Ever since the Blair Witch Project came out, most people think twice before entering an unfamiliar forest. Between narrow, winding trails and menacing looking trees, even the most accessible forest can look sinister from time to time. For Aokigahara, Japan’s most famous forest, a creepy atmosphere is always present. Why? Because this haunted forest is considered one of the most haunted places in the world.
The Aokigahara, also known as the Sea of Trees, takes up twelve square miles on the border of Mt. Fuji. While many tourists flock to the forest to admire its vast beauty, the forest also attracts a crowd for another reason. Over the last few decades, the Aokigahara has been considered an ideal location to commit suicide. This fact alone makes the woods creepy by default, but let’s examine what else makes this lush haunted forest so undeniably scary.
1. Deadly Figures – Sinister Statistics
In 2003, a total of 105 bodies were found in the forest. The year before had marked an all-time high of 132 people who had successfully killed themselves while visiting the Sea of Trees. Thankfully, these numbers have decreased over time. In 2010, over two hundred people came to the forest with the intent of ending their lives, however, only fifty-four of those people actually carried out the deed.
Some people carry out their suicides in unique ways, but there are two methods that are extremely popular within the forest. Many people intentionally overdose on drugs, but the majority prefer hanging themselves from the tall, twisting trees. Every year, local authorities and volunteers gather to comb through the Aokigahara and cut down bodies. These searches often increase every March, which is when the fiscal year ends in Japan.
For years, the Japanese government published suicide statistics about the forest, but have decided to not publish that data the last couple of years. They believe the forest’s notoriety has only increased the number of suicides the trees witness each passing year.
2. All in the Signs – Words of Wisdom
The Japanese government is extremely eager to make the haunted forest a comfortable, non-violent tourist destination once more. One way they have attempted to lower suicide statistics is to post numerous signs along popular trail ways, etched with positive messages for hikers.
Some are straight to the point and list the phone number for Japan’s suicide prevention hotline. Others take a more indirect approach, which request that visitors think about their loved ones, namely their families and their children.
Other signs have been placed to remind visitors that their lives have meaning and purpose. That their lives are “precious” as one particular sign claims. The signs may seem slightly cheesy at first, but there is no doubt that they have played a significant role in getting some people to change their minds at the end of each day within Aokigahara.
3. Misguided Magnetism – Never Stray from the Trails
It is not uncommon for characters to become momentarily lost during horror movies. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for visitors of the “suicide forest” to become lost as well. There are many forests in the world that are significantly larger than the Aokigahara, but its dense foliage makes it easy to lose one’s way.
It also doesn’t help that cell phones and navigational tools, such as GPS trackers, and even a compass, often fail while in the forest. Scientists have studied the area, and now know that the soil and surrounding area have increased amounts of magnetic iron, which makes most technology unreliable and useless. Those who enter the haunted forest must rely on paper maps, and even so, never dare stray far from the designated trails.
Those who do feel somewhat comfortable leaving marked trails will often bring twine or colored string with them on their journeys. Wrapping the thread around trees as they go, the visitors provide themselves with a clearly marked trail that they can follow to get back to their campsite.
4. Bodies Abound – Evidence of Demise
Evidence left behind from suicidal visitors are often just as disturbing as the aesthetics of the forest itself. Sometimes, visitors will empty their pockets of their belongings near the base of a tree before carrying out their own deaths. Pictures of loved ones are often left behind, with or without the accompaniment of a suicide note. Suicide is a very private, spiritual endeavour, so some visitors decide not to leave notes, for the sake of their privacy.
Perhaps the most devastating thing to come across is a campsite that has clearly been abandoned for some time. Those who visit the forest should use caution, as there is a strong possibility that a dead body is somewhere nearby. Despite the regularly scheduled combs through, it’s not uncommon to see evidence of completed or attempted suicides from within the heart of the forest.
5. Vicious Voices – Ghosts Among Us
It sounds grim, but many people visit the Aokigahara without the intention of ending their lives. The forest has become very popular for paranormal enthusiasts, as it is said to be notoriously haunted. Japanese culture has these spirits called a yurei – or ghost. It is believed that the Sea of Trees is littered with the yurei, who wander around between the trees late at night.
Many visitors claim that they have seen numerous misty apparitions while visiting the forest, be it day or night. Disembodied voices, as well as these eerie figures are enough to make anyone nervous. Typically, a yurei will appear close to the spot where a person has committed suicide. Numerous paranormal investigation teams have been out to explore the area, and have successfully captured strange apparitions and disembodied voices on film.
This Haunted Forest Is A Place of Death and Beauty
Whether an individual has a morbid curiosity, or simply wants to explore a legendary forest, the Aokigahara is a magical and mysterious place we are still trying to fully understand. It is believed that the spirits of those who have ended their lives continue to live in the forest, encouraging others to join them on the other side. Should you feel you are the slightest bit suicidal or depressed, visiting the forest is probably not a great idea. However, if you want to visit an emotionally charged and physically beautiful forest, the Sea of Trees will by no means disappoint.