Friday Thirteen: 13 Spooky Places You Can Actually Visit...If You Dare!
I recently read an article about how our local, spooky Winchester Mystery House will soon allow people to stay overnight. I've had the pleasure of visiting this legendary home a few times and it is quite an interesting and spooky place. The home was once owned by Sarah Winchester, wife of gunmaker William Winchester. It is said that she believed she needed to keep constantly adding on to and building her house to appease the spirits killed by Winchester guns. As a result, the Winchester Mystery House was constantly worked on for 38 years and features stairs that go to the ceiling, doors that open to nowhere (and aren't on the first floor mind you), and even columns that were installed upside down to confuse the spirits. If you're ever in the San Jose area, I highly recommend a visit - especially if you're around on a Friday the 13th because you can do a special flashlight tour of the mansion...if you dare!
Now, in honor of today being Friday the 13th, check out these 13 other spooky places you can visit around the world:
1. Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Victoria, Australia
The Beechworth Lunatic Asylum is also known as the haunted Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum. The now decommissioned psychiatric hospital was founded in 1867 and closed in 1995 after 128 years of service. During its use, the asylum was self-sufficient as it was surrounded by farmland and had a piggery, orchards, gardens, fields, stables, and even a barn. It was surrounded by its unique "Ha-Ha" walls, which looked low from the outside, but were actually quite tall on the inside because they were built in trenches around the property. The asylum held 1200 patients, 600 men and 600 women. Patients were admitted for a variety of reasons including at the request of friends, family, medical practitioners and police as well as voluntarily. It is said that it is much easier to be admitted - only two signatures were required to get you in - than to be discharged, which required eight signatures. Over its 128 years, over 3000 patients died within its walls. Today, you can take a ghost tour of it in the hopes of seeing its ghosts including former patients Matron Sharpe and Tommy Kennedy.
2. Kabayan Mummy Caves, Philippines
Photo is courtesy of the World Monuments Fund, the group that is helping conserve the Kabayan Mummy Caves
If you want to visit the Kabayan Mummy Caves and actually see their Fire Mummies, you may need to move it up on your list as it has been declared one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. This is because until recently the caves were unprotected, which unfortunately left the area open to looting and vandalism. You can still see some of the Fire Mummies in their natural caves, as well as in a small museum nearby, but officials will not disclose the location of about 50-80 other mummies in an attempt to preserve them. The mummies are believed to have been created by the Ibaloi tribe, who were known to practice embalming rituals. Dying members would drink salty mixtures to begin the mummification process and then their bodies would be washed, rubbed with herbs, and then placed over a fire to rid it of all fluids. This practice is said to have stopped around the 1500s when the Spanish colonized the Philippines, putting the mummies creation likely between about 1200 and 1500. Caves are freaky enough (claustrophobia, anyone?) without also having 800 year old mummies in them!
3. The H.R. Giger Bar, Switzerland
Photo is courtesy of gigerbar.com
Fans of the Alien movies might recognize this name: H.R. Giger was a surrealist painter, sculptor, and set designer, who is most noted for his Academy Award winning visual effects work on the film Alien. His bars - there is one in Chur, Switzerland (Giger's hometown) as well as a museum and bar at the Château St. Germain in Gruyères, Switzerland - are designed in the same biomechanical style used in the Alien films. If you've seen the films (which you should - they're great!), you know how creepy the visual effects were. Now imagine being surrounded by these same visual effects in real life from the ceiling to the walls to the tables and chairs. The bars are true works of art that show off Giger's unique talent, giving visitors a truly out-of-this-world experience that is topped off with creative food and drinks and a special hand selected soundtrack. And if you want to see more of Giger's work, the HR Giger Museum houses his collection of paintings, sculptures, film designs, and more. For those here in the US, it was recently announced that there are plans to open another bar here, though an exact city hasn't been chosen yet. If and when they do open one in the US, I have a feeling I'll be visiting it with my husband, who is a huge fan of the Alien movies and recommended I add the H.R. Giger Bar to my list. Unfortunately, H.R. Giger just recently passed away in May, but luckily, his legacy lives on both in his movies and his bars.
4. Aokigahara Forest or Suicide Forest, Japan
Photo is courtesy of tripsguide.net
Japan's Aokigahara Forest is also known as "Suicide Forest," as it is reportedly the most popular place for suicides in Japan. It has become so popular that the Japanese government has put up signs in both Japanese and English urging people to reconsider. Despite this, the forest sees around 100 suicides per year, though the government has stopped officially announcing statistics in an effort to downplay Aokigahara's popularity. Although many people attribute the forest's high suicide rates to the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai or "The Black Sea of Trees" by Seichō Matsumoto, the forest has long been associated with death. According to legend, in ancient times people would abandon family members in the forest during times of famine in an effort to have enough food for the rest of the family. As a result, Aokigahara is said to be haunted not only by those who have committed suicide there, but also by the souls of the people who were left there to die in ancient times. The forest also goes by two other names: "Demon Forest," as it is associated with demons in Japanese mythology, and "Sea of Trees" because the forest itself boasts trees so think that some areas are completely dark. On top of all this, the forest also has few animals, making it eerily quiet.
If you are planning to visit this site, just please don't visit it to become a part of the statistics!
5. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo courtesy of travelcie.com
One of the reasons this former security prison is so spooky, besides the fact that as many as 20,000 prisoners were killed here, is the fact that the prison is a former high school. In 1975, after the Khmer Rouge had taken over control of Cambodia, the Chao Ponhea Yat High School was converted into a prison and interrogation center called "Security Prison 21" or "S-21." Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge attempted to "reform" Cambodia by forcing people from its cities into the country in an effort to become an agrarian-based Communist society. During this time they also closed off the country from foreign influences, closed schools, hospitals, and more, and killed many intellectuals and minorities. Estimates put the death toll between 1.4 and 2.2 million, with roughly half from execution and half from starvation and disease. S-21 was only one of several prison and interrogation centers used by the Khmer Rouge during this time. The facility was enclosed with barbed wire and classrooms were converted into prison and torture chambers. All prisoners at S-21 were interrogated and "coerced" into confessing whatever crimes they were charged with. Today it is believed that most prisoners were innocent of the charges against them and that their confessions were false due to the torture used to get them. By the time the Khmer Rouge was run out of Cambodia in 1979 and S-21 was shut down, there were only 12 known survivors. Today S-21 is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which is open to the public as both a memorial and an educational site. Unsurprisingly, many visitors believe that the ghosts of the victims continue to haunt Tuol Sleng to this day.
6. Yungas Road or Death Road, Bolivia
Photo courtesy of tamerlandbooks.com
Yungas Road in Bolivia has been dubbed the "world's most dangerous road," which is why it is often referred to as Death Road. It is estimated that between 200 to 300 people are killed on the road every year. The road stretches from La Paz, Bolivia's third most populous city, 43 miles northeast to Coroico. The road winds through very steep hillsides with 2,000 foot drop offs and no guard rails. It is largely a single lane road with most of it being only the width of a single vehicle - about 10 feet wide. On top of that, driver visibility is often compromised by rain and fog during the rainy season between November and March and dust during the summer months. Although the rules of the road specify that downhill drivers must pass on the outer edge of the road, the rules are not always followed as fans of the BBC show Top Gear can attest. The road was featured in their Bolivia Special (which is one of my favorite episodes of the show - I highly recommend it) and the hosts found that they were passed by cars on either side as if there were no rules. In one scene, you could see rocks falling from beneath the wheels of host Jeremy Clarkson's car as he passed on the outside while going up a section of the road. Due to the road's many deaths, it is littered with crosses marking the places where many of the vehicles have fallen. Although I am putting this on my list, I'm not so sure I actually want to visit it...
7. Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
The Hyrtl Skull Collection
Photo courtesy of George Widman, 2009, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
The Mütter Museum is "America's finest museum of medical history." It is a part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and it houses a collection of medical oddities that were first donated by Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter for medical research in 1858. The museum's goal is to help people "understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease." It's famous for having Dr. Joseph Hyrtl's human skull collection, Albert Einstein's brain, President Grover Cleveland's jaw tumor, the body of the "Soap Lady," whose corpse turned into a soapy substance known a grave wax, and many more! The museum is divided up into several different collections including:
-Wet specimens, which are biological samples preserved in fluid
-Dried specimens, which are specimens that contain soft tissue preserved with a drying agent
-Skeletal specimens, including the tallest skeleton on display in North America
-Corrosion specimens, which are particular tissues that are injected with a special solution to preserve them while the rest of the specimen is coated in corrosive substances to dissolve it, leaving only the preserved part
-Lithics, which are any stone created by the human body such as kidney stones or bladder stones
-Over 450 anatomical models of the body
-Over 5,500 different medical instruments that span several centuries
-Historical medical photographs going back to the time when photography was invented in the mid-1800s
Obviously this place is not for the faint of heart, but it sounds like a really interesting place to visit to me!
8. Le Isla De Las Muñecas or Island of the Dolls, Xochimilco, Mexico
Photo courtesy of isladelasmunecas.com
Dolls have been known to freak many people out, but I have never really considered myself one of them - until I saw some of the pictures of this place (click the link above to see a whole gallery of photos from the island). This uninhabited island in Mexico is home to hundreds of dolls - and parts of dolls including severed limbs and heads - that hang from the trees. The dolls were placed around the island by its only, and now former, inhabitant Don Julian Santa Barrera. The story goes that he found a little girl who drowned under mysterious circumstances and was unable to save her. Following the drowning, he found a floating doll near the drowning site and put it up in the trees as a sign of respect. Then over the next 50 years he continued to hang dolls around the island as a way to appease the little girl's spirit and supposedly these dolls became possessed by the spirits of other dead girls. Witnesses have claimed they've heard the dolls whisper and move, but whether or not you believe the dolls are possessed and can move, the place looks pretty creepy. Since Julian's death in 2001, it has become a tourist destination and many visitors bring dolls to add to the island. Oh, and one more thing, Julian was found drowned in the same spot as the little girl...freaky!
9. Sedlec Ossuary or The Church of Bones, Czech Republic
Photo courtesy of sedlecossuary.com
The Sedlec Ossuary is a medieval Gothic church that is also know as The Church of Bones (for good reason as you can see from the image above). It is said to house more than 40,000 human skeletons. Sedlec became a popular burial ground after the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery was sent to Jerusalem by the King of Bohemia in 1278 and returned with a jar of "Holy Soil" that he sprinkled over the abbey cemetery. By the 1400s the cemetery had to be enlarged and the Gothic church was built with a lower chapel that would serve as an ossuary, or site that would serve as the final resting place for human skeletal remains. The bones were originally arranged by a half-blind monk until 1870 when a local woodcarver named Frantisek Rindt was given the task of decorating the chapel with bones. The result of his arrangements are what you see at the chapel today, which include the enormous chandelier of bones you see above. The chandelier is said to contain at least one of every bone in the human body.
10. Pripyat Amusement Park, Ukraine
The Pripyat Amusement Park, especially the Ferris wheel, now stand as a symbol of the Chernobyl disaster.
Although I don't know if I should recommend actually visiting this abandoned amusement park, it would be quite a sight to see (and many do brave the potential radiation to see it). Pripyat Amusement Park was set to open on May 1, 1986 in time for the May Day celebrations. Unfortunately it never got to open due to the infamous Chernobyl disaster, which occurred just four days before the park was set to open. The Chernobyl disaster is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. On April 26, 1986, an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which then spread over the surrounding area of Pripyat as well as into the western Soviet Union and Europe. Although the disaster only initially caused 31 deaths, it is likely the cause of many cancers and other deformities that are still being accounted for today. After the disaster, the city of Pripyat (which at the time had a population of almost 50,000) was evacuated and it, along with its amusement park, are still abandoned as of today. Today, radiation levels in the area vary, though some areas are considered safe to visit and there are guided tours you can take. Unfortunately, the Pripyat Amusement Park itself is one of the most contaminated areas - some of the moss was found to have dangerously high levels of radiation. Despite that fact, it is still included in many tours, allowing you to see its iconic Ferris wheel, bumper cars, swing boats, and paratrooper ride.
11. Ghost Town of Kolmanskop, Namibia
Photo is courtesy of National Geographic and photographer Chris Gray
Kolmanskop is Namibia's most famous ghost town. This ghost town is a former German mining town that was settled in the early 1900s after the area was found to be rich in diamonds. During its heyday, Kolmanskop had its own power station, school, hospital, theater and sport-hall, casino, and even the first tram in Africa that linked it to the nearby port town of Lüderitz. Unfortunately, this once-thriving town was abandoned in 1954 after its once-thriving diamond mine was exhausted. Today, what's left of the town has been reclaimed by the geological forces of the desert. The town is slowly being buried by sand and in many of the buildings, visitors have to walk through knee-deep sand. But the sand may not the only thing reclaiming the town - Kolmanskop is also said to be haunted and was even featured on the TV show Destination Truth, which supposedly captured ghosts whispering, the sound of footsteps, and more.
12. Tower of London, London, England
The Tower of London is one of England's most popular tourist attractions - and for good reason.
Due to the Tower of London's long history of torture and execution, it is regarded as one of the most haunted places in the UK. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 as a symbol of oppression and then used as a prison from 1100 all the way until 1952. Although the Tower of London is said to have multiple spirits including two children, its most famous spirit is the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn, the wife of King Henry VIII, who was beheaded in 1536. Even if you don't get to see a spirit while you're there, you can still see replicas of some of the instruments of torture that were used at the Tower over its many years of operation. Bonus - you can also see The Crown Jewels, though I don't know if those qualify as "spooky."
13. Blood Falls, Antarctica
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian and Hassan Basagic
I've tried to cover spooky places around the world in this post, so I can't leave out the often-forgotten continent of Antarctica. Although it may look like blood pouring out of Antarctica's pristine white glaciers, it's actually water from a subglacial lake that was trapped millions of years ago and now seeps through a fissure in the glacier. The water is Blood Falls three times saltier than the sea water and extremely rich in iron. Since it has been completely cut off from the atmosphere, sunlight, and oxygen as it comes in contact with the air, it rusts creating the blood red color that makes it famous. Although this color is what makes it famous, Scientists are more interested in what could be living in this subglacial lake that has been buried 1300 feet under a glacier for millions of years. Who knows what creatures of the deep we could find...
Hopefully you've been able to add a few places to your travel list! I know I definitely have. I would like to wish everyone a very spooky Friday the 13th and remind you to check out that full moon tonight. There won't be another full moon on a Friday the 13th until 2049 - now, that's spooky!
Don't forget to use our special coupon code DAD13 to take $1.13 off your order in honor of both Friday the 13th and Father's Day! Orders must be over $8.99. Coupon is one per account and expires 6/15/14 23:59 PDT.
Did I miss any of your favorite spooky places on my list? Feel free to share info about more spooky places in the comments!
UPDATE 1/13/17: The sale above is no longer in effect, but we do have a 13% off regular price .COM domain registrations coupon for you instead! Use coupon FRI13J17 before it expires 1/16/17 23:59 PST.
This post was written by Robyn Norgan, who also recommends visiting the Winchester Mystery House during the month of October when they have their Fright Nights, which include flashlight tours and in the past have included an awesome haunted maze, which I am really hoping they bring back this year!