With Halloween just around the corner, you may be wondering where some of the spookiest, creepiest, eeriest, most haunted and/or best places to visit on Halloween are located around the world. Places where mummies stare back at you or ghosts roam the hallways, caves where witches hide from the world or dungeons where people were once imprisoned and tortured are scattered throughout the world, giving the heebie jeebies to travelers and residents alike.
So, in honor of this spooky holiday, here is a list of the 31 creepiest Halloween destinations around the world. And, we're not talking fake haunted houses and corn mazes with paid actors. We're talking downright terrifying places where mysterious happenings occur year-round and which are guaranteed to give you goose bumps. From haunted prisons to caves to catacombs, these bone chilling places will scare the daylights out of you, and may just give you nightmares for weeks.
1. Mummy Museum, Guanajuato, Mexico
Their haunting faces and hollowed eye sockets will make you quake in your boots. Teeth exposed from open mouths, fingers stiffly crooked for eternity, grey skin clinging to protruding hip bones and ribs, shoes still laced on unmoving, shriveled feet... The Mummy Museum in Guanajuato will haunt you long after your return from this picturesque Mexican colonial town nestled in the hills of the highlands in Mexico. However, these mummified remains are still a mystery to this day.
The mummies were originally exhumed when families were unable to pay a burial tax due each year for deceased relatives. When a family was unable to pay the tax, the body of their relative was exhumed and put on display in the mummy museum. The puzzling part? Rather than decomposing the way bodies usually do after being buried, these corpses were naturally mummified, leaving clothes, skin and sometimes hair preserved and intact. The reason? Some hypothesize it has something to do with the mixture of minerals in the soil, some think there is something a little more paranormal going on.
Either way, after an afternoon in this creepy museum full of mummies of all shapes and sizes (there are even baby mummies that look creepily like little dolls), you are guaranteed to have the heebie jeebies.
2. St. Michan's Church, Dublin, Ireland
Although St. Michan's church in Dublin, Ireland was founded in the mid 16th century and has the oldest organ still in use in the entire country, this next creepy destination is much more known for the vault that lies beneath the church. Down a limestone and mortar tunnel that extends below the church is a series of galleries for placing coffins.
Some galleries have been sealed off with wooden or iron doors, others have been left open. Through the iron doors of some, visitors can take a peek at a multitude of coffins laying helter skelter, the occasional arm or leg poking from the coffin lid. Then, in one of the open chambers, deep in the dark, damp tunnels below the church are 4 caskets with the lids completely removed, exposing mysteriously mummified remains-corpses partly covered with a layer of taut, leathery skin. Three of the four coffins lie in a row with a woman on the right, a man with a hand cut off and both feet missing in the center and a nun on the left. Some hypothesize the corpse is missing limbs because he was a thief and was punished by having them cut off, others believe he was simply too large to fit in the casket.
The final mummy in the vaults of St. Michan's is a man believed to have been a soldier returned from the crusades, whose body is cut in half to fit in the casket and whose hand lifts eerily into the air. If visitors are brave enough to venture further into the underground vaults, they can see the caskets of the Sheare brothers, who were hanged, drawn and quartered in punishment for treason after an uprising in 1798. The most mysterious thing about the mummies of St. Michan is that no one understands why these bodies have not decomposed like others in surrounding areas. Maybe it's the climate in the underground vaults, maybe it's the high concentration of lime in the soil, or maybe it's just something a little more paranormal and a lot spookier. It's up to you to decide.
3. Catacombs of Paris, France
Hallowed eyes peer on visitors to the Paris Catacombs
Although a popular tourist attraction year-round, the famous catacombs of Paris are a particularly good place to visit in honor of Halloween. The underground ossuary, which was organized in a section of the city's vast network of underground tunnels in the 18th century, were designated as a place to store the remains from condemned cemeteries in the Paris city limits. In the late 1700s, bodies from several burial grounds in Paris were moved into the underground tunnels. The result is the mass stacking of bones you see today, with skulls and femurs lining the walls like decorations.
The creepy Parisian catacombs have also inspired ghostly stories for generations. King of creepy, Edgar Allen Poe uses the Paris catacombs as a reference in his story the Cask of Amontillado and there have been several books written about vampires who seek refuge among the bones and dead in the catacombs. Who knows, maybe the next time you are roaming the bone filled tunnels below Paris you may just see a monster living among the dead.
4. Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic
The cracked and cock-eyed tombstones in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague date back to the 15th century and this cemetery is the second oldest Jewish burial site in all of Europe. The crooked graves and tombstones, with caskets protruding from the ground in some places, give this cemetery a definite creepy crawly feel.
It is unknown how many people are actually buried in this cemetery, because the tombs have been layered on top of each other. In fact, it is because Jews were forbidden to bury their dead outside of their own quarter that these layers of tombs and stacked remains (there are thought to be twelve) exist. Surrealist author Franz Kafka also often enjoyed periods of reflection in this creepy, old graveyard. Perhaps he was seeking inspiration for his next work.
5. San Bernardino Ossuary, Milan, Italy
In a non-distinct and rather unassuming church in Milan is a church full of bones. As you turn the corner in this plainly decorated little church and venture down a cold, narrow hallway (I'm getting the creeps just thinking about it) you find yourself in a chilly, one-room chapel with walls lined with human bones. The cages along the walls, holding skulls and leg and arm bones, are stacked high to the ceiling - but rather than just utilitarian piles or plain old orderly stacks, most of the bones are arranged in a decorative fashion, including several large panels where the bones are formed into cross-like designs.
In wire cases along the back doors are the skulls from individuals who had been beheaded in a nearby piazza outside the modern day La Scala opera house. As it turns out, this chapel in San Bernardino alle Ossa became a storage place for bones when a cemetery next door became full, and in 1210 a room was built to house the bones of deceased. So, since the 13th century, dead people (and maybe their spirits) have been housed in this little church in Milan. What says Halloween better than hanging out with a bunch of bones?
6. Bhangarh, India
There is a myth surrounding this ghost town that involves a princess and a magician who fell madly in love with her. The magician tried to use his black magic to make the princess his sexual slave, but was killed when his plan was foiled. Legend has it that as the magician died; he cursed the city and wished eternal death upon any person dwelling in the town. The following year, there was a huge battle in the town, which killed everyone involved. Since then, it has been said that anyone who dared to live in Bhangarh would have their roof collapse and would die-which is mysterious as today all of the ruins of houses are without a roof. Whether the creepy legend is true or not, if the Archaeological Survey of India thinks this place is too dangerous at night, so do I.
7. Dia de los Muertos Celebration, Oaxaca, Mexico
On All Hallows Eve, Mexican families are known to don costumes, visit the graves of their loved ones, and hold parades in honor of their deceased friends and relatives. Although practiced all over Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is one of the most important celebrations in Oaxaca, as well as one of the most visited events by outsiders. Skeletons are the decoration of choice, and locals pass cemeteries with food, music and drinks, emphasizing both death and celebration at the same time.
The Day of the Dead is a tradition that fused macabre celebrations from Europe with ancient Mayan and Aztec traditions, which resulted in the modern day festivities. The Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca is known as one of the largest and most boisterous in all of Mexico, and with skeletons decorating the entire city, lots of traditional food and drinks made in honor of the dead, and a large cemetery parade, Oaxaca is one of the best places for any traveler to visit on Halloween. It will get you in the Halloween spirit and have you wishing Halloween in the United States was as colorful and involved as much pageantry as it does in Mexico.
8. Sedlec Ossuary, near Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Around 1400, the gothic style church was built and the lower chapel was used to house the mass amount of graves unearthed during construction. A monk was given the task of exhuming remains and stacking the bones in the chapel. In 1870, with the hundreds of thousands of bones in disarray, woodcarver named Frantisek Rint was hired to organize the heaping piles of bones. The result was a macabre masterpiece, including bell shaped mounds of bones in the corners of the chapel, an enormous chandelier made from bones (which contains at least one of every bone in the human body), and garlands of skulls draping the walls. There is even a coat of arms made from bones and the signature of Rint written using bones. The ossuary has been the backdrop for the movie Dungeons and Dragons, Blood and Chocolate and the novel The Black Angel for its extremely creepy decor.
9. Feng-Du Ghost City, China
Feng-Du is a necropolis built into a mountain in China that holds the realm of the dead and is the entrance to the Chinese Hells. This famous ghost city was made even creepier when the Three Gorges Dam was completed and left Feng-Du an island, with parts of the ghostly palace submerged underwater. On Ming Mountain, which is said to be one of the 72 graveyards for Taoism, there are 75 Buddha and Tao temples. It was here on Ming Mountain that it is thought the dead gather near the spirit world, lending the name of ghost city to Feng-Du.
There are many magic stories that come from this ghost city and it is believed by some that Feng-Du has become a place for terrible spirits, haunted by tormented souls. As the only ghost city in China, there is a yearly celebration here in March, which includes Spirit Shows honoring the spirits that haunt Feng-Du. With the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, now generations of tombs have been consigned to the depths of the Three Gorges Reservoir and the ghosts of Feng-Du will be joined in their watery home by those whose descendants have been forced to desert them.
10. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
If you like the idea of walking the corridors of cemeteries on Halloween, than Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is the place to do it. With its miles of tombstones and mausoleums, Pere Lachaise is the mother of all cemeteries. The old burial place is not only home to many French greats (not to mention American rock musician Jim Morrison, probably the cemetery's most famous resident), but the cemetery's above ground tombs, statues and thousands of tombstones make for a perfect, creepy Halloween backdrop.
In the fall, golden and red leaves cling to the dying branches of trees in the cemetery, making October the perfect, eerie time to explore this huge cemetery. Surrounded by the ghosts of Balzac, The Doors music legend, and Chopin, visitors might get goose bumps and feel their skin crawl in this sprawling land of the dead. Or perhaps they will feel inspired by the souls of the deceased French poets, leaders and authors. Obviously, you'll need to visit for yourself to see what effect this place has on you.
11. Bran Castle (aka Dracula's Castle), Romania
The cruel leader who was rumored to live in this castle was mostly known for his preferred method of executing his opponents which was called bung poling, where the person was dropped upright onto a sharpened tree trunk starting from between the legs and forcing the tree trunk through the chest or neck. It is rumored Vlad Dracula would impale thousands at the same time, often leaving the bodies on the stakes decaying for months. Whether Vlad actually lived in Bran Castle is uncertain, but what better place to visit on Halloween than the Dracula's Castle, which has inspired a plethora of terrifying vampire tales.
12. Fremantle Prison, Australia
This prison in Western Australia has a long sordid history and served as a place of incarceration for almost 150 years. Its inmates included British convicts, local prisoners, enemy aliens and prisoners of war. In the twentieth century, the prison became a maximum security facility, where the worst and most dangerous criminals were kept. The prison was also the site of a number of hangings, which were carried out at 8am every Monday, and put to death some of the country's most dangerous murderers. Because of its violent and creepy past, this prison is rumored to be haunted by a variety of ghosts, who roam the halls, cells, gallows and tunnels underneath the prison.
The Government of Western Australia runs daily and nightly tours of this haunted, creepy prison, including one tour that takes you into terrifying water filled tunnels that run beneath the prison and connect to some of the solitary confinement cells. A nighttime tunnel tour beneath an old, creepy prison sounds like an excellent, albeit terrifying, way to celebrate Halloween.
13. Mary King's Close, Edinburgh, Scotland
Blood-curdling tales of ghosts and murders, as well as stories of plague victims being cast into the close and left to die have given this close a particularly terrifying mystique. Edinburgh is internationally renowned for its strange paranormal activity and dark tales, and these underground tunnels seem to be one of the more haunted areas of the city. There is even a dark corner in the close where visitors leave stuffed animals in attempt to appease the ghost of a woman who was murdered in the tunnels centuries ago. It is said her ghost, as well as others, haunt visitors, making these ghost filled tunnels the perfect place to experience the paranormal this Halloween.
14. Rose Great Hall House, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Despite efforts to entomb the witch's body and build a grave that would prevent her from rising and roaming the grounds of the plantation, the Great White Witch continues to haunt the house to this day. According to local legend, the White Witch and her victims actively haunt the house and she has been seen wearing a green velvet dress and riding a black horse, whip in hand. She has also been heard walking the halls of the house, and cries of the babies and slaves she murdered have been heard filling the halls. Voices are reportedly sometimes heard coming from the dungeon where she tortured victims, and lights commonly are switched on and off throughout the house with no one around. If you are brave enough to explore this house, then prepare to come face to face with the ghost of the Great White Witch.
15. La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The other spooky part of La Recoleta Cemetery? There is a colony of feral cats, which reside within the gates. The cats mostly hide during the day, but come out at dusk in anticipation of a group of women who come to the cemetery each day to feed them. Something about the imagery of feral cats living among tombs just seems so Halloween-making this a great spot to visit on October 31.
16. Manchac Swamp, Louisiana, United States
Tours that carry torch lamps will take you into the depths of this eerily silent swamp, where it is rumored you can hear creatures of the night singing bewitching songs, and see victims from a 1915 tidal wave which carried hundreds to their death in the swamp floating beneath the surface of the water. There are also stories about the ghosts of pirates, swamp witches and restless spirits haunting the swamp under a Voodoo curse. This swamp didn't get the name Haunted Swamp for nothing, so venture into this spooky swamp past dark only if you dare.
17. Haunted Well of Himeji Castle, Japan
The most hauntings by Yuureis come from wronged female spirits. Okiku was a servant for a lord who lived in the castle, and she was wrongly accused of stealing one of a collection of precious plates. Okiku was tried and found guilty and was punished by being tortured, sexually assaulted and killed. Okiku's body was thrown into the well and because of the way she died it is believed her soul could find no eternal peace. It is said Okiku haunts the well today, where in the early morning hours you can hear her screams rising from the depths of the well where her mutilated body was tossed centuries ago. So, if you find yourself in Japan this Halloween, make a trip to Himeji's castle, camp out near Okiku's well and wait to see if you hear the woman's ghost screaming from below.
18. Ballygally Castle, Ireland
Located in Northern Ireland, this castle overlooks Ballygally Bay and is now a hotel. It is also reputed to be one of the most haunted places in all of Ireland. It is said that one of the castle's former residents, Lady Isobel Shaw, amuses herself even in death by knocking on the doors of different rooms and then disappearing abruptly (as ghosts are wont to do).
Lady Shaw, who was locked in her room and starved by her husband, leapt to her death from a window of the castle, and it is said she has not left the property since. Another former resident, Madame Nixon, is said to have been seen roaming the halls of the hotel in her silk dress. If you are feeling brave this Halloween, get a room in this hotel and see if you experience any paranormal activity.
19. Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney, Australia
The largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere, the Rookwood Cemetery (also known as Rookwood Necropolis) is of course home to corpses as well as rumored hauntings and paranormal activity - but it's unlikely you'll visit many cemeteries with more than a million corpses in it. In fact, this is probably the most impressive cemetery you've ever seen and is a city in its own right (hence the name of Necropolis, or city of the dead). This is not just an historic site, however, as it's still in operation as a cemetery - it's the largest Victorian era cemetery still in use today anywhere in the world.
You can join a tour during the daytime, but it seems much more appropriate to take one of the many twilight tours on offer, don't you think? With the immense numbers of graves, mausoleums and a crematorium, there are plenty of creepy nooks and crannies to explore for any visitor to explore at any time of year, but this city of the dead can become particular interesting (and spooky) at Halloween time. Who knows, maybe you'll just see a restless soul wandering among the million tombstones.
20. Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy
There are themes for each of the rooms, including a room decorated using bones in honor of the Resurrection, a room full of skulls, one with pelvises, and another with leg and thigh bones. There is also a crypt of three skeletons, which include a center skeleton holding a scythe (a symbol of death). A sign in the last chapel reminds visitors that As you are now, we once were. As we are now, you one day will be. Although visitors flock to this crypt at all times of the year, I can imagine few spookier ways to spend Halloween than in crypts decorated with human bones.
21. Raynham Hall, Norfolk, England
This haunted hall in Norfolk, England is home to arguably one of the most famous ghost pictures of all time - and if you're a ghost story lover, then pay no attention to the people who have decried it as an obvious hoax. The picture is of a woman known as the little brown lady of Raynham descending a staircase in Raynham Hall. The ghost is supposed to be that of Lady Dorothy Townshend, who married the Hall's owner (Lord Townshend) in 1713.
Lady Townshend is said to have died in 1726, but rumors at the time said that instead of dying she was actually locked up in the house by her husband. So, whether you believe in ghosts or not, it's easy to see why Lady Townshend might very well haunt the halls of her former home and prison since her death (whenever that actually was). The photograph of the Raynham Hall ghost was made in 1936, but since that time no sightings of the ghost have been reported in the Hall. In fact, more recently there have been reports that indicate Lady Townshend might have moved house herself to a different spot in Raynham. But why don't you hang around in Raynham Hall all night on Halloween to find out for yourself?
22. The Chase Vault at Christ Church, Barbados
The tomb, which was built to house deceased members of a rich plantation family named Chase, is made up of limestone and was tightly sealed with a large hunk of marble at the entrance. Several members of the Chase family had been buried in the vault between 1808 and 1816, when the vault was reopened in 1816 in order to place the coffin and body of Samuel Brewster inside. However, when the family opened the vault, there were met with a scene of mystery. Not only was the 240 lb. lead coffin of Thomas Chase in the wrong location, all of the coffins except the first coffin to be placed in the vault were in disarray. Despite there being no evidence of the seal from the marble door had been opened, fine sand was placed inside the vault before it was resealed in order to catch the footprints of anybody who may enter the vault. When the vault was later reopened, the seals were found to be intact, yet once again all of the coffins were in disarray with the exception of the first coffin placed in the vault.
The heavy lead coffin of Thomas Chase was also leaning against the inside vault door, thus blocking any alleged perpetrator's exit. Some believe that the spirits of two family members who committed suicide (and therefore, were cursed and restless) moved the coffins. In any event, the coffins were moved and buried elsewhere and to this day the mystery has not been solved.
23. The Hellfire Tunnels and Caves, West Wycombe, England
The caves were later used for occasional meetings for the infamous Hellfire Club, of which Sir Francis Dashwood was the founder. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened in these Hellfire meetings in the caves. This place is dark and creepy and at the end of the tunnel there is an Inner Temple where you can watch a what some speculate a Hellfire meeting might have looked like. Any dark cave associated with the word hell sounds like a good old spooky place to visit on Halloween.
24. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa
During winter floods, it has been recorded that rising water levels in the dungeons would drown prisoners chained to the walls in the dark hole. It would seem natural, then, that is castle is haunted, no? A semi-luminous ghost is said to have been seen roaming the halls of the castle and ringing the castle bell from time to time. Lady Anne Barnard, who once lived in the castle, is also said to be one of the most prominent ghosts, as her curly-haired but transparent ghost appears at parties and can be seen bathing in the Dolphin Pool of the castle.
25. Old Changi Hospital, Singapore
Brave souls now attempt to make it all the way to the roof of this creepy place, despite the fact that people who work nearby are scared of the hospital. Even if you don't believe in ghosts, this spooky old and abandoned hospital is sure to give just about anyone the willies and only the truly adventurous should explore this notoriously haunted spot this Halloween.
26. Salem, Massachusetts, United States
One popular destination is The Witch House, which still stands on the corner of North and Essex streets It can be toured by Halloween lovers and tourists alike, who can see eerie memorabilia like witch pins and a small bottle containing finger bones. Visitors to Salem can also go on one of the many tours of the city that will tell tales of its haunted past. Not surprisingly, most of the hauntings are by people who were hanged during the Salem Witch Trials - but I can't think of a better reason to haunt a place than being wrongly accused of witchcraft.
27. Ossuary in Hallstatt, Austria
Due to lack of space in the cemetery, the right to any grave would expire after 10-15 years, when the bodies were then exhumed and the skulls were lovingly decorated by family members with the names of the deceased, their professions in life, when they were born, and when they died - and then placed in the ossuary. Even if you can't read the inscriptions, you can usually tell the men from the women by the extra decorations - women tend to have flowers while men tend to have leaves.
This isn't the first bone-filled church in Europe on this list (in fact, ossuaries like this were once incredibly common), but the decorated skulls - and the fact that it's still in use in modern times - definitely make it an interesting Halloween destination.
28. The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, United States
And in addition to the already-creepy association of the hotel with one of the scariest movies in history, it's also reportedly haunted by ghosts - including hotel founder F.O. Stanley (he prefers to hang out in the lobby and the billiard room, evidently), Flora Stanley (who occasionally still plays piano for guests in the music room), and a woman called Miss Wilson who haunts the aforementioned room #217. Guests have also said they hear children playing in the hall outside room #418 when there are no children around. So, although seeing Redrum written on the walls with blood is doubtful, spending a Halloween night in this spooky and supposedly haunted hotel is a good way to test your nerves.
29. Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Since the discovery of King Tutankhamen, this area of Egypt has ignited the curiosity of archaeologists and laymen alike, who love stories of ghostly mummy raids and spooky happenings. Many of the tombs have curses written upon them, warning any who enter may suffer from death. This legend was given validity when several members of the team that first opened Tutankhamen's tomb mysteriously died, adding to the creepy nature of this area. Whether you believe in the curse or not, this ancient burial ground remains full of mystery to this day, making it a great Halloween destination.
30. New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Visitors can go on tours of the famous above-ground cemeteries (including the one in which the famous Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is buried, where devoted followers continue to leave offerings to this day), and anyone who has ever read an Anne Rice novel will want to check out her home in the Garden District - it served as her inspiration and the setting for not only some of her famous vampire books but also her series about the family of witches.
Just walking through the Garden District or French Quarter at night is enough to make anyone understand why the city is reportedly full of vampires and witches. There are ghost stories and legends in so many of the buildings and cemeteries in New Orleans that is must-see destination at Halloween - or anytime if you're a lover of spooky things.
31. Bell Witch Cave, Tennessee, United States
These days, it is said that the witch appears to people in human form and there are many unexplainable pictures of shadows and other such entities in the cave. While the cave remains in private hands, it is opened to visitors during the summer and - conveniently for you - during the month of October. Upon entering the cave, it is alleged that one will be overcome by the feeling of being watched and if you take a rock from the cave, you will forever be cursed by the Bell Witch. Many others have also reported voices in restricted areas of the cave that cannot be reached by any human.
About the Author
Bootsnall staff writer Julie Blakley's fascination with cemeteries started at a young age, when her father would walk her through the historic cemetery bordering her preschool on their way home. Since then, she has traveled near and far, never missing an opportunity to visit cemeteries and eerie hangouts around the world. When she's not investigating tombstones at Pere Lachaise, Julie is writing the France Travel Guide and dreaming of her next travel adventure.
original photo locations: Mummy Museum in Guanajuato from here, St. Michan's Church in Dublin from here, Ossuary in Hallstatt from here, Fremantle Prison in Australia from here, Raynham Hall in Norfolk from here, Hellfire Caves in Buckinghamshire from here, Cape Town Castle from here, Chase Mausoleum in Barbados from here, Old Changi Hospital in Singapore from here, Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee from here.