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.