September 14, 2009
DT: Hoia Baciu Haunted Forest
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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