Black mist, the sound of distant footsteps, blood-curdling screams in the dark, and ghostly visions… For most of us, this is the fictitious world of horror movies. But some people have encountered such bone-chilling phenomena for real, in spooky locations around the world. These creepy places are tied up with too many weird stories for them simply to be passed off as normal. And whether you’re into UFOs, ghosts, or simply enjoy local legends spiked with adrenaline and fear, this look into 10 of the world’s most haunted forests is bound to fascinate.
10. Forest of Rothiemurchus, Scotland
Roddy Martine, author of Supernatural Scotland, says that Scotland is full of haunted places. Why? Well, Martine thinks it may have something to do “with the weather, the rain, the mists, and the wind.”
But most of all, it’s the light: the “multifarious shades of gray offset by browns and greens and purples, the sudden shaft of silver on the surface of remote lochans, the sense of isolation that pervades much of the countryside, the ink black nights and the long winters,” writes Martine.
The Forest of Rothiemurchus in Inverness-shire is one such place. The dark forest is home to the grave of a formidable chief of Clan Shaw. This specter allegedly stands over six feet tall and is said to challenge visitors to battle. If those confronted show fear, they are never seen again, but if they accept, no harm is done to them. Or so legend has it.
9. Morgan-Monroe State Forest, USA
Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Indiana includes 24,000 acres of abandoned farmland and deciduous forest. According to Troy Taylor, author of Beyond the Grave, legends surrounding the area focus on a tiny, crumbling cemetery. “It is called Stepp Cemetery,” writes Taylor, “and it is a desolate and lonely place that can be found at the end of a narrow, dirt trail that winds back into a veritable wilderness… Along the southern edge of the grounds is a row of tombstones and nearby is a worn tree stump that looks to be vaguely in the shape of chair.”
If legend is to be believed, a woman in black haunts the graveyard by night, mourning the loss of a loved one and chasing visitors away. Local rumors also claim that the cemetery had a connection to a strange religious cult called the “Crabbites,” who apparently held bizarre rituals there. Whether or not the place is actually haunted, Taylor says it has become “a popular stop for ghost hunters, curiosity-seekers and those with an interest in eerie folklore.”
8. Dow Hill, India
According to Mungpoo News, Dow Hill in Kurseong “is one of the most haunted places in India.” Locals claim that many accidents have occurred in the area and that spirits live in the Victoria Boys High School, within whose halls footsteps have be heard during long vacations. Worse yet, several murders have been committed in the woods, and a headless boy purportedly haunts one of the roads.
Local myth also has it that anybody who sees the ghost will be haunted by him forever – even in their dreams. MapsofIndia Blog alleges that people have committed suicide because they were haunted by the headless boy and that “the whole place has an eerie and uncanny feeling.” And whether or not there is any truth to these claims, says the source, locals are deprived of “their mental peace and balance.”
7. Dudleytown, USA
Nothing is left of Connecticut’s Dudleytown but a few cellar holes, rambling stone fences, and the foundations of what was once a small community. The town, settled in the mid-1700s by the Dudley brothers, is supposedly cursed. National Geographic News writer Robert Winkler says, “According to some local historians, the town’s remains have witnessed madness, suicide, fatal accidents, natural disasters, and vanishings.” And visitors to the forest state that when they near the Dudleytown remains, wildlife falls strangely silent.
Although some visitors to the area claim that they have seen orbs and captured footage of restless spirits, the truth of the curse itself has come under dispute. In fact, there were no reports of abnormal happenings in Dudleytown until Edward C. Starr wrote a history of Cornwall, CT that included the story of the curse. Starr has been accused of including fanciful information, perhaps to help aid the sale of his book, published in 1926.
We may never find out if the truth was stretched or not, because Dudleytown became such a hotspot for anyone remotely interested in the mysterious curse that locals couldn’t take it anymore. Winkler says that “drinking parties, campfires, littering, disorderly conduct, and vandalism” were all contributing factors. In one year, the police were called to the site 79 times. As a result, Dudleytown is now closed to the public.
6. Old House Woods, USA
Mathews County, Virginia is renowned for Old House Woods. Located on the bay of the Tidewater area, which was an active port in the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras as well as during the Civil War. Reports of paranormal activity include Redcoats, slaves and Spanish soldiers.
A fisherman by the name of Ben Feribee lived along the bay in the early 20th century, and one night he was fishing and saw what he described as “a full-rigged ship in the bay.” These sorts of ships were pretty unusual at that time. And not only that, but it came towards him, “with lights at every masthead and spar... Just as I thought she would strike me, the helmsman put her hard aport and she passed so close that I was almost swamped by the wash.”
Feribee recounted the story to a local newspaper reporter in 1926, and he went on to say that after the ship passed, he heard beautiful music playing. Feribee’s tale continued: “I could see that ship hanging over Old House Woods, just as though she was anchored in the sea. And running down to the woods was a rope ladder, lined with the forms of men carrying tools and other contraptions.”
What's more, this tale is certainly not the only one centered around Old House Woods. According to Theparanormal.ca, other sightings have included skeletons clad in knights' armor as well as “floating lights, ghost diggers, headless dogs... and pirates.”
5. Ballyboley, Northern Ireland
Ballyboley Forest, in Larne, Northern Ireland, gives new meaning to the word sinister. Stone formations and circular trenches have given rise to local legends claiming that the forest was, says Theshadowlands.net, “an ancient Druid site,” as well as a gateway to “the Otherworld,” according to Celtic tradition.
Although some descriptions of the forest make no mention of anything creepy, at least two websites dedicated to haunted places and paranormal activity claim that locals don’t dare enter Ballyboley. And be this truth or fiction, the stories about the place are definitely spooky.
Legends suggest that human-like figures dressed in brown rags, trees smeared in blood, columns of black smoke, moaning women, and screaming voices have all been seen and heard within the forest. And as if that weren’t chilling enough, several people living between the 15th and 17th centuries purportedly disappeared into the trees, never to return.
4. Blackville, Canada
As the story goes, a young Irishman by the name of Ryan traveled to Blackville in New Brunswick, Canada, sometime in the late 19th century. He found work as a cook in a lumber camp in the area, beside the Dungarvon River. But while the lumberjacks were gone during the day, the boss murdered the young cook and stole his money.
The murderer claimed that the boy had suddenly become sick and died, so the lumberjacks buried him in the woods. However, that night the forest was filled with horrible whooping noises and yells, and the place has been haunted ever since.
This ghost, famous throughout New Brunswick, has been given the name “The Dungarvon Whooper.” The tale was immortalized in song by poet Michael Whelan, and it remains well known. Alison Hughes, of New-brunswick.net, writes, “Some still claim to have heard the hair-raising, high-pitched howl that gave the ghost its name – it is the howl of murder, the smell of bacon, the echo of lumber camp injustice.”
3. Screaming Woods, England
Pluckley village in Kent has been in the Guinness Book of Records as the “Most Haunted Village in Britain.” And if that weren’t enough of a claim to infamy, Pluckley is also home to the so-called Screaming Woods (a.k.a. Dering Woods). What are these woods famous for? You guessed it: apparently, people have reported hearing screaming emanating from the forest. The noises are said to be caused by the ghosts of people who got lost and met their demise therein.
The sounds of disembodied footsteps, the specter of an old soldier, and even a ghostly 18th-century army colonel who committed suicide are all rumored to haunt this legendary area. Spiritualist medium Steve, of Ghost Hunt Events, describes a ghost hunt he held in Screaming Woods on November 23, 2012, claiming that the spirit of a farmer approached them.
Steve says, “I started a séance to give the guests some physical evidence of the spirit energy present. Whilst the farmer spirit energy was present, another male energy came forward to touch and move the guests as part of the séance. His name was Michael and he had dark hair and a stocky build.”
2. Hoia Baciu, Romania
This dense forest is located in Romania’s Ardeal region. Visitors to the strange woodland have reported getting inexplicable rashes, feeling nauseous and dizzy, and even vomiting and sustaining burns. Others have seen UFOs, heard voices and footsteps, and experienced shifts in time.
Local legend says that a shepherd went into the forest with 200 sheep but that he and his flock disappeared without a trace. Another story claims that a woman entered the woods and reemerged with no idea as to how much time had passed. An ancient historical item was also found in her pocket.
Perhaps the most fascinating theory surrounding Hoia Baciu is this: the entire area has been described as “a gateway to another dimension” by sites like Paranormalhaze.com. Reports of spirits, extraterrestrials, a “dead vegetation zone,” and lots of pictures of disc-like flying objects make this forest the subject of a great deal of speculation.
1. Aokigahara, Japan
While the “haunted” status of some forests has probably been greatly exaggerated, this likely isn’t the case with Aokigahara. The forest, also known as the Sea of Trees, lies just below Mount Fuji. The vegetation grows out of volcanic rock, and the area is the site of several icy caverns, which are popular tourist destinations.
Yet sadly, Aokigahara is known less for its beautiful trees than it is for death. The forest is the second most popular place on Earth for suicides, after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. According to website Atlas Obscura, “Japanese spiritualists believe that the suicides committed in the forest have permeated Aokigahara’s trees, generating paranormal activity and preventing many who enter from escaping the forest’s depths.”
Most of the suicides are hangings or drug overdoses. And removing the bodies falls to forest workers, who have to carry the corpses to the local station, where someone must spend the night with the body.
Atlas Obscura writes, “It is believed that if the corpse is left alone, it is very bad luck for the yurei (ghost) of the suicide victims. Their spirits are said to scream through the night, and their bodies will move on their own.” And if that isn’t creepy, we don’t know what is.