Travel the World
The World’s 8 Creepiest Places
Looking for travel destinations that will send a chill up your spine? These spooky places around the world are your ticket to a good scare.
1. Isla de las Munecas (Island of Dolls), Mexico
If Chucky’s your pick for the scariest horror movie character, Isla de las Muñecas, located among the canals and lake of Xochimilco south of Mexico City, will make your nightmares come to life. As the story goes , about 50 years ago, a little girl drowned off the island, which was inhabited only by a recluse named Don Julián Santana Barrera.
Not long after, Barrera started finding dolls in the waters around the island, and decided that they were there to hold spirits to keep the girl’s ghost company-and ward off future troubles. He hung these found dolls around the island along with others he collected, and some say they were the cause of his later death, purportedly by mysterious circumstances. Either way, the sight of decaying dolls hanging in trees and off the sides of buildings is a creepy one.
(Photo courtesy of Esparta/Flickr Creative Commons)
2. Paris Catacombs, France
A beloved destination for Paris’s cataphiles, or lovers of the catacombs, the Paris Catacombs are a network of ancient and modern underground tunnels, rooms and passageways that form the (sometimes dangerous) foundation of the city.
The main draw in the tunnels are the ancient quarries turned storage rooms for skeletons. These “municipal ossuaries” were created in the 18th century as a response to disease outbreaks in the city’s main cemetery. The State Council decided to excavate the bones from all Paris cemeteries and relocate them underground, a process that went on from 1786 to 1814. Containing the remains of more than 6 million Parisians, they’ve been visited by no less than Napoleon and his son, and are open to visitors individually or in groups.
(Photo courtesy of Jessica Mullen/Flickr Creative Commons)
3. Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh, Scotland
Is disease at the top of your phobia list? You’ll get a real fright by travelling back to 17th-century Edinburgh at the time of the plague, where legend has it (but history denies) that infected areas were walled up with residents still inside to halt the spread of infection-and some of these residents may still be lingering to haunt visitors.
Mary King’s Close, an old Edinburgh neighbourhood named after a prominent businesswoman of the 1630s, was partially buried underground and long closed to the public but now operates as a tourist attraction, where guides including Mary King’s daughter herself offer one-hour tours of the Close every day of the year except Christmas. You’ll hear mysterious tales of old-town Edinburgh combined with historical and archeological facts that might just be stranger than fiction.
4. Pripyat, Ukraine
You’ll have visions of nuclear holocaust dancing in your head-not to mention a snapshot of Soviet architecture and city planning-after a tour of the deserted town of Pripyat north of Kiev, which was built in the 1970s to house workers at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Plant and abandoned days after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. As part of the 30-km exclusion zone prohibiting residency that surrounds the Chernobyl site, Pripyat remains uninhabited to this day, but guided public and private tours are available leaving from Kiev that take tourists to area destinations including Pripyat, the power plant itself and the Red Forest, where trees died following the nuclear explosion and which is said to be among the world’s most contaminated areas. (Guides are trained to avoid the most dangerous parts of the zone, and brief visits should pose no health hazard; however, participants will undergo radiactivity testing before and after their visit to the area.)
(Photo courtesy of davehighbury/Flickr Creative Commons)
5. Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg, Russia
Those with tastes running to anthropological curiosities will find much to see at the Kunstkamera, or Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, in Russia’s second capital. Founded in the early 18th century as Russia’s first museum and a part of Peter the Great’s modernization efforts (he moved the seat of government from Moscow to St. Petersburg, a city in his name that he had built from swampland), the museum is known for its collection of “rarities and oddities.” The Anatomical Collection-embalmed body parts and deformed fetuses, dissected “monsters” and even a stuffed double-headed calf-served at the time of creation not only as something to stare at, but as evidence that anatomical abnormalities were simply a fact of biology and not the work of the devil.
(Photo courtesy of szerenka/Flickr Creative Commons)
6. Gomantong Caves, Malaysia
Chiroptophobes and entomophobes beware: A visit to Malaysia’s Gomantong Caves might take you face to face with your greatest fears-specifically, resident bats and cockroaches.
The limestone caves are part of the Gomantong Rainforest Reserve and renowned for the cultivation of edible bird’s nests-the resident swiftlets construct them out of saliva-for pricey Chinese delicacy bird’s nest soup. As fascinating as the nests and their harvest can be, when it comes to creepy, you’re more likely to be looking down.
According to one online travelogue, the boardwalk in the more accessible Black Cave is “suspended above a mountain of bird and bat poo that [is] teeming with huge cockroaches”-the insects also crawl around on the boardwalk so you have to watch where you’re going and avoid touching the handrails. If that’s not enough, the walls are crawling with not just roaches, but scary long-legged centipedes, too.
(Photo courtesy of Badly-Drawn Dad/Flickr Creative Commons)
7. Torture Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Your imagination will go wild-and not necessarily in a good way-at the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments in Prague, which contains more than 60 torture devices along with multilingual explanations on how they were used. A popular destination among history buffs and fans of the macabre, the museum is said to have a powerful effect on its visitors.
It’s a small spot-it should take less than an hour to go through-so combine a visit with a stop at another of the city’s eccentric selection of museums such as the Ghost Museum, the tour of which includes a maze of Old Town streets where Prague’s “poetic and serene” ghosts are said to roam.
(Photo courtesy of Porphyria Poppins/Flickr Creative Commons)
8. UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico
Channel Fox Mulder by investigating the exhibits at the UFO Museum in infamous Roswell, New Mexico, home to what enthusiasts claim was a covert military operation to retrieve, study and keep hidden debris and alien bodies from a flying saucer.
First opened to visitors in the fall of 1992, and spurring on a niche economy and culture of extraterrestrial-oriented tourism (alien-headed street lamps, anyone?), the UFO Museum houses exhibits on Roswell, crop circles, sightings, Area 51, abductions and other UFO-related phenomena. Pair a visit to the museum with a guided Roswell UFO Tour , and stop by the gift shop for alien-adorned Christmas ornaments, T-shirts, glassware and jewellery.
(Photo courtesy of Noodle Bones/Flickr Creative Commons)