Trees have long offered inspiration for the macabre-minded creators of horror fiction. Remember that child-snatching backyard monster from Poltergeist? Or how about Sleepy Hollow's Tree of the Dead, where the Headless Horseman stashed his victims (well, bits of them at least). And who can forget that tree scene from the original Evil Dead movie? Of course, these are the fantastic creations of set designers and visual effects experts. If it's the real deal you're after, you'll have to brave the blustering winds of Slope Point on the southernmost tip of New Zealand's South Island. There, surrounded by grazing sheep, you'll find a collection of twisted trees that look as though they were handcrafted for the set of a Guillermo del Toro classic.  

The trees owe their tortured forms to the wind. Airstreams that travel unobstructed over the Southern Ocean for thousands of miles eventually reach Slope Point, subjecting the tiny area to lashing, relentless winds for much of the year. As a result of ceaseless battering from the southerly gusts, the trees here all lean dramatically to the north. 

We wish we could tell you that these crooked giants grew naturally, but the truth is not quite so poetic. According to local lore, livestock farmers planted saplings in the area many years ago to help shield their sheep from the elements. The trees grew despite the savage weather, but constant pounding from the wind contorted them into the gnarly poses we see today. 

Although Slope Point is still used to graze sheep, humans gave up trying to actually inhabit the area many years ago, and you won't even find a road leading to the southernmost tip. Some derelict houses still remain standing, though, half consumed by the warped trees – ghostly reminders that nature runs the show.

A few tumble-down houses still stand. Image: Michael Dawes, Flickr
The sheep don't mind living on the set of a horror movie. Image: Ben, Flickr

ht: Smith Journal
Top header image: Daniel Stockman, Flickr