There are many unexplained natural phenomena around the world. The sailing stones in California’s Death Valley National Park, Australia’s Pink Lake, and the Fairy Circles in the Namib Desert are just a few examples of natural wonders that have baffled scientists for decades.
One lesser-known but equally fascinating occurrence that fits into this category is Poland’s Crooked Forest, which looks like it was taken from the pages of a dark fairy tale.
A Forest of Mystery
The Crooked Forest, or Krzywy Las, is located deep in the woods of the West Pomerania region of Poland, just outside the town of Gryfino. It is named for the four hundred trees that all bend at a sharp ninety degrees at their base, then curve back up to point toward the sky, creating an odd, pot-bellied appearance .
To add to the mystery, they all bend in the same direction- North.
The pine trees are believed to have been planted in the early 1930s, however, Gryfino was all but destroyed during the Second World War, and so the origins of the forest were lost. This, of course, has left things open to theories and legend- of which many abound.
There are rumors that the trees’ strange shape was made through some sort of man-made technique, and were planted to grow bentwood for things like ships, rocking chairs, and sleighs .
William Remphrey, a retired plant scientist from the University of Manitoba, believes that the phenomena is likely due to some sort of environmental factor. He suggests one possibility, which is that a heavy snowfall weighed down the young saplings into the spring, causing buds to sprout up and grow from the snow-covered trunks. He admits, however, that this does not explain the straight pines that surround this patch of forest .
While he does admit that there is a possibility that the shape was man-made, he is hesitant to agree with that theory based on the sheer number of trees that have the peculiarity. He has found, however, that even if he is able to offer a scientific explanation, as he has in his work studying another oddly-shaped set of aspen trees in Manitoba, people aren’t really interested in listening.
“What I found with the crooked aspen is that even after I was able to explain the crookedness with a scientific basis, many people did not want to believe it and held onto to their far-out theories.”
Not surprisingly, the eery and sinister-looking trees have inspired any number of fantasy-like tales. Kilian Schoönberger, a landscape photographer who has been to the forest a couple of times, has captured the creepy scene on camera, and is aware of the stories that have been told.
“More obscure theories talk about witchcraft and energy fields… but perhaps there will never be a final answer,” he said .
Witness the Forest Yourself
If you want to see this natural phenomena in person, the easiest way to get there is to travel first to Berlin, then go by car to the forest. Located just on the other side of the German border, you can arrive in just under two hours if you take the autobahn.
The best time of year to visit is the early spring, when the trees are still mostly bare, making it look even spookier, but the temperatures have warmed to a more tolerable temperature. The morning is the best time of day to, when the sun shines through the trees, giving it an even more mysterious feel. If you’re lucky, you’ll get there on a foggy day, according to Schoönberger- it makes it look that much more other-worldly.