As celebrations go, Halloween definitely isn’t for everyone. But if pop culture has taught us anything, it’s that those who like it tend to go all in.
Movies, masks and magic; if it instills fear or evokes horror, some people are all for it, and they’re often the same people who aren’t content to reserve Halloween – and all its ghoulishness – for October 31st.
Nope, they’re regularly on the look-out for thrill-seeking tours and terror-inducing trips, and they’re on the look-out all year round.
If you’re one of them, allow us to fill you in on some of the most frightening places around the world.
The stories behind the world’s scariest and most haunted places
From Poveglia Island in Venice to The Ten Bells pub in London, there is no shortage of spine-chilling destinations scattered around the world – each one frightening enough to repel even the most ardent horror enthusiast.
Here we delve into the history behind the locations widely believed to be hotbeds of paranormal activity, and reluctantly reminds ourselves that when it comes to Halloween-inspired horror, some destinations really are 24/7.
Deep breaths; here we go.
1. Poveglia Island, Venice
When it comes to European cities, few truly are as magical as Venice. Built on a network of canals, the Italian city conjures images of reflective waters, moonlight gondola rides and a pace as leisurely as the quaintest of Disney films.
And in reality, it delivers on all those fronts.
However, for every perfect-paced sailing beneath the Bridge of Sighs, there exists a darker side to the Veneto capital, and it comes in the form of Poveglia Island.
Located in the Venetian Lagoon, Poveglia Island is the eternal resting place of 160,000 Bubonic Plague victims, but the island’s grim history didn’t end with its final mass burial.
It is understood that in the late 1800s, the island was used to house the sick, ill and ailing – with local lore speaking of a hellish environment which saw patients subjected to a range of inhumane tests at the hands of a medical professional.
Dubbed ‘the world’s most haunted island’ and ‘the island of madness’, it was the focus of an episode in the third season of US TV show Ghost Adventures, and rumour has it very few Venetians are in a rush to dock at its shoreline.
2. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
OK fine; no one’s going to be overly surprised to learn that a cemetery features on a list of the most-haunted places in the world – they do have all the requisite components, after all.
Even so, let’s take a (very) tentative step inside the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris; a resting ground considered among the most haunted in the world.
Located in the 20th arrondissement, the cemetery was opened in 1804 and is the final resting place for a number of high-profile individuals, including Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.
The cemetery, which happens to be the largest in the city, has been at the centre of many ghost stories, with visitors regularly claiming to have seen the spirits of those interred there.
3. Catacombs, Paris
We’re not done with Paris just yet, folks!
In addition to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, it’s hardly surprising to hear that the Paris Catacombs are also considered among the most eerie places in the world.
Let’s be frank; an underground network of tunnels lined with human skeletons is hardly going to invoke feelings of rest and relaxation – while the less said about revival, the better.
But how much do you actually know about the so-called Empire of the Dead? And how true are the claims that it’s among the most haunted places in the world? If the answers to these questions keep you up at night then this tour of the Paris Catacombs could be right up your alley!
4. Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid
Ever visited the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid? Felt the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Endured a top-to-toe shiver that you couldn’t explain?
No? Count yourself lucky, in that case!
The museum, which is home to Picasso’s Guernica, has somewhat of a reputation among the more supernaturally-attuned of this world.
Prior to the museum’s opening in 1992, the building – which is located on Calle de Santa Isabel in the Spanish capital – operated as a hospital for approximately 300 years, and has been the setting for a number of eerie occurrences in recent times.
Indeed, visitors to the museum have reported ghostly sightings and aural disturbances – widely believed to be the appearances and utterances of former patients.
5. The Ten Bells Pub, London
There are few among us who aren’t familiar with stories of spirits who supposedly roam the Tower of London. From Anne Boleyn to Henry VI, the British capital’s popular tourist attraction is – if the tales are to be believed – awash with apparitions.
But how much do you know about supernatural sightings in other locations around the city? Take The Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields, for example.
The pub in London’s East End is tinged with tragedy as it is believed that two of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly, frequented the establishment prior to their untimely deaths.
Ghostly sightings and poltergeist activity have reportedly plagued the watering hole ever since, with the spirits of those once associated with the establishment supposedly making their presence known in none-too-subtle a manner.
6. 14 West 10th Street, New York
Known as ‘the city that never sleeps’, New York’s nocturnal reputation might have more to do with its ghost population – and the people and places they haunt – than its bustling nightlife and 24/7 entertainment scene.
Whether you’ve been to the Big Apple or not, it’s likely you’ve heard of 14 West 10th Street. If not, let us fill you in on the history of a house widely considered among the most haunted in New York.
Once the home of esteemed American writer, Mark Twain, the building has been the setting for innumerable ghostly sightings, with a reported 22 spirits taking up residence in the traditional New York brownstone.
Indeed, reports have claimed that previous occupants have even enlisted the help of mediums in an effort to exorcise the building.
In recent decades, the Greenwich Village dwelling was the setting of a particularly violent incident which has gone a long way towards cementing its tragic reputation as The House of Death.
Fancy a far less terrifying tour of New York? Check out these top tours and day trips over at takewalks.com
7. The New Amsterdam Theatre, Broadway, NYC
As much as we’d like to move on from the Big Apple after our exploration of 14 West 10th Street, we have a little more to cover in the city.
Take Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre, for example.
It is widely believed that the spirt of a young woman named Olive Thomas, who worked as a silent film actress and chorus girl, roams the iconic theatre.
Olive died in Paris in 1920 at the age of 25 and, following the theatre’s considerable refurbishment in the late 1990s, employees began reporting eerie disturbances and ghostly sightings.
Descriptions matching Olive’s appearance as she was known to look during her time performing in the New Amsterdam Theatre feature heavily, with members of staff regularly attributing mishaps and setbacks to Olive’s other-worldly presence.
If the notion of Olive’s presence hasn’t unnerved you too much, why not go behind the scenes at the New Amsterdam theatre, and find out even more about the iconic New York theatre!
PSST! Looking to indulge your spooky side by visiting the catacombs of Paris or Rome – or how about a night in a haunted mansion and cemetery in New Orleans? Walks of Italy has expanded to offer award-winning, local-led tours in some of the world’s best destinations! Find out more at takewalks.com
8. The Hellfire Club, Dublin
At the summit of Montpelier Hill in Dublin, Ireland, lies the ruins of a building commonly referred to as The Hellfire Club.
By day, its surroundings are favoured by hillwalkers, with views from the Dublin Mountains enticing visitors from all over Ireland, but by night, it’s quite a different story.
Indeed, if you ask most Dubliners the history behind The Hellfire Club, you’ll hear tales of drunkeness, debauchery… and devil’s hooves.
It is understood that the building was a meeting place for the upper-class youth of the 18th century. Fuelled by tales that the devil once made an appearance in the building, the youths set an empty chair in an effort to entice the sinister visitor.
One dark and stormy night, an unknown visitor appeared at the building, took a seat at the table, and let his cloven hooves do the talking.
9. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
Whether you keep your ear to the ground when it comes paranormal activity or shy as far away from it as possible, it’s likely you know that Alcatraz Island is widely considered one of the most haunted areas in the world.
Visitors to the site which once housed the infamous former prison have spoken of an eerie atmosphere, with paranormal enthusiasts flocking to Alcatraz for a brush with the spirits which supposedly roam the island.
10. The Island of the Dolls, Mexico City:
From one island to another, folks!
This time we’re heading south of the U.S border to Mexico where we will find La Isla de las Munecas, also known as, the Island of the Dolls.
Yes, it is as creepy as it sounds, but what exactly is the story behind it?
Well, the story goes as follows: Back in the 1950s, the island’s caretaker, Don Julian Santana, stumbled across the body of a young drowning victim, who he believed was haunting the island.
In a desperate effort to appease her spirit, he began hanging dolls on the trees that populate the island. This macabre (and perhaps misguided) tribute continued over the years, with the caretaker filling the island with dolls which were sometimes dirty, sometimes broken, and sometimes both.
His endeavour did much to create an unsettling atmosphere to say the very least, and those familiar with the island have heard tell of stories that involve the dolls coming alive at night.