Ghost hunters international: 10 of the world’s spookiest places

October 02, 2015                 5m read time
Ashley Henshaw


Want to really go one step beyond on your next trip? Skip the usual haunts and head for the truly haunted. From catacombs to castles, the following paranormal places are sure to add a new sort of chill to your vacation. Just don’t forget to bring your proton pack!

1. Paris Catacombs

Skulls at the Paris catacombs burial site in France Steven Bostock

Skulls at the Paris catacombs burial site in France

Steven Bostock

 

Part burial site, part historical site, and part art exhibit, the Paris catacombs are arguably the most well-known and widely visited catacombs in the world. The remains there were originally buried in the Cemetery of the Innocents. Due to poor burial techniques and a lack of space for new bodies, the stench was overwhelming and infection began to spread. Residents complained, and beginning in 1786, Paris officials relocated the remains to nearby quarries that would become the infamous catacombs. The process of removal paints a creepy image on its own—carts of bones covered in black veils were moved only in the middle of night as priests sang the service for the dead along the route.

Today, you can descend underground to see the bones arranged in artful displays. Skulls stacked to the ceilings create eerie passageways throughout the chambers. But don’t venture beyond the steel gates—though the network of tunnels measures more than 200 miles, the public may only see a select portion.

2. Tower of London

The Tower of London on the River Thames bank in England Tony Peters

The Tower of London on the River Thames bank in England

Tony Peters

 

Located on the north bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London is the place to visit if you’re fascinated by the seedier side of England’s royal history. In its nearly 1,000-year history, it’s been the site of murders, torture, and executions. Built in 1078, the massive stone castle (it encompasses a whopping 12 acres) was primarily a royal residence. And, because who doesn’t like to keep their enemies close, it was also used as a prison for those found guilty of treason and other crimes against the monarchy until as recently as 1952.

Phantoms of famous figures like Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boleyn, and Margaret Pole are said to roam the castle passageways. To catch a glimpse of these ladies in eternal waiting, sign up for the Twilight Tour, which includes visits to the Scaffold Site, where Boleyn and Grey were executed, and the White Tower, where it is believed Guy Fawkes and other prisoners were interrogated and tortured.

3. Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia 

Old buildings of Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Tony Beverley

Old buildings of Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tony Beverley

 

Head to Philadelphia to experience the spirit—and spirits—of the Revolutionary War. Fort Mifflin, a battlefield on the shores of the Delaware River, features 14 restored buildings from the late 18th century, among them several barracks, a hospital, and an arsenal. Otherworldly activity seems to be centered around a few structures, including the Blacksmith Shop and Officers’ Quarters. Apparitions abound, with locals often reporting the loud screams of a woman, a faceless man, and other supernatural sightings. Frequent guided ghost tours and tutorials for the use of paranormal research equipment, like static infrared cameras and motion detectors, allow visitors a chance to peer into a colonial netherworld.

4. The Catacombs of Rome 

Painting in the Rome Catacombs in Italy photogolfer

Painting in the Rome Catacombs in Italy

photogolfer

 

Enjoy your pick of more than 40 catacombs in Rome’s suburbs, where the underground burial tradition seems to have been particularly popular around the 2nd century A.D. There you’ll find dozens of famous figures’ final resting places. A few popular spots include the catacombs of the Christian martyrs Marcellinus and Peter, the catacombs of San Callisto, where 16 popes and dozens of martyrs were laid to rest, and the catacombs of San Sebastiano, which is home to 13th-century paintings.

5. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle, a massive stone fortress in Scotland  Jeff Stein

Edinburgh Castle, a massive stone fortress in Scotland 

Jeff Stein

 

If you want an immersive experience in a haunted space, wander through Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. Located upon a towering volcanic crag, visitors to this massive stone fortress are guaranteed sweeping views of the city below. Additionally, they might be treated to ghost sightings and other spooky sensory experiences, including the sound of screams, sudden drops in temperature, the feeling of being watched, or even a tug on their clothing. Given the castle’s storied rooms, including dreary dungeons where prisoners were tortured, it’s not surprising that wicked wraiths are out in full force here.

6. Cities of the Dead, New Orleans

Rusting, above-ground tombs called "Cities of the Dead" in New Orleans, Louisiana Jose Gil

Rusting, above-ground tombs called "Cities of the Dead" in New Orleans, Louisiana

Jose Gil

 

It’s no wonder Anne Rice and the writers of “American Horror Story” set their ghastly tales in New Orleans. Because of the high water table, which would flood underground graves, residents interred their loved ones in above-ground tombs, often referred to as “cities of the dead.” The resulting cemeteries have a macabre beauty thanks to rusting iron gates, stone crypts, and voodoo traditions, like leaving coins at a tomb in exchange for favors. New Orleans has dozens of above-ground cemeteries, with tours offered at especially haunted sites, such as the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, where many followers perform religious rituals and leave offerings.

7. Bran Castle, Romania

The halls of Bran Castle of Romania - where Bram Stoker drew inspiration for Dracula Gabriela Insuratelu

The halls of Bran Castle of Romania - where Bram Stoker drew inspiration for Dracula

Gabriela Insuratelu

 

If your horror preferences lean more towards vampires than ghosts, visit Bran Castle in central Romania, located near the city of Brașov. Vlad the Impaler lived here in the 15th century. Known during his day for drinking the blood of his victims, he would later inspire Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s said that undead Vlad, still roams the castle passageways, while those he killed are heard moaning in the underground tunnels.

8. The Castle of Good Hope, South Africa

The entrance to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa Grobler du Preez

The entrance to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa

Grobler du Preez

 

Despite the cheery name, this destination in Cape Town, South Africa, is plagued with bad luck and macabre stories. Built in the 17th century (it’s the country’s oldest colonial building), the castle’s first uncanny event took place in 1728 shortly after the governor, Pieter Gysbert van Noodt, sentenced seven military deserters to death. It’s thought that one of the soldiers placed a curse on him, because later that day van Noodt was found dead with his face frozen in abject terror. Around the same time, a soldier was found hanging from the rope in the bell tower, adding to the castle’s morbid reputation.

The castle’s bell tower has long been sealed off, but the bell continues to toll randomly to this day. Several figures, including the Lady in Grey (who runs through the castle sobbing with her hands over her face) and the ghost of a black dog (who attacks visitors before disappearing), haunt the castle as well. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the castle’s history—and hopefully see one of these specters for themselves.

9. Lawang Sewu, Java

Semarang's Lawang Sewu, the site of a WWII battle and torture on the island of Java, Indonesia siska maria eviline

Semarang's Lawang Sewu, the site of a WWII battle and torture on the island of Java, Indonesia

siska maria eviline

 

Located in the city of Semarang on the island of Java, Lawang Sewu is considered one of the most haunted areas in Indonesia. The building’s stained-glass windows face a busy city street, but the empty interior has an eerie atmosphere. Near the end of World War II, the bloody Battle of Semarang took place in front of the building. Later, a number of Dutch colonialists are said to have been tortured and killed in the basement during the Indonesian Revolution. Spirits from both battles, including a number of headless ghouls, are said to linger in the temple today. You can pay for a guided tour during the day, though many people visit at night to embark on their own ghost hunts.

10. Fort George, Canada

The haunted grounds of Fort George in Nova Scotia, Canada meunierd

The haunted grounds of Fort George in Nova Scotia, Canada

meunierd

 

Located on top of Citadel Hill in Nova Scotia, Fort George is said to be the most haunted place in Canada. Built in 1749, the fort has become a top destination for ghost hunters. A number of figures are said to haunt the grounds, including a man in a red cloak and an elderly woman who appears in mirrors. Similar to Edinburgh Castle, unsettling sensory experiences are common, like sudden gusts of wind, doors banging, and the feeling of being watched. Most common, however, is the little girl who is said to accompany the fort’s ghost tours, often holding the hands of participants.

Ashley Henshaw

A Chicago resident since 2004, Ashley is a freelance writer with a passion for the Windy City. In the past, she has covered Chicago's lifestyle, dining, and drinking scene for a number of websites, including The Huffington Post.

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