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World's Most Haunted Forests

World's Most Haunted Forests


We've all heard stories of haunted forests and while some travelers make a note to steer clear, others find themselves intrigued. There is something compelling about the thrill of entering into the deep and haunted woods. It's an adventure that offers the chance to become an explorer, daring for an opportunity to brush up against the supernatural.


All over the world, there are places where rumors persist and modern day ghost hunters come armed to the teeth with gadgets — motion detectors, electromagnetic field meters, air ion counters — looking for definitive proof of the paranormal in some of the world's most storied forests. Others, may simply visit for the same reason we watch scary movies — to feel a little bit more alive and to lose ourselves in a spooky story that dares us to ask the question: but what if it's true?


Black Forest, Germany


Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, Germany occupies over 2,000 square miles. © SANTIAGO URQUIJO / GETTY IMAGES
Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, Germany occupies over 2,000 square miles. © SANTIAGO URQUIJO / GETTY IMAGES

The Grimm Brothers set many of their fairy tales in this bewitching landscape along the Rhine River in southwestern Germany, which looks just as you’d imagine — so densely forested with fir and pine trees that sunlight rarely pierces through. It makes an ideal playground for mythological creatures like sorcerers, werewolves, witches, and kindhearted dwarves. The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald as it's called in German, is associated with many spooky legends, but it is also worth visiting to experience the local Bavarian culture and traditions from which many of these famous fairytales emerged.


Wychwood Forest, England

PHOTO: FREDERICK ARDLEY / GETTY IMAGES
PHOTO: FREDERICK ARDLEY / GETTY IMAGES

England's Wychwood Forest, once part of royal hunting grounds in Oxfordshire, abounds in haunted tales of visitors who feel hands reaching out to touch their shoulders or hear the thunder of invisible horses. It's enough to make your spine tingle at the slightest rustle in the leaves.


Most compelling is the case of Amy Robsart, the wife of the Earl of Leicester who mysteriously died of a broken neck. Later, while her husband was hunting in the woods, her ghost confronted him and predicted that he would join her in 10 days — which did after falling suddenly ill. Anyone who meets her, it is said, will befall a similar and swift fate.


Devil’s Tramping Ground, North Carolina

PHOTO: BARBARA GILLY
PHOTO: BARBARA GILLY

Deep in the woods near Harper’s Crossroads, about 10 miles east of Siler City, there’s a mysterious 40-foot ring where the devil stomps in circles each night, plotting how to bring about the downfall of mankind — or so the story goes. In this spot, the forest floor is completely barren and nothing can grow.


The North Carolina State Department of Agriculture has supposedly taken samples of the soil and has yet to come up with an explanation for why the patch is devoid of growth. "We're curious and try to find explanations for phenomena we can't comprehend," explains Jane Pyle, a member of North Carolina's Chatham County Historical Association.


Dow Hill, India

PHOTO: PRITAM BISWAS / GETTY IMAGES
PHOTO: PRITAM BISWAS / GETTY IMAGES

The Victoria Boys School, established in the late 19th century in West Bengal, is rumored to be haunted; students report ownerless footsteps echoing in the corridors. But the surrounding Dow Hill forest is an even bigger hotbed of paranormal activity, with woodsmen reporting seeing a headless boy wandering among the trees. Kurseong is considered by many to be India's most haunted hill station and many visitors have reported the creepy sensation of being watched while exploring the forest around the old school.


Hoia-Baciu Woods, Romania

PHOTO: Sala Jean / Getty Images.
PHOTO: Sala Jean / Getty Images.

Hoia-Baciu in Transylvania has captivated attention of the wrong sort for more than half a century. Residents of nearby towns claim the forest — which has a circular clearing at the center — is a portal and that those who pass through it may never return. Anyone who does survive reports feeling anxious and nauseous the whole time they’re there. Once said to stand straight and tall, the trees are twisted into knots.


Isla de las Munecas, Mexico

Isla de las Muñecas, Xochimilco. FUENTE FLICKR / FOTO: ESPARTA PALMA / LICENCIA CC BY 2.0
Isla de las Muñecas, Xochimilco. FUENTE FLICKR / FOTO: ESPARTA PALMA / LICENCIA CC BY 2.0

The trees of this island near Mexico City are strung with hundreds of dolls — to creepy, horror-movie-style effect. The island’s only inhabitant, Don Julian Santana, discovered the body of a girl in one of its canals more than 50 years ago. He found a doll floating in the same water and, in tribute, hung it on a tree — the first of thousands of dolls he would string up until 2001, when he passed away. Some believe the dolls, many of which are missing limbs, are evil; others believe they safeguard the island. To get there, head to Embarcadero Cuemanco ferry terminal where you can hire a trajinera, a.k.a. one of Mexico City's colorful wooden boats, and ask them to take you to the island.


Randolph Forest, Maine


Billed as the smallest town in Maine, the town of Randolph and its forest, which is located between two residential areas, has an outsize reputation among locals for being haunted. Abandoned cars and ripped-up railroad tracks that once used to usher veterans to a hospital (now grown over with grass) are the backdrop for reported flashes of light, the appearance of orbs, and strange ambient noises. During the daytime, the woods seem harmless, but we dare you to venture there when night falls.


Epping Forest, England

Stretching from east London to Essex, 6,000-acre Epping Forest has been the setting of horrors both real and, well, debatably so. It served as the hideout for outlaw Dick Turpin and cop killer Harry Roberts, and has also been the hiding place for murder victims, among those the children targeted by Ronald Jebson. An episode of the British Living TV show attempted to find the ghost of Turpin, but the team ended up lost themselves—perhaps a prank of the elusive spirit?


Frith Wood, England


In the early 19th century, the Greenlaw House, within walking distance of Frith Wood, was converted into barracks for French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars. A woman supposedly fell in love with a prisoner, who was then beaten to death by her father and brother. She died shortly thereafter, possibly by her own hand. Her ghost returns to the site of her lover’s murder — some say she sobs, others say she runs frantically through the trees.


Old House Woods, Virginia


This 50-acre forest near the Chesapeake Bay is a refuge for the ghosts of 18th-century British soldiers and pirates who once passed through the nearby historic port town of Mathews — and who may have left buried chests of treasure in its soft dirt. At the center of the woods, off Haven Beach Road, was a solitary and dilapidated Colonial homestead that burned to the ground. Of all the sightings here, perhaps the most intriguing was reported by a fisherman on Whites Creek in the 19th century: a ship silently plying the creek, continuing on over the beach, and disappearing into the woods.


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