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Not just for Halloween: these are the world’s most spooky destinations
Once the world’s most expensive prison, the Eastern State Penitentiary housed 1,700 inmates in its heyday – including Al Capone – and was the first of its kind to introduce extreme solitary confinement. Manifestations of former prisoners have been wreaking havoc here since the 40s, leading to the site being abandoned in 1971 – but ghosts tours are still available.
2. Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
On Teshuilo Lake, 29km south of Mexico City, the “Island of the Dolls” is the macabre creation of Don Julian Santana Barrera who lived as a recluse here until his death in 2001. He hung dismembered dolls from trees (often on a noose or with spikes driven through their heads) as an ode to a young girl who drowned in the canal decades earlier. In a twist of fate, Santana’s body was found floating face down in the same spot that the girl was discovered.
3. Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire, UK
Built in 1145 upon the intersection of ley lines (believed to carry supernatural energy) and a pagan burial ground, the Ancient Ram Inn is prime territory for poltergeists. This haunted hostel is said to be frequented by a witch who was burned at the stake in the 16th century, a monk (he inhabits a room on the first floor), ghostly children (the skeletons of which were discovered under a staircase) and a Roman centurion on horseback.
4. Lawang Sewu, Semarang, Indonesia
A pontianak (a female vampiric ghost in Indonesian mythology) haunts the corridors of this former head office of the Dutch East Indian Railway Company. Meaning “Thousand Doors”, Lawang Sewu served as a detention camp during the Second World War, when Japanese forces used its basement to conduct torture and violent executions.
5. Poveglia Island, Italy
Half a mile from Venice’s canals, this island is beleaguered by its eerie past. In the 1700s bubonic plague sufferers were quarantined here, and in the 1920s it became an asylum for the mentally ill – a doctor is believed to have performed sadistic experiments on patients before throwing himself off the institution’s bell tower. Stepping foot on the island is illegal today, but its decaying hospital can be viewed from Lido’s beaches.
6. Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan, India
Looks can be deceiving. Backdropped by the Aravali hills, the beautiful ruins of the 17th-century Bhangarh Fort rank among India’s most haunted places. Legend has it that a priest adept in black magic fell in love with Bhangarh princess Ratnavati – when his advances were rebuked (and just before he was crushed to death by a boulder) he cursed those inside the fort, condemning their souls to be imprisoned in the palace for centuries. Today it’s believed that anyone who visits after sunset will disappear. Enter at your peril.
7. Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada
Commonly referred to as “The Castle in the Rockies” this popular baronial-style resort ought to come with a warning. Visitors should brace themselves for an encounter with one of many resident ghosts, including a bride who broke her neck when falling down a staircase, a family that was murdered in room 873, and Sam the bellman who worked at the hotel in the 60s and 70s (his spirit is believed to help guests with their bags – try to tip him and he’ll vanish).
8. Salem, Massachusetts, US
Salem is synonymous with the 17th-century witch trials, when Puritans persecuted (mostly) women for consorting with the devil, casting spells upon children, ruining harvests and the like. The town embraces its witchy history in October with performances at the House of the Seven Gables among the many celebrations, but paranormal activity can be experienced year-round at the Joshua Ward House which sits atop the site of witch-hunting Sheriff George Corwin’s former residence. Broomsticks at the ready.
9. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa
Want a face-to-face with an 18th-century ghost? Make for Table Bay, where the Castle of Good Hope opens its doors (and former torture chamber) to thrillseekers. In the 1700s Governor Pieter Gysbert van Noodt condemned several men to be hanged here, one of which cursed him from the gallows – van Noodt died of a heart attack later that day, and his ghost has been hanging out (pun intended) around the battlements ever since.
10. Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania
Casting a brooding silhouette on a clifftop, this 14th-century castle inspired the setting for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula – it’s best visited in November around St Andrew’s Eve (when vampire activity peaks). While you’re in the country, head to Hoia Baciu Forest, too – in this “Bermuda Triangle of Romania”, on a plateau where no plant life grows, there have been reports of UFOs, missing persons and paranormal activity.
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