Wherever you are in the world, or wherever you’re intending to visit, the chances are pretty high that you’ll be in close proximity to a location with a dark, haunting past.
If mysterious occurrences remain unexplained, they never go away, and folklore is all the richer for these unnerving and enduring tales.
From abandoned towns to creepy forests, we’ve found 15 of the world’s most haunted locations that are guaranteed to test the resolve of even the biggest ghost story sceptics.
1. Hoia Baciu Forest, Romania
In Hoia Baciu Forest, the “Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania”, there are trees that twist in clockwise spirals and a circular ‘dead zone’ where no vegetation grows. Scientific study has failed to adequately explain either phenomenon. Some locals regard the dead zone as a portal into which people can disappear like the shepherd who gave Hoia Baciu its name after getting lost forever in the forest along with 200 sheep.
Another tale involves a young girl emerging from the forest five years after disappearing wearing the same clothes and looking the same age. To certify those mystery credentials, a military technician reported a UFO landing in 1968… and was promptly sacked for doing so.
The roll of honour – or horror – at the Tower of London is populated with so many eminent figures, it’s like being haunted by a history textbook. Anne Boleyn’s ghost is believed to roam the gloomy hallways with severed head in hand, Henry VI’s apparition appears at midnight in the chapel, while the ghosts of two young boys – imprisoned princes Edward and Richard presumably – have been spotted holding hands and crying.
Tourists report tapping on the shoulder, cold chills and shrieking as shadowy figures glide by. Sir Walter Raleigh, Lady Jane Grey and Guy Fawkes are among the other reported ghouls, with 13 in total.
3. Leap Castle, Ireland
Leap Castle was the site of a gruesome murder when a member of the violent O’Carroll clan stabbed his brother while he was conducting mass. The room was subsequently known as ‘The Bloody Chapel’ with the ghost of the slain priest said to haunt the church at night.
An early 1900s renovation paved the way for more supernatural speculation when a secret dungeon was found replete with enough decayed bodies to fill three carts. This wasn’t just any old dungeon either – it had been specially engineered so prisoners would through a trap door, impale themselves on wooden spikes, and die a slow, painful death.
4. Obvodny Canal, Russia
When workers began digging the Obvodny Canal in 1769, the hints were already there that this would be a peculiar location. Labourers complained of brutal headaches and suffered unexplained bouts of violence which resulted in many deaths.
When an adjoining road was built in 1920, granite plates – thought to be the tombstones of women massacred by 13th century Swedish knights – were discovered. Three years later, people began to kill themselves by jumping off Borovsky Bridge, known locally as ‘Suicide Bridge’, hence ‘Suicide Canal’. Disorientated survivors expressed confusion over why they jumped, and some have described a force pulling them in.
5. Chaonei No. 81 (Chaonei Church), China
Early records for “Beijing’s most celebrated haunted house” were either lost or destroyed, which is always handy for a ghost myth. A British priest who many believe had Chaonei No. 81 built went missing. The mistress of a Kuomintang officer allegedly hung herself from the rafters.
Three drunken builders working on a neighbouring property are believed to have knocked through a wall and entered Chaonei No. 81, or Chaonei Church as it’s also known, never to be seen again. Ghosts have been reported along with the sound of piercing screams. Three Red Guards who took over the property were apparently so terrified, they fled after only three days there.
6. La Isla de la Muñecas (Island of the Dolls), Mexico
In the 1950s, a man named Don Julián Santana Barrera left his wife and children to live alone on La Isla de la Munecas (The Island of the Dolls). Shortly after, he claimed to have found a dead girl in a canal, and a doll floating nearby. Believing the doll belonged to the girl, Barrera hung it from a tree.
Barrera didn’t stop with 1 doll, though, and before long around 50 dolls had made their way into the trees. In various states of creepy disrepair, the dolls give the island its uniquely disturbing aura. In 2001, Barrera’s nephew found him dead of a heart attack, supposedly suffered in the exact spot the girl’s body was allegedly found.
7. The Myrtles Plantation Home, United States
The Myrtles Plantation Home is one of America’s most haunted houses. Most intrigue surrounds a slave named Chloe who was punished for eavesdropping by having her ear cut off and later hung by fellow slaves after killing three of plantation owner Clarke Woodruff’s children with a poisoned birthday cake.
Chloe’s ghost apparently haunts the premises – even appearing in a photograph according to some ghost investigators – while the children’s fingerprints are said to reappear on the same mirror.
After the American Civil War, a man named William Drew Winter managed the plantation. He was shot on the veranda before crawling inside and dying on the staircase. Many people have reported the sight of Winter’s ghost climbing the stairs, always vanishing on the 17th step.
8. Poveglia Island, Italy
Once a checkpoint for nearby Naples, Poveglia became a quarantine centre for bubonic plague victims, 160,000 of whom died in the streets before being burned and placed into mass pits. Criminals were also routinely drowned on the island.
In its most infamous guise, Poveglia hosted a mental asylum run by a sadistic doctor who conducted inhumane experiments. Driven “mad by ghosts”, the doctor threw himself to his death from the bell tower, at which point the island was abandoned altogether.
People still claim to hear the bell’s chiming despite it being removed many years ago. It’s now illegal to visit Poveglia without permission, but the morbidly curious can catch of glimpse from nearby Lido.
9. Château de Brissac, France
Just outside Angers in the Loire Valley, you will find Château de Brissac, a 15th century Renaissance rebuild of an 11th century castle, the tallest in France. The Duke of Brissac died before the renovation was completed, but it’s the death of Charlotte de Brézé – reportedly an illegitimate child of Charles II – that resounds through the ages.
De Brézé was murdered on the premises by her husband who had discovered she was having affair. Her ghost, La Dame Verte (‘The Green Lady’) is said to roam the tower of the chapel. Worst of all, the ghost is missing its eyes and nose, like a corpse, so if you ever happen to catch a glimpse… look away.
10. Monte Cristo Homestead, Australia
There are so many reported ghosts at this hilltop, Victorian manor in Junee they must surely bump into each other. There’s the pregnant maid pushed from the balcony, the stable boy who was burned to death, the caretaker who was shot, the mentally unstable son chained in an outhouse for 30 years and original owner Elizabeth Crawley who lived as a recluse in the upstairs box room after husband Christopher died.
Jangling chains and frightening screams can be heard and the temperature drops rapidly. The Monte Cristo Homestead is now a museum marketed as ‘Australia’s Most Haunted House’, a pretty valid claim it would seem.
11. Fort George, The Citadel, Canada
Built by the British between 1796 and 1799, Fort George was the location of a brutal ambush by US troops who destroyed all but one of the buildings in 1812. It also hosted many battles where indigenous tribes fought back against their Anglo-Saxon conquerors.
The most frequently reported sightings involve ghosts of soldiers who briskly walk into rooms only to disappear completely, and a young girl known to accompany groups of tourists, even holding their hands on occasion. ‘The Tall Man’ is a distressing figure who emerges from behind bunk beds, while ‘The Man in White’ apparently reclines on beds, silently watching guests.
12. La Noria Cemetery, Chile
It’s common in Chile for once-thriving mining towns to be abandoned, but what sets this chilling Atacama Desert town apart is its cemetery. Harsh winds, scavenging animals and grave robbers have ransacked La Noria’s raised graves, exposing coffins and leaving skeletons visible.
Frequent reports of figures sitting bolt upright, and the sound of petrifying screams have driven everyone away. People scarcely even venture to La Noria these days, let alone to its cemetery. With barely any accessible roads, an unforgiving desert to endure and the fright of your life when you get there, La Noria will test the bucket list willpower of even the most macabre.
13. Aokigahara Forest, Japan
At the base of Mount Fuji, there are 13.5 square miles of trees so densely packed that even the wind can’t break through. Underground iron deposits are rumoured to interfere with compasses causing many visitors to get lost. Plenty of people now use tape to mark their tracks.
Aokigahara was colloquially known as the ‘Sea of Trees’ until it developed a reputation as Japan’s most popular suicide spot. Since 1950, there have been over 500 suicides in Aokigahara, hence its new designation ‘Suicide Forest’.
South Africa’s oldest, remaining colonial building and one of the best-preserved Dutch East India Company structures, the Castle of Good Hope has taken many forms in its over 350 years of existence. It has been a refreshment centre, a fort, headquarters for the South African army, a prison, a torture chamber and an execution centre.
The site’s most famous tale involves 18th-century governor Pieter van Noodt who died of a heart attack just hours after being cursed on the gallows by a condemned man. Van Noodt’s ghost accompanies the countless tortured souls that haunt the castle. Blood-curdling screams and jangling chains are heard so often guards prefer to complete sentry duties outside rather than risking the inner hallways.
15. Eden Brown Estate, Saint Kitts and Nevis
In 1822, owner of the Eden Brown Estate sugar plantation, Edward Higgins, arranged for his daughter Julia to marry into the prestigious Maynard family. On the day of the wedding, the groom and best man somehow managed to kill each other in an unexplained duel, leaving heartbroken Julia to wallow in the property for the rest of her life… and centuries into the afterlife if you believe the reports of ghost sightings.
The property also played a key role in Nevis’ 1833 Act of Emancipation as the Higgins’ treatment of slaves was so appallingly bad it saw them brought to trial. The ghosts of slaves, many of whom died at Eden Brown Estate, are also said to haunt the building.