UFOs, ghosts and time-travelling. Welcome to Romania's Hoia-Baciu Forest, believed to be the most haunted forest in the world.
Deep in Transylvania, Romania, an area long-associated with vampiric legend and horror, and close to the large city of Cluj-Napoca, lies 295 hectares of dense woodland.
With its bent-over trees, and thick undergrowth, it certainly looks like a frightening place. And there’s a lot of strange activity going on in there… Little wonder it’s repeatedly been called the most haunted forest in the world.
Known as the ‘Bermunda Triangle of Eastern Europe’, it’s a place many people who live nearby daren’t enter due to the harrowing rumours and stories surrounding it, passed down through the generations.
Even its name, Hoia-Baciu, meaning ‘shepherd’s forest’, has paranormal connotations.
Locals talk about a shepherd, who went into the forest with his flock of 200 sheep one day. He soon disappeared, never to be seen again.
‘Never go into Hoia-Baciu,’ villagers will tell visitors to the area. ‘You’ll never return back home.’ They knew once you ventured into the woods, you could expect anything.
See strange figures come to life, trees could twist and bend in your path, you could even be stolen into another dimension or abducted by aliens.
And for those people unlucky enough to be forced into the woods to collect firewood, or look for food such as berries and mushrooms, if they didn’t vanish they’d be subjected to physical harm.
Overwhelming, intense feelings of anxiety
Witnesses claim the moment they’d stepped into the weird woods they’d feel overwhelming, intense feelings of anxiety. And often, they’d feel as if they were being watched too.
Others said they would start vomiting, have terrible migraines or even see rashes, scratches and burn marks appear on their skin.
Clearly, the forest was cursed in some way. But by who… or what?
Hoia-Baciu first fell into the international spotlight in 1968. Fascinated by its creepy history, a biologist called Alexandru Sift visited. He was looking for an explanation for the unusual shapes of the trees.
In Hoia-Baciu instead of growing towards the sky, many of the trees are arched down, as if bowing in prayer. Often, eight trees will spring from the same root.
Some of the trees have unexplained marks on them, like they’ve been charred.
As Sift spent his days in the forest, he noted he’d see strange shadows among the trees, which appeared to follow him, and he’d hear unusual sounds, such as teeth chattering.
When he developed his photos he realised he could see the shadows in the snaps. The pictures on the camera were not in the same order as he’d taken them while in Hoia-Baciu.
While staying in the area, he also managed to capture a picture of a disc-shaped object floating in the sky.
Then on 18 August that year, a military technician named Emil Barnea decided to spent a weekend camping in the woods with some friends.
‘I want to get out if the city for a few days,’ he urged, when warned against his plan. While picking up wood for a campfire, he heard his pals calling his name and pointing to the sky.
There he saw a bright UFO, which seemed almost touching the ground, in the distance. Quickly, he whipped out his camera and snapped the unusual sight.
His picture has been praised by UFO experts, who called it: ‘one of the clearest photos of a UFO ever taken in Romania and, without doubt, one of the best images of its kind, in the entire world’.
Throughout the 1970s, more UFO sightings were recorded. Even as late as 2002, a couple who lived on the outskirts of Cluj filmed what looked like a UFO hovering above Hoia-Baciu.
In the inner part of the forest there is a clearing which looks like a perfect circle. Could this be a crop-circle of some kind?
Plants and trees don’t grow in this area, where much of the paranormal activity is believed to happen.
Scientists have taken soil samples from the clearing, but there’s nothing in the soil which would prevent vegetation growth. A mystery.
Electronic devices too will malfunction when taken into this clearing.
In one TV episode, the presenter ventured into the clearing and was filmed being thrown to the ground and scratched by an unseen force. This is consistent with poltergeist activity.
Some believe this area is haunted by the ghosts of Romanian peasants. Many were taken there, to be brutally murdered, throughout Romanian history. Could it be that the souls of these tormented people are forever trapped within the confines of the forest?
People have witnessed seeing pairs of haunting, green eyes staring through the trees, a heavy black fog, and screaming voices breaking the silence.
Bright lights and orbs have been spotted in the woods. And what of the people who vanished, like that shepherd?
A portal to another dimension?
Others believe Hoia-Bacui is a portal to another dimension.
A fcw years ago, a five-year-old girl wandered into the woods one day and got lost. Five days later she emerged, wearing the same unblemished clothes, her memory completely wiped of what had happened to her…
Another woman claimed she went for a walk in the forest.
‘Time stopped for a few minutes,’ she said. ‘And I felt myself disappear.’ But a few minutes later she reappeared, discovering a 15th century coin in her pocket which wasn’t there before.
Because of these strange happenings, these days the forest attracts practioners of Wicca, Druidism and paranomal investigation, as well as scientists.
Yet nobody knows for sure what’s really going on. It seems the mystery of Hoia-Bacui will remain unsolved for years to come.
But one thing’s for certain. It’s hard to ignore the fact something strange is going on inside the woods.
Would you dare to venture inside Hoia-Bacui?