Halloween is coming up and if you’re wondering where to go next for your spooky adventure, I have just the perfect place. The Hoia-Baciu Forest in Cluj, Romania, has been a hot-spot for thrill seekers for years, ever since more and more stories about it started popping up on the internet. It’s a short drive from the city of Cluj-Napoca, and you can even use public transportation to get to it. This article, however, brings you a few stories from the locals who live or lived in the area at one point, and who had strange experiences involving it.
It is said a local shepherd lost his flock of sheep in the forest more than a century ago. He went in to look for them, and he never came out. His name was Hoia Baciu. The villagers looked for him for many days, but there was no trace of the shepherd or his sheep. Thus, the forest that later received the title of “Romanian Bermuda Triangle” was named in his honor.
The history of Hoia-Baciu
Before being the main subject of episodes from Ghost Hunters, it was a quiet place of recollection and trekking. The forest itself is incredibly old. A few archeological discoveries have been made here, including proof of human settlements from 8000 years ago. It was part of various “top 10 scariest places in the world” but the old tales are the ones giving it its reputation today. Nobody seems to know why, but for decades there has not been any vegetation growing in the Dead Zone, a wide circular area in the forest.
Starting with around 1955, UFO stories from the forest started spreading, and people automatically thought it was related to the Dead Zone. Photos started circulating as well, depicting flying saucers, odd lights in the sky, heads without bodies. Some believe the ground is radioactive, others that the Dead Zone is a gate to another dimension. Ghost stories told by locals who experienced them are all quite disturbing as well, and they are so many that it would be hard to pick just a few.
The forest has been studied by several scientists, one of them being the biologist Alexandru Sift. Between 1950 and 1960 he took numerous trips to the forest, fascinated by the strange shape of the trees. He described odd feelings and the impression he was being watched, so he took several black and white photographs that show weird shadows and objects that don’t quite make sense.
Influenced by Sift, the military technician Emil Barnea decided to pay a visit to the forest with two friends. He says that he noticed a small UFO above the forest in the middle of the day, and he managed to capture a few photographs of it. These pictures were ranked as the clearest pictures of a UFO ever captured in Romania. The media agency Agerpres made the photos famous internationally. Following this, Adrian Patrut, a scientist from Cluj-Napoca spent decades of his life to study the UFOs in Hoia-Baciu, and he added numerous other photographs to the collection started by Emil Barnea.
The Soldier’s Tale
Probably one of the most peculiar stories is the one told by a soldier who visited the forest in 1961. As soon as he entered the forest, he described a strange feeling in his bones, and his brain screamed for him to get out of there. He felt watched, unsafe, but his brain told him to keep going, because everything was just in his mind. The mission he’d received, was to camp there for one night together with a few other comrades, and he had to follow the orders.
As soon as night fell and the soldiers were gathered around the tents, the feeling of dread intensified. He looked at his comrades and hoped to see peace on their faces, but they seemed to be even more scared than he was. That night they heard the strangest noises coming from all around them: footsteps, screams, grunts, laughter, snapping branches. However, what topped everything was the sudden apparition of strange lights, and then a translucent girl waked through them, making them feel like they were thrown into icy water. A couple of times that night, the soldiers thought the whole forest was on fire. They could smell smoke, hear trees burning, and hear the screams of men being burned alive. The soldiers shot their weapons in fear, but nothing seemed to help.
In the morning, they run out of the forest as fast as their legs would allow them, and they found their battalion waiting for them at the edge of the forest. Everyone heard them shouting and screaming at night, but nobody interfered. The soldiers were taken to Bucharest and interviewed by the National Security for close to a year. They were under constant surveillance and were not allowed to contact each other. All of them went gray a few days after the events in the forest, and one of them lost his mind completely and had to be put in an asylum.
The former soldier, Nicolae, needed decades to be ready to tell his story. He always said ever since that night he was not able to sleep with the lights off, and he always carries a cross with him.
The Parallel Universe
Probably one of the most interesting stories about the forest in the heart of Transylvania is the one of a local woman. In her youth, she rented an apartment at the edge of a forest with a friend. A few days after they moved in, they were laying in bed and were about to sleep, when she saw the light turning on in the kitchen, and she heard voices of people cooking and laughing. She could even smell the food, and at one point the “guests” turned on some music. Terrified as she was, she got up, opened the door, and in her stupor the kitchen was dark, silent, and there was nobody there. She didn’t imagine it, as her roommate also heard the voices and smelled the food.
The same incident happened regularly for the following months, until they decided to find another place to live. The same woman says that while relaxing on the balcony of her flat, she saw lightning in the sky above the forest. The only problem was that the sky was clear. This phenomenon was witnessed by many other people across the years.
Scientist Adrian Patrut has a theory related to this story, one he started promoting even before the woman experienced the odd events in her apartment. He claims the forest is radioactive due to it being a portal between worlds/dimensions. Many people have photographed disembodied heads walking around, some of them even belonging to deceased people, due to the fine border between dimensions. Others said the forest might be a gateway to Purgatory, where the souls of the deceased are forced to remain in limbo for 40 days, but nobody knows for sure.
The Twisted Trees
It’s easy to notice the twisted and bent trees while walking through the forest, especially in the proximity of the Dead Zone. This has been attributed to the radioactive soil that some claimed was in the forest, however, Tibor Hartel, a professor at the Faculty of Environmental Science and Engineering in Cluj-Napoca, says this is due to the fact the trees have been badly cut multiple times, and they grew crooked. After the trees were cut down, the leftover stumps regenerated. Most of the twisted trees belong to a specie of maple, which has highly regenerative properties and the ability to take various shapes when growing.
As it’s part of an excessively big and crowded metropolis, the Hoia-Baciu Forest is a valuable source of oxygen and shade, and a place of retreat. Unfortunately, this place has been subjected to illegal wood cutting that puts at risk many ecosystems, and species of flora and wildlife. Instead of protecting it as a daytime retreat from the urban chaos, the forest is in danger of being destroyed due to urbanization.
Even though Cluj-Napoca sees a high number of tourists, Hoia-Baciu Forest needs to be promoted as a touristic attraction to those who are in search of thrill and paranormal adventure. There are too many witness testimonies related to it to pretend nothing is going on over there. Modern studies of the forest suggest an anomaly in the electromagnetic field of the area, which might be responsible for so many of these events.