Death is one of life’s greatest mysteries. What happens once it’s over? Where do we go? What happens to our spirit? Over the course of human history, countless stories and religions have attempted to answer this age-old question, but one theme runs throughout: If you die a particularly horrible death, or have some unfinished business on the material plane, sometimes you get stuck, and become a ghost, haunting the world you left behind. In honor of these wanting/tormented souls, here are the 20 most haunted places on the planet.
20. Poveglia Island, Italy
If you ever find yourself in Italy and find yourself tired of all the amazing food and sites, a quick trip to Poveglia Island should be an interesting change of pace. Allegedly home to over 100,000 ghosts, Poveglia Island is a hotbed of paranormal activity. Initially an island where people infected with the bubonic plague were shipped off to die, some twisted mind in the 1920’s decided, “You know what this massive island filled with the remains of the victims of the bubonic plague needs? A creepy asylum.” And this wasn’t one of the new-age “nice” asylums either, it was one of those “let’s run horrible experiments on crazy people” asylums. Officially, no one is allowed to visit the island, but for the right price, locals have been known to sneak thrill seekers over to the island; If you dare.
19. Bhangarh Fort, India
Known as “the most haunted place in India”, Bhangarh Fort is no joke. In fact, no one is allowed to enter the fort before sunrise or after sunset. The reason? Local legend states that anyone who enters the fort at night will not be able to return in the morning. And for those lucky enough to return, they seemingly cannot coherently explain what happened the night before. Even in the daytime however, people have reported strange phenomenons surrounding the building; Dizziness, the air getting heavy on approaching the fort and the constant feeling of being watched have been recounted by daring visitors.
18. The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
To be an inspiration for Stephen King, the master of horror himself, this location is immediately given top notch paranormal clout. The Stanley Hotel, which originally opened in 1909 by F.O. and Flora Stanley, was intended to be a beautiful secluded mountain resort in Massachusetts. Let’s just say this location has more in common with the hotel from The Shining than it does with the Hilton. Staff have reported hearing the ghostly laughter of children on the 4th floor and lights that just flicker on and off without being touched. If you ever visit and are lucky enough to get booked in Room 217, keep an eye out of the spectral maid who will pack your suitcase for you. Which, honestly, seems more helpful than spooky. #notallghosts
17. One If By Land, Two If By Sea, New York
This upscale New York restaurant is famous for being “the most romantic eatery in NYC”, but it’s also known for once being the carriage house of Aaron Burr (of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton fame) and home to roughly 20 ghosts. Wait staff have reportedly served tables only to return and see no one there. To be fair, prices are pretty high. There are reports of women losing their earrings at the bar and no one can explain where they have disappeared to. There’s also stories of a woman in a black gown who walks down the staircase, but never up. No one is sure where the ghosts come from, but the staff have been advised to give them their space, just in case.
16. Tower of London, England
Considered the most haunted location in London, the ominous Tower of London earns that reputation. Over it’s 1,000 year history, the tower has been home to torture, murder, and executions. It is said that Anne Boleyn haunts the grounds, carrying her severed head. Additionally, the Countess of Salisbury has been seen on the Tower Green, running for her life. As one of London’s top tourist attractions, you can always try your luck and see if you can spot a ghost on your next visit.
15. Myrtles Plantation, Louisiana
Rumored to be built on top of a Native American burial ground, this plantation in Louisiana is no stranger to paranormal activity. Home to upwards of 12 ghosts, Myrtles Plantation is open to visitors year-round and even offerers the ability to rent a room overnight. So if you are looking for a chance to meet some pre-civil war slave ghosts, this is the place to do it.
14. Akershus Festning, Norway
A medieval castle that was the stronghold of Oslo, Akershus Festning, is now known as “the most haunted place in Norway”. A short walk from downtown Oslo, the castle is a must-see for ghost hunters. What can you expect to see at Akershus Festning? Well, you can visit the crypts of King Haakon VII and King Olav V, which rest in this castle. For a less tangible experience, you might run into Mantelgeisten, the faceless woman who haunts the castle’s halls. Or how about Malcanisen, the demon dog who guards the gates to the castle and is buried in Maiden’s Tower on the east side of the fortress. It is said that the dog was buried alive so that his spirit would remain to guard the doors.
13. The Paris Catacombs, France
In the late 1700’s, Paris had a problem; People kept dying and their cemeteries were overflowing. So, in 1810, under the cover of night, the catacombs of Paris were established. Wagons filled with the remains of millions of Parisians were transported to an open mine shaft and arranged in creepily beautiful patterns. Some believe this was disrespectful to the dead and caused the spirits to stick around to haunt the living. Couple this with the fact that a large number of French Revolution casualties are interred in the catacombs and you have the perfect recipe for a haunting. Typical paranormal activity in the catacombs include noises, apparitions, “shadow people”, and feelings of dread. Interestingly, in 2015 Airbnb ran a contest where the “winner” was given a free night in the catacombs. Any takers?
12. Poenari Castle, Transylvania
Vlad the Impaler was a bad dude, famous for his cruelty. Rumored to be the inspiration for the Dracula mythos, if Vlad was involved, you know the place is going to be haunted. Case in point: Poenari Castle. While Vlad was ruling Wallachia, he noticed the castle, which had fallen into disrepair. Noting it’s defensive potential, Vlad decided to repair the castle in the most Vlad way possible. Knowing that not all the nearby townspeople were going to support his plan, Vlad took some of his men down to the town on Easter morning and began impaling people and carrying them back up to the castle. The rest of the town quickly fell in line and helped build the castle. Local legend states that human blood was used to make the stones of the fortress stick together, and a human sacrifice of men, women, and children was performed to ensure the fortress would never fall. Reportedly, there are over 1,500 souls wandering the castle grounds, all victims of Vlad’s bloody reign.
11. Aokigahara, Japan
“The perfect place to die” is the unfortunate description of this tranquil forest under the shadow of Mt. Fuji in Japan. The second most popular place in the world to commit suicide, (first being the golden gate bridge) Aokigahara has become increasingly more attractive as a final destination for those looking to end it all. Since the 1950’s, over 500 people have walked into the forest with no intention of coming out. Spiritualists believe the forest has been permeated by these suicides, drawing more people in to their demise. Trees in the area have signs reading “Your life is a precious gift from your parents,” and “Please consult the police before you decide to die!” But this has not seemed to deter those who are determined to make Aokigahara their final resting place. The ghosts of the suicide victims are said to haunt the forest, screaming throughout the night. Additionally, compasses do not work in the forest due to the magnetic iron found all throughout the soil.
10. Casa Loma, Canada
Toronto’s “castle on the hill” is famous for its paranormal activity. From the lady in white to the old man near the stables, or the spectral children, there’s no shortage of stories about the castle. The most famous spirit said to reside in the castle is the “Lady in White” who is said to have been a maid who worked at the castle in the early 1900’s. Additionally the spirits of Sir Henry Pellatt, who built the castle and his wife, Lady Mary Pellatt, have been spotted visiting the grounds from time to time.
9. Lawang Sewu, Indonesia
When the Dutch had holdings in Indonesia, they brought with them the Dutch East Indies Railway Company. In 1907, Lawang Sewu was completed as headquarters for the railway in the area. A labyrinthine building, the name is actually Javanese for “Thousand doors”. During World War Two, the Dutch were ousted and the Japanese took over the city, setting up Lawang Sewu as a detention centre. Stories of torture, executions, and other unpleasant conditions leaked out of the building, including reports that the severed heads of former prisoners were thrown into a corner in the basement to rot. Suddenly, this railway building had a reputation for the horrific. Travellers today report seeing the ghost of a headless Dutch woman who was executed by the Japanese on the grounds, as well as feelings of dread when approaching the building.
8. Winchester Mystery House, California
When you are heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune, it’s only natural to believe the spirits of those killed by the rifles you made your fortune from, might not be too happy with you. Enter, Sarah Winchester and her twisted, nowhere-to-turn, tangled estate. A sprawling mansion with over 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, 10,000 windows, and 2 basements, the Winchester Mystery House is impressive, to say the least. But what really draws you in are the secret passages, the doors to nowhere, the windows that get no light. There are doors that, when opened, have no floor on the other side, just a drop, sometimes as far as 15 feet. There’s a cabinet that extends back through 30 rooms. There are staircases that lead to the roof, tunnels that double back on themselves, and more. All built, allegedly, to confuse the ghosts that were haunting Mrs. Winchester.
7. Burg Wolfsegg, Germany
In a tale as old as time, a husband goes to work leaving his wife alone. She’s unfaithful; He hires some farm boys to kill her, and the man she had the affair with disappears into the woods never to be seen again. This is the story of Wolfsegg Castle. The castle is now home to the spirit of Klara von Helfenstein, the philandering wife who was murdered there. The real horror, however, is “The Hole”. Found in the woods behind the castle, unnatural sounds can be heard come from this cave. Sloping steep and deep into the earth, once you finally reach the bottom, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of bones scattered on the floor. For those brave enough to venture down, good luck getting back out.
6. Hoia Baciu Forest, Romania
Known to locals as “The Bermuda triangle of Romania”, the Hoia Baciu Forest is quite possibly the world’s most haunted forest. Visitors to the forest have reported feelings of being watched, heightened anxiety, and seeing weird plants that don’t make sense. While most locals avoid the forest, those who do brave the woods tend to return nauseated, vomiting, and with rashes and burns they cannot explain. People also hear female voices and giggling before feeling like they have been scratched. Hoia Baciu Forest is also popular with the UFO community, so, possibly, you can catch a ghost and an alien all in one trip!
5. Borgvattnet Vicarage, Sweden
Known to be one of the most haunted places in Sweden, the Vicarage was built in 1876 to serve as a house for holy men. In 1927, the resident vicar reported strange happenings, such as his laundry being torn from the line. Since then, every new vicar, or their family, claim to experience other ghostly antics. From screams to shadow people to a rocking chair that just keeps rocking, paranormal activity is abundant in this old home. Local legends tell of abused maids and babies that have been buried in the backyard. If you are up for it, you can now rent the house for a night and see if you too, can experience any of the paranormal activities.
4. Castle of Good Hope, South Africa
Every night at the Castle of Good Hope, the “ghost shift” of night guards go on duty. And time after time they report hearing screams, ghostly voices, and footsteps with no source. The castle was once home to Cape Town’s military, and for over 150 years the castle saw its fair share of gruesome punishments, torture and executions. One of the more prominent ghosts that haunt the castle is that of a soldier who hung himself in the belltower over 300 years ago. Or the ghost of Lady Anne Barnard who tends to show up at parties held at the castle to this day. Additionally, guards have reported hearing screams for help from the dungeon, but when they go to look, no one is there.
3. Port Arthur, Australia
From laughing children to a spectral lady in blue, Port Arthur has a long history of hauntings. Established in the 1800’s as a penal colony for some of England’s worst criminals, over 1,000 souls have made Port Arthur their final resting place. And if local legends are to be believed, many of them never left. There are frequent tours of the area, and many report seeing horrifying things on the tour, from the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth to a young girl who fell down the stairs to her death.
2. The Forbidden City, China
The Forbidden City has a long history of murder, torture, and executions, key to any haunted story. Built during the Ming and Quing dynasties, the imperial palace was closed to the public until the late 1940’s. Since the opening of the gates, visitors have reported meeting a sobbing woman dressed in all white and a woman dressed in black that tries to speak, but has no face.
1. Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania
Over the 142 year history of Eastern State Penitentiary, there was enough suicide, madness, disease, murder and torture to fill an entire article. It’s not hard to see why the tortured souls of inmates who spent their last days there, haunt the walls. Eastern State Penitentiary was founded on the Quaker belief that isolation and punishment were necessary to bring prisoners to “the light of God.” Prisoners endured torturous conditions, such as the “mad chair”, where inmates were bound so tightly circulation was cut off; The “iron gag”, where they were strapped to an iron collar which caused their tongue to tear and bleed at the slightest sign of movement; “The Hole”, which was exactly what it sounds like, a hole prisoners were tossed into with no human contact, no toilet, and just enough food and air to keep them alive; Even amputations were common. With over 70,000 people spending time here and many dying within the walls, Eastern State Penitentiary has enough haunted history to give even the most stoic amongst us the chills.