The dark story behind the large stick piles found in Denmark's forests

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
The dark story behind the large stick piles found in Denmark's forests
Visitors to the Hyde Forest in south-eastern Lolland typically follow the tradition of throwing a branch on the pile of sticks before leaving the forest. Legend says that if you don't, the ghost of an evil forest ranger will follow you home. Photo by David Boca / Unsplash

Residents of eastern Lolland in Denmark have thrown sticks and branches into the same pile for centuries. There's a chilling reason behind the practice.


Visitors of the Hyde Forest near Sakskøbing in south-eastern Lolland seldom leave it before following an ancient tradition – throwing a branch on the large pile of sticks, Danish broadcaster TV 2 reports.

According to folk tales, if you fail to do so, the ghost of an evil forest ranger will follow you home.

The custom has led to a huge pile of branches forming on the forest floor over the centuries, which has been named "Stikhokken" (literally, a heap of sticks).

The pile is located in the privately owned Hyde Forest, but it is right next to a path used by forest walkers.


The superstition behind it tracks back to the time when fears of being haunted were a very important thing in the day-to-day life of people, Marie Brinch, an archaeologist at the Lolland-Falster Museum, told TV 2.

"It remains huge to this day, (it's) at least three meters high because people throw branches on it when they pass by to this day," Brinch noted.

The grim event behind the superstition

The Stikhokken was first mentioned 150 years ago, but according to tradition, it is around 400 years old.

Its origin is related to 1653 or 1657 when a local forest ranger was killed in the forest by a poacher.

However, as the forest ranger was very unpopular with the local population, they left his body to rot on the forest floor. The decision would end up haunting the forest.

"The forest ranger's ghost began to haunt the forest. According to tradition, the locals decided to stop this by throwing branches on his grave. It prevented the spirit from coming up, and it is the same pile of branches that lies there to this day," Brinch explained.


The archaeologist noted that the large pile of branches and the ground beneath it have not been studied archaeologically and that the date from the myth has yet to be studied academically.

But the tradition seems to be very old, according to the archaeologist.

Below you can see a photo of the stick pile in question. 

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A post shared by Natascha (@nats_detgodeliv)

Other stick piles

The "stick pile" phenomenon is also present in several other places in Denmark and the Nordic countries.

For example, there is a similar custom of throwing branches in Vendsyssel in West Jutland and similar practices in Sweden.

"What all the stories have in common is that they involve places where murders or suicides have occurred... Death which is somehow outside the norms of society. In Sweden, it also involved protection against ghosts," Brinch noted, adding that, in Sweden, there is an example of a story in which children's ghosts were occurring – and the branches were supposed to make the haunting stop.


She added that she recently heard many stories about similar piles. Furthermore, she noted that the story of the Stikhokken got a lot of attention when she mentioned it in a series of posts on Twitter.

Brinch believes that superstition appeals to something in all of us.

"I think there are many of us who like the fact that there are still things in this world that we cannot fully explain. It's kind of nice that there's still some mystery left in our world, which otherwise has become devoid of magic," she concluded.


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