“If one door closes and another one opens, your house is probably haunted.”
Haunted houses. Abandoned asylums. Creepy caves. There are as many “haunted” spots are there are towns and villages around the world. It seems every little town has its place that the locals talk about in hushed tones and where the neighborhood children dare not go. These places are worse. This list is for the houses that are (allegedly) home to a hundred ghosts, the woods teeming with monsters and mutants, the dark, subterranean tunnels from which no one has ever escaped—truly the scariest, strangest, and most mysterious locales our planet has to offer. Read on, if you dare, for 42 eerie facts about the spookiest places on earth.
42. Off to Market
People in Togo spend their weekends much the same way many Americans do—with a trip to the market. But you won’t find organic radishes and apple cider at the Akodessewa Market, for this is a market for witches. Here you will find leopard bones, elephant feet, even (supposedly) powdered human heads—everything you might need for performing traditional vodou rituals and warding off illness.
41. Don’t Look Down
You won’t find any ghouls or goblins on the North Yungas Road in Bolivia, but it still certainly manages to give travelers enough frights for a lifetime. The epitome of a treacherous mountain pass, this “road” travels through fifty miles of mountain, forcing motorists to navigate fog and falling rocks with nary a guardrail to shield them from the 15,000 foot drop mere feet away. By some counts, 300 people die on the North Yungas Road each year.
40. The Vortex
At 1,575 feet deep and 3,600 feet wide, the abandoned Mir diamond mine in Mirny, Siberia seems poised to swallow the city that developed at its edge. However, its what the mine does that is truly frightening: the pit is so deep that air is warmed by the earth’s core, which, when it meets the freezing cold Siberian air, creates a swirling vortex that is powerful enough that it can swallow helicopters.
39. The Haunted Pub
The most haunted place in the British Isles may be the Ancient Ram Inn in Gloucestershire, UK. This local pub was built in 1125 AD on what was thought to be the sacred burial ground of pagan Celts. For nearly a millennium, the Ancient Ram has been host to all manner of spooks and specters, not to mention the occasional thirsty traveler who might be regaled with stories of the spooky watering hole’s history.
38. Skeletons in the Closet
Hauntings at the Ancient Ram haven’t stopped in the modern age. The current owner, who has owned the pub since 1968, describes being dragged across the floor by some unseen assailant on his first night in the pub. He has also uncovered signs of occult rituals and bloody daggers, not to mention the skeletons of two children under a staircase. Though, to be fair, his word might not be the most reliable seeing as he relies on tourists looking to spend money at a haunted inn.
37. Friendly Neighborhood Ghosts
The sleepy village of Pluckley, in England, is considered the most haunted village in the world, making it a popular destination for amateur ghost hunters. Pluckley is home to no fewer than fifteen distinct, recurring spirits, and maybe as many as forty, but don’t worry, the locals promise none of the ghosts are dangerous. Well, that’s a relief!
36. The Screaming Woods
Near Pluckley lies the Screaming Woods, a forest that, well, screams. Supposedly, shrieking and wailing can be heard from within the woods day and night, leaving very few brave enough to enter. While the friendly ghosts at Pluckley never bother anybody, it seems whatever’s going on inside the Screaming Woods is much more menacing.
35. Shades of Death
New Jersey’s Shades of Death Road earned its name as the site of many highway robberies in the 18th and 19th centuries, and ever since it has been the home of numerous ghost sightings. However, the scariest event on Shades of Death Road may have been the discovery of hundreds and hundreds of photographs showing distressed women in the nearby woods. According to the magazine Weird NJ, the police opened an investigation into the photographs, but it fizzled out when they mysteriously went missing.
34. The Catacombs
The famous Catacombs of Paris house the bones of six million Parisians and cover 11,000 square miles. The macabre tombs are nevertheless a popular tourist attraction; in 2015, Airbnb even held a contest offering two “lucky” contestants the chance to spend Halloween night in the Catacombs. No thanks!
33. Room Enough for Everybody
The tunnels below Paris have been particularly useful to would-be revolutionaries and spies. French revolutionaries killed a group of monarchists there in 1825. Over a century later, during World War II, the Catacombs were used as a hideout and transportation system for members of the French Resistance, while also housing a secret underground bunker for Nazi operatives.
32. The Scariest Place on Earth™
If you thought waiting in line for two hours in the sweltering Florida heat was the closest you could come to amusement park hell, you haven’t heard of Haw Par Villa in Singapore. Featuring a theme-park whose theme is literally Hell, Haw Par Villa is home to horrific displays like people getting sawed in half or thrown onto heaps of sharp objects—warnings for young children about what happens when they misbehave.
31. The Evil Island
The island of Poveglia, located ten miles off the coast of Venice, was used as a quarantine site for plague sufferers during the 18th century. Later it was converted to a lunatic asylum where lobotomies and other inhumane surgeries were performed; according to one legend, the head surgeon at the asylum killed himself there, driven mad by the ghosts of his patient-victims. Historians estimate as many as 100,000 people have died on Poveglia over the centuries.
30. Fair Warning
Poveglia has a rich legacy of terror, but perhaps the island has always had an air of foreboding evil about it. Before it was ever a military fortress, or a quarantine station, or an asylum, the island had been offered to a group of Camaldolese monks. The monks rejected the offer, preferring to go homeless rather than build a monastery on the island. Maybe they knew something no one else did?
29. The Graveyard
Stull, Kansas, might be a town of just 20 people, but Stull Cemetery is one of the most haunted places in America—and with good reason. The original owner, a farmer, burned the surrounding brush, accidentally killing his son in the process. Later, a local man went missing, only to be found hanged from a nearby tree. The number of tragic deaths—and ensuing hauntings—in the Stull Cemetery have led some to believe Stull is one of the seven gates of Hell.
28. Ring of Fire
Deep in the Karakum Desert of Turkimenstan lies the Door to Hell, a 230-foot-wide, seemingly bottomless crater where a fire burns that can never be put out. This crater was actually the result of an industrial accident in the 1970s, but you’ve got to admit, the image of the fiery portal in the middle of a desert wasteland is the stuff of nightmares.
27. To Hell and Back
In 2013, the Karakum Desert, including the Door to Hell, was declared a national nature reserve. The following year, an explorer named George Kourounis became the first person to go inside the Door to Hell, rappelling all the way to the bottom to collect scientific samples.
26. Gas and Light
For a sight that is both terrifying and eerily beautiful, consider the Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia. Kawah Ijen burns around the clock, letting off clouds of blue-green sulfur which sometimes liquify and pour into the nearby lake. Once the sun goes down, visitors can see the gases as they combust, and the caustic landscape becomes an eerily stunning lightshow.
25. The Bat Cave
The Gomantong Caves in Malaysia are home to more than two million bats. If that isn’t enough to make you shudder, consider the other citizens of Gomantong—massive Malaysian cockroaches, cave-dwelling crabs, and giant venomous centipedes, all of which feast on the acres of bat guano which flood the caves’ floor. Just because a place isn’t haunted doesn’t mean it can’t be absolutely terrifying.
24. The Perfect Hiding Spot
Sarah Winchester was the heiress to the Winchester rifle family, and one of the wealthiest people in the world. She was also an ardent spiritualist. These two facts collided when she got it into her head that she might be haunted by the spirits of all those people killed by Winchester rifles. To avoid those angry spirits, Winchester devoted her basically infinite budget to building the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.
23. Trap House
Until her death, the Winchester House was under constant construction, with a full-time crew of workers tasked with building fake doors, stairways to nowhere, and dead-end corridors, all to trap the malevolent spirits following Sarah Winchester. The Winchester House has over 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, and nearly 50 fireplaces.
22. Spooky and Swanky
While the Winchester Mystery House was meant as a kind of massive roach trap for ghosts, Sarah Winchester didn’t skimp on the luxuries. The mansion had electric light, steam heat, indoor plumbing—extravagancies for the late 19th century—not to mention windows designed by Tiffany and Co. After Winchester’s death, she had so much furniture that it took six trucks, operating eight hours a day for six weeks straight to haul it all away.
21. Toy Town
The tiny Japanese village of Nagoro has about 35 residents. 35 living residents, anyway. Nagoro is also home to more than 350 life-like wooden dolls, the work of local artist Tsukimi Ayano. Admittedly, the dolls are kind of cute, but the sight of so many lifeless bodies sitting at bus stations or in classrooms, never moving, never blinking, always watching… well, that’s a little unnerving.
20. Missing Neighbours
To up the creep factor, the dolls all represent individuals from Nagoro who moved or passed away. Or at least that’s what Tsukimi says; we’re not ready to rule out the possibility that Tsukimi has been turning these “missing” neighbors into living dolls.
19. The Island of the Dolls
Speaking of dolls, you may have seen pictures of Isla de las Muñecas, a floating garden outside Mexico City “decorated” with hundreds of weathered and dismembered dolls. Locals won’t disagree that the site is haunted, and some visitors swear they hear the dolls chattering to one another, but if you were hoping “the Island of Dolls” was just the handiwork of someone with eccentric taste, I’m afraid you’re out of luck.
18. The Story
The island had been the property of a local hermit named Don Julián Santana Barrera. One day, while strolling about the island, Barrera came across the body of a little girl, seemingly drowned in the canal, clutching a doll. Barrera hung the doll from a tree as a sign of respect. But from that moment on, Barrera began hearing voices and footsteps around the island, especially the voice of a little girl. For 50 years, he hung dolls continuously, hoping to ward off whatever evil spirit was haunting him, and leaving the island almost completely covered with doll parts.
17. Creepy Coincidence
In 2001, Barrera’s body was allegedly found in the exact spot where he found the drowned girl 50 years earlier.
16. Snake Island
Off the coast of Sao Paolo, Brazil, lies Snake Island. That’s not just a name either, the island is literally crawling with a super-race of golden lancehead pit vipers—there are five for every square yard of island. Isolated on the island by rising sea levels, the snakes have evolved to slither up trees and strike birds right out of the air.
15. No Feet Allowed
Another evolutionary tick: the snakes of Snake Island have venom five times stronger than that of ordinary golden lanceheads—so strong it can dissolve human flesh. The Brazilian government has very sensibly banned any visitors from Snake Island.
14. Chapel of Bones
Overrun with bones, monks at the Sedlec Ossuary left the task of exhuming and re-locating all those skeletons to a half-blind colleague. And credit where credit is due, he was certainly creative; the Czech chapel makes for a terrifyingly beautiful site, with bones carefully arranged into arches, garlands, shields, and even a chandelier.
13. A Walk in the Woods
The forest of Aokigahara in Japan is called “the Sea of Trees” for its impenetrable woodland, but it is known around the world by a more ominous name: the Suicide Forest. Every year as many as 100 people wander into the dense forest to kill themselves, and many of the bodies are never recovered, remaining in the forest until they turn to dust.
12. In the Red
Suicides in Aokigahara Forest increase in March, traditionally the end of the fiscal year in Japan.
11. Search and Rescue
Suicide has become such a common, problematic occurrence at Aokigahara that the local government has posted signs around the forest urging visitors to take advantage of mental health and suicide prevention services. Volunteers wander through the forests searching for bodies and providing aid to anyone who may be suffering emotional and mental distress.
10. The Golden Gate
Sadly, the Aokigahara Forest is not the world’s only popular suicide location, however. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, known as one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, is also one of the most popular destinations for people seeking to kill themselves. At least 1,600 people have leapt from the bridge since it opened in 1937, adding an air of sombre darkness to the otherwise-beloved destination.
9. Diving Dogs
The Golden Gate Bridge has its canine equivalent in Milton, Scotland. For reasons no one understands, dogs crossing the Overtoun Bridge feel an overwhelming urge to leap to their deaths. More than 600 hounds have killed themselves at the site, with some surviving the jump only to climb back up and leap again.
8. Beyond the End of the World
Let’s begin with the End of the World—that’s what the residents of Boston Mills, Ohio, called the dead end at the end of Stanford Road. Beyond the End of the World lies a dense forest which locals claim is home to Satanic Cults, escaped mental patients, and even the mutated victims of an industrial accident. To make things even more mysterious, the majority of Boston Mills was bought out by the government decades ago, leaving the place a ghost boarded-up houses and ruins today. For these reasons, the community often goes by another name: Helltown.
7. The Ridges
Ohio was also home to the Athens Lunatic Asylum, which, for over 100 years, was home to all the horrors that 19th- and 20th-century mental health care had to offer. Though it’s been closed since 1993, The Ridges, as the place is now known, is still visited by ghost hunters and enthusiasts of the macabre. The main attraction: the perfectly person-shaped stain of a mysterious inmate who escaped, only to be found six weeks later. She inexplicably broke into an abandoned ward, removed her clothes, and lay on the floor until she died of exposure, leaving a mark that remains to this day.
6. Lucky 13
The Athens Lunatic Asylum has been ranked the 13th most haunted place in the world by the British Society for Psychical Research—a pretty significant place on the list. No doubt the ranking is helped by the five cemeteries surrounding the asylum which, when connected, make the shape of a pentagram.
5. Mining Terror
Not to be confused with the Parisian Catacombs, which are creepy in their own right but at least well-marked and accessible to visitors, the 12th-century mines which run hundreds of feet below Paris are completely off limits to the public. A seemingly endless series of tunnels adorned with mysterious paintings and littered with bones from Paris’s overflowing cemeteries, the mines are all but unnavigable. But good luck calling for help: the tunnels are so labyrinthine that voices don’t carry. Who knows how many explorers might have met their fate down there?
Now imagine the Door to Hell opening right under your own hometown. That’s exactly what happened to the people of Centralia, Pennsylvania. In 1962, a fire spread to the coal mines which run like veins beneath the city. The fire has been burning ever since, never consuming the town, but always simmering beneath it, leaving many residents with little option other than to just pack up and leave. Just seven people remain of the town’s original population of close to 1,000, and the subterranean fire continues to burn to this day.
3. Checking Out
Death lives at Los Angeles’ Cecil Hotel. In addition to the dozens of suicides that have taken place at the hotel since the 1920s, the Cecil Hotel was also the scene of telephone operator “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood’s brutal murder. At least two serial killers—Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger—lived there, and Elizabeth Short, AKA the Black Dahlia, was allegedly last seen drinking in the hotel bar before her body was found.
2. Viral Violence
More recently, the Cecil Hotel was the site of the bizarre death of Elisa Lam. Footage of Lam running down the hotel’s halls and hiding in an elevator from an unseen pursuer went viral, causing people around the world to speculate on the events that led to Lam’s disappearance. She was later found dead in a water tank on top of the hotel after guests began complaining of strange tasting water.
1. As Seen on TV
The Cecil Hotel’s sordid history provided the inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel, and won it a designation as a Los Angeles Historic Site.
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