In honour of my upcoming release, Forest of Ghosts, which is set in Romania, including a pivotal scene in Hoia Baciu, I thought it would be worth sharing my real-life experiences in the world’s most haunted forest.
If I believed in omens, I would have been running for the hills.
The morning I was to visit Hoia Baciu in Cluj-Napoca, everything that could go wrong did. I had a dispute with my hotel’s receptionist. Then I discovered that I’d misplaced my credit cards. While I was searching for them, breaking into a sweat because Alex, my guide, was already waiting, I got sick. Violently sick.
By the time I finally found my cards, we were thirty minutes behind schedule. We rushed out to meet our driver, who was named Vlad, fittingly enough.
Alex, a purported “paranormal” researcher, came armed with a small electro-magnetic field reader and not much else. To my surprise, my guide was a skeptic with a rational explanation for almost everything that happens in the forest.
After an epic hike up a steep hill, we plunged into the forest.
The first thing I noticed about Hoia Baciu is that it’s cool–much cooler than I expected. The sun’s rays just don’t seem to penetrate.
The second thing I noticed were the trees.
I’ve never seen so many misshapen, malformed trees, and snapped photos of them to send to my botanist friend.
And then I got sick again.
The whole time I was in Hoia Baciu, I felt a tightness in my chest, like I couldn’t catch my breath. My stomach was still unhappy, and I began to feel stabbing pains in my head. I’d read that many people feel sick while in this forest–that’s the reason for a lot of its mystique. I couldn’t figure out why, so I decided I would probably have felt like this whether I was in the forest or not.
Thinking it might be altitude sickness, I asked Alex if we were far above sea level.
“No, only around 200 feet,” he said.
I didn’t feel like anyone was watching me, and I didn’t feel anxious, but I have to say I was never comfortable in Hoia Baciu. It was a beautiful, strange forest, and I tried to think of it that way. I enjoyed seeing all the frogs, the epic snail, the monster mushrooms. But the truth is, I was happy when the tour was over.
My headache vanished as soon as I left the forest. By the time I caught my next flight, all of my other symptoms were gone too, although I did take some heavy doses of Pepto Bismal, so that might explain it.
Is Hoia Baciu haunted? I couldn’t say–I didn’t see balls of light or an apparition, as many people have. What I do know is that this place isn’t good for people. I felt awful there, and I could completely understand people panicking and feeling desperate. In that state, it’s easy for the mind to play tricks and make us believe we’re seeing things that just aren’t there.
I did see a strange mist hovering by a few trees. I’d never before seen a fog so confined to one area. Alex thought it might be the humidity in the air.
All I know is that I was eager to get the hell out of that place.
PS – For scary stories about Hoia Baciu and why it’s believed to be the world’s most haunted forest, check out this post.
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