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A paranormal pilgrimage to the Hoia-Baciu forest

Those intrigued by things that go bump in the night can’t help but take notice of Romania’s most folkloric region.

Those intrigued by things that go bump in the night can’t help but take notice of Romania’s most folkloric region. The very word Transylvania conjures up spooky gothic castles and blood-sucking aristocrats, but there’s a lesser-known local attraction to add to your goose bump list.

The Hoia-Baciu Forest (HBF), located a few kilometres outside of the city of Cluj Napoca, is rumoured to be a hot bed of unexplained supernatural activity.

Dubbed the Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania, theforest first gained international attention in 1968, when biologist Alexandru Sift captured a photo of what’s said to be a disc-shaped UFO. Since then, UFOs, apparitions, abnormalities on photos, nocturnal lights and other unusual things have been regularly reported in the area.

Ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, parapsychologists — and more recently, tourists — have all taken an interest. Dr. Adrian Patrut, a chemistry professor at the local university, claims that though there are many places around the world with unexplained phenomena, the “Hoia-Baciu Forest is one of the best due to the intensity, variety and complexity of its manifestations.”

Patrut is president of the Romanian Society of Parapsychology and since the early ’70s he has been studying occurrences in the forest such as unexplained splotches of light and luminescent orbs hovering in the sky. He says that when you spend too much time in the HBF, you can experience symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, excessive thirst, nausea, vomiting and headaches.

With that kind of build-up, I had to check out the forest for myself.

A 20-minute drive outside of the city finds us on the fringes of the forest. Patrut and I climb up a steep grassy plain to get to the tree line. Once there, we get out our ghost hunting tools: A compass, a still camera, a video camera with infra-red sensors and a Geiger counter to measure sudden rises in radiation. Then we head out into the forest in the hopes of seeing something strange.

The scene looks like something out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Spiky branches reach out like bony fingers; trees are gnarled and spooky. Patrut claims that these trees were normal a few years ago. Now they are warped, “A clear sign of an apparition.” Supernatural or not, there’s something truly creepy about prowling an abandoned forest at night. A few hours of hunting left us with a bunch of mosquito bites but, sadly, no orbs or UFO sightings.

Word Travels
Catch the second season of Word Travels, a documentary series that follows the real-life adventures of travel writers Julia Dimon and Robin Esrock. It airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. EST on OLN.

– Julia Dimon is co-host of Word Travels, airing Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on OLN; www.juliadimon.com.

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