Whether you’re skeptical or spooked by nature, there’s bound to be something to take you by surprise in this list of the worlds most haunted places. Read on - if you dare!
1. Aokigahara Suicide Forest, Japan
So dense is this forest that it is known as The Sea of Trees - and it is exactly that level of cover which makes it a place from which hundreds the bodies of hundreds of suicides are only eventually recovered each year. Its popularity as a suicide spot dates back many years, but even before this, it was used for ‘ubasute’ - a practice of leading an old family member to the woods to die in the elements, so as to lessen the burden on a family. The vengeful spirits of these elderly folk, and the tormented ones of the suiciders, are said to haunt the forest, luring others to similar fates.
2. Castle Frankenstein, Odenwald, Germany
This brooding castle may not have been inspiration for Mary Shelley’s classic novel, but its real history is almost as colorful. Built in 1250, one of its most famous inhabitants was Johann Konrad Dippel, whose studies led him to try to bring the dead back to life, a practice that involved exhuming corpses and experimenting on them. Dippel and his subjects are said to still roam the castle, which now lies in ruins.
3. The LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana
Well known for her sybaritic parties, Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a Louisiana socialite in the early 19th century. Long may the parties have continued, were it not for the outbreak of a fire at her mansion: in the course of investigating it, the bodies of several victims of mutilation were discovered in her attic. LaLaurie fled the country, but the anguished screams of her victims are said to still be heard. Now privately owned, you can only visit the mansion from the outside, so keep your ears pricked up.
4. The Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada
A haunted hotel … hello Jack Nicholson? As one of the country’s greatest railway hotels, Banff Springs is haunted by a burning bride, who dances in the ballroom after falling to her death down the stairs after her dress caught fire. A family can still be seen loitering in the corridor outside room 873 - where they were murdered. And there’s a former bellman who worked at the hotel in the 1960s, and still silently assists hotel guests to their room.
5. Fairport Harbor Lighthouse, Fairport Harbor, Ohio
Built in 1871, this former lighthouse is now a maritime museum, haunted by a cat. Visitors report feeling a cat rub against their legs but seeing nothing when they look down; others tell of fleetingly seeing a small gray cat disappearing around corners. Truth or fiction? Well, lighthouse keeper Joseph Babcock is said to have taken in a number of cats when his wife fell ill in the late 1900s, hoping that their company would comfort her - and air conditioning technicians also found the mummified remains of a gray cat when installing a system in 2001.
6. Castello di Montebello, Torriana, Italy
The region of Emilia-Romagna, where this 14th century hilltop tower is located, is renowned for its beautiful landscapes and wonderful food - but there are darker aspects to its history, too. This was once the home of an albino girl, who was spared from being burnt at the stake for the abomination that she represented, but instead was kept under guard in the tower. The story goes that on the 21st of June, 1375 - the day of the summer solstice, which is when people still report hearing her cries - she ran down the basement stairs to retrieve a dropped ball - never to be seen again.
7. Ham House, Richmond, England
Elizabeth Murray, Duchess of Lauderdale looms just as large in the present day Ham House as she did when she inherited it in the 17th century. A bold figure in her day, she played ruthless games politically and within her own family; but when ill health and financial troubles befell her, she confined herself to a bedroom the ground floor of this house. To this day, animals shrink from the doorway and visitors report a noticeable drop in temperature, as well as an inexplicable dread of looking into the room’s large mirror.
8. Chateau de Brissac, Loire Valley, France
As well as being the highest castle in France, this is also said to be one of the haunted sites in the country, with tales of eerie, depth of night crying, inexplicable sightings and tactile sensations that have no visible source. Former owner Jacques de Brézé would probably be able to shed some light on these occurrences: catching his wife Charlotte with her lover in the 15th century caused him to extract his marital revenge by striking the pair of them with his sword over 100 times.
9. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, U.S.
As the first prison in the U.S to introduce solitary confinement, this gloomy building was at the centre of much debate: did the practice lead to reflection and ultimately, contrition? Or was it akin to torture, the torment of which would only twist the minds of those punished with it even further? The prison was eventually shut down in 1871, but visitors claim to see prisoners still inhabiting cells, and to hear malicious mutterings close at hand.
10. Port Elizabeth Library, South Africa
If you happen to be reading a spooky book in the Port Elizabeth Library and feel a ghostly presence nearby, it may not just be the suggestive powers of the pages in front of you. Police Constable Maxwell was burned in a fire next door a full 6 years before this library was even built, but when his memorial stone was moved to the library’s gardens, he kept showing up at the library until his stone was returned to its original place. Perhaps he wasn’t much of a reader? Even now that his presence no longer disturbs library goers, there’s the still the ghost of former caretaker, Robert Thomas, to contend with: even though he died nearly 80 years ago, he still arranges discarded books in neat piles.
11. Old Melbourne Gaol, Victoria, Australia
Australia, at least as it’s known to Westerners, started life as a penal colony - an inception ripe for stories of grisly happenings and sudden deaths abound. This grim gaol in Melbourne was where fabled bushranger Ned Kelly and no fewer than 132 other convicts were hanged - small wonder that reports of disembodied voices, inexplicably cold spots and strongly felt presences.
12. Lover’s Leap Waterfall, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Beautiful, and worth a hike in its own right - not least for the views from its top - this waterfall is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the couple who jumped to their deaths here. Cautious locals avoid it after nightfall, giving credence to the tale of a prince and commoner, whose love was forbidden and who sought togetherness in suicide.
13. The Hell Fire Club, Montpelier Hill, Dublin, Ireland
Originally built as a hunting lodge in the early 18th century, this structure supposedly became a hangout for a select group of Dublinites who met for drinking, gambling ... and devil worship. Tales of animal sacrifice, self-combusting visitors with hoofed feet and torturing young women for fun also abound. Unsurprisingly, tales of malignant presences persist to this day.
14. Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, England
With centuries of bloody history encased within its medieval walls, Hampton Court Palace is rife with tales of supernatural occurrences. King Henry VIII - he of the many wives - can lay a marital claim to at least two of them: before having Catherine Howard executed, he had her placed under house arrest here, and her shrieking spectre has been spied on more than one occasion. The similarly unfortunate Jane Seymour died in childbirth and her heart was buried here on Henry’s orders: her ghost lingers near this bodily remain.
15. Hotel El Convento, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visitors say that Puerto Rico is hard to leave and it seems that the nuns of this former convent feel the same way. It was once a Carmelite convent, set up by the beautiful and tragic Doña Ana de Lansos y Menéndez de Valdez after her husband’s wartime death; she became its Mother Superior and is still seen in the corridors. Guests also report hearing the swishing of robes
16. Rose Hall Plantation, Montego Bay, Jamaica
It’s little wonder that a woman whose evil nature (voodoo and the torture of slaves are said to have been among her proclivities) was allegedly so prolific in life would still make her presence felt in death. The home was built in the late 18th century by the Palmer family, into which Annee Palmer married. On killing her husband, she inherited the estate .. and then went on to marry twice more, killing both of these husbands too, as well as innumerable lovers.
17. Pennhurst Asylum, Spring City Pennsylvania
Caring for the disturbed minds and anxious souls of the mentally ill doesn’t seem to have been very high on the list of priorities for staff at this Pennsylvania institution - in fact, right up until it shut down in 1986, it was more a hotbed of torture, abuse - and even murder. As is often the case when human souls have suffered on earth, there is a great deal of reported paranormal activity here, with the unexplained appearance and disappearance of shadows and noises, as well as modern humans experiencing physical contact - complete with residual marking - from unknown sources.
18. The Kremlin, Moscow, Russia
Key players in Russia’s long and bloody history still make their presence felt at The Kremlin: it is said to be haunted by Soviet leaders Lenin and Trotsky, the latter of whom was rather horribly murdered with an icepick in the back of the neck. Josef Stalin has also been spotted by security guards, and is reported to be preceded by an icy chill. And it’s not just figures of relatively recent times you may spy: Ivan the Terrible has also been sighted near the belltower.
19. Palace of Linares, Madrid, Spain
Occupying a corner in Madrid, this palace was built in the late 19th century in the neo-Baroque design for Marquis of Linares José de Murga. Having been instructed by his family to marry for love, rather than money or class, the Marquis married a commoner, and not until she was already pregnant with their child did he discover that she was in fact his sister, the result of an adulterous relationship between his father and his wife’s mother. They are said to have murdered the infant child to hide the incestuous shame of their union; it is her crying ghost that haunts the palace to this day.
20. Shanghai Tunnels, Portland, Oregon
During the early 19th century, Portland was the center of a form of human trafficking, which came to be known as shanghaiing, because the victims so often ended up in East Asia. In local bars, men were plied with drink and then dumped straight into a network of tunnels via a trapdoor concealed in the floor, from which they were sold to ships as unpaid labour. Many died in the dark underbelly of the city; various tours will guide you through the tunnels that those ghosts still inhabit.
21. Finnish National Theater, Helsinki, Finland
Established in 1872, and positioned near the city’s railway station, the ghosts of at least three former actors are said to still tread the boards here. One is an unnamed “Grey Lady”, another is Aarne Leppänen, who died in 1937. The third apparition, Urho Somersalmi is well known in the world of Finnish actors: having murdered his wife with an axe with which he’d been presented by his country’s Actors’ Union, he then hanged himself.
22. The Dakota Building, Manhattan, New York City
It’s well known as a dark and forbidding building, with its supporting role in the horror film Rosemary’s Baby - not to mention the fact that Beatles superstar John Lennon lived here and was murdered just outside in 1980. Lennon is said to now haunt Dakota, but while still alive claimed to have had his own paranormal experiences in the building, seeing The Crying Lady. She is believed to be former caretaker Elise Vesley whose son was killed by a truck when playing outside.
23. Galveston, Texas, USA
Often called the most haunted town in America, there are several places you may wish to avoid - or seek out, depending on your tastes! - on a visit to Galveston. Hotel Galvez is one such site, haunted by the grieving ghost of a bride-to-be who took her own life after her betrothed was lost at sea. Just giving this place a wide berth may not spare you from ghostly sightings, however; over 6,000 Galveston residents were killed in the deadly hurricane of 1900, and all of their ghosts are said to remain.
24. Daveli’s Cave, Mount Pentelli, Attica, Greece
This cave, Attica’s second highest, has a long history of otherworldly activity - in antiquity, it was a place of worship for Pan and other mythical beings, a role that evolved in the Middle Ages into a Christian worship of the extremist kind, with ascetic hermits setting up camp at its entrance. More recently, it has allegedly been used as a place of occultism and satanic activity. Unsurprisngly, people claim to have seen apparitions and felt inexplicable dread in its vicinity; there have even been reported sightings of UFOs.
25. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, USA
So huge that much of its vast area remains unexplored, this cave system was used by ancient Native Americans for a good 2000 years - for purposes of both mining and burial - before they abruptly and inexplicably abandoned it. Added to this somewhat eerie past, more recent years have seen the ghostly appearance of slaves, who in the 19th century were sent in to mine saltpeter, and tuberculosis patients, who were treated in a makeshift subterranean hospital in the belief that the cave’s air would battle the disease and restore the patients’ lungs to health.
26. Qiu Mansion, Shanghai, China
In the heart of Shanghai, the Qiu brothers, who had made their fortunes in the paint trade, built mansions adjacent to one another. Like a many a wealthy eccentric, they collected exotic pets, such a Burmese tigers, peacocks and crocodiles, which they housed in the grounds of the mansions. Of course, this only added to their mystique - at the height of which they both disappeared, never to be seen again. Both mansions and the surrounding gardens, abandoned, became ruined and overgrown - yet workers at the hotel across the street report seeing strange animals prowling around the site, and some have even been hospitalized with bites from invisible jaws.
27. Trans-Allegheny Asylum, Weston, West Virginia
With its first patients admitted in 1864, this asylum commonly practised treatments which, by today’s standards, seem positively medieval: cage confinement and ice pick lobotomies, anyone? It’s not just the patients who were traumatized by these goings-on, however - there have also been reports of unquiet nurses and doctors who roam the building, as well as young children, particularly one by the name of Lily who actively interacts with modern day visitors.
28. Dam Square, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s central square is a popular tourist spot, located, as it is, by the Royal Palace - but its daily bustle, complete with travelers taking the perfect selfies, and street performers entertaining the passersby, is a far cry from its gruesome history. During the Spanish Inquisition, executions took place in their hundreds here, while those accused of witchcraft were burnt alive. By night, these tortured souls are said to be tangible presences.
29. House of Hofdi, Reykjavik, Iceland
Formerly the French Consulate’s house, this distinctive building was dates back to 1909 and has seen some fairly significant live events, not least a meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan in 1986. These seem to pale by comparison with the fact of more mysterious, less reported incidences - about which theories abound: is the house built above an old Viking burial site, or is it an old caretaker who has taken the responsibility of his role beyond the grave? In any case, the house is notorious for its inhabitants not wanting to get too settled.
30. Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England
Make your way up this rather forbidding looking natural landmark if you fancy encountering the unquiet ghosts of the 12 Pendle Witches who were accused of using their witchcraft to carry out the murders of several people. Hanged at Lancaster Castle in 1612, and buried on this hill, their infamy lingers in the names of several local brews - refresh your palate with a Broomstick Bitter at the nearby Rising Sun pub after your witchhunt.