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The Mystery of the Swaying Leaf in Gotong Jaya, Genting (Based on a True Story)

It all started with a “down memory lane” vid of a mysterious swaying leaf we encountered back in 2012 when my friends and I went jungle trekking along the forest hills of Gotong Jaya, Genting Highlands. There, among the seemingly innocent but beautiful foliage, we saw a long slender leaf that was swaying and moving on its own.  None of the other leaves were moving.

See video of the Mysterious Swaying Leaf from 2 angles

Angle 1 (video courtesy of Rick Low, with scary music and all)

 

Angle 2 (video taken with handphone)

 

Featured image (doctored by yours truly, look closely, do you see something?) and this frosted spider web, plus all other forest images ─ by Rick Low.
Featured image (doctored by yours truly, look closely, do you see something?) and this frosted spider web, plus all other forest images ─ by Rick Low.

 

It was a cool day up there in the frosty temperatures of Gotong Jaya but frosting very quickly down the back of our necks was the realisation that there was absolutely no wind compelling the leaf to sway. What was the cause of the plant’s bizarre behaviour? Naturally, we all jumped to the first conclusion: Hantu.

As The Mystery Deepens

Intrigued, a search on the Internet (what will we ever do without dear Google?), revealed that apparently, lots of other plants have been found to behave like that as well! “Our” leaf in Gotong Jaya wasn’t the only one to dance alone. There are countless recordings from all over the world posted on You Tube of plant leaves that sway and wave and swing from side to side all on their own.

 

Beauty we saw along the way ─ wild and fresh forest ferns with morning dew.
Beauty we saw along the way ─ wild and fresh forest ferns with morning dew.

 

Most of the people who have seen this, attribute the phenomenon to the paranormal (I mean like what else, right?). In fact, one video recorded in 2013 by a North Carolina couple Jason Freeman and wife (reported in the Daily Mail and countless other online portals) raised so many viewers’ goosebumps, it went viral, garnering more than 594,211 hits to date!

Freeman’s Video is appended Below (His Swaying Leaf is even MORE phenomenal!)

 

In the video, Freeman sounds spooked and amused at the same time, laughing out loud and saying “This is really creepy!” all the time.

Here is another Video that is not so Popular but shows the same Phenomenon

 

Dew drops glisten on intricate insect web like gemstones on a fairy wand.
Another chance discovery as we walked along: Dew drops glistening on an intricate insect web, like gemstones on a fairy wand. You won’t find this very often in urban areas.

 

Paranormal Investigation

On closer look, however, one thing stood out: There seemed to be a similarity between all of the purportedly haunted, self-swaying leaves; and the clue was in their shape. Most of them were of the long and slender variety growing top-heavy from a reedy stem.

Yet One More Video of Moving Leaf

 

A wild balsam bloom greets the morning sun in the hillocks of Gotong Jaya.
Another delightful discovery in the early morning hours: A wild balsam bloom wakes up to greet the morning sun in the hidden hillocks of Gotong Jaya.
Titled ‘Oscillation frequencies of tapered plant stems’, this 2001 study solves the mystery of the Swaying Leaf. In Fig. 1.above, the authors show a diagram illustrating a slender tapered plant stem with an apical load, oscillating around an upright resting position. (Pic from the American Journal of Botany)
Titled ‘Oscillation frequencies of tapered plant stems’, this 2001 study solves the mystery of the Swaying Leaf. In Fig. 1.above, the authors show a diagram illustrating a slender tapered plant stem with an apical load, oscillating around an upright resting position. (Pic from the American Journal of Botany)

 

Down to Earth with a Thud

But it seems that truth is plainer than fiction. Much as we’d like to believe that the supernatural is the invisible hand swaying the leaf, there really is no ghost in the plant after all because science has the proof.

The American Journal of Botany’s study titled  “Oscillation frequencies of tapered plant stems” puts paid to the mystery because it says the oscillation of the leaf is in fact, caused by the wind.

Weak wind, imperceptible to humans, is strong enough to magnify the plant’s resonant frequency making it move on its own.

The researchers Hanns-Christof Spatz and Olga Speck wrote: “Free oscillations of upright plant stems, or in technical terms, slender tapered rods with one end free, can be described by considering the equilibrium between bending moments in the form of a differential equation with appropriate boundary conditions…..”

They further said: “Knowledge of the resonance frequency particularly in the fundamental mode of oscillation is necessary to assess a plant’s stability against dynamic wind loads (Kerzenmacher and Gardiner, 1998).”

Bummer!

It was the wind after all.

And there ends our Mystery of the Swaying Leaf. I always suspected there would be physics spoiling the fun. But other than the leaf that spooked us somewhat (which is why we still remember the incident to this very day), we had a wonderful time, walking among friends in the cool, green surroundings of the secluded hillpath and marveling at the wonder of the wilderness captured in the photographs above and below.  That hiking path is no longer accessible to the public, sad to say. They locked the gate and threw away the key a long time ago.

But not to leave you walking away from this post deprived of a real ghost story, here is the link to 6 from National Geographics’s 2014 series I Wouldn’t Go In There  as consolation. According to Nat Geo, the stories of haunted Asia (including Malaysia’s haunted War Museum in Penang) are as real and as true as they come, and will surely give you a mighty good scare.

Happy ghost hunting!

 

A sedge-like bloom glistens with morning ambrosia.
A sedge-like bloom glistens with morning ambrosia.

 

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