13 True Ghost Stories from the Most Haunted Places in the World
If you enjoy a real fright, these locations offer a chance to get close to some of the more grisly ghost stories ever told.
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, British Columbia
This elegant old hotel is said to be haunted by a glamorous lady in red. When the hotel was being constructed, there were eight elevator shafts constructed, however when the Great Depression hit, only six elevators actually ended up being installed. Consequently there are two empty shafts, without doors leading to them. Allegedly, numerous hotel staff and guests have glimpsed this woman in red as she emerges from a door where the hidden shaft is located (and where there simply should not be a door)…
Rolling Hills Asylum, New York
Built in 1827, this huge brick structure was built to house the needy and the troubled (including murderers and the criminally insane), and nearly two hundred years on, is apparently one of the most haunted places in the world. Now open for tours, the very brave are invited to walk through the rooms in the daylight, or at night, and even carry out their own paranormal investigations with the help of representatives of the asylum. Investigations at the property have revealed chilling screams in the night, doors being held shut, shadowy figures walking down corridors and disembodied voices.
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McNabs Island, Halifax
This large island in Halifax Harbour is a beautiful nature reserve today, but had a number of atrocities in its history that have lead to rumours of ghosts haunting its sandy beaches and lush parklands. McNabs was used to hold a shipload of British cholera sufferers in 1866, many of whom died and ended up being buried in mass graves on the island. From the 1780s through the early 19th century, the military would use Maugher Beach (on the Island) to display the bodies of executed military criminals. The headless ghost of Peter McNab, who owned a fishing business there in the 1700s, is said to roam the island as well as various other ghouls.
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This remote village is home to less than 800 inhabitants—and one spooky vampire story. In 1725, a resident named Petar Plogojowitz passed away, and in the next eight days, nine deaths occurred. The nine who died had said on their deathbeds that they had been throttled—by Plogojowitz’s corpse. Priests and officials flocked to Kisiljevo to investigate, and roughly 40 days after Plogojowitz had expired, they exhumed his grave. Strangely, his beard and nails still seemed to be growing, and there were signs of new skin. When a stake was plunged into his body, it was reported that fresh blood spurted from his ears and mouth, a horrible scream arose, and his skin turned black. At that point, the murders ceased. Some call Plogojowitz “the first vampire,” which earns Kisiljevo a spot on our countdown of the most haunted places in the world.
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Forbidden City, China
The beautiful, sprawling Forbidden City in Beijing—made up of 980 buildings on 180 acres—is one of China’s best-known landmarks. Many true ghost stories have also come from within its walls. From the 15th century through the early 20th century, the Chinese emperor lived there, but now it’s rumoured to be haunted by the ghosts of concubines. In 1421, Emperor Yongle ordered nearly 3,000 ladies-in-waiting associated with his harem, all of whom lived in the Forbidden City, to be slaughtered, because he thought that a beloved concubine had been poisoned. He spared some of his favourites in the harem, but on the day of his funeral, 16 courtesans were hung with nooses of white silk. Today, in the Forbidden City, a lady with black hair has been seen running from a ghostly soldier; sounds of screaming, weeping, and sword-fighting have been heard; and spectres of dead bodies, pools of blood, and pieces of white silk have been glimpsed. The Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is open to the public, although it closes before nightfall.
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Glamis Castle, Scotland
This castle was first built in the 14th century, and it’s where the Queen Mother—the late mother to Queen Elizabeth II—grew up. It’s also said to be populated by a bevy of ghosts including the Grey Lady, or the Lady of Glamis, otherwise known as Lady Janet Douglas. Accused of murdering her husband by poisoning him and of using witchcraft to take down King James V of Scotland, the Grey Lady was burned at the stake in 1537 in Edinburgh. Her ghost is said to run up the stairs in the clock tower, leaving a trail of ash in her wake. A woman with no tongue has been seen roaming the park around the castle, and the ghost of an 18th-century boy servant, who had been terribly mistreated, is said to haunt a seat near the door of the queen’s bedroom. The most famous ghost is Earl Beardie, or the Earl of Crawford. This noble visited the castle in the 15th century, and one night, he got drunk and demanded that someone play cards with him. If no one would, the Earl declared, he would play the devil himself. A mysterious hooded man dressed in black showed up at Glamis and offered to play. By the next morning, the Earl had vanished, and visitors to the castle have reported hearing swearing, loud voices, dice, and clinking glasses.
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Cumae Archaeological Park, Italy
Located on the southwestern coast of Italy and settled in the eighth century BC, Cumae was the first Greek colony on the Italian mainland. It is best known for being the seat of the Cumaean sibyl, or prophetess. In the Aeneid, Aeneas went to see the sibyl before he entered the underworld; a passage to hell is located nearby. Cumae has been the site of much bloodshed. In the first century, several brutal battles in the Gothic Wars took place there, and during World War II, German soldiers used a part of it as a bunker and gun emplacement. Modern-day visitors can traverse the dark, claustrophobic tunnels and try their luck at consulting the sibyl for guidance.
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Monte Cristo Homestead, Australia
Said to be Australia’s most haunted house, this isolated residence was built on a hillside in New South Wales in 1884 by farmer Christopher Crawley. After he died in 1920, his wife, Elizabeth, became a Bible-immersed recluse, leaving the house only twice before she passed away. Her ghost is thought to walk the rooms, and visitors report feeling an ice-cold chill when she shows up, sometimes holding a silver cross. She has quite a bit of company, including these spirits: a maid who had plunged to her death from a balcony in the house, a stable boy who was burned to death by his master, and a man who was chained in the caretaker’s cottage for 40 years. Naturally, the latter ghost makes his presence felt by clanking his chains.
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Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary was home to some of the country’s most notorious criminals, and 150 years ago, the punishments themselves were enough to give you chills. Not only was it one of the first prisons to institute solitary confinement (which led to insanity), but prisoners also were left wet in the cold until ice formed on their bodies, or given an iron gag that made their tongues bleed. In the 1990s, a locksmith was helping restore a cell when he says a negative energy overcame him and left him temporarily paralyzed before he saw visions of faces appear on the walls. Since then, countless other true ghost stories have emerged from visitors who have reported seeing shadowy figures, or hearing eerie giggles, whispers and wails.
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The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the Stanley Hotel would seem like a romantic getaway with breathtaking views—if it didn’t also have a reputation for true ghost stories that inspired The Shining. In 1911, a housekeeper lit a candle in a room that had a gas leak, causing an explosion that destroyed a tenth of the hotel. The woman lived, but guests claim her spirit has unmade their beds or done the sheets around them while they were sleeping. Others hear piano music without a player, or children’s footsteps on the floor that was once used for childcare. In 2017, a man on a ghost tour supposedly captured two little girls on film… despite there being no young girls on the tour.
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Rose Hall, Jamaica
According to local lore, Annie Palmer, the wife of plantation owner John Palmer, had a dark streak beyond the black magic she practiced. In the 1800s, she murdered John, her second and third husbands, and numerous male slaves whom she’d taken as lovers. She finally met her match in a slave who also practiced magic and brought her to her demise, ending her killing spree. Although historians have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the story, Rose Hall visitors have claimed to come across the ghost of the “White Witch.” In the early 2000s, one medium visiting Rose Hall reportedly fell into a trance soon after arriving, and the ghost took over her body.
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Château de Brissac, France
One night in 1477, a stately castle in France became the site of a double murder. King Louis XI’s half sister Charlotte de Valois was married to Jacques de Brézé, who learned from a servant one night that his wife was in bed with another man upstairs. De Brézé ran upstairs and killed both lovers with a sword, choosing to wear green (his late wife’s favourite colour) to the funeral instead of black. Since then, visitors have reported catching sight of a “Green Lady” haunting the halls in her signature colour.
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Woodchester Mansion, England
Builders hard at work on Woodchester Mansion mysteriously abandoned the project in 1868, leaving tools behind and rooms unfinished. Today, it’s considered one of the most haunted places in the world, with rumours of floating coffins, headless horses, and feelings of intense déjà vu. Staff claim they’ve felt their hair being pulled by phantom forces before their cameras mysteriously turned off.
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Your guide to the most haunted places in the world
Besides these spots, the book National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places features more than 240 other spine-chilling destinations around the globe, with chapters devoted to “Vampire Haunts” and “Witchcraft and the Dark Arts.”
Now that you know the stories behind the most haunted places in the world, check out these horror films based on true stories.