From an island of dolls to a labyrinth of skulls, these creepy holiday spots are sure to send a shiver down your spine!
1. Athens Lunatic Asylum, USA
Although it has since been renamed The Ridges, this old hospital was originally called Athens Lunatic Asylum. The medical centre opened in Ohio on 9 January 1874 and specialized in the treatment of criminally and mentally insane patients.
One female patient mysteriously disappeared. The legend says she was playing hide and seek with the nurses, who got distracted and forgot to look for her. One month later her body was found by a maintenance worker in an abandoned part of the ward.
The former asylum is best known for the notorious lobotomy procedure, as well as many for documented paranormal sightings.
2. Shades of Death Road, USA
The seven mile stretch of Shades of Death Road winds through the countryside of New Jersey. Legend has it that highwaymen used to frequent the area, killing travelers who passed through the abandoned rolling hills. It wasn't long before the locals had had enough of the murderous men and lynched the robbers, leaving their corpses to hang and haunt the road.
According to another legend, Shades of Death Road was once surrounded by a swamp that was the source of a slew of malaria deaths. The ghosts of those killed by the swarms of mosquitoes are said to haunt the area.
3. Catacombs, France
The Catacombs, otherwise known as the ‘Empire of the Dead’, is a 200 mile network of old caves, tunnels and quarries below the city of Paris, filled with the skulls and bones of more than six million Parisians.
The dark, narrow labyrinth reveals a fascinating history of the city. In the early 1780s, overcrowding in the cemeteries meant that graves were breaking through the walls in peoples’ cellars, causing serious health concerns, so remains were transferred to the underground quarries.
The Catacombs still exert a powerful influence on popular culture and have given rise to many urban legends, including tales of Masonic rituals, witchcraft, Nazi gatherings, gang fights and serial killers.
Tourists can access the burial site via the entrance in the Montparnasse district.
4. Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
Isla de las Muñecas, which is Spanish for "Island of the Dolls," is located just south of Mexico City. This spooky island is home to thousands of decaying dolls, which hang from the trees and are said to come alive at night.
The dolls were hung to honour the memory of a little girl who drowned. According to local legend, the island's only inhabitant, a hermit called Julian Santana Barrera, noticed a doll floating near where the girls’ body was found and paid tribute to her by placing the doll in a tree. Haunted by the spirit of the girl, he hung more and more dolls until he was also found dead, drowned in the exact place where he discovered the body of the little girl.
The Island of the Dolls can be found on the prehistoric lakes of Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular tourist attraction. The Island is not on the regular tourist route so you will have to hire your own canal boat and have the driver specifically agree to take you.
5. Pripyat, Ukraine
Looking for a true ghost town? On April 26 1986, nearly nine tons of radioactive materials – 90 times as much as the Hiroshima bomb – exploded at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. 40 hours later, residents of the neighboring town of Pripyat, Ukraine were ordered to evacuate and most never returned. Estimates of the number of deaths from radiation-related cancers as a result of the accident range from 4,000 to 250,000.
Now it sits frozen in time, giving off an eerie, apocalyptic vibe. It's said that ghost children still roam the town, which features a gigantic Ferris wheel, rusting bumper cars and an unused merry go-round.
These days, radiation levels aren't believed to be high enough to cause harm, unless people are exposed for long periods of time. Tour guides allow tourists to pay short and highly regulated visits to the 30-mile exclusion zone around the exploded reactor. Be sure to follow the guide’s advice at all time and do not leave the roads.
6. Suicide Forest, Japan
Hidden amongst the majestic landscape of Japan lies one of nature’s more sinister places. Since the 1950s, over 500 people have visited the forest of Aokigahara at the base of Mount Fuji to commit suicide. Often referred to as the ‘Sea of Trees’ or ‘Suicide Forest’, the area is said to be haunted by the broken souls that took their life in the shadows of the woodland.
It’s said that no wildlife lives in the forest, giving it an eerie silence. Reportedly, compasses do not work once inside and jump about spasmodically, rendering them useless. It is not uncommon to hear stories of hikers getting lost and walking in circles, leading visitors to place markers on trees so they can find their way out.
The forest floor is littered with shoes, photographs, old trinkets, and more disturbingly, the remains of those that came to take their lives.
7. West Virginia State Penitentiary, USA
The jail closed down in 1995 but the building is still open to the public for nighttime tours if you’re brave enough. Over 100 executions took place here and the jail is rumored to be haunted by the former inmates. This particular prison has been listed on the top ten list of the Department of Justice as one of the “most violent”.
Spooky activity was reported as early as the 1930s, when guards would see prisoners walking in the grounds. When the guards set off the alarms and investigated the area it was determined that there were no prisoners there.
Legend has it that the prison was built on an ancient Native American burial ground and it is believed that negative energy from the deceased Native Americans infiltrated the prison, resulting in many paranormal and unusual events that occurred there.
8. The Abandoned Mental Hospital, Italy
After the old mental institution in Parma, Italy, closed and was left to rot, Brazilian artist Herbert Baglione painted shadows of the previous patients throughout the building. The old hospital is now decorated by terrifying artwork. The painted ghosts that line the decaying walls are a representation of the real ones said to haunt the halls.
If you plan to visit one of these spooky locations, remember to keep your eyes open. You never know who or what is watching you.