Vile Vacation Idea: Hoia-Baciu Forest in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Keeping up with the theme this month of Vile Vacations, I wanted to think of a place I could go to ensure that I would have nightmares to come! I thought of the world’s most haunted forest: Hoia-Baciu Forest in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. This forest has so much to offer someone like myself: Urban Legend, paranormal activity, creepy fairy tale like trees, and even UFO sightings!

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Located in the historical region of Transylvania, and a massive forest at 617 acres (250 hectares) you can definitely get lost at night. Especially with no compass or sense of direction, this forest is also nicknamed as the “Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania”.  It is named after a shepherd that disappeared along with two hundred sheep. This makes the locals believe that if they go in the forest, they may never return. Also, they believe that some souls of the locals who have been murdered go to this forest for unrest. This can account for witnessing odd lights, noises and seeing heads floating among the trees. Certainly, several visitors have experienced mysterious rashes, burns, nausea, and unexplained loss of time. Not to mention the feeling of being watched and hearing unexplained voices.

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A large portion of the forest that is barren. People believe that this is where most paranormal activity is. But there’s also several springs that border the forest which can be a conduit for activity. How exciting is this!? Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Researchers visit the forest in hopes to find something here.

 
forest-oneThere was one documented sighting of a UFO in the 70s with a photo for proof, but some have not been able to be so lucky to see another as successfully. While the photo is pretty cool and such, the idea that there hasn’t been another sighting is possibly the only disappointment if to visit.

So, with the idea that you will be guaranteed some kind of experience when visiting this creepy, but awesome forest, would you go? I most definitely think it would be well worth the experience and great material for nightmares.

 

What is your favorite vacation destination? Let me know and if you have visited Hoia-Baciu Forest, I would definitely love to hear about it!

 

In The Footsteps Of Dracula

Have you ever wanted to experience the trip of a lifetime. Steve Unger has taken that trip and he talks about it in his travel guide and history book: In The Footsteps Of Dracula. The book starts off with Steve Unger describing why he had to write this book. He was vistiting Whitby, England and was on Cemetery hill  where in the Book Dracula, Lucy and Mina sat in their favorite spot as Dracula slept below them. Steve said in his mind’s eye he could see Dracula rising from from the grave to feed on the living. He then felt the spirit of Bram Stoker and the ghost of Vlad The Impaler urging him to take the journey and tell the stories that they no longer could.

In the Footsteps Of Dracula then gets into visiting the locations of Bram Stoker’s dracula. You get to hear the author’s experiences as he visits where Dracula came ashore on the Demeter, cemetery hill in Whitby, The Dracula Trail and locations in Dublin, Romania and London. The author describes what the locations look like now and how they would have appeared in Bram Stoker’s time. He also gives quotes from Dracula to describe it further.

The book also tells Bram Stoker’s story. You get to hear how he was inspired to write Dracula, the places where Dracula was written and you hear about the reactions to Bram’s work when it was first released. I  really enjoyed reading the first review ever written for Dracula and hearing about the staged readings of Dracula before the book was released.

Not satisfied to give you information on Dracula alone, Steve Unger also gets into the history of Vlad The Impaler who Dracula was based on. Steve  gives examples of how Dracula compares to Vlad by giving quotes from Dracula that reference him. Hearing the story behind Vlad Tepes was like reading a horror novel itself. The author talks about how he impaled over 20,000 men, women and children, he boiled people alive, burned down a building full of people and you hear about his battles to keep his throne.

Its also told how Vlad’s father was a member of The Royal Order Of The Dragon which was a branch of The Brotherhood of the Wolf. One of their beliefs was that they could transform into wolves. While reading In The Footsteps Of Dracula, I felt that Vlad Tepes seemed like a much more horrifying character then Count Dracula and I loved hearing his story. Steve also visits all the places associated with Vlad Tepes,  including his tomb and Castle Dracula.

What really makes the author’s story come to life is the beautiful photos in this book. There are 185  pictures which really show a sharp contrast between some of the ruins of various castles to the tourist areas where people are trying to cash in on Dracula.  Some of my favorite photos was of the reading room in the British Museum, cemetery hill overlooking the ocean, Vlad’s tomb on Snagov Island and the photo of the wolf dragon.

If you ever do make this trip, Steve Unger also tells how much everything costs and the best ways to get to where you want to go. This is what makes this book the ultimate travel guide. You get pictures, a history behind all the locations and you hear about the best places to stay. I also loved how you get to hear about the people that Steve met on the way. He tells about how he met several goths on his journey and they here the friendliest people you would ever want to meet. This is an amazing book that made Count Dracula, Vlad The Impaler and Bram Stoker’s stories more fascinating.

Even if you never get to walk in the footsteps of Dracula you can still own a copy of this excellent book. You can either buy one on Amazon or you could win your very own autographed copy of In The Footsteps Of Dracula by answering two questions. What year was Bram Stoker’s Dracula published and Who was your favorite on screen Dracula and why? Email your answers to horroraddicts@gmail.com. The best answer gets the book. Good luck!

Them (Ils)

Within my remit for Horror Addicts, I take pride in bringing you the best of European and Extreme cinema – and so far I’ve tried to combine the two in every film. This time, I’m dropping the Extreme Cinema tag and will be showcasing a French film which disturbs not from pushing the boundaries of violence, taste and decency, but from building ultra-taut suspense and terror.

“Them” (or “Ils” as it is called in its native tongue) is a tense chiller directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud. It is set in semi-rural Romania, where the protagonists Clementine and Lucas have relocated – she is teaching French in the local school and he is a writer. Presumably due to the favorable exchange rate between France and Romania, the couple have acquired a large old house in extensive grounds – and it is here that their horror is to take place.

“Them” is essentially a “home invasion” movie, but unlike other recent offerings in this sub-genre it is not a tale of thugs holding the innocent captive and torturing them. Instead, it is about the terror of being hunted and the fear of helplessness. It has a pounding sense of violation, and the shattering of sanctuary.

To make a film with the aspiration to truly scare takes a great deal of skill, and this prowess is successfully evident in “Them”. The viewer senses they are in the hands of craftsman from the beginning. The film opens to show a sequence which lets the viewer know what they are to be afraid of, and then takes a slow-burn approach to build the characters, the prey, layer by layer until we care sufficiently about what then happens to them. However, this isn’t laborious – too much characterization can be dull but here the pacing is timed perfectly.

Just as the viewers become acquainted with the couple, Clementine awakes to hear a strange noise outside their home. Lucas goes to investigate, and from here the film seeps into the nervous system with long, drawn out, suspense sequences where the protagonists are assailed in their vast home by unseen intruders.

A nightmarish atmosphere is created by the “cat and mouse” game which plays-out through attics, corridors and dusty, disused rooms. The highest praise is worthy of the directors for refusing to use cheap jump scares – not once is the audience conned by a phoney smash-cut. Instead a minimalist score of humming and repetitive bass notes combines with the eerie noises made by the attackers. We feel the fear of the hunted as they run and hide – desperately trying to stay unseen; but the things in their house are coming and they want the couple to know it! There are many of them and we are never quite sure what they are.

“Them” employs a lot of set pieces common to such movies: the scary phone call and the electricity getting cut,  amongst others; but it does them so well and combines them with tricks of its own that it does not lessen the impact of the film.

The empty house provides a terrifying setting for events to unfold; even this factor is escalated with the rising tension as the pursuit spills into the grounds and through woodland, ultimately ending up in labyrinthine catacombs. The directors have a firm grip on base human fears such as claustrophobia, fear of the dark and the terror of being hunted; they conduct these with devastating precision.

The ending of the “Them” needed to be worthy of the tension built through the flawlessly short running time, and it honored the previous 70 minutes by not only being traumatic and harrowing but also by producing an image that verged on the artistic – one of those celluloid moments where the viewer is transcended from the fiction and feels the character as if they were really there. Purely as a visual it is on a par with the final shot of Leather Face in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

“Them” doesn’t cheat the viewer, and neither does it patronize with silly scares. It masterfully sculpts fear and inflicts dread with finely honed precision. Hitchcock would have been proud to make this film.