The country of Romania, once known by its more infamous and ominous name Transylvania, likely conjures up images of vampires, gypsy caravans, werewolves, and bats. Perhaps it recalls more historical tales of Prince Vlad “the Impaler” Dracula and his crusade for Christian freedom against the invading Ottoman Empire. It is certainly a land of mystery and folklore but one of its lesser-known secrets, in the wake of rampant tourism to Dracula’s many castles, is a forest located in northern Romania just west of Cluj-Napoca. This place, known as Hoia Bacui (Shepherd’s Forest) has been nicknamed “Romania’s Bermuda Triangle” and has been dubbed the “World’s Most Haunted Forrest” by many tourists and paranormal investigators alike who have visited the site. In fact, many claim it’s slowly on the rise to becoming Romania’s number one tourist destination, ousting its famous vampire.
It’s said the forest is named after a shepherd who reportedly went missing within its perimeter long ago, along with his flock of 200 sheep. To this day, locals are said to be anxious in the shadow of the forest and do not often venture towards it after dark. In fact, the hosts of the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures visited the forest in season 8 for their Halloween special and were warned by a group of teenagers exiting the forest before sundown that strange things can happen once beneath its trees. It has been reported that locals emerge from the forest sick, disoriented, and plagued with rashes. But the forest first came to international attention in the 1960s thanks to some very creepy photographs.
In August 1968, a biologist named Alexandru Sift captured a, now famous, photo of a strange glowing disk hovering over the forest. Sift also reported that during his time in the forest he felt stalked by shadows and noted he often heard a strange sound he described as chattering teeth. When he emerged from the forest, the photos in his camera had been rearranged into a different order than how they had been taken. Sometime later, Emil Barnea, a military technician, snapped similar photographs of strange disks over the forest. Many have taken both these incidents as evidence that UFOs and aliens are the result of the strange condition of the forest. This phenomenon continued well into the 70s and beyond, with the most recent photo coming in 2002. Electronic equipment is also said to malfunction within the confines of the forest.
Beyond the possible otherworldly connotations of the place, several people have reported paranormal and supernatural activity in the forest. Geographically speaking, there are already some weird anomalies to be seen. Several groups of trees grow in strange, curved angles and at the center of the forest is a clearing where no trees grow, believed by many to be a deadzone for electronic equipment as well. Studies have been done of the soil of the barren area and show nothing out of the ordinary that would result in a lack of vegetation.
Even odder, many trees are devoid of signs of green and as many as eight trees have grown from a single root. Some contain strange markings, described as burn marks or char by witnesses. Many are even said to grow in a bowed position, as if praying.
Hovering orbs of light are a common sighting within the forest, as are sounds of female voices and children giggling. There are even reports of people being scratched or attacked by unseen entities. Many believe this activity to be the result of some kind of haunting in the forest, postulating that the ghosts of peasants are trapped within its vast expanse after their untimely deaths. In fact, one of the most famous investigations of the area by Destination Truth showed the host violently thrown to the ground with scratches on his body, despite his clothes not being torn. Beyond physical evidence of spirits, many report a feeling of overwhelming anxiety while within the forest, a general unease, and an eerie quiet (when not interrupted by disembodied voices).
Some see the forest as a place of punishment as well. Locals have claimed that those who enter the forest with ill intentions are shown for what they truly are before delivering a punishment for the transgressor. Some also reported experiencing flashbacks to painful, and repressed memories while in the forest. Some of the typical poltergeist activity is experienced as well, including gust of wind, tickling, the feeling of a static shock, and the unease of being watched.
Even more chilling, many believe the forest to be a gateway to another dimension. Many have reported people wandering into the forest for days only to return with no memory of their disappearance or what took place during their hours missing. Most famously, a young girl from a nearby town was said to have disappeared into the forest for 5 days and returned in the same clothes she’d gone missing in with no memory of her time missing. Another woman claimed that during a walk in the forest she was overcome with an odd feeling and emerged finding a 15th century coin in her pocket and no memory of how it got there.
Another phenomena many experience, sometimes in conjunction with the strange black outs, is the event known as astral projection where they watch their body on the forest floor before being suddenly forced back into their physical form, violently.
Unsurprisingly, the forest has become a magnet for paranormal investigators seeking evidence of strange occurrences, as well as Wicca practitioners and Neo-Pagans looking to worship within the forest’s plentiful energy. Many, however, do not see the 1 square mile of forest as a place of adventure, spirituality, or investigation. The land is still considered cursed by locals who continue to warn outsiders to stay away. Whatever your beliefs for the energy’s intentions, the forest is a hot spot for strange and unexplained activity, making it a must-see destination for the brave supernatural seeker.
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