From an Island of broken toys to the castle that inspired the most famous blood-sucking monster, to entire buildings and towns terrorized by ghosts and demons, the world is full of truly haunting places. With Halloween right around the corner, you’re due for a true haunt. So if you’re looking for a frighteningly fun vacation, check out our list of the nine creepiest places around the world.
1. Isla de las Muñecas, Xochimilco, Mexico
Who doesn’t love dolls? Isla de las Muñecas, translated to “Island of the Dolls”, is located in Xochimilco, Mexico, just south of Mexico City. An island of dolls is exactly what you imagine – all kinds of dolls and doll heads can be found hanging from trees and buildings across the island. The story goes a man named Don Julian Santana Barrera moved to the island in the 1950s to live alone, where he found the body of a little girl who had drowned in a canal. Later, he found a doll floating nearby and assuming it belonged to the little girl, he hung the doll in a tree as a sign of respect. Soon, however, the little girl began to haunt Don Julian, so he began to collect and hang more dolls to please her spirit, until the day Don Julian’s body was found in the same spot where the little girl drowned 50 years earlier.
The doll island is now open to tourists who enjoy old baby dolls as far as the eye can see. Visitors brave enough to go often bring a sacrificial doll to hang from the trees, and many say the dolls’ eyes and heads follow them through the island. You can get to the island, though not easily, by taking a 2-hour boat ride from ‘Embarcadero Cuemanco’ or ‘Embarcadero Fernando Celada’. Be aware you need to ask specifically to stop at the island.
2. Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy
Head to the sickest island around. Poveglia Island is a completely abandoned island in between Venice and Lido in northern Italy. The island began as a refuge for those fleeing invaders and later became a quarantine colony for victims of the Bubonic Plague. These weren’t the only horrors to occur on Poveglia Island, however. During the 1920s, a mental hospital was built on the island, where many patients suffered medical experiments and torture before they died. The island is said to be home to up to over 100,000 dead souls and is reportedly so haunted that most Italians won’t step foot on the island.
Haunted history aficionados, this island is calling you. Poveglia Island can be difficult to get to. Many water taxi companies will not take a visitor there. However, there are specific companies that do take tours across the lagoon. It’s easiest to leave from Venice on a day trip.
3. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville, Kentucky
Ghost hunters, get your fill of haunted happenings at Waverly Hills. Opened in 1910, Waverly Hills served as a hospital for Tuberculosis patients until its closing in the 1960s. At the time, there was no treatment, so the less severe patients were treated with sunshine and healthy food, while more severe cases were treated by removing ribs or muscles to let the lungs expand, or by filling the lungs with a balloon to “help with breathing.” There is an estimate of 63,000 deaths in the hospital. The Sanatorium now is the host to many reported ghosts, including Timmy, a seven-year-old boy who died of Tuberculosis, and Mary, a young woman who died, either as a nurse who hanged herself, or the daughter of a doctor who died from the disease.
Right on the edge of the city of Louisville, Waverly Hills is relatively easy to get by car or taxi. Head to the old building to catch the 2-hour paranormal tour, the historical tour, the 6-hour paranormal investigation, the overnight investigation, or the haunted house, just remember, you need to have a reservation to enter.
4. Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge, England
Test your fears at this terrifying inn. Located in Wotton-under-Edge, England, this place is known for its frequent hauntings. It’s considered the most haunted place in all of England and guests are almost regularly seen fleeing the building in horror. The old bed and breakfast is reportedly built atop an old pagan burial ground and contains tales of witch burnings, suicides, hangings, and child sacrifice. The Ancient Ram Inn now plays host to over 20 ghosts, including a young girl named Rosie and a high priestess. There are also reports of blood-curdling screams being heard and a “large dark force” overcoming visitors.
If you dare, this macabre site is a frequent destination for fans of the paranormal. The Ancient Ram Inn is located right in the center of the small town. Get to the town by train or bus.
5. Lawang Sewu, Semarang, Indonesia
Looking for more than your typical ghosts? Check out Lawang Sewu, in Semarang, Indonesia. The building was built in the early 20th century for the Dutch East India Railway Company. However, during World War II, the space transformed into a Japanese military base and prison. Now, the building is the most haunted place in Indonesia, with many ghosts, including a Dutch woman and a number of headless ghosts. Many say a ‘kuntilanak’ also haunts the building. According to Indonesian legend, a ‘kuntilanak’ is the vampire-like ghost of a woman who died while pregnant. These ghosts target men and are known for their violence and terror.
Sound fun? Semarang is easy to get to from anywhere in Indonesia by car, bus, plane, or train. Once in the city, Lawang Sewu is easy to spot – right downtown with the red turrets.
6. Bran Castle, Bran, Romania
Hungry for a Transylvanian vacation? Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle, was built in the 13th century in Bran, Romania.The castle housed many generations of the royal family and during World War II, it was converted into a war hospital. By 1948, the royal family was forced out by the communist regime. The castle is most known, however, for its ties to the world famous vampire, Dracula. Bran Castle is thought to be the inspiration behind the Dracula Castle, while Vlad the Impaler, brutal 15th-century Romanian leader known for impaling his victims, became known as Dracula. However, Vlad the Impaler is not thought to have ever lived in Bran Castle, rather, he was held prisoner there. Nonetheless, the castle is still hauntingly creepy, due to its ties to Dracula, and the undead souls that haunt both the grounds and the surrounding town.
Bran is relatively small, and you should have no trouble finding the looming castle. Coming from somewhere else in Romania? If you are able to rent a car, the drive features some of the most beautiful landscapes in Romania. You can also opt for a train from Bucharest to Brasov, where you will take a bus or a taxi to Bran.
7. The Catacombs, Paris, France
Get lost in a tunnel of bones under the city of love and romance. The Catacombs are a 200 mile series of tunnels underneath Paris, featuring the bones of over six million Parisians. The bones were brought as a solution to the overcrowding, and the stench of death from the cemeteries. Up until the 19th century, an estimated seven million remains were dug from their graves and brought to these underground tunnels. With this many souls, the Catacombs are sure to house a ghost or two. Visitors are said to experience voices of the skulls talking to them, even luring them deeper into the tombs. These aren’t the only ghosts reported here, however. Stories of ritualistic and sacrificial murders are rumored to have taken place in the bone-filled tunnels beneath the city.
Sound like the perfect Paris plan? The Catacombs are easy to get to by taking the metro to station “Denfert-Rochereau”. Only a small portion of the tunnels are open, but this site is still a must see.
8. Salem, Massachusetts
Wands at the ready – take a trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is a small, quaint town in this New England state. The town is most notable for being the host of the 1692 Salem witch trials. The Puritan settlement first faced the worry of witches when three young girls began experiencing “fits” and were said to be bewitched. The children blamed three women in the town, Tituba, the slave of a prominent reverend, Sarah Good, a local beggar, and Sarah Osburne, a poor, elderly women. During the trial, Tituba confessed and said that there were other witches in Salem, sparking hysteria. 150 people were arrested and 20 were hanged. The first woman killed for being an accused witch was Bridget Bishop, owner of a tavern where people drank alcohol and gambled, which was seen as evil in Puritan society. Bridget is now said to haunt the Lyceum Bar and Grill. One of the more frightening ghosts in the town is that of Giles Corey, the only man executed for witchcraft. Corey condemned the sheriff, who died shortly after the execution, and now, Corey’s ghost is said to appear just before tragedy strikes Salem.
Many buildings in the town are known to be the sites of ghosts of the town’s infamous history. One of the most haunted buildings is the witch house. This building is the only building still standing from the 1690s and was home to Judge Jonathan Corwin, who presided over the trials. The building is now a museum, where visitors often feel the icy touches of the ghosts of Corwin’s victims.
If you dare spend the night in Salem, get the full ghostly treatment at the Hawthorne Hotel. This haunted hotel was featured in our list of spookiest hotels in the US – read more about what makes it so special.
9. Hotel del Salto, San Antonio del Tequendama, Colombia
Perhaps the most hauntingly beautiful spot on this list, the Hotel del Salto near Bogotá, Colombia, was built in 1923 facing the Tequendama Falls. Five years later, the mansion reopened as the hotel. The hotel closed in the 1990s after the river became highly toxic. However, in 2013, the site reopened as a biodiversity museum. The building was built right on the edge of a large drop into the Bogotá River below. It is said that historically, indigenous Muisca Indians would jump off these cliffs to escape the Spanish conquistadores, believing that they would transform into eagles and fly away. Having heard the legend, many people have come to this spot to commit suicide by jumping toward the river 515 feet below. The hotel is now said to be haunted by many of these spirits.
The Hotel del Salto is about 20 miles south of Bogotá, and due to the winding Andean roads, can be difficult to get to. The building also does not offer much for parking, making the best way to get there by taxi or by bus from Bogotá toward ‘Mesitas’ and tell the driver to let you off at ‘El Salto.’