September 14, 2009

DT: Hoia Baciu Haunted Forest

by Oubliette

Beat the drum loudly and let the trumpets blare!  Destination Truth has, after an overly long hiatus, returned to the airwaves with a flourish.  The inimitable Josh Gates, along with a new crew, has provided us with a season opener jammed packed with the excitement, the dangers, the aura of mystery and adventure, topped off with Josh’s wonderful sense of humor.  DT has always been the type of show that makes the viewers feel that they are along for the ride, and this week’s opener was no exception.

Although I was disappointed that Erin Ryder and Casey are no longer with the cast, the new members seem to fit in quite well.  Be that as it may, besides Josh we now have:

Bechara "Bicha" Gholam – Case
Evan Stone and Gabe Copeland – camera operators
Jael DePardo – researcher
Mike Morrel – audio
Rex Williams – medic
Sharra Jenkins – tech manager

In the past,  Destination Truth was mainly concerned with cryptozoology, but over time the show has now expanded to include hauntings and other paranormal activities.  Hoia Baciu Forest certainly provided the perfect environment for Josh and the gang. Romania has always been a land of mystery, legend and extreme natural beauty.  Although it is part of the modern world, it still has one foot firmly planted in an exotic past full of myths, legends and outright spookiness.
This unique spot has developed a reputation for supposedly supernatural events, including sightings of UFOs and strange, unexplainable lights deep in the woods.  There is a clearing similar to a crop circle where no vegetation grows, an object of extreme interest in its own right.  What is remarkable is that this strange place is not more widely known to the outside world.  It certainly provides plenty of material for anyone seeking evidence of the strange and unexplainable.

After citing recent experiences of people who saw unexplained lights, ghostly figures (45 alone in the last 16 months) and a photo which shows what could be specters against a wooded background, the DT team turns to Orbitz (!) to get them to this intriguing and remote spot in Transylvania.

Now their troubles REALLY begin.  In Cluz, Josh rents a clunker–um, I mean SUV, that came complete with huge chunks of dirt, a cross hanging from the rearview mirror (a sight that might give some people pause–did someone think it might come in handy?) a visor that was held in place by a safety pin (as Josh states “Part of the Stalin Supreme Package) and a supply of firewood in the back. Add to this a confusing game of “guess which gear this is”, and we have our usual DT rented vehicle.  It looked for all the world like some poor soul was pressured into renting his/her SUV for a US TV show and duly delivered it, as is.  Josh was not far off the mark in describing it as a 4 x 4, meaning it measured 4 feet by 4 feet.  But DT is known for not always obtaining the best in transportation, which will become quite evident a little while later.

Josh meets up with Adrian Patrut, a university chemistry professor and president of the Romanian Society of Parapsychology.  He also happens to be an expert on the Hoia Bacui forest.  He fills him in on the experiences of others who have braved the place and some of the evidence others have collected, which consists of strange photographs (including what appears to be UFOs), unusual nocturnal lights, unexplainable voices and physical symptoms including nausea, vomiting and the like.  Or, as Josh states, the same way he felt on his prom night.

Undeterred, our intrepid group reaches a village where several people inform Josh that there are indeed strange goings on in Hoia Bacui, with one man warning him not to go lest he and his crew “disappear”.  But as we know, words to this effect are music to Josh’s ears.  But there is a problem.  Seems no one is quite sure how to assist him in finding this unearthly region, so it’s off to the local airport.

And now, on to THE PLANE.  A distinctly older model, it was not a sight to inspire confidence.  Josh himself refered to it as a “coffin”, and this expression was almost a portent of what was to come.

In one of the scariest moments in DT’s history, the tinny plane was making its way to a spot where the team could disembark and proceed on foot, when to everyone’s amazement there was a horrendous sound.  A section of the roof flew off, leaving everyone inside in genuine terror and necessitating a return to the air strip.  I watched speechless as the ancient flying machine made a very scary landing.  Thankfully all were safe, but the expressions on their faces and the sight of Josh himself hanging on for dear life is proof indeed that DT is the most “real” of any reality show on TV.  The crew emerged as pale as ghosts themselves, and Sharra almost hugs the ground in relief.  At least Josh’s humor was intact as he joked about the plane now being a convertible.  It doesn’t get any more real-or exciting-than this.

Opting for safer transport, the crew sallies forth on ATVs, reach the forest and  decide to make base camp and proceed on foot as darkness is setting in and the environment begins to take on an eerie atmosphere.  IR cameras are set up in a perimeter and further out track cameras, which respond to any movement in front of them, are also put in place.  Mike briefs them on what to listen for audio wise, and Rex reminds them to report any odd physical sensations they might experience.  They split up into two teams and proceed to search in the dark for the mysterious circle.

It doesn’t take long for activity to begin.  A strange light appears in the forest, hovering among the trees.  It was ascertained that it was not emanating from any equipment carried by anyone on the team.  Rex unceremoniously trips over a log while the team runs towards the light, which suddenly disappears.  Gabe and Jael start to experience a chilly feeling, after which he thinks he sees a white figure in the woods.  A photo reveals orbs (oh no, not orbs!), with one much brighter than the others, and Jael quickly returns to camp to show the others what her camera has picked up.

Josh’s team find the circle–it is perfectly round, surrounded by trees and with absolutely nothing growing within its perimeter.  The EMF meter’s dial is almost going off the chart.  To determine why nothing is growing in the circle, soil samples are taken from both within the circle and also from the area outside, where vegetation is growing.  Once more a mysterious light appears, which strangely does not show up on the FLIR.    To add to the mystery, Josh’s FLIR stopped providing images, although it did not lose power.

The decision is made to do an isolation session, where each member of the team goes to sit by his/herself inside the circle.  Josh is the first, and begins (uncharacteristically for DT) an EVP session.  A strange wind like sound seems to kick up every time he asks a question, and Josh feels the presence of something behind him.  At base camp, Sharra notices strange lights/figures over his left shoulder, but nothing shows up on Josh’s FLIR.

Evan is next up, and he starts to hear female voices coming from the surrounding forest.  What follows I can only term as controversial.  We get a shot of Evan’s terrified face and he either quickly runs or is pushed rapidly away from his position.  The team hurries to find out what happened, discovering his fallen camera before coming across Evan, huddled on the ground in a state of shock.  Jael summons Rex, as the others try to aid their fallen comrade.  Josh asks that filming stop to give Evan time to recuperate.

As he is able to orient himself, Evan describes how he felt a wind descend from above and then turn and push him rapidly over the ground.  He complained about a stinging sensation on his arm, and when his sleeve is rolled up, there are what appears to be deep claw marks on his skin.  Josh proclaims that any further isolation sessions would be on a volunteer basis, given what just occurred.

Rex, off to the side, felt ill and vomited, after which he stated that the sick feeling came on him very suddenly.  Given the dangerous situation and with team members experiencing severe physical sensations, Josh decides to bring the investigation to an end.

Back in Los Angeles, the soil samples were taken to Wallace Laboratories, where it was determined that there was very little difference in soil composition from the vials taken within and outside the circle.  This of course leaves open the question as to why nothing grows within the circle parameter.   On the other hand (and this is only my opinion), this may have something to do with a possible magnetic anomaly which would not show up in testing of this kind.  Also, the unproven theory of high EMF fields influencing living organisms (as was shown by the intensely high readings that were obtained in the circle at the time the samples were taken) might be a factor.  This theory and the whole question of EMF fields and their possible influence on the environment in general is an area that definitely needs further investigation.

Josh gathers up the evidence from the recorders and cameras and takes them to none other than those absolute experts in the paranormal field, Jason and Grant.  The EVPs from the circle sounded very impressive and one could certainly interpret them as female voices.  To their credit, Jason and Grant were quick to point out that the environment was not controlled and therefore more earthly sources (such as animals) could not be ruled out.  They were more impressed by the torch like lights captured in the woods, but still remained on the cautious side in their interpretation. I might also add that the dark figure on the left side of one of the photos looked a bit like someone’s thumb, though no one made mention of this possibility.

But the highlight of the investigation was Evan’s mysterious experience, complete with what looked to be deep scratches on his arm.  Jay and Grant seemed convinced that this was definitely paranormal.  They cite that in their experience a number of people have complained of feeling a similar scratchy sensation and then actual cuts or scratches appear on the skin.  It seemed to be their studied opinion that paranormal activity does exist
In Hoia Baciu Forest.

Some personal observations which have been nagging at me since seeing previews of this episode-It seems that someone has made the decision to inject elements of Ghost Hunters into this show.  This could be done for a legitimate reason: to increase DT’s fan base (TAPS fans will tune in to see their heroes).

But with the huge loss of credibility attached to GH that we’ve all seen and discussed here time and time again, one has to wonder whether some of the questionable occurrences and evidence are now being injected into the fabric of DT.  As a huge fan and viewer from day one of this show, just the fact that a very intelligent man like Josh Gates is now so closely affiliated with Jason and Grant has raised some serious doubts in my mind and for the first time is making me question this show’s credibility.

We have seen that Josh has always been serious about what he does and the evidence he collects.  But I do have some questions regarding the evidence, including Evan’s experience.  It was too reminiscent of another camera man-Frank, to be exact.  And the scratches–we have recently seen something very similar on Jason and have questioned their veracity.  Why was there no actual blood seen in either case?  Could they have been created in advance by SFX pixies? Why did Josh suddenly decide to do EVP sessions as opposed to just leaving the recorder running, as he did in previous episodes? It does not help to learn that Steve and Tango will be making an appearance next week.  I simply don’t like the vibes I am getting.

But for the moment, I found this season opener to be exciting, chilling and one of the best episodes of Destination Truth to date.  Only time will tell whether DT has gone over to the Dark Side or will continue to maintain the integrity the show has built up over time.

One thing I am sure of.  There is something afoot in this place filled with mystery; where the howling wind has a voice and strange lights hover in the darkness.

Hoia Baciu Forest is definitely hiding a secret within its heart.

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Comments on DT: Hoia Baciu Haunted Forest »

September 14, 2009

Nosfer @ 2:47 pm

Any chance of now merging the (at least) three other threads that are going about this episode? :)

Leslie @ 3:55 pm

Good write-up Oubliette. Thanks. I do agree with you about the possible direction that this show is headed. I was surprised that Josh would take his 'eveidence' to J&G at first. But then I started to think about it, and reminded myself that this is for entertainment, and although I enjoy Josh's personality he is in it for the money and fans just like J&G. So it all makes sense. As a result, I am questioning more now the evidence that they get. I don't like the whole soil sample scenario. If they were serious about it- and smart about it- they should have known to take samples a lot deeper than the surface if they wanted to prove anything. There could be contaminants deep in the soil that would affect how things grow.(duh!)
The episode was fun to watch, but I don't take it as seriously as I used to, and I wouldn't put it past them to do something "extra" for the ratings.

Nosfer @ 4:00 pm

Thought on the wind that Evan felt. Microburst? I've been in one of these and I was knocked _flat_ by it. The damage they can do is considerable.

Leslie @ 6:12 pm

I've heard of microbursts, and that was the first (ok, maybe 2nd) thing I thought of. I can't imagine what that would feel like,or look like, but it must be pretty scary. After looking at the footage again, and again, I just don't know.something just doesn't seem right and I can't put my finger on it, yet. The footage does not seem very accurate to me- missing frames? It did startle the sh*** out of me when I first saw it.

alicat @ 6:25 pm

Leslie, I agree. It just comes off as very strange. I think it gives you the feeling that you are watching something happening fast but shown in slow motion with certain frames removed purposely just to give it that certain "effect".

Nosfer, Wow! That must have been an incredible experience. Can you share with us the circumstances?

Leslie @ 6:31 pm

Alicat said:
"I think it gives you the feeling that you are watching something happening fast but shown in slow motion with certain frames removed purposely…"

That's a perfect description!! Thanks.

Oubliette @ 7:09 pm

Glad people liked my review. Thank you!

The theory of a microburst is not farfetched. Though there was no storm, the wind was howling in that clearing. Nature does some very strange things.

We had what was later believed to have been a microburst occur on the property where we previously lived. There had been a bad storm that day, with heavy rains and high winds. It didn't last long, but it was pretty nasty.

On coming home, my horse was calling to me in what I can only describe as quizzical way. A huge tree had been lifted up and then dropped straight down, destroying part of the pasture fence. Good thing Rocky couldn't get out as the debris was blocking his way (and anyway, he's not a "runner" and also does not spook easily).

I took several photos to send to the insurance company. I thought for sure that a tornado must have touched down, the way it destroyed that tree. But a check with the weather service indicated there had not been one tornado spotted, either on or off the ground. Having lived in the Midwest for two years, I am also familiar with cloud rotation that can lead to a tornado, but none of these had been reported by anyone either.

The conclusion was that it was probably a microburst, and I concur in this. It must have descended very rapidly in a small area and then dissipated in a matter of, at most, less than a minute. Below is a photo of the tree that was uprooted. Note its huge size:

Nosfer @ 7:37 pm

The burst starts as a strong _downward_ wind that then fans out when deflected by the ground, it kind of makes me wonder about the clearing if the area is prone to such phenomenon, although I've not heard of static ground conditions that would lead to a repeated situation in the same area. A Tunguska-like situation (wind, instead of a likely airburst of a comet/meteor) could easily be the result from the burst, though.

It feels like a sudden blast of wind but very intense…several times more than just a strong 'gust'. The damage area of microbursts can be quite large but what happened in Hoia (if this is what it was) would be a very small one. The one I was in also seemed small but it was hard to get a real sense of the impact area since it was open area which lacked the potential of telltale signs like downed trees, damaged buildings etc. and there were only a few things I could find elsewhere to get an idea of conditions at those spots (ie which way was the wind going there) I was on the ground like I had been pushed _hard_, no real time to react and was caught offguard, just a wham! from behind, wind knocked out of me etc. and it was almost hard to breathe at times. I don't recall if Evan mentioned anything about a "coldspot".

I later retrieved a 6-foot stepladder from more than 50 yards away, and an instrument shelter (~150lbs) had been knocked off it's platform and rolled over once…although the roll could have been momentum from having been upset like it had been…it was not in pristine condition to begin with which may have contributed to it going over more easily. At the time it happened, I was probably a few yards from the shelter and the ladder was standing another few yards beyond there. I did have an anemometer there, but it was unfortunately a totalizing one rather than an instantaneous one, ie, it would record wind-run in kilometers rather than wind-speed in kilometers per hour.

If I had been seated on the ground facing the radial point, I think the results could have been very similar to what we saw on DT. However, I'd also expect others to have felt and heard it (I don't think we hear anything on audio), and there would be tree damage beyond the clearing. It also seemed like a very quick event whereas what I experienced went on for a while, probably a good two minutes of the heavy wind or even more. Anything of that duration at Hoia would have made it all the more certain others would have noticed it.

The reason I wondered about the burst there is if he was near the initial down draft, that would explain the downward wind, the wind deflecting as it hit the ground would have had an upward bounce-like motion to it which MAY have gone OVER the rest of the group before spreading out, but that still doesn't take care of the sound which they WOULD have heard.

alicat @ 7:53 pm

Thanks Nosfer. That must have been quite an unnerving experience and I'm sure that's an understatement. As you know, a tornado scares the heck out of me. I'm afraid that would have done me in.

Do you think any of the "wind" type noises while Josh was speaking sitting there and while Evan was on the ground as well, could have been a pre-cursor of what to come? Did you hear anything prior to or during the event that you can remember? The area looked rather large in one shot so it really wasn't a small circle and Josh was off in the trees. I guess it's also possible we may not actually be hearing everything but I would think it would be to their benefit not to edit and remove any sound. Also, how far away were you from your original position when the event was over?

I'll double check to see if Evan mentions a cold spot. I don't remember it being mentioned. I know someone mentioned it earlier in the episode but I don't believe it was Evan in the circle.

Nosfer @ 8:18 pm

It had pretty much hit me from behind, I had been over by a wooden "box" (plywood about 3 feet tall, maybe 2.5 feet wide and about as deep) that had some supplies in it (it was also tipped forward onto its front but there was a lip on the top which dug in and it didn't go very far) and I was coming back towards the shelter at the time when it hit, fairly short distance in between the two places. There was definitely the rushing sound of wind, but it had been blowing around there prior to the event so it wasn't like all of a sudden from pure stillness, I might have been more ready for it if it had been completely still before. It was also a very cold blast (relative to what conditions had been) which was why I mentioned not recalling Evan say anything about coldspots.

I wasn't lifted upwards or anything, no "flying through the air", it was more like being pushed hard from behind so that you "involuntarily" walk or stumble forward very fast and then I was down. Since there was a little "cover" near the ground, I was hit more near the back and shoulders (above center of gravity) rather than squarely…which unbalanced me even quicker. I wasn't too far from my initial location…a few feet tops, unless you measure to where the upper part of my body was, in which case maybe about 10 feet :)

alicat @ 8:39 pm


I just finished re-watching the episode. They actually cut the sound and then go to Evan going up and back. He never mentions anything about a cold spot. What I did notice is he "ended up" on his back all the way at the other side of the circle near the tree line and close to barren tree branches which could explain the scratches on his arm if, as he was moving, his arms were waving about the way they were when you see him get up and go backward (similar to a swimmer doing the backstroke). That could account for the sleeve on his jacket to be pulled back and thereby creating an opportunity for the scratches to occur. By the way, I never saw any evidence of his jacket buttoning around his thumb. I have no idea why Grant said that at all.

Nosfer @ 8:43 pm

Interesting, I'll have to look at that again. Previously I went over the three frames that we see several times and from what I remember, it looked like:

Frame 1: Seated cross legged
Frame 2: Up vertical arm outstretched but in pretty much in same location as where he was seated
Frame 3: Laying back on ground, also in same area as where he was initially seated, just slightly back a ways.

Did he then get dragged (which we don't see?)

Nosfer @ 8:52 pm

Well, he says it was like wind that came down and then shot at me. (Vertical, downward wind, then horizontal…shooting at him) If he was at the center, right where the downward burst gets deflected, the description is pretty accurate. A VERY small one, though if no one else felt it. The bursts DO vary in intensity and size, though.

Such a situation would not cause any chemical difference between the soil inside and outside the clearing, either. Like I said, though, this would mean a repeated phenomenon there which is where I start to raise my eyebrows.

alicat @ 9:15 pm

No. We don't see him go anywhere but up and back and it almost looks like we can see him back about 3 or 4' from the original spot but it's difficult to tell. What we then see is Josh and crew running out into the circle, they get to the location where Evan was seated, the camera fixes on the camera on the ground and Jael(?) saying the camera fell off the back rig, Josh scanning the area, then a pulled back shot of the area that is somewhat lit but no figure on the ground anywhere near (in either direction) where Evan had been sitting. Josh is then seen quite a bit over (maybe 30' or so) past the area where Evan was and to the left (Camera 5). They then show Josh running over towards the edge of the trees calling out he found him and when they come upon him, they are along side branches of trees on the other side of the circle.

Would the "itchy" feeling from those cuts on his arm have anything to do with any chemicals in the ground that were giving off those previous high readings? I'm thinking that's a good possibility.

On another note, I really think the reason Rex got sick isn't too hard to imagine. Foreign country, foreign food and foreign water (although I doubt it was the water for other reasons).

Learjet @ 9:18 pm

@ Leslie, there are no removed frames. You are watching slow shutter but played in real time. If you haven't seen them before they can look strange and odd.

I agree with Nosfer, there's too many threads on this!

The Doctor @ 9:24 pm

– Copied here from the other thread –

They fly 10,000 miles from L.A. to Romania, finally find the location in the middle of the night, then bail out the next day for home. ?

… a quick visit to googleearth ( put in hoia baciu forrest ) would have given them the coordinates of their quest without having to muck around with the plane. Playing around with the 3d view a bit gives a few possiblities for the lights they see – depending which way they were seeing them, it could very well be lights of vehicles on other hills, but they didn't seem to worry too much about what direction the lights were, or even think to take that into account.

The review with Grant and Jason was almost comical –
Grant poo-poohs the EVPs since they did not have "control" of the area …? Since EVP's are sounds that are NOT heard, are you admitting that there is a possiblity for ALL suspected evp's that the sound WAS really there and had a natural cause … you just missed hearing it so it never occured to try and debunk it ?

As far as the Evan event, Jason sums it up when he says " I have no idea" …. at that point Josh should have thanked him for his time and asked if they knew of someone who might actually have an idea of what happened, the twin deamonologists perhaps ?
J must have been fuming internally that Josh was able to come up with more entertaining evidence then GH has in five years of trying.

Can't wait to see what S&T do when Josh brings them evidence next week …

alicat @ 9:26 pm

I'll throw my hat into the ring on that Learjet and second, third or fourth that sentiment. They need to be corralled and put in one spot.

EDIT: The Doctor – not sure why the wiki link. DT has a quick preview on their website of next week with Steve and Tango if I remember correctly.

The Doctor @ 11:34 pm

alicat – didn't realize that it was required for SV readers to check the DT website before posting … did they happen to mention the other possible future crossovers for the "Ghosts of Chernobyl" and "Haunted Lost City" episodes coming up on DT that wiki shows ?

September 15, 2009

Revenant @ 3:52 am

Oubliette – "Josh’s team find the circle–it is perfectly round, surrounded by trees and with absolutely nothing growing within its perimeter. The EMF meter’s dial is almost going off the chart. To determine why nothing is growing in the circle, soil samples are taken from both within the circle and also from the area outside, where vegetation is growing. Once more a mysterious light appears, which strangely does not show up on the FLIR. To add to the mystery, Josh’s FLIR stopped providing images, although it did not lose power"

Just a few points to bring up that were mentioned in the other thread…

We are lead to believe that nothing grows within this circle. This is not true. Nosfer pointed out that grass was growing with the circle. That sort of takes away the concept of the "circle of death" and turns it into a round clearing.

The EMF meter did go off. First, I cannot be 100% confident that it wasn't there equipment causing this. Let's say it wasn't. In the other thread, it was discussed that perhaps certain metals or quartz were causing some mondo-bizarro piezoelectricity effect. It could "possibly" explain the lights seen (though admittedly, that's one big stretch). We also cannot rule out something man-made. Yes, they "seemed" like they were way out in the forrest. Yet, perhaps it was a military testing ground at one time or there's an underground structure beneath the soil, like a bomb shelter. All possibilities until they are ruled out. The EMF meter was reading something significant, yet I don't feel that enough was done to determine the actual source. Either it wasn't shown on due to the time constraints of the show or not much was done due to their time constraints within Romania itself.

And by the way, Oubliette…excellent review.

Alicat- "Would the "itchy" feeling from those cuts on his arm have anything to do with any chemicals in the ground that were giving off those previous high readings? I'm thinking that's a good possibility."

Hmmmm…not sure what you are referring to when you say "those previous high readings." If you are referring to the high EMF readings, then the answer would most likely be no. If there were high enough concentrations of magnetized metals laying about on the surface that would produce an EMF, then the soil sample within the circle would have been "flagged" when the tests were done on it. From watching the show, the scientific report did show a few things "circled"…yet no reference to what was actually circled was made. So, I'm leaning towards "no."

Could there have been some sort of chemical on the ground to produce the "itchy" sensation? Highly doubtful since no of the other members of the crew complained of it. I would even rule out plant life, such as poison ivy, since he wore sleeves. The "itchy" sensation, although interesting, is a personal experience and cannot be confirmed.

Nosfer- The microburst theory is an interesting one. I would be more than willing to throw it on the pile of possibilities. Although…no clue how to prove it with the evidence that we have though…

alicat @ 5:54 am

The Doctor -

Don't understand your snarky remark. I merely posted a question/comment. You had already posted this in a thread before the review was up and then copied it to be read yet again on this review. First, I thought this site rules preferred us not to do that and second, I never said it was required reading. I merely offered it as a new comment in case someone wanted to watch the video. Guess I stepped on your toes and provided information that hadn't been posted before.

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