors. It has been found that these orbs do not seem to produce any heat, as thermal imaging equipment has thus far failed to turn up any heat signatures for them. They also seem to be completely random in their activity, with no real rhyme or reason as to when they will appear or when they are most active.

Poltergeist activity is also allegedly rampant in the forest, with belongings such as cameras or bags being violently flung into the underbrush by unseen forces, as well as people being aggressively pushed around or thrown down to the ground. One such occurrence was captured on an episode of the TV show “Destination Truth,” when one of the crew was suddenly and violently attacked by an invisible aggressor. According to the crew, the man in question, Evan, was sitting in a clearing when there was a sudden flash of light and he was thrown across the clearing to the other side. The somewhat disoriented Evan then found that he had inexplicable scratches all up and down his arms, despite the fact that he was wearing a long sleeved shirt. He later reported that shortly before the incident he had heard strange female voices behind him before being blown across the clearing as if by a strong wind. The entire episode was captured on film and remains unexplained. The Destination Truth team was also able to capture the mysterious orbs of light on film during their investigation.

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Whether there are really ghosts here or not, Hoia-Baciu Forest is also well-known for its high number of unexplained disappearances. It is said that over 1,000 people have vanished without a trace within the forest over the years to never be seen again. The rare cases where these missing persons have been recovered are cloaked in weirdness. One such case involved the disappearance of a 5 year old girl who subsequently appeared 5 years later aimlessly wandering the forest. To the girl, no time had passed and she was wearing the exact same clothes she had been wearing 5 years previously. To add to the strangeness, her clothes were found to be in remarkably good condition, far from the wear one would expect from 5 years wandering the wilderness. Upon questioning the girl on what had happened to her it soon became apparent that she had absolutely no memory of where she had been or what had happened to her. Five other people who vanished into the forest also turned up later, only in these cases they were found dead. It was determined that all of these recovered bodies had died of suicide.

As creepy as all of this is, it is still not the extent of the mysteries of Hoia-Baciu Forest. The area is well known for its frequent UFO activity as well. The forest’s reputation as a UFO hotspot is mostly thought to have begun in 1968, when a biologist by the name of Alexandru Sift, who was actually in the forest to study its many strange anomalies, snapped a series of amazingly clear photos of a disc shaped craft flying above the tree line over a meadow. This was quickly followed by more such photos, most notably the clear photos of a UFO taken by a military technician named Emil Barnea on August 18, 1968. Well into the 70s, Hoia-Baciu Forest became renowned for its intense concentration of UFO sightings and photographs. The most recent high profile UFO sighting to come from Hoia-Baciu Forest occurred in 2002, when two residents on the top floor of an apartment complex in the adjacent city of Cluj managed to capture 27 seconds of footage of a bright, cigar shaped object around 50 meters in length hovering over the forest. The UFO reportedly slowly made its way across the sky before disappearing into thick cloud cover. UFO activity in the forest is so intense that alien abduction is often offered as a possible reason for the many missing persons and cases of lost time reported from the area.

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The bizarreness of Hoia-Baciu Forest goes even further yet. One of the most unusual features of the landscape here, other than the strangely crooked, twisted trees and mysterious char marks on their trunks, is the presence of a circular area around 300 meters wide which is completely devoid of vegetation and which demonstrates high levels of electromagnetic activity and other anomalous readings. Investigations into this mysterious dead zone within the forest have turned up no rational reason for why no vegetation will grow there. Soil samples have shown there to be nothing out of the ordinary and indeed nothing to distinguish it from the soil surrounding the barren circle. So far it is a complete mystery as to why nothing will grow here. Electronics brought into the dead circle also often go haywire or stop working entirely due to the potent electromagnetic fields permeating it. In addition to these unusually strong electromagnetic disturbances, there are also magnetic anomalies, and other measurements have shown the circle to exhibit abnormal microwave, infrared and radioactive readings. Locals in the area point out this bizarre circular patch as being the epicenter of paranormal phenomena and weirdness in the forest, and it is claimed that it is here where the ghosts of the murdered peasants reside.

The variety and intensity of unexplained phenomena to be found at Hoia-Baciu Forest has perhaps not surprisingly spurred on various theories to try and explain what is going on here, running the gamut from the plausible to the absurd. One theory is that the forest holds a gateway or portal to another dimension, or brushes up against some thin spot between our world and another. It is postulated that this could explain the various entities and orbs frequently spotted in the forest, as well as the missing people and even those who have experienced lost time or seemingly teleported from one area to another. Others believe that there is some sort of alien base here that is causing the UFO sightings, orbs, and even hallucinations and abnormal readings on various measuring equipment. Another, more far out idea is that the forest was the real center of the lost Atlantean civilization, and that these mysterious, ancient inhabitants created various teleportation portals with which to travel anywhere in the world and indeed the universe.

The mysterious dead zone within Hoia-Baciu Forest

The mysterious dead zone within Hoia-Baciu Forest

One of the more grounded ideas proposed for at least some of the weird goings on here is that perhaps the forest is a source of some sort of ultra-low frequency sound waves, which are basically sounds that are inaudible to the human ear yet can create some profound physical effects from their vibrations nonetheless. These sound waves have been known to create deep feelings of unease and disorientation in people who experience them, which are similar to the sensations reported within Hoia-Baciu Forest. Ultra low frequency soundwaves could also potentially be the root cause of the physical discomfort associated with the forest, such as headaches, nose bleeds, and nausea, and such sound waves can also possibly produce profound audio and visual hallucinations. Ultra-low frequency infrasound is actually produced in nature all of the time, most notably in relation to natural phenomena such as thunder, earthquakes, and erupting volcanoes. Is there some source of such sound disturbances emanating from Hoia-Baciu Forest? Such a theory could certainly account for many of the eerie phenomena of this place, but fail to really explain the poltergeist activity, apparent physical attacks causing visible injuries on visitors, or the bizarre circular area where nothing will grow.

Whatever the causes for the vast amount of paranormal activity of Hoia-Baciu Forest, there is no denying that there is something out of the ordinary going on here beyond our current understanding. The forest has drawn specialists in various fields from all around the world looking to try and find some hint as to what processes generate these various phenomena. Despite a growing body of evidence and documentation of strange happenings occurring here, no one has really been able to figure out just what is going on here or why it should be concentrated within the forest.

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In addition to researchers and investigators from both paranormal and scientific disciplines, the enigmatic Hoia-Baciu Forest attracts large numbers of people from all over the world, from all walks of life, ranging from people coming out of a morbid curiosity or in the hope of seeing something weird, to those whose beliefs could be considered fringe, and even allegedly Satan worshippers. The forest is very popular among wiccans, who see it as a place of power that can boost the effectiveness of their various spells and rituals, and imbue their charms with added potency.

Forests can indeed be eerie places but in the case of Haoia-Baciu Forest, there certainly seems to be something going on that goes beyond merely creepy. Unexplained physical effects, lost time, magnetic and other anomalies, UFOs, ghosts, there is certainly something amiss here. Are there forces at work here that lie beyond our current understanding of the natural world? What processes are in operation here to make this one relatively small patch of forest so saturated with the unexplained? Is this truly a realm bumping up against other planes of existence, or perhaps something even stranger? Hoia-Baciu Forest is an otherworldly and surreal zone that surely ranks as a place with one of the highest concentrations of Fortean weirdness in the world. Perhaps one day we will come closer to an understanding of what is happening here but for now the forest is just as deeply mysterious and inscrutable as it ever was.

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Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.
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