World's Most Haunted Forests

England's Wychwood Forest 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. But for every traveler who shies away, there's another intrigued by that kind of mystery—and the thrill that comes with going deep into the haunted woods. It's a chance to be an explorer, and any brush with the supernatural makes you feel all the more alive. "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. Local lore has it that there's a mysterious 40-foot ring within the woods where the devil stomps in circles at night. "One of the first mentions of the Devil's Tramping Ground shows up in issue 27 of the long-gone Messenger weekly newspaper," Pyle says, "and again in a 1949 book, wherein the author, John Harden, speculates that it was created by a geological survey team—but if so, they were off the course." The dense Aokigahara forest at the northwest base of Japan's Mount Fuji has its own disorienting power. It's rumored that large underground iron deposits interfere with compasses, setting walkers forth on the wrong paths. The forest has witnessed hundreds of suicides and is haunted by their screams. Strange ambient noises and the appearance of orbs have also been reported in a Maine forest near ripped-up railroad tracks that once ushered veterans to a hospital. Sure, it's easy to scoff. For all the gadgets floating around—motion detectors, electromagnetic field meters, air ion counters—definitive proof of the paranormal is elusive. But the rumors do persist and have since well before the Grimm Brothers set their fairy tales in Germany's Black Forest. To you skeptics, we'll just say this: why not pack up the camping equipment, grab a flashlight, and set up near one of these spooky forests. We dare you.

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Aokigahara, Japan

World's Most Haunted Forests: Aokigahara

Known as the Sea of Trees, the dense forest at the northwest base of Mount Fuji is one of the eeriest places in the world. It’s rumored that large underground iron deposits interfere with compasses, setting walkers forth on the wrong paths. Sadder still, the forest has been the site of more than 500 reported suicides since the 1950s. Locals claim to hear their spirits scream through the night.

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Black Forest, Germany

World's Most Haunted Forests: Black Forest
Guido de Kleijn

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. For a more adult tale of hauntings, killings, and dark magic in this forest, turn to The Necromancer, first published in 1794.

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Wychwood Forest, England

World's Most Haunted Forests: Wychwood
Andrew Moores

A hand reaching out to touch the shoulder of a solitary person. A horse-drawn cart carrying a couple with two sobbing children. These are the reports out of Wychwood Forest, once part of larger royal hunting grounds in Oxfordshire. Most compelling is the case of Amy Robsart, the wife of the Earl of Leicester. She mysteriously died of a broken neck, confronted her husband as a ghost while he was hunting in Wychwood, and predicted he would join her in 10 days—which he did after falling ill. Anyone who meets her, it is said, will befall a similar and swift fate.

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Devil’s Tramping Ground, North Carolina

World's Most Haunted Forests: Devil's Tramping Ground
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. Even 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.

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Dow Hill, Kurseong, India

World's Most Haunted Forests: Dow Hill
Anuman Kar

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.

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Hoia-Baciu Woods, Romania

World's Most Haunted Forests: Hoia-Baciu
Mihaita Nagy

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 even twisted into knots now.

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Isla de las Munecas, Mexico

World's Most Haunted Forests: Isla de las Munecas

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 drowned in the very same canal. Some believe the dolls, many of which are missing limbs, are evil; others believe they safeguard the island. Depart from the Embarcadero Cuemanco ferry terminal for the four-hour round trip to see for yourself.

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Freetown-Fall River State Forest, Massachusetts

World's Most Haunted Forests: Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Erica Britto

Part of the “Bridgewater Triangle,” this 200-square-mile swath of land in southeastern Massachusetts is tormented by paranormal activity, with layer upon layer of intrigue. The Native Americans who occupied it in the 1600s sold it reluctantly and left behind several burial grounds; it was believed to be the site of satanic murders in the 1970s and ’80s; and it’s still the backdrop for odd sightings (UFOs, poltergeists, fireballs).

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Randolph Forest, Maine

World's Most Haunted Forests: Randolph Forest
Joshua Graciano

Billed as the smallest town in the state, Randolph Forest, flanked by residences, 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.

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Epping Forest, England

World's Most Haunted Forests: Epping
Richard Poynter

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?

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Robinson Woods, Illinois

World's Most Haunted Forests: Robinson Woods
Michael Kappel

Alexander Robinson, born Chee-chee-pin-quay and chief of the Pottawatomies, Ottawa, and Chippewa nations, is buried along with his family in these woods. Orbs of light, thought to be the spirits of the Robinson family, appear at night, while during the day, groups of deer sometimes circle visitors without apparent reason. Near the graves, people tell of smelling lilacs during the winter.

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Frith Wood, England

World's Most Haunted Forests: Frith Wood
Paul Willis

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.

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Old House Woods, Virginia

World's Most Haunted Forests: Old House Woods
Drew Richardson

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 (pictured)—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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