Some places in the world just seem to be cursed. One place that qualifies as potentially the most ominous place on Earth is Aokigahara, a forest in Japan otherwise known as the “Sea of Trees” and the “Suicide Forest.”
The Aokigahara Forest is known for its majestic landscape and breathtaking scenery. Nevertheless, how it looks on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect what it harbors on the inside. The forest’s densely packed trees block sunlight and wind, making the landscape eerily dark and quiet.
Another striking feature of Aokigahara is the fact that compasses do not work in the area. The magnetic anomaly is believed to be due to magnetic iron deposited in the landscape’s volcanic soil. Consequently, even experienced hikers get lost in the Sea of Trees. Many visitors bring planting markers or plastic tape with them to not lose their way.(1)
But what makes Aokigahara truly creepy is the fact that it’s the most common place to commit suicide in Japan, and the second most common place to commit suicide in the world, superseded only by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco. Ever since the 1950s, a growing number of people have gravitated towards the forest to end their lives. In 2003, approximately 108 people committed suicide in the forest.(1)
“There are people who come here to end their lives in Aokigahara Jukai but, uncertain as to where exactly the forest is, kill themselves in neighboring woodland,” Masamichi Watanabe, chief of the Fujigoko Fire Department that covers this area, told sources.(2)
He says his team regularly finds people in the forest in varying states of consciousness, including an increasing number of people who take their lives by inhaling gas from their cars. “What is certain, though, is that the numbers continue to rise each year,” he added.
Suicide rates are likely higher than reported due to the remoteness of some areas in the forest. Many bodies are often overlooked by monthly patrols and annual body hunts when police and volunteers search the forest for victims. Some of the bodies are stumbled upon by hikers. No one is sure how many lives the forest has claimed.
According to locals, Aokigahara attracts only three types of people: Hikers, horror enthusiasts eager to catch a glimpse of the macabre and those who have no plan to return. Suicide rates at Aokigahara have become so bad that authorities have put up signs urging those who plan to end their lives to turn back. Security cameras have been installed and police regularly patrol the area. Even with these measures in place, however, it is believed at least 100 people end their lives at Aokigahara yearly.
Some locals believe the forest is possessed by daemonic forces that lure people into the area to commit suicide. Others suggest the forest is like a psychic battery, which absorbs emotions exhausted there, in the same way a car battery stores an electric charge. According to this hypothesis, Aokigahara isn’t so much possessed by daemonic spirits as much as it is haunted by its past.
It is also believed that victims of ubasate — an ancient practice where sick or elderly people are led and abandoned in the forest to be left for dead — haunt Aokigahara. Many people believe the suicides committed in the forest have imprinted themselves onto trees, causing paranormal activity, animals to flee the region and many hikers to never return.
The reason people commit suicide is as varied as the number of people who go to Aokigahara to seek death. Whether people are drawn to the forest by daemonic forces, the imprints of history or forgotten ancestors, only those who end their lives at Aokigahara can know for sure.