The Ghost Lake

Niloufar Behrooz

Copyright 2021 by Niloufar Behrooz

Photo of Mamraz Lake.
Northern Iran is home to the most beautiful and mysterious sites anyone could ever visit. Located at the heart of the richly forested province of Mazandaran, almost 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) from the city of Noshahr, there exists the haunting Mamraz lake, more widely, and aptly, known as the Ghost Lake. 
Some would think the name is merely a tourist hook rooted in ridiculous superstitions and fraudulent advertisements to get people there only to have them disappointed. Measuring 300 by 700 meters (about 1000 by 2,300 ft), the lake is positioned at the heart of a virgin population of tall alder and hornbeam trees that are native to the district. Throughout most of the year this most secluded spot is covered with a vast blanket of fog which adds to the mystery and beauty of the lake. It is only when you step near the edge to get a closer view that you finally see them; the ghosts. The lake is peopled with a congregation of dead trees.
At first glance, it appears as if the trees are growing backwards and the roots are out pointed up to a comfortless sky. The scene has the most unearthly yet thrilling effect on you, displaying all those dried up half trees grounded in the water struggling for a breath of fresh air. They were all elegant lush trees rooted here one day showing off their gray-green skin and fine succulent leaves reaching up the heavens but, now, due to constant proximity to water, they are reduced to aged and crippled ghastly trunks imprisoned in an eternal charnel house. The whole forest, the proud but observant charming trees are forever witness to these old friends in their everlasting upside-down position. Maybe that is why they barely ever say anything. They've seen things that no ordinary delightful grove has. You can sense the guilt in their reticent existence. They have survived and outlived a war that wasn't theirs to fight.

The spot is so secluded that the only sound you hear is an eerie chilling silence interspersed with faraway calls from wild animals that would probably tear you apart if they ever had the chance to. The truncated dead trees in the lake look so mutilated and mangled that one would think this grim image of destruction is the result of an epic tsunami long ago but the truth is, the decay has happened so gradually that you can still feel it happening in the air. They have gone through something that none of the other trees in the forest could possibly comprehend but they're still standing, no matter how bent or broken they really are. Some have even tried to grow little green shrubs on their heads and little mosses on their cheeks to look more presentable but they're all destined to end up like the others. On a clear day, the lake is so clean and glossy that you can see the reflection of the dead trees on the water, adding to the distinctive and stunning beauty of the place which is rightfully listed as a natural national heritage. There's something uncanny about the whole scenery and its aesthetic beauty, reminiscent of the Burkean sublime, instilling both fear and fascination inside you, keeping you hooked and hypnotized, wishing you could just sit there and stare at it for all eternity. The contrast of all that dreary death surrounded by all that lively life is not something you can easily forget. The experience stays with you long after you've left the place. 
Some of the local people still believe that the lake is actually haunted. While it may seem delusional to confirm the myth, when you visit the place you realize that the reality may not be so far away from the rumors. The place is indeed a Ghost Lake but it's not haunted by human ghosts. It's a graveyard of dark senile corpse-like trees who are haunted by their own once-blooming naive young spirits. They're living their death every second of everyday while the whole forest mourns in silence and shame, and all we can do is watch in awe and reverence.

Niloufar Behrooz is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Isfahan, Iran. Her work has appeared in Classical Poets Society, Lighten Up Online, Parody, Loch Raven Review, Literary Hatchet, Litro, World Haiku Review and elsewhere. You can find her on Instagram @niloufarbehrooz

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