The world is full of scary places, and sometimes these real life horror factories are frightening enough to have their own movie made about them. Places like the Amityville Horror house on Long Island, which played host to a family murder and supposed hauntings thereafter; or the Perron home, which had its own series of paranormal activity that inspired The Conjuring. But these mere haunted houses and their ilk pale in comparison to the frights in the new movie The Forest , which takes place at Aokigahara... better known as Japan's suicide forest.
This forest is, without question, one of the scariest places in the world. People often find clothing or body parts while traversing through its so-called sea of trees, the result of the inordinate number of deaths by suicide that occur there every year (over 100 took place between 2013 and 2015, according to CNN). But that's not the only reason the forest is a place you probably don't want to visit. Located at the base of Mount Fuji, Aokigahara also plays a role in Japanese mythology, and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in all of Japan, with believers reporting a very high number of Yūrei — ghosts who suffered a violent and unnatural death — as well as demons. And even those paranormal beings don't cover all of the weird stuff that goes on there. So have a look at these six creepy stories from within the Aokigahara Forest, if you dare.
During a VICE documentary that takes a tour of the forest, an extremely creepy curse is found. There's a Jack Skellington-like doll with his face cut off, nailed upside down to a tree as a sort of inverted crucifixion. According to the documentary's guide, Azusa Hayano, "They nailed this character upside down as a symbol of contempt for society. No, it's more like a curse. The curse is nailed in." Apparently, it's not that uncommon for visitors to leave a curse on the world they're leaving behind.
The Cut Tape
The forest is very easy to get lost in, with compasses and GPS often not working under its canopy (believed to be due to high iron deposits in the soil). For this reason, people entering the forest will string along tape behind them so they can find their way back. There are stories of people having their tape deliberately cut, leaving them lost in the woods. Could it have been one of the demons who are believed to lead travelers astray?
The Mysterious Scream
People often report hearing bloodcurdling, unnatural screams while wandering the forest, said to be made by the Yūrei. A writer for the Japan Times told of an incident where he heard a terrifying scream in the forest. When he went searching for source of the noise, he came across the dead body of a man at the base of a tree. A quick examination revealed that the corpse had been dead for some time, and could not have been the source of the scream... but maybe his spirit was.
Another hallmark of the forest is that there have been, supposedly, literal ghost sightings, with visitors sometimes claiming to see white figures drifting between the trees. When the Syfy paranormal investigation show Destination Truth investigated the forest, they may have caught one of these apparitions on camera. Was it a Yūrei, or just a trick of the light?
Some who enter the forest with intent to die by suicide do eventually leave. In an interview with the Japan Times, Hideo Watanabe, who owns a shop at the entrance of the forest, revealed that he's seen numerous people exit the forest after attempting to die by suicide. He described calling for an ambulance for one such visitor.
An Invitation From Beyond
Given its proximity to Mount Fuji, Aokigahara is considered by most Japanese religions to be a very spiritual place — but that's not necessarily a good thing. Buddhist monks have set up altars in the forest to try and combat what they say are the evil spirits haunting the forest and drawing people there to die by suicide. One Buddhist monk named Kyomyo Fukui was visiting the forest to set up an altar when he told the New Zealand Herald, "The spirits are calling people here to kill themselves — the spirits of the people who have committed suicide before."
So while there are many frightening stories out there about Aokigahara Forest, it certainly isn't the type of place you want to go camping.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
This post was originally published on Jan. 12, 2016. It was updated on June 19, 2019.
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