By Lindsay Seventko, American Forests

In a few places across America, there are forests that stand out from the norm and simply defy explanation. From boulders pristinely resting in treetops, to a haunted forest allegedly full of the supernatural to the site of an oil well that nevertheless flourishes with a unique forest and abundant wildlife, here are some of the strangest forests in America.

1. Yellowwood State Forest, Indiana

In Yellowwood State Forest Indiana, a hunter stumbled upon a large oak tree with a huge sandstone boulder perfectly nestled in its crown. The giant slab of rock was at least 4×1 feet, and was estimated to weigh about 400 pounds. Later, hikers found three more trees with the exact same set up — the boulders varied in size and the trees in species, but they all had boulders resting symmetrically in their crown. Explanations for this strange phenomena have varied from a tornado, to fraternity pranksters, to floods, UFOs and even “acoustic levitation” (where the rock briefly becomes weightless). However, no possible explanation is airtight, since there is no visible damage or disturbance to the surroundings that would point to a tornado or the heavy machinery necessary to move the boulder.

Yellowwood Forest
Credit: Elizabeth Nicodemus via Flickr.

2. Dudley Town Forest, Connecticut

Supposedly, the hauntingly beautiful Dudley Town Forest in Connecticut is cursed. Visitors over centuries have reported seeing no wildlife during the daytime except the hooting of an owl or unidentifiable, eerie sounds. Many stories fly around about the dark past of the forest and town, but the most propagated legend is that the forest has been cursed since it was first settled. According to the traditional tale, Edmund Dudley was cursed and beheaded for plotting against King Henry VII. His curse followed his family to the settlement in Connecticut, where it took up residence in the forest. Hallucinations and fatal mishaps plagued the town until everyone was either dead or moved away.

Modern historians have attributed the strange happenings in the town and lack of wildlife in the forest to high lead levels that drove the historic settlers to exhibit signs of lead poisoning, and others believe that the accounts in the legends never occurred. Either way, present day stories of the Dudley Town Forest are mixed. Some visitors perpetuate the eerie reports, while others claim to see plenty of wildlife and trace the eerie sound to simply the rushing water of the brook.

Dudley Town Forest
Credit: Lindsay Lachance via Flickr.

3. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana

Caddo Lake, on the Texas/Louisiana border, is truly a one-of-a-kind place and certainly among the United States’ best-kept secrets. Home of one of the first offshore oil wells, the lake has still remained a marvel of rich wetland forests and biodiversity. The lake is more than 25,000 acres of interconnected swamps and ponds, with cypress trees draped in Spanish moss climbing out of the water that give the breathtakingly beautiful appearance of a floating forest. Waterfowl traverse through lotus and lily pads, and snakes, turtles, frogs and alligators hide under the water. Raccoons, minks, nutrias, beavers, squirrels and armadillos roam the back eddies and banks of the water. A fisherman’s paradise, the lake boasts 71 species of fish within the unique habitat.

Caddo Lake
Credit: Dave Hensley via Flickr.

4. Angel Oak Park, South Carolina

Angel Oak Park in South Carolina made this list because somehow a decidedly unremarkable forest has protected a single, unusual tree that’s been growing for up to 1,500 years (estimates are mixed on the exact age). This massive live oak tree defies every expectation. While oaks usually grow tall and straight, this one grew out — it’s only 65 feet tall but provides more than 17,000 square feet of shade. The tree is essentially one long twisting mass of limbs both underground and above — the roots spread out in all directions, climbing above and beneath the earth, and the trunk twists around itself to splay out branches in every direction, one of which is 89 feet by itself. This giant monolith has survived tremendous hurricanes, devastating floods and perhaps the greatest obstacle of all, human intervention. Now, the tree stands out from the sparse, younger forest surrounding it to host parties and weddings beneath its branches.

Angel Oak
Credit: Bill Dickinson via Flickr.