One of the most common questions writers are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
My answer: “I travel.”
Sounds simple enough. However, since I write supernatural suspense, this often means braving the world’s most haunted places. Sometimes the ghosts won’t come to you—you have to go to them.
While planning a trip to Romania for the Transylvania Horror Writer’s (sic) Retreat, I discovered the world’s most haunted forest, Hoia Baciu, was located in Cluj-Napoca. The very same city my flight would arrive and depart from.
It was clearly meant to be.
Hoia Baciu was named for a shepherd who vanished in the forest, along with his flock of 200 sheep. According to Romanian legend, neither shepherd nor sheep were ever seen again. Most locals who live near the forest are reportedly afraid to go inside, believing they will also disappear. Those courageous enough to venture within have suffered from strange rashes, headaches, burns, scratches, and nausea, among other ailments. Some experience a high level of anxiety while in the forest, along with the sensation of being watched. Electronics often malfunction in the area as well.
One of the creepiest stories about the forest involves the disappearance of a five-year-old girl. Legend has it that she reappeared several years later, wearing the same clothes she’d worn on the day she vanished. She had no memory of what had happened to her during the years she was missing.
When it comes to haunted locations and spirit sightings, I keep an open mind. Even if they exist, ghosts are hardly going to arrive on command. Hoia Baciu could be the most haunted place in the world, but that didn’t mean I was going to experience anything. Right?
The first strange thing I noticed upon arriving at Hoia Baciu seemed pretty harmless. It was a large, circular clearing filled with nothing but grass and tiny purple wildflowers. If I had to guess at its size, I’d say it was probably the size of a football field—perhaps two football fields. What was a clearing doing in the middle of a forest? Why did no trees grow here? And why was it a near-perfect circle? I wondered if this was how the UFO rumors started. My guide told me the soil had been tested many times, but no abnormalities had been found.
Once past the clearing, another odd aspect of Hoia Baciu was immediately apparent. Every single tree was deformed in some way. Some were curved downwards, into arches, while others had grown into elaborate shapes, like the famous “harp” tree. Many had large burls, or growths, on them. Even odder, one tree had a greenish mist surrounding it—a fog concentrated on a single tree. Bizarre.
Hyper aware of my surroundings, I searched for any other indication that something was “off” about the forest. If it truly was a haunted, dangerous place, the birds and reptiles weren’t bothered—Hoia Baciu rang with birdsong, and fat, green frogs were everywhere, enjoying the multitude of marshy puddles.
The reputation the forest has for being disorienting is true, my guide attested, admitting that even he occasionally gets lost. As we explored, I didn’t feel like anyone was watching me, but I did feel something else—sick. It started off as terrible stomach cramps, and worsened when a sheering pain shot through my forehead, the most sudden onset of a migraine I’d ever experienced. Embarrassed by my body’s reaction, I couldn’t tell my guide what I was feeling. I just gritted my teeth and hoped I’d survive the tour.
Finally, it was over, and I can’t remember ever being happier to leave a place in my life. As soon as I escaped the tree cover, my migraine vanished. My stomach took a bit longer to recover, but thankfully, I was back to normal in time for my overseas flight home.
Is Hoia Baciu really haunted? Based on my experience, I couldn’t say for sure, but I can tell you this—I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for a Sunday stroll.
J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.
Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.
But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help.
When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?
About the Author
Raised in the far north, amid Jack London’s world of dog sleds and endless winters, J.H. Moncrieff has been obsessed with psychological suspense, mysteries, and true crime for as long as she can remember. She’s endlessly fascinated by what makes people tick and has visited many of the world’s most haunted places.
J.H. loves to hear from readers. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.
Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook
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