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The Grim Tale of the Ibadan Forest of Horrors

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It might be surprising for some to know that even in this age of scientific progress and the perpetual drive towards the future, belief in magic is still strong. This may seem alright in a sense, as everyone is free to believe what they want, but is some societies this goes a step too far. For instance, in many countries witch hunts are a real thing, in other cases people are killed or tortured due to the belief in magic, and to be albino in some nations puts a price on your head from shamans and sorcerers. In many places this is all as real as it ever was, and people are dying because of it. One very macabre recent case of this is the time a forest full of victims of ritual sacrifice and dismemberment was found in the country of Nigeria, where belief in black magic is still very strong.

It started with some missing people. In 2014, motorcycle taxi riders in Ibadan, in Oyo State, Nigeria, had several of their number vanish without a trace. Although there was no outward evidence of any sort of foul play, there had been spotted mysterious strangers lurking about the area at the time, and it did not take long at all for the superstitious populace to start whispering of cultists kidnapping people for their dark rituals. This wasn’t seen as an unreasonable idea here, as Nigeria was no stranger to ritual killings, with some high profile cases of bodies turning up missing limbs, disemboweled, or otherwise mutilated in grisly fashion, so these rumors sparked fear among the locals. Police were notified, but reportedly were uncooperative, refusing to investigate further and saying that the men had just run off. As the disappearances continued in the area, there was still no official response until a motorcyclist riding along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway past an area called Soka Forest claimed that he had heard someone crying out for help from the trees. On March 22, 2014, Police then grudgingly went about investigating the forest, where they would stumble across a macabre festival of horrors.

Soka Forest

Fanning out through the area, they found a dilapidated, seemingly abandoned building tucked away amongst the trees, from which emanated a fetid stench. Upon entering the building, they were met with a charnel house of horrors and the ghastly sight of decomposed human corpses, which had apparently been bound with chains. As the shocked police expanded their search they began turning up other human remains in the surrounding area, many of them having been butchered upon blood soaked butcher’s slabs, in some cases even still chained to the slabs. There were also numerous human remains found scattered about the wilderness itself, stuffed within bushes, in the nooks of trees, or unceremoniously dumped into holes in the ground or into caves. The corpses and remains were in various states of decomposition, many of them missing limbs or internal organs, some of them even without heads. In total, over twenty decomposed human bodies and hundreds of human skulls were found in the forest, and there was also found a building eerily full of just personal belongings of the victims, including wallets, clothing, jewelry, travel bags, footwear, drivers’ licenses and passport photographs, even children’s toys.

In addition to the dead bodies and human remains, there were rescued around 15 people who were chained up in captivity, all severely malnourished, looking like living skeletons, surrounded by clouds of flies and some of them in a catatonic state or barely alive. When questioned by the police, they spoke of having been kidnapped, tortured, and kept in shackles with once-a-week feedings. In most cases they could not identify the people who had taken them, but a few claimed that the men who had kidnapped them had been government officials, or at least posing as them. Some of the victims said that they had been held there in squalor and chained up for months. The general impression was that this had been going on for quite some time, and in the meantime, the entire area was cordoned off and an investigation was launched to try and get to the bottom of what had happened and who the perpetrators were.

Most of the bodies that were found could not be identified, and this caused a bit of an outrage among locals who were looking for missing loved ones and increasingly spreading rumors that the ritual killings had been ordered by affluent Nigerians in high positions of power in order to harness supernatural powers. In the days after the discovery of what was being called the “Ibadan Forest of Horrors,” crowds of rioters angry at a lack of anything being done, seeking answers to the identity of the victims, and some even convinced that more people were trapped underground, converged on the scene brandishing guns, clubs, machetes, and bows and arrows, to the point that police were forced to disperse them with tear gas. Police would later make several arrests in connection with the slaughter of Soka Forest, including some suspects who were policemen and security guards, but no one was ultimately charged with the murders and the case is ongoing.

Unrest at the site of the Ibadan cult murders

It seems amazing that such an unbelievably horrific crime could have been carried out near such an urban area in a reasonably rich nation, and yet it remains unsolved. This has sparked much speculation that officials and police were somehow involved in the ritual killings and trade in human body parts that has sadly gripped many areas of Nigeria. There is much money to be made from the sale of body parts for various black magic rituals, spells, potions, and although the Ibadan Forest of Horrors is an extreme case, such similar killings are actually not unheard of. In many rural areas the belief in magical is still very strong, and many poor people turn to the trade in body parts to support their families, turning into murderers in order to serve various shamans and herbalists who very often convince them that they are at the whim of magical forces they cannot comprehend. One such young man calling himself Shodipe once worked in this capacity for a shaman named Adedokun, killing and collecting parts for money and food, and he says of his own experiences:

Anytime I wanted to go for killing, Baba (Adedokun) would give me some charms and also teach me some incantations to recite so that nobody would see me at the scene of the crime. I would hit the victim with a shovel and recite the incantation immediately I see blood coming out of the victim’s body. Baba instructed me to always move around the victims at the scene after killing them and then turn my back at them, and stay there for like three minutes, which I did and nobody would see me. Baba said the spirits of the victims would come to him after I had killed them. Baba did not tell me the reason for the killings, but he would buy food for me and give me N500 after each killing I carried out for him.

The answers as to what exactly happened here in this patch of wilderness have not been made completely clear. It is unknown just who took these people or where they went, and no one has been officially charged with any of it. It seems to have just been written off as yet another ritual killing spree in a country where such things are rampant. It is very likely that this is where it will end for this case, and it illustrates a very interesting trend that has gone on even into the present day in some rural areas, that such superstitions and myths can gain such a foothold in the age of reason, in otherwise progressive countries. There seems to be some allure to the idea of black magic and the dark arts that will not fade, and which hides in the dark corners of the world. Whether any of it is real or not, for the people dead and abused at the hands of their captors it is very real, as it is for many of the locals of these areas for whom dark magic and rituals are a part of the landscape of everyday life.

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