Romania’s Bermuda Triangle: The Creepy Hoia Forest of Transylvania
Outside of Romania, especially in the English-speaking world, Transylvania is a land associated with vampires. Inside Romania, where Vlad Dracul , or Vlad the Impaler , is a national hero, the story of the vampire is not as popular, though Transylvania is arguably still known for being home to one of the creepiest forests in the world. This forest also happens to be near the oldest Neolithic archaeological site in the country. The Hoia Baciu forest, whether it is deserved or not, has earned the reputation of being the Bermuda Triangle of Romania, and probably all of eastern Europe.
Map showing location of Gura Baciului archaeological site, near Hoia Forest, in Romania. (M. Rotea and T. Károly / PLOS ONE )
Archaeological Sites and Early Human Inhabitation Near Hoia Forest
Outside of paranormal activity, Hoia Baciu is known for being part of a wilderness area just outside the bustling Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca. It is also a recreational area with numerous hiking trails and biking paths. Other nearby attractions are an open-air museum and the oldest Neolithic archaeological site in Romania, Gura Baciului.
Gura Baciului dates to perhaps 6,500 BC. It is associated with the Starcevo-Koros-Cris archaeological complex which is believed by most researchers to represent some of the earliest farmers in Europe. This makes the site significant for understanding how agriculture came to Europe and how much immigrants from Anatolia contributed to the genetics of modern Europeans. Beginning about 9,000 years ago, the proto-Sesklo culture in Greece began to cultivate crops and raise livestock which had been domesticated in in the ancient Near East. Over the next several thousand years, the use of Middle Eastern domesticates spread across Europe until the continent was mostly populated by farmers.
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Two main hypotheses are used to explain how Middle Eastern agriculture and technology spread through Europe. One hypothesis is that farmers from Anatolia settled Europe, possibly displacing or absorbing the pre-existing hunter-gatherer populations over time. This is the Demic Diffusion Model. The other model is that Anatolian settlers contributed little to the genetics of European Neolithic populations. In this case, it was mainly a migration of ideas rather than people. This is the Cultural Diffusion Model. Genetic and archaeological evidence suggest that it was most likely a combination of both, with cultural or demic diffusion being more dominant, depending on the region or point in time.
Hoia Forest in Romania has become known for strange happenings, hauntings and paranormal activity. (Daniel M / Adobe Stock)
Gura Baciului and its Archaeological Significance
The Gura Baciului archaeological site is significant in this area because Transylvania is believed to have been one of the first areas in Europe settled by people carrying a Neolithic culture or ideology. The Starcevo-Koros-Cris archaeological culture is believed to have been derived from the proto-Sesklo Neolithic culture of the Aegean which gradually spread through Balkans into central Europe.
The settlement at Gura Baciului probably existed in a context of intersection between Neolithic farmers coming from the south and the east, and pre-existing hunter-gatherers in the plains to the west. It is not clear that the people of Gura Baciului are related to modern Romanians. Modern Romanians may be more closely related to a later wave of settlers from Anatolia.
Gura Baciului also existed at an ecological intersection point. Transylvania makes up the western central part of Romania and is located near a boundary between two topographic and ecological zones, the hills to the east that are covered in old oak forests and the Hungarian plain to the west that extends almost to Vienna. The plain was formed by the Pannonian Sea during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs.
The Hungarian plain historically experienced inundation during the spring and summer, and it is likely that a third of the Hungarian plain was covered in swamps and marshlands before the 18th century. In prehistoric Europe, these wetlands would have been inhabited by red and roe deer, wild boars, waterfowl, and wild cattle. The drier part of the plain consisted of steppes which would have been inhabited by wild horses, onagers, and lions.
If the Neolithic farmers of Europe were descended from settlers from the Middle East, it would have been challenging for them to adapt agricultural techniques developed for the more arid climate of Anatolia to the wetlands of the Hungarian plains. As a result, the comparatively drier Transylvanian highlands may have been considered a relatively clement area to live. Gura Baciului is located in the hilly, forested heart of Transylvania. This is just speculation, but Gura Baciului may have been considered valuable real estate compared to the more challenging terrain to the west.
Modern Reputation of Hoia Baciu as a Paranormal Hotbed
While archaeologists associate the wilderness area surrounding Cluj-Napoca with the Neolithic and early European farmers, the locals associate it with something more sinister. Outside of Cluj-Napoca is the Hoia Baciu forest, a forest that is said to be the Bermuda Triangle of Romania. Over time, the forest has gained a reputation for being hauntedby unfriendly spirits, a site of UFO activity, and a place where cultists open portals to other dimensions.
The forest is said to have been named Hoia Baciu after a shepherd by the same name went missing in the forest with 200 of his sheep. In the late 1960s, a biologist by the name of Alexandru Sift is said to have taken pictures of a disc or flying saucer hovering over the forest. In 1968, a military technician by the name of Emil Barnea is said to have taken a picture of a UFO. It is claimed that he had no reason to make the story up since he had nothing to gain. The communist government at the time considered belief in the paranormal to be a sign of insanity and a threat to the state.
In the 1970s, the forest was allegedly a hotbed of UFO activity. Other strange stories have also been told about the forest. In one story, a young girl disappeared for five years only to re-appear again with no memory of where she had been. In another tale, over 60 visitors were seen trying to open a portal to another dimension. People also report seeing strange lights in the forest, hearing footsteps from unseen figures, capturing otherwise non-existent faces in photographs, and hearing laughter or female voices.
It is stories like these which have given it the distinction of being the “creepiest forest in the world.” Furthermore, people who have gone into the forest report having feelings of nausea, strange rashes, unexplained fatigue, and the feeling that they are being watched. Some people also report missing time and have no recollection of what they did during that missing time. The vegetation is equally strange. The trees are said to be in twisted shapes which, allegedly at least, experts are not able to explain. The stumps of trees are also said to have unexplained charring.
Because of the forest’s strangeness, it has been the subject of several media presentations on the paranormal, including one documentary that was aired in Japan in 2015 based on excursions into the forest. Tour guides will take people on tours of the forest and some of them have even been brave enough to spend the night there. Tour guides who have stayed overnight have reported hearing strange things. In one account, they heard a sound that resembled a thumping hoof which stopped whenever they looked outside their tents.
To some, the Hoia Forest, shares some of its characteristics with the Bermuda Triangle. ( GEMINI / Adobe Stock)
The Hoia Baciu Forest and the Bermuda Triangle
The two most popular explanations for the strange nature of the Hoia Baciu forest seem to be that it is either haunted or a realm with portals to other dimensions. Some people claim that the forest is haunted by the ghosts of peasants that were murdered and who now wander the forest in anger from being trapped within it. Another explanation appears to be that the forest is the location of portals to other dimensions, similar to explanations of the Bermuda Triangle.
It may be helpful to compare the phenomenon of Hoia Baciu to the Bermuda Triangle to gain a better understanding of what might be happening in the seemingly haunted forest. The Bermuda Triangle does not have any universally accepted boundaries and is not recognized as an official name for any region by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. It is generally considered by believers to be a maritime area stretching between the Florida Atlantic coast, the Greater Antilles, and the island of Bermuda, forming an approximate triangle, hence the name.
Since the mid-19th century, there have been stories of ships going into the Bermuda Triangle and never returning. At least 50 ships and 20 airplanes have famously disappeared within this region, seemingly without a trace. Ships have also been found adrift in the Bermuda Triangle with no clear explanation for why they were abandoned. Aircraft have disappeared without any evidence of wreckage. Fringe explanations of the Bermuda triangle include alien abductions, connections to Atlantis, and vortices which suck ships and aircraft into other dimensions.
The Hoia Baciu forest parallels the Bermuda Triangle in many ways. Like the Bermuda Triangle, the Hoia Baciu forest is a place where people have mysteriously disappeared. It is also a place that is claimed to be a realm where portals to other dimensions exist. Like the Bermuda Triangle, the forest is also associated with UFO activity. Could it be that Hoia Baciu and the Bermuda Triangle are both inter-dimensional zones where it is easy to accidentally find oneself in another universe?
Could there be a perfectly normal and mundane explanation to the strange activity and legends associated with Hoia Forest in Romania? ( Mirko Macari / Adobe Stock)
Mundane Explanations for the Bermuda Triangle and Hoia Baciu
When stories about the disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle are more closely examined, however, many, if not most, incidents appear to have more mundane explanations. Most Atlantic storms pass through the Bermuda Triangle, for example. In the days before accurate weather prediction, it is possible that ships could have encountered bad weather that was not expected. The conditions of the Bermuda Triangle are also believed to produce sudden waves that can be up 100 feet high called “rogue waves.” These waves could take out a ship and leave little or no evidence.
The Gulf Stream is also known to cause weather to shift rapidly and violently. Furthermore, there are many shallow regions within the Caribbean around the islands which can make the region a treacherous area to navigate in a ship. Another factor is the possibility that compasses sometimes point to true north instead of magnetic north within the Bermuda Triangle. This could have led to miscalculations in navigation which could have been disastrous.
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All these factors would have made it easy for a ship or airplane to be lost, seemingly without a trace, in the days before reliable radio communication and accurate weather prediction. Although there could be something genuinely strange going on in the Bermuda Triangle, most disappearances can be explained by known environmental factors, making more fanciful explanations unnecessary. It should also be noted that, although ships and airplanes have gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle , the vast majority that have passed through the area have not.
Could the situation be similar for the Hoia Baciu forest? Could most of the disappearances and UFO sightings have natural or mundane explanations? It is true that people have gone missing in the forest, but Hoia Baciu is a dense forest and hikers go missing all the time. Could it just be that people tend to notice when people go missing in the Hoia Baciu forest because of the mystique that is already associated with the place? Could the strange lights be part of some kind of atmospheric phenomena? Could the visions of ghosts be due to a natural hallucinogen that exists in the area? This is also speculation, but when dealing with strange events, should not the more likely and less fanciful explanations be considered first?
Hoia Baciu is a place known for unexplained paranormal activity and a nearby archaeological site that is significant for understanding the origins of modern Europeans. In many ways, it is shrouded in mystery because of the many strange phenomena which are seen there. Whether these turn out to be natural or genuinely supernatural, the Hoia Baciu still has a powerful hold on the imagination whether you are into archaeology or fascinated by the paranormal.
Top image: The Hoia Forest in Romania has become connected to paranormal activity in local legends and is said to be haunted by unfriendly spirits. Source: Артур Ничипоренко / Adobe Stock
By Caleb Strom
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