About 100 miles west of Tokyo, you will find the famous Mt. Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan. The volcanos last eruption took place over three hundred years ago and geologist warn that an explosion could happen anytime. At the base of Mt. Fuji lies the Aokigahara Forest, or Sea of Trees, an area of about 14 square miles.
The woods here are primitive and impressive, full of twisted trunks, ancient surface roots, volcanic rock, and unique wildlife. The rocky forest bed is dense with limestone, obsidian, and quartz, and visitors can search for the mysterious Ice and Wind Caves. But these woods are known for much more than their beauty. Over the last 100 years or so, close to 500 individuals have taken their own lives in this enchanting, but deadly, location. You may know it as the Suicide Forest. And now, understandably, it’s thought to be one of the most haunted places in the world.
Image Credit: Mirror Online
Trailing just behind the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, the Suicide Forest comes in second worldwide as a desired location to die. Many factors have attributed to this notoriety. Dating back to the 19th Century, it was a widely spread belief that the poverty stricken would lead their elderly into the woods to die of starvation and exposure when the food ran out.
In the 1960’s, author Seicho Matsumoto published the novel Kuroi Jukai, which arguably romanticized suicide in the Aokigahara Forest. It’s also worth noting that, until recently, the stigma of suicide in Japan was not like that of America. It was, at one point, considered a noble death. Over the 20th century, the Japanese government has worked hard to disrupt that mindset but it’s clear that it hasn’t been entirely successful.
A walk through these woods reveals much: signs are posted with the suicide hotline number or encouraging messages. Ribbon or tape is often seen draped over branches, dancing in the wind—many hikers will use the ribbon or tape to mark their path so as not to get lost. Other times, it’s the remnants of a police investigation or a body recovery. 500 bodies removed from the woods: how many weren’t ever found?
Image Credit: Our Travelouge
It’s clear that the suicides alone could be responsible for the reported hauntings. But some speculate a much more interesting theory. The geological make-up of this location practically begs for paranormal activity: magnetized fields, limestone and quartz in abundance, moving water—all of these elements could contribute to the incredible amount of reported spirit sightings. Yurei, what the Japanese refer to as ghosts or spirits, are thought to be trapped here amongst the trees, ever growing angrier and more violent. Some locals believe that hikers and visitors are in danger of being influenced by the yurei, that the spirits may drive the living mad and lead to self-harm.
Image Credit: Atlas Obscura
It’s said that compasses don’t work very well in the woods. Many blame the ghosts, but the logical explanation would be the heavy amount of basalt from previous eruptions: basalt contains iron and is usually magnetized to some extent. The moving water in the area is theorized to help aid the paranormal activity. Water is a natural conduit, so it’s not a stretch to imagine that it does have some influence.
Limestone is also a very controversial element when it comes to the paranormal. Some argue that it does absolutely nothing to increase activity, while others claim that due to the half-life of the decaying mineral, it gives off rather high levels of EMF—which, as we all know, is directly linked to spiritual activity. Could the combination of these natural elements elevate the hauntings that reportedly happen here? The high number of deaths should already account for most sightings and reports. Perhaps the spirits are made stronger due to the habitat? I look forward to the day that we can have answers to these questions.
Hollywood has certainly taken notice of this place. In 2008, Sci-Fi’s Destination Truth gang investigated the Suicide Forests to come back with questionable video and personal experience. And in 2016, Lava Bear Films released the only slightly anticipated film The Forest to a somewhat unimpressed audience. The film didn’t do too well, as many modern horror movies don’t, and it was mostly forgotten. Side note: I saw it in theaters and was disappointed I spent that much on the popcorn. It wasn’t terrible—there were a few eerie moments—but certainly nothing to write home about.
We will undoubtedly hear more about this fascinating location in the years ahead. Numerous paranormal enthusiasts have crossed the Pacific to get in on the action: maybe it’s only a matter of time before undeniable evidence is brought forth. Good luck, hunters.