What’s the scariest place of all time? Mount Doom, Azkaban, the Overlook Hotel? Fortunately for us, these places don’t exist… but there are plenty of real-life location that merit an equal amount of terror. Prepare to lose some sleep as we explore the scariest real places on Earth. From the “Suicide Forest” to the eerie “Island of the Dolls” these creepy places prove that truth is always stranger, and far scarier, than fiction.
1. Poveglia Island
Throughout history, Poveglia Island was used as a quarantine zone during plague outbreaks. There are multiple mass graves on site. Supposedly it was just a place for the afflicted to breathe their last, where at some places the very soil was purely composed of rotting corpses. The fun doesn’t end there. Later on, someone decided to build a mental asylum right on top of that, in 1922.
There were countless cases of observed hauntings by the patients, but nobody believed them, since they were supposedly crazy. The headmaster of the institute then later died by suicide by climbing the bell tower and jumping down.
2. Deep Scars
Auschwitz. I don’t believe in ghosts but there’s… something there. In broad daylight the pain and terror is palpable. There’s also some other feeling there. The closest emotion I can describe it as is unbridled rage. But it’s not that. It’s far worse than that. It’s frigid and scalding. It’s utterly insane yet creepily lucid. I will never ever go back there. I’m glad I went to witness but I will not go back.
3. The Outback
In my mind, the very true outback of Australia is hands down the scariest place on earth. If you’re traveling nobody expects to see you for up to a week, and nobody expects phone calls or messages as there’s no phone service. If you break down it could take a couple of days until you are found by a passing car. If they don’t find you in time, the dry extreme heat will kill you; you could never pack enough water to survive as long as it takes for someone to notice you’re even missing.
It’s unforgiving and a horrible way to die. Not to mention that if you die, the heat will decompose you in a matter of days and scavengers will scatter your remains—meaning your family may never know.
4. Antarctica Winds
In the Antarctica winter, far from any of the research stations, it stays dark for six straight months. Antarctica holds the world records for both the coldest temperature (-129 F) and the highest wind speed (200 mph) ever recorded on the planet. In winter, the average temperature is around -18 degrees near the coast, and the AVERAGE annual wind speed is 50mph Average wind speed in NY is 10.6 mph. A Category 1 hurricane has an average sustained wind speed of 74 mph for comparison.
And, oh yeah. Emperor Penguins are freaking four feet tall. That is unnatural. And freaky. Birds exceeding 1/2 the height of an average human are basically incognito dinosaurs. As a note, I am referring to straight-line wind speeds. Wind speeds in tornadoes can be upwards of 300 mph but they’re “counted” differently in the record books.
5. The Island of the Dolls
The Island of the Dolls outside of Mexico City looks and sounds creepy as heck. You can actually visit the island if you can find a boatman to take you there, but for reasons that will become obvious, not many want to go. You see, the island is full of these creepy broken dolls. Originally, the guy who owned the island, Julián Santana Barrera, put them there.
Julián believed that dolls helped to chase away the spirit of a girl drowned years ago. Santana passed in 2001 of a heart attack, close to the same spot where the girl drowned.”The guy who lived there became superstitious after he discovered a girl’s body who had drowned on the island. Then, he perished in the exact same spot where he found the girl’s body.
6. The Tribes
Personally, the uncontacted tribes that remain on Earth scare the poop out of me (while being fascinating at the same time). The Sentinelese hate all outsiders and will try to kill anyone within range. Many others exist in South American jungles and have only been spotted by helicopter/occasional aerial sightings. I’ve always found that unknown aspect very creepy.
I am aware that, in the past, people have contacted them successfully. However, any of the most recent attempts to contact them have been met with varying degrees of hostility, which is where my own fear comes from. I’m not saying they aren’t justified or have their reasons, either. In 2006, two fishermen fell asleep in their boat and drifted too close to shore. The inhabitants ended their lives. Same for a missionary who tried to visit them in 2018. Creeeeeepy.
7. There is a Place
There is somewhere on this Earth a basement, and in this basement is nothing but a bunch of scared terrified children whose entire lives are ones filled with the desperate all-encompassing fear that someone is going to come down those steps again. That the doors will open and their pain, their terror and their nightmare will begin all over again.
And someone has created this place. Some dark, horrible human being has carefully manufactured and created a cell to hold people for their own amusement and persecution. To take some innocent person, and keep them there in the dark and the filth as a toy. This place would be filled with sick despair and begging, and crying, and fear, and someone would relish in it. They’d love that they own it. They can’t believe their luck. Their captives can’t believe theirs either.
Somewhere out there, there is a place like this. The world is crazy messed up. I just hope to god I never end up somewhere like that.
8. The Boundless Desert
The scariest place I’ve ever been was halfway between Tamanrasset, Algeria, and the border of Niger in the Sahara Desert. To make the trip, you have to load up on jerry-cans filled with gas and water. It’s running out of gas you worry about. One wrong turn. One crippling breakdown. It’s over. Your life is in that machine’s hands, and you have no choice but to pedal-to-the-metal drive as fast as you can, trying to stay on top of the sand, trying to stay upright as you fly off of hidden ledges, trying to stay on course.
Every couple of hours, you have to clean the filters and tighten all the screws that came loose. And you dig. You get stuck and you dig. Sometimes once. Sometimes 20 times. All with the clock ticking. You’ve only got so much gas, and the next gas station is a tiny island 500 miles away in a vast sea of virtually unmarked sand and mountains and wadis and dunes and dust.
It’s funny, the scariest place I’ve ever been was also the most beautiful. I loved it.
9. The Cenotes of Mexico
I recently went to a Cenote (natural sinkhole) in Mexico. It was the most beautiful thing I have seen. The water was crystal clear with some fish in certain parts and the light just beams down on you so you can see all the stalagmites and stalactites. I went with just an instructor and my brother and we got fairly deep in the cave and then he explained it was often used as a place of offering and was told to be the entrances to the underworld in many cultures.
Then he turned off our lights and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. You could not see anything. It was darker than nothing since the light had no way to penetrate the stone. You know how your eyes can adjust to being in a basement with no power and no windows, but you can sort of make out some lines? No chance of that happening here. So, if our lights really did run out of power, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get out of there because you had to crouch through certain crevices filled with water just to get through some part of the cave.
Equally 50% cool and 50% oh god this is the end.
10. Tuol Sleng Prison
Tuol Sleng Prison was pretty horrific. Simply knowing what had happened there was enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up. But actually walking in and out of the prison cells, seeing the same devices that had been used to persecute people, and then going to the room where they had lined up all the photographs of all individuals (men, women, children, elderly) who had been systematically taken out by the Khmer Rouge in that exact location—it made me feel very sad, very lucky and very amazed that the people of Cambodia made it through that terrible period of their history.
11. The Hawaiian Sinkhole
In Hawaii, specifically Kauai, there’s a sinkhole. Nobody knows exactly how or why, but sometimes, people who swim there are fine one moment before showing signs of panic and are subsequently pulled into the depths. No visible disturbances in the water are present in these cases and many times, people are fine. The locals believe a legendary water monster lives there and have therefore banned any and all swimming in this area.
Most likely, it’s a tidal whirlpool but if this is the case, there would be visible water disturbance on or near the surface and the disappearances in a smaller area of the lake, however this is not the case from what I hear.
12. The Bolton Strid
The Bolton Strid is a river in Yorkshire that looks like any other normal river, albeit with a steady current and some perfectly lovely scenery around it. Upstream this quaint little brook is the River Wharfe, which looks enormous. How does one turn into the other? Here’s the freaky part: The Bolton Strid is still the whole Wharfe, it’s just been flipped on its side.
It may be only six feet across and look all cutesy-little-forest-stream-like as far as depth, but there’s one problem. It’s not. Nobody actually knows how far deep the Strid goes. We cannot measure it, because there’s a tremendous undercurrent sweeping along the river that will toss and throw you into vast underwater caverns and pockets.
Imagine you’re sightseeing in Yorkshire, traveling by some form of ground transportation along this river, and you see a bit of rock up ahead that look like you can step on and use to cross this nice little stream. You feel like a child hopping river stones, and joke to yourself with a little balancing act. Only when you wave one arm just a little too much, your foot moves just that inch too far, and you find yourself falling towards the water.
When your back hits the icy cold, you instinctively flail and attempt to splash your way back up to the surface, and you realize that while you expected to feel rock and moss on your back, there’s nothing. Nothing but the endless current pulling you under, further and further away, with no light, and no way to get back to the surface. You feel yourself being thrown against all means of rock formation until your bones break. There is only panic and numbness residing in you now, and the helpless realization that you are, in fact, going to die here; in the endless black, and drowning at a painfully slow rate as your body is smashed to pieces.
13. The Old House
My friend’s family owns a farm in a rural area. There’s a house on the farm that is vacant now, but used to be a convalescence home. The front door is blocked off by boxes and other junk. So, the only way to enter is through the morgue in the basement. When you get in the house (it’s old, probably built early Victorian/late Civil War era) it’s all rickety, and of course, the first thing you see is a rocking chair and a spinning wheel.
One room is blocked off by a mountain of boxes and furniture. My friend’s dad (who is a big, really strong man) will not let anyone in there, and made his kids promise to never, ever go in there. Something in that room scared this huge, grown man from ever entering again. True story.
14. The Island
There is an island off the coast of Italy that is considered to be so haunted and dangerous that the Italian government has banned people from going there for their protection. It’s actually against the law to step foot there. The place was used as a dumping ground for victims of the Black Death, was the sight of severe massacres, and to top it all off, it had a psych ward on it in the early 20th century. The doctors were notorious for tormenting patients in gruesome ways.
Now the place is considered a massive health hazard because it has fostered so many diseases in its time, on top of it being listed as one of the most haunted places in the world. If that’s not scary, then I don’t know what is.
15. The Killing Fields
The scariest place I’ve been to was the killing fields in Cambodia. It wasn’t a classic scary, actually quite green and beautiful. But when you take the tour you walk the area and you learn more about the history via this tour recording headset. The deeper you get into this tour the darker this place becomes. You realize the little grass hills harbor thousands of bodies.
The beautiful tree next to the lake was used to smash infants’ skulls against. Every inch of the ground you walk on was soaked in blood. I found it hard to breathe after a while. Eventually, at the end of the tour, the recording tells you to look down at your feet, because to this day there are thousands of bone fragments and teeth unearthing from the ground you stand on. I did look down and right next to my foot was a tooth sticking out of the earth.
To this day the memory of that place makes my stomach cramp up.
16. The Inexplicable Sinkhole
One time my grandma told me about one of her cousins who explored a lot. Somewhere in the South, there was a sinkhole that opened near a hill or a tall mound of dirt. He went inside of it using a pulley thing, and found that it was a cave that had collapsed. He explored for a while—until he saw something in the water. He screamed and got out of there as fast as he could.
When his friends that were up top pulled him out, he was shaking and crying. They asked him what was wrong but all he kept saying was something about there being no God, but didn’t explain what he had saw. The state eventually filled the sinkhole, which usually doesn’t happen, especially in the middle of nowhere. Every time someone asked him what he saw he would say he couldn’t explain.
17. The Wall
Just off the coast of the island of St. Croix, there’s a place called “The Wall”. It’s a favorite spot for scuba divers, and every picture online is a breathtakingly beautiful image of a close up of coral and divers taken with a serious high-powered flash. The reality? A two-mile straight vertical drop-off to the ocean floor. Imagine…
The water is shallow, warm, and perfectly clear as you start out, tiny colorful fish dart about, scattered coral formations dot the ocean floor. It’s literally paradise. After bobbing along for 15-20 minutes, not even a quarter-mile from the beach, the dive master points. And there’s The Wall. It’s a straight drop off to the ocean floor. The depth is recorded from a mere 1,000 foot drop off to 2 miles straight down.
The clear turquoise water shifts to a deep blue for a few feet, then – solid black. You are floating directly above a black abyss. You feel the coldness of those depths gripping you like the tentacles of a giant squid. It pulls you, and as you awkwardly try to shuffle backward in flippers and full dive gear, like a nightmare where you can’t run because you’re paralyzed, it occurs to you that there are things, down there, giant things, things that are built to move and hunt and kill in the water, and you, you are completely out of your element, you are slow, clumsy, you are food.
Scuba divers who do this…you are brave. I am not. It still haunts my dreams…
18. Aokigahara Forest
There’s an odd stillness in the Aokigahara forest. There is almost no wildlife and the trees are incredibly dense, which makes for an incredibly quiet forest. Japanese mythology associates that mountain as being infested with demons. Most recently that forest is best known for being a popular place to die by suicide, and every year hundreds of bodies are pulled by locals as part of a “cleaning crew.”
Bodies and skeletons litter the forest floor and hang from trees, while nearby are signs that say things such as “think of your family’ and “please, reconsider.” The forest historically was also known for Ubasute, which was a Japanese tradition where the elderly and sick who could not be cared for anymore were carried up to the mountain and left to perish. The forest is purportedly haunted by the ghosts of those left behind.
19. The Hot Tub of Despair
Scientists have discovered a “lake” within the Gulf of Mexico. Anything that enters this pool will suffer horribly. The water in the “lake within the sea” is about five times as salty as the water surrounding it. It also contains highly toxic concentrations of methane and hydrogen sulfide and can thus not mix with the surrounding sea. For animals (and people) who swim into it, these toxic concentrations can be deadly. Only bacterial life, tube worms, and shrimp can survive those circumstances.
20. The Switchback Road
I still have nightmares about this place. I was on tour in Afghanistan, but I’m not haunted by the fighting or gunshots or rockets while I was on guard shift. I was lucky and got out uninjured. For me, the most bone-chilling thing that ever happened to me happened on the long six-hour road from Ghazni city to the remote village of Du Abi.
En route, there is a road that maybe you’ve all seen on those “10 Scariest Highways EVER” articles they run on Buzzfeed. This switchback road along the Mars-like mountains of Afghanistan empties eventually into a green valley with a fertile little stream at its base. But above that stream is what feels like a mile-high drop. Imagine standing at the edge of a very tall building overlooking the fire escape. That’s how sheer this shallow cliff is and it switches back and forth nearly ten times.
It’s thin too! Oh my God our Humvees barely fit on the skinny highways they had in Afghanistan and this road would have made you feel cramped in a Geo Metro. But of course, the mission called for it so we painstakingly navigated that terrible road for the better part of an hour. I was in the turret chilling behind my grenade launcher and trying VERY hard not to look down (I’m horribly afraid of heights). Then, I felt a knock on my helmet. That was when everything changed.
There was a freaking jingle-truck (think bedazzled semi) three switchbacks up dropping rocks on us. I realized at that moment how fragile the edges of this road were. While pondering how horrible it would be for the side of the road to collapse under us, I felt gravity just kind of quit for a second. This honestly felt like it lasted 30 seconds but in retrospect, it only took maybe half a second, but our back tire caught a thick rock and knocked it out of place, pulling some dry dirt and moondust out from under it.
The Humvee did a quick burn-out while the tire regained traction (as opposed to slipping down the divot we put in the side of the road and causing us to fall to our dark fates). We smacked into the rock face on the passenger side enough to loosen a few more rocks and smack me in the face, then got our heading back and finished the descent. Much. More. Slowly. I have never been closer to death and it had nothing more to do with the conflict than the fact that our Humvees had a really wide clearance.
21. The Haunted Forest
Within the haunted forest of Romania, there is a circle where nothing grows. Anything from strange UFO sightings in there to a little girl that went missing for five years and reappeared. When questioned, she couldn’t remember anything between the time she disappeared to the time she reappeared. Even creepier is the circle. A perfect circle where no plants grow and wildlife doesn’t go into either.
There is absolutely no scientific explanation as to why things don’t grow. Instead, there are these very strange myths and legends. Personally, I’m not someone to get wigged out on much, but every time I think, hear or see pictures of this site, hair on the back on my neck stands up. Every time. I get weird vibes from that site just looking at it
22. Silent Hill
There’s a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania called Centralia. It’s unknown how exactly it happened, but the mine caught fire in 1962 and the underground of the town has been on fire…to this day. Basically, it’s a ghost town with a population of like five people. This town also apparently is the inspiration for the game Silent Hill.
23. Nightmare Island
When I was a teenager my friends and I liked to explore uninhabited islands. They’re called The Thousand Islands in the Indian River Lagoon. We camped, played paintball, pretty innocent fun. One day we decided to explore a new island for a fresh spot. We found a big one, so to save time, I was inserted on the southern end to explore while the others canoed around the island to see what there was to see. The plan was for me to meet them on the north side. That did not happen.
The island was a nightmare. Brambles, and bush so thick I had to belly crawl through muck. The perimeter was a swamp with dead trees and god knows what lurking under the film of green algae. And then there were the skeletons… As I crawled my way up the island, I came upon skeleton after skeleton. Turtles, raccoons, deer. That’s when it hit me; this is an alligator haven.
I freaked out and made a break for the open water, not wanting to die. I yelled out as loud as I could, and fortunately, my friends heard me and paddled furiously out to me. I had made it only 1/3 of the way up the island and was thankfully extracted. We named that one Nightmare Island, and never returned.
24. North Korea
For being a human being, living with other human beings, North Korea. It’s a cold, dark, depressing world, completely oppressed and cut off from the rest of the world, to the point that there are people there that don’t know humans have landed on the moon, or what Facebook or Google is. Merely expressing the mildest anti-state sentiments can get you and all your relatives thrown in a horrid prison camp, for life. Famine is so bad, that people drop in the streets and people step over them as if they were a log.
The famine is “better” now, the worst of it took place in the 1990s, where millions perished. I still believe that food/hunger is a major issue in the country.
25. Zambian Nights
I was in Zambia, in the bush inside a national park (South Luangwe Park). We went on a drive on the way to being shown our camp, only accessible by our 4X4. On our way we see a group of lions lying about. We stop and look at them for a while and also notice some buffalo nearby, which are very dangerous in their own right. We continue.
The driver starts the truck again and drives less than 400 meters to a small circle of tents, our “camp,” and a small bathroom building. We can practically still see the spot where an entire pride of lions was sleeping from our camp, and we settle in around a fire for the evening. Then our guide gets in his truck and says he’ll be back tomorrow. We felt abandoned as we’re told we are to stay the night with only one man, the cook, who hadn’t said a word since we had arrived. The truck drove away and there we were, sitting around a small fire, me, two friends and this mute Zambian man. We are miles from anything, in the wilds of Africa, alone and helpless.
We make the best of the situation and try to have a pleasant evening chatting around the fire. But the fear would come later into the night. I woke up at some wee hour in my tiny tent. I had to take a pee very, very badly. I fished around for my headlamp and stepped out into the night. There was a strange stillness, the kind you get when someone is watching you.
I don’t know why I didn’t just urinate right there in front of my tent, but common manners made me head towards the small bathroom building a short distance away. I could make it out in the moonlight so I didn’t turn on my lamp until I opened the door and faced the murky blackness inside the outhouse. I urinated into the hollow void of the pit and stepped back out into the night.
Barely three steps from the bathroom and suddenly there are millions of tiny insects swarming around my face. The lamp was around my neck at chest level, and the cloud of insects was so thick that I literally could not draw a breath of air, my mouth was full of microscopic flies in an instant. Facing the panic of being suffocated by the flies, I switched off my ultra-blue LED headlamp. I am now blind to the darkness, and in a state of total panic.
Coughing and choking I stumbled forward to the direction of my tent but soon became terrified of mistakenly straying from the camp. Before my eyes could adjust back to the dim moonlight, I turn the headlamp back on in desperation. Again, I’m seized by the sensation of drowning as the impenetrable cloud of insects return to the light, pulling away, a short sharp breath draws dozens of the tiny creatures up into my nostrils.
The insects are so thick that I cannot see past them to find my tent, their mass reflecting the white light of my lamp means I can only see far enough in that short glimpse to realize that I am nowhere near the tent and now much further from the bathroom than I thought. Quickly switching the lamp off again, I realize I have to wait for my eyes to adjust in order to find the tent.
I stood there, in total silence, waiting for my surroundings to slowly creep back into view as my eyes absorbed the pale moonlight. It seemed like an eternity, I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable, like a newborn, completely helpless and blind to the menacing unknown. In those agonizing moments, I came to understand my place on this planet, the insignificance of my body, in its most primitive and natural domain, standing alone in what seemed like a lifetime away from the security of civilization.
I was simply an animal, a very blind, weak and helpless animal, faced with the reality of the natural world, as all other animals from the beginning of time have always experienced it, alone, afraid, alive.
26. The Elephant’s Foot
The Elephant’s Foot in the basement of Reactor 4 in Chernobyl. In 1986 the radiation level on the ”Elephant’s Foot” was measured at 10,000 roentgens per hour, and anyone who approached would have received a fatal dose in under a minute. After just 30 seconds of exposure, dizziness and fatigue will find you a week later. Two minutes of exposure and the body cells will soon begin to hemorrhage; four minutes: vomiting, diarrhea, and burning up. At 300 seconds you have two days to live.
27. Remba Island
Remba Island is in the middle of Lake Victoria. Technically, it belongs to Kenya, but no Kenyans live there. The land was uninhabitable until they introduced perch into the lake, but then the fish devastated the lake’s ecosystem. So nowadays, Remba is just a slab of rock in the middle of the lake where immigrants from all over East Africa moved to take advantage of what was for many years an incredible fishery. Today, the perch are almost gone and the industry is dying.
Remba is an island of different immigrant groups with no functioning sanitation system whatsoever. Several thousand people live there and about a third of the island is reserved as a giant open-air toilet. At any given time, you can look across the space and see a half dozen people peeing/pooping out in the open. After this many years, it’s virtually impossible to walk anywhere off of narrowly beaten paths without stepping in excrement.
Different immigrant communities control different commodities on the island. Cultural and religious strife is endemic. Most people spent so much money getting there that they have no way to get away, but they’re saddled with debts and have no choice but to depend on a crashing population of perch. No healthcare. No lawyers, no dentists, no law enforcement, no chance of escape.
28. The Town of Pitcher
There’s a town here in Oklahoma, I believe it’s called Pitcher. It was an old mining town and as a result of the mining a lot of heavy metals ended up in the soil and water, causing a ton of sickness in the kids living there. Eventually, things got so bad that the state decided to close the whole town down. Now it’s abandoned and extremely dangerous.
I used to want to visit it, but after doing research I discovered it’s basically never a safe trip. You risk a dry day where the soil is being thrown around and you inhale lead, or a rainy day where lead-filled mud cakes your ankles and shins and you absorb lead. Fairly scary. I guess to this day they’re still checking in on residents to see how they are and if any are experiencing serious side effects.
29. Aussie Terror
As an Aussie, you kind of get used to the spiders, snakes, sharks and assorted dangerous animals growing up. Two things you don’t get used to: the size and the lack of water. The countryside is VAST. I used to work in the North West and we went on a camping trip about 40 minutes out of town. We all had maps, most of us traveled with other cars so there was a kind of convoy. All up there were about 40 of us headed to a billabong.
One guy got bogged crossing a dried out river bed. He left his car with his wife inside saying that according to the map, the campsite was a five-minute walk away. He would walk down and get one of the others to give them a tow. Another car comes along in the meantime and drags her out. Everyone goes off to the campsite. Except the husband isn’t there.
We’re about to go back to town and organize a full search when he comes strolling through the bush. He had misread the map, turned around, got lost and somehow stumbled upon us. Now that was stupid. We’re all told from primary school not to wander off from a path in the bush, stay with the vehicle, set it on fire as a signal, drink the water from the radiator, but never, never wander off. The dude was lucky to be alive. And this was on an organized trip to a water hole.
Also, while I was up there, lightning strikes would hit the ground causing grass fires. Nobody bothers to put them out. I remember driving three hours between towns and for about a two-kilometer stretch having one side of the road completely on fire. It was like driving through Hades itself. There is so much heat, so much space, and so little water.
30. The Pit
My friend and I used to frequent this one cave. About 3/4 mile through the boulders, you come to a waterfall. Sometimes it’s flowing like a river, sometimes it’s a trickle. Water flows directly into a circular hole, about 7 feet in diameter. The hole appears to be bottomless. We threw rocks down it and just never heard it hit bottom. We tied a plumb-bob to 500 feet of twine and lowered it in. Nothing. The pit is surrounded by slick clay when the water is moving fast, and a flat rock lain on it will slowly slide down into the pit.
Imagine, your foot gives way, you slide, unable to grab onto anything to steady yourself, and you slip in. You fall for over 500 feet in pitch black. Maybe you hit water at the bottom, maybe you don’t die instantly. Maybe you float in the pitch black, not knowing what’s beneath your weakening body, floating until you succumb to the water and go under. Maybe your frail body smashes onto rocks at the bottom, killing you instantly; I find this to be the most favorable option.
31. The Darkness
For me, it was a combat outpost in Afghanistan. This isn’t the story you’re thinking it is. There wasn’t any gunfire, or mortars or any imminent fear of my life. I was flying on a ring route in Chinook helicopters for three hours to get to this place. It was 2-3 am at the time. You can’t hear anything inside a Chinook because of how loud they are, so I carry this little whiteboard with me when I fly.
I wrote down the name of the COP on the whiteboard with a question mark on it and show it to the crew chief. He nods his head yes, so this is my stop, but I’m the only guy on the chopper getting on or off here. It lands, I get out and walk about 15 feet and the chopper takes off. About this time, I realized that I had no clue where I was at all. You see, military bases in combat zones operate on a strict no-lighting policy, so the enemy can’t see them lit up like a Christmas tree at night.
So, I’m standing here. It’s pitch black. No moon up at the time. All I can see are stars. Trillions of them. More than you’ll ever see in most places in the US. But at the same time, I have no bearings. I don’t know if I’m inside the COP, outside the COP, or if the helicopter dropped me off on a mountain top with no one for miles. I grabbed my flashlight and tried to use it, but the battery had stopped working. Tough luck, and my only other batteries were buried in my rucksack.
This total and complete sense of “Oh my God, I am completely lost and have no clue where to go.” came over me. It was a heck of a dreadful feeling and I sat there not moving for like 10 or 15 minutes. Then someone in the COP opened a door and I could see where I was. It turns out that I was just outside the barriers to the COP and the entrance was only 20 yards away.
That was ten years ago, but sometimes to this day I’ll find myself in a pitch-black scenario like the power in the house goes off, or I wake up before the sun rises, and I’ll instantly feel like I’m back there.
32. Higgins Lake
In Northern Michigan, there is a lake called Higgins Lake. Beautiful, cerulean blue waters and a gorgeous place in general (voted by National Geographic as the 6th most beautiful lake, at one time) … However, the water is strangely shallow for hundreds of feet, around the perimeter of the shore. But a few hundred feet out, the depth suddenly changes from waist-deep to a sudden drop-off. The tropical-blue water morphs into deep-blue and black…
As a kid who used to summer here, my friends and I always found interesting ways to “play chicken” with the drop-off… until one day that I’ll never forget. One year my cousin got hit with a strange updraft from the dark waters that was very cold. She was so caught off guard by the wash of icy water that she almost couldn’t swim back to the ledge. Never again.
33. The South Pole
I spent a couple of years at the South Pole. Firstly, when it’s night and windy with extremely low visibility, you have to walk via the flag lines. Sometimes the visibility is so bad you can’t actually see the next flag and have to go based on the sound of the next flag flapping. There’s been a few times where the wind has made some scary sounds and I’ve thought to myself that we’ve put a lot of trust into the fact that there’s nothing out there. The second more rational fear is that if I were to trip and break my ankle or get lost in this visibility I would surely freeze before ever being found. Lights don’t help a lot in thick blowing ice crystals.
Secondly, we have underground arches including the fuel arch, logistic arch etc… People swear they have experienced the ghost of Rodney Marks down there. I’ve never experienced THAT but the ice periodically does make some very scary sounds.
34. The Color of Ore
There is an Iron Ore mine in Labrador City, Canada that has to refine the ore into concentrate before shipping it off (unlike mines in Australia). One part of the process (in a building called the screenhouse) the pelletized iron ore (which isn’t sold very much anymore because of the changes in the steel making processes) is screened for different sizes.
There is a lot of water used to tone down the iron dust (more specifically the silica) so it turns into a very sticky red mud. Since the pellets come through warm there is a lot of humidity in the building and the red mud is everywhere with small, bright red rivers flowing into the various drains on every floor. Due to the poor lighting, noise from machinery, humidity, steam and lack of cleaning staff the workers at the plant have described it as “what the underworld would look like.”
35. The Deep and Radiated
More people need to know about the Kola Super Deep Bore Hole in Russia. It was a project by the Soviets to try and break through the Earth’s crust and get to the Earth’s mantle. I think the size of it was only maybe a foot-wide tunnel dug straight down. But it got to the point where their equipment couldn’t operate anymore because of the extreme temperatures, something like 180 degrees Celsius or some other high temperature.
It was stopped with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final depth was about 7.5 miles down. The scary part about it is that these guys literally dug a third of the way through Earth’s crust just to see if they could/what would happen, then just slapped a manhole cover over it.
36. The Great White North
The Canadian Arctic. The population density is 0.03 inhabitants/km2, and temperatures often drop to -50°C in the winter. There are very few indigenous settlements, and the ones that are established rarely have a road to get to them. Icefields and glaciers have crevasses that can be up to 160 feet deep, and if you fall in deep enough or in a bad spot, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll perish before any rescue team can reach you.
But that’s not all. The northernmost national park, Quittinirpaaq, is 37,775 km2 and has only two ranger stations. Your emergency radios may not even get a signal out due to weather, terrain, or solar activity. You are truly on your own in places that far north, and sometimes you’ll have to bolt your tent down with steel cables because the winds will literally blow you away across the rocks.
It’s one of the last truly wild places in the world simply because it is so harsh and unforgiving to humans. One misstep could be the end for you. It’s amazing that Inuit have carved out their own world in such a place!
37. The Mayak Nuclear Facility
There is nowhere creepier than the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia, including the nearby Lake Karachay and the Techla River. Probably the most polluted place in the entire planet where there have been more nuclear accidents than I’d like to count and the authorities have been dumping nuclear waste into the lake for 50+ years—just converting it with concrete slowly.
They’ve also been dumping water into the river for all that time too, and its unknown how many people living downstream might have suffered from radiation and tainted water and food supplies. Storage facilities for high-level and low-level waste are essentially rotting away and neglected or poorly operated, leading to repeated criticality events and explosions over its lifetime. This place has emitted more radiation into the environment than any other nuclear accident in history; including Chernobyl and Fukushima.
38. Fear of the Future
Aberdeen/Hoquiam Washington. I have often found myself terrified of the formerly profitable lumber industry in the region. There is a museum in the midst of these cities, in an old mansion. The sepia pictures lining the walls depict men and women with a hope for the future in their eyes. However, outside the museum, everything changes.
In the grey light of Grays Harbor, one is met with starkly different eyes. The despondent gaze of young employees at the failing strip mall or the harsh glare of people who have turned to a chemical pursuit of bliss. It’s not the fear for my own life, but instead a certain terror for the future of small-town America.
39. The Lonely Lighthouse
Maatsuyker Island. I sail past it every year on the Melbourne to Hobart yacht race. On a nice day, it looks rather pleasant. At night in a gale not so much. From memory, they only accept long-term couples for the six-month stints and only then after a battery of tests. I always try to raise them on the radio as we go past and they always seem happy enough. But you’re right if they get the tests wrong, I’m thinking next level Stephen King stuff…
40. The Land of Garbage
Cateura, Asuncion, Paraguay. The barrios in the area are essentially built on top (or nearly on top) of a “landfill” (though it’s really just a dumping ground). The smell, as one might expect, is terrifying in and of itself, and new visitors to the area usually vomit on their first trip to the dump site. The ground near the heap is an unnatural gray, and the methane escape pipes are often lit ablaze, lending an extra “hellscape” flavor to the area.
While there is a thriving economy built on recycling and repurposing the waste in the dump, it’s still dangerous and the authorities will not stay down there much past 7 pm. Entry to (and more importantly, exit from) the barrios is restricted to a couple of roads, which means if there’s a garbage truck driver strike (which has definitely happened), and you’re down there, you’re not coming out without an armed escort or a well-connected local.
41. The Battleship Island
The Battleship Island in Hashima was a Japanese concentration camp for Koreans. Its name comes from its appearance: it’s a small island completely surrounded by huge walls, in the middle of the sea, with coal mines. With the amount of Koreans forced to live there in horrific conditions during WWII, it was one of the highest population densities in the world…but for all the wrong reasons.
42. Small-Town Ohio
Probably not the scariest on Earth, but to me as an Ohioan, the many dead and dying towns we have here can be pretty surreal. Places where manufacturing and mining jobs dried up, and most or all of the inhabitants just left. Many still have a few people living there, often 50 or less. In these places, it can feel like you’ve gone back in time, and the trip is not a pretty one.
There are no chain stores of any kind, only old-timey mom and pop places. Maybe a general store, a bar/diner, a post office if they’re lucky, and that’s it. All of the vehicles are pristine 50s and 60s models, the farm equipment may be from the 1920s or earlier. 90% of the homes and businesses are abandoned, if not more. You may also hear an accent not spoken by anyone other than these few people.
I’ve been to tiny towns here where everyone sounded like they’d been transplanted out of Boston to some middle of nowhere Ohio town (due to isolation, stuff like this can happen where an area has so little exposure to other areas that they retain an accent through generations that technically shouldn’t exist locally, it’s kind of like a type of Founder effect—look up Tangier Island, Virginia for a great example). Visiting these places can be uncomfortable, because the few remaining residents are often downright hostile to outsiders.
43. The Pinelands
The Pinelands in southern New Jersey. The area is over a million acres. Trees grow so close together that when you go deep enough, it is perceptually dusk. It’s boggy, the ground is a thick black peat that’s so dark the ground appears to be black. South Jersey has enough iron ore to turn the millions of little streams to garish red. When the peat settles it makes a thick slurping sound. The trees are so thick and the ground so spongy that sound does not travel well. Everything is muffled. Pines are sturdy. When the wind come, rather than shake the branches, it hisses through the needles.
44. The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rain forest. During the day there it’s quite beautiful. But when you’re in a place that is dark and hard to navigate, everything near you becomes terrifying. There are frogs so poisonous that they will end your life. There are snakes that are dark as the darkest night there. You’d never see them coming. During the night sometimes the chimpanzees will shout and then other animals begin to screech, and it becomes difficult to identify which animal is what. There are predators on the hunt, and every step you take, you can run into them. The darkness at night there is scary as heck. You can’t even see two meters in front of you. Lamps have difficulty shining bright, because of the darkness.
The scariest thing is that there are hundreds of unknown animals and countless unknown insects that may be dangerous. Good luck if you want to do a night trip.
A huge conflict is currently taking place in Somalia, making it quite possibly the most dangerous country in the world, especially if you’re planning on a visit. Persons kidnapped from Kenya and, mainly, vessels overtaken by pirates are currently held in Somalia. The easiest method for staying safe in Somalia is not to go in the first place. Even with armed protection, you are at a very high risk of being taken out. Kidnappings, armed clashes, piracy, and warlording are all common in this country.
46. A Sinking Feeling
Out in Illinois, along US36 east of Springfield, you’ll see broad shallow lakes dug when places need topsoil. The reason the lakes are shallow is simple, but absolutely terrifying. You’ve got about 5-7 inches of topsoil and overburden, then maybe 16 feet of clay… and then nothing but this yellow muck clay for around 130 feet. If you build something too heavy in that area and it will literally sink out of sight.
The thought of living above a soft muck tomb just waiting to suck me down gave me nightmares of falling through the Earth to the bedrock and being splattered when I was young. If the drainage is ever not maintained correctly in that area of Illinois, the roads will start to twist and the force of the traffic will start to pull them apart.
The IC measured depths of ballast rock roadbeds of over 200 feet deep last time surveys were done… that means that the rocks are being slowly pressed en masse through the muck lower and lower over the last 165 years and have still not struck bottom in places. You can feel them being hammered microscopically lower from a mile away every time a loaded railcar jolts over the crossings in town.
47. The Fire Eater
I was camping with my dad in this crazy bush area of Australia where you had to hike about 2 hours to this main waterhole. We inflated a boat and went to a small island where the front of the island was sand but the back all bush, so we put our tents up and went fishing. We cooked some fish and ate marshmallows when we heard a howl. It sounded far away but it scared us, so we got enough firewood for the fire to burn all night, in case we needed to pee or something.
Hours later, in the middle of the night, I had to use the washroom. I went to a tree and stood there. I returned to my tent and heard that howl, only to realize that it sounded terrifyingly close. I was scared but went back to sleep. In the morning we woke up to see a small snake trail and our fire in ruins (picked apart and way smaller even though we had enough wood, because I have been here before and never had problems with running out of wood) and some gear left out chewed or missing. No clue what it was but it was weird as heck.
48. The Ocean
The ocean is the scariest place on earth. Think about it: We know more about other planets than we do below the surface of the ocean. There are an estimated 100 thousand to 10 million species that are undiscovered. “Point Nemo” also known as the loneliest place on earth is located in the ocean. The closest island is the Pitcairn which is still 2,700 KM (1,677 Miles) and inhabited by approximately 50 people. If you were at Point Nemo and the international space station were to pass over you, they would be the closest people to you.
Not only is the ocean lonely and cold, it also has lots of pressure. If you were to be placed at the bottom of the Mariana Trench with no protection you would be crushed with the force of about 50 jumbo jets. Which is around 25,000,000 pounds or 12,500 tons.
49. The Place in the Woods
I visited a place on a tour of WWII events around Europe. It gave me full-body chills. It was in the middle of a woods, a big pit with steps cut into the side that we carefully walked down. It must’ve been about 20ft deep and 50ft from side to side, empty save for a single wooden post riddled with bullet holes. Horrible, but so were a lot of other places we’d been—this one was weird.
It was in the middle of a forest we’d walked through, full of birds and other wildlife, but here it was silent, completely still. No wind, no noise, nothing grew through the packed earth. It sounds stupid but it was like nature rejected it, it felt poisonous. As soon as we walked away from it all the sounds of nature started again. It freaked me out, that was 26 years ago and I’ve never forgotten how it made me feel.
50. Jerome, Arizona
I didn’t know Jerome was a ghost town until I had to stop there and ask for directions to the airport. The only guy I saw in the whole town was wearing full fatigues and standing in the doorway of an inn that was entirely flower print, from the walls to the chairs to the floor. The whole place had completely creepy energy. I got out of there as fast as possible.