When one speaks of mysterious or haunted places, the first location that comes to an American’s mind is not the Hoia Baciu Forest in Romania. In fact, most Americans have probably never heard of it, although the word Transylvania no doubt rings a bell. In parts of Europe, however, the 729 acre forest near Cluj-Napoca, Romania, is considered the Eastern European Bermuda Triangle.
Image Credit: Brian Dunning ▲
Photo Source: https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4520
Bustle.com names it as one of the ten creepiest places in the world.
“There are many rumors regarding exactly just what (or who) resides within the trees of Hoia Baciu. Some say it's the spirits of murdered villagers, others have claimed to have spotted UFOs. While many believe those who enter risk never leaving, those who've trekked the forest and lived to tell about it have reported suffering from unexplained physical symptoms like scratches, burns and nausea.”
Even the Discovery Channel sent a team in to investigate and make a documentary.
THE REAL DEAL
Hoia Baciu Forest is located northwest of the city of Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania, Romania, near the open-air section of the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania. The area is used for recreation, such as biking, paintball, airsoft, archery, and similar types of outdoor activities.
Archeological evidence has been found of a Neolithic settlement in the Hoia Baciu forest believed to have been established around 6500 BC, the oldest evidence of permanent habitation found in Romania.
Photo Credit: HoiaBaciuForest.com
Photo sources: pinterest.com/510666045220294833/ and
LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
Most of the tales are unverified, anecdotal, and lack details and dates. Still, even today, many visitors who go into the forest report coming out having experienced strange sensations or seen weird things.
● Strange Disappearances
The forest is supposedly named after a shepherd who went missing in the forest with a flock of 200 sheep. No dates or names other than Hoia Baciu.
Another urban legend tells of a five-year-old girl who disappeared in the forest and was never found despite intense searches. She emerged five years later dressed in the exact clothes she was wearing when she went missing and with no recollection of the five year interval. Tales diverge here, some saying she was still five years old with her clothes in perfect condition, others claiming she was ten and the clothes stretched and broken to fit a ten-year-old body. [That seems a real “stretch”.]
One legend reports a woman disappearing in the forest who later [nothing said about how much later] returned with a genuine 15th century coin in her pocket.
Visitors to Hoia Baciu and locals both attest to unusual feelings of anxiety and the sensation of someone watching them. They report unexplained apparitions, ghost sightings, appearances of light orbs, breaking of drop-dead silence by shrill giggling of females, and emergence of unexplained faces in photographs that were not visible otherwise to the photographers. Electronic devices and cell phone often malfunctioning inside the forest, but when outside work normally.
● Strange rashes and illnesses
Tourists and locals have reported developing unexplained rashes, scratches, and illness after having entered the forest. Others have sought medical treatment for burns and high fevers.
Photo source: pinterest.com/pin/ 774126623422692389
Believe it or not, there are a couple of things about the mysterious forest that are not explained by a good imagination or paranormal events.
● The Circle
Within the forest there is a perfectly circular area where no trees will grow. The soil of this vegetation-free area has been tested scientifically. Soil samples revealed no anomalies that would prevent the growth of any plant life, including the kind of trees surrounding the clearing. According to one legend, the clearing is protected by the spirits of murdered peasants, who are guarding a gateway to other spiritual dimensions.
Photo source: express.co.uk/Missing-people-ghosts-crop-circles ▼
Over many years, residents of Cluj-Napoca and the Transylvania area have often reported seeing strange lights and lights in the sky. A flurry of such reports in the early 1960s captured the interest of biologist Alexandru Sift who began to study the unusual phenomenon associated with the Hoia Baciu. Over years of study he amassed over 60,000 photos.
In 1968, Emil Barnea, a military technician, took photographs of what appear to be flying disc-shaped entity in the sky, the first photographed UFO sighting in the area.
▼Photo source: horrorfuel.com/2018/hoia-baciu
Although Sift photographed many phenomenon, and shared those photos with other scientists, most of his collection disappeared within three days after his death and most of his notes were burned. Those salvaged each ended with the sentence, “Knowledge if harmful; ignorance is bliss.” creepy cre pasta.fandom.com/Romanian_Experiment
The few photographs and notes left were published in a book entitled, Fenomenele de la Pădure Hoia-Baciu, written by Adrian Pătruț, professor of chemistry and a friend of Alexandru Sift.
Pătruț has continued Sift’s research and states that what happens in Hoia Baciu Forest is not paranormal at all, but natural phenomenon yet unknown to science. The people who suffer illness after coming out of the forest may be EHS which is Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitive, a hotly contested topic in both medicine and science. The “unofficial” list of symptoms of this hypersensitivity closely replicate those complaints and illnesses of those reacting to time in the forest. He believes that as we learn more about electromagnetic fields, the explanation will come to light.
There is no real connection between the fictional Dracula character from Irish writer Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula and Hoia Baciu Forest, other than both of them are located in Transylvania, Romania. The time between locations is four to ten hours, depending on your choice of transportation. Somehow the tourist trade has made an erroneous connection.
Strangely, his Count Dracula novel was not published in Romania until 1990.
Stoker’s character Count Dracula was inspired by a well-known figure in Romanian history, Vlad Dracula. Vlad, nicknamed Vlad Tepes [Vlad the Impaler, a title he came by honestly], ruled Walachia at various times from 1456-1462.
He was born in 1431 to a noble family at the point in history when the Christian Holy Roman Empire was fighting with the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Wallachia was caught in the middle. Vlad III's father, Vlad II Dracul (meaning ''dragon''), was a member of the secret order of the dragon, created by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Dracula means ''son of Dracul'', which is why Vlad III is called Dracula.
He lived his adult life in Walachia, which is not even in Transylvania, and is now called Muntenia. There were periods when he was imprisoned Pest and Visegrad [in Hungary]. The name Dracula is literally translated in Gaelic as Drac Ullah meaning bad blood.
Stoker selected Bran Castle to be the setting for his novel, Bradsov, Romania
Photo source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bran_Castle ▼
The imaginary depiction of Dracula’s Castle from the etching in the first edition of “Dracula” is strikingly similar to Bran Castle and no other in all of Romania. Stoker is widely purported to have used the illustration of Bran Castle in Charles Boner’s book, "Transylvania: Its Product and Its People", (London: Longmans, 1865) to describe his imaginary Dracula's Castle.
The mansion is currently owned by the Archduke of Habsburg [who got it back from the Romanian state after the Communists confiscated it from his relatives in 1948]. It’s a museum and a major tourist attraction, but there is an article on the internet claiming that it is for sale. Built in 1388, the huge edifice has no bathrooms and, while the current asking price is undisclosed, the 57-room manor situated on 22 acres was listed previously at $135 million.
BACK TO THE HAUNTED FOREST
My take-away from all the research is that Bram Stoker’s novel focused attention on Transylvania and its penchant for the paranormal. The 1968 UFO sighting rekindled interest, and tourism took hold, ramping up the old legends and using the Transylvania reputation to concentrate interest.
Whether or not the forest is haunted … who knows? Some of the more recent firsthand accounts are compelling, but I’m guessing Adrian Pătruț’s theory about natural phenomenon will eventually pan out.
Still, if you’re traveling in the area, a visit sounds like a fun adventure.