10 Places to Visit in the Spooky Season

Creepy cabin tucked among vine-covered trees
Photo: Matthew Juzenas [CC by SA-2.0]/Flickr

Halloween gives everyone an excuse to indulge — whether it be candy or a spine-tingling experience. You don't have to believe in ghosts or supernatural powers to appreciate the tangible element of spookiness of these places. Even skeptics would have to admit that they feel at least a bit uneasy in these eerie surroundings.

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Paris Catacombs

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The Catacombs of Paris are in the running for the honor of scariest site on Earth. In narrow passageways under the City of Lights, you can find the remains of as many as 6 million people. The catacombs were originally tunnels used to mine stone. The building blocks of many famous Paris landmarks came from these subterranean quarries.

In the late 18th century, authorities began to transfer remains from overcrowded Paris cemeteries to the unused quarry tunnels. There were so many skeletons that the bones were stacked on top of each other. The macabre piles reach from the floor to the ceiling. Some bones and skulls were arranged into patterns. Tours are available for visitors who want to see this unbelievably vast collection of human remains for themselves.

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Cities of the Dead, New Orleans

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There are lots of ghostly legends surrounding the cemeteries of New Orleans. Sometimes called “cities of the dead,” the dozens of graveyards around the Big Easy are packed with above-ground tombs. Supernatural stories and voodoo legends perk the imaginations of many visitors. You can even find special twilight walking tours that focus solely on stories of hauntings and spirit sightings.

The real story behind the tombs is actually a tale of practicality. New Orleans has always had a very high water table, and it was impossible to bury people in standard below-ground graves without having the holes fill with water. Above-ground tombs were the only option. Scare-seekers can certainly find lots of spooky legends, but even those who don't go for ghost stories will appreciate seeing the ornate tombs of some of the most colorful characters in New Orleans history.

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Bran Castle, Romania

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At first glimpse, Bran Castle might seem like just another historic Eastern European fortress. It is certainly an attractive structure, and it offers great views of the beautiful Romanian countryside. However, this castle is surrounded by legend. It is located in the famous region of Transylvania and is sometimes referred to as Dracula's Castle. Some claim that the castle was the setting that inspired Bram Stoker to create his famous fictional vampire. Proponents of this theory say that one of the castle's former residents, Vlad III (better known as Vlad the Impaler), was Stoker's model for Dracula. (Indeed, Vlad's family name was Drăculea.)

According to some accounts, Vlad was as terrifying as Stoker's blood-drinking villain. Some legends claim that he was responsible for putting 100,000 people to death, torturing many before impaling them. Other historians portray him as a Romanian patriot who was instrumental in fighting off invaders and strengthening the local economy. Despite the unclear past, many tourists come to visit what they are convinced is “Dracula's Castle.” There are daily tours at Bran and even special events such as concerts. The castle was put on the market in May 2014 for a cool $80 million.

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Mercado de Sonora, Mexico City

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This market (mercado) is a traditional retail space, with vendors selling handmade pottery, food and even live animals. However, Sonora is best known for its traditional herbal remedies and for vendors selling occult paraphernalia. Many people come here to purchase decorations and items for celebrating the Day of the Dead, Mexico's more-traditional version of Halloween.

The magic and occult items are used by people who practice Santeria and shamanism and by those who revere Santa Muerte (a folk figure usually portrayed as a skeleton wearing a woman's hooded robe). Visitors can also find ingredients for various potions, some meant to have magical properties and some based on traditional Mexican herbal healing practices. The occult section of Sonora draws tourists and curiosity seekers as well as people who actually use the items for their intended purposes.

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Savannah, Georgia

Michael Gimenez /Wikimedia Commons.

Savannah is a charming Georgia town. Its boulevards, stately historic homes and parks bring to mind the low-key lifestyle of the Old South. Savannah is also the setting for more ghost stories and supernatural legends than any other place east of New Orleans. The famous Bonaventure Cemetery, with statues and the long moss that drapes over the oak trees, has a vaguely spooky atmosphere, though some visitors actually consider it one of the world's most beautiful burial grounds.

Popular ghost tours pass a number of historic buildings that are said to be haunted. Even Wright Square, one of Savannah's many parklands, is a haven for the supernatural. This was where the city's gallows were located in bygone times, and the spirits of the executed allegedly are often seen nearby. Meanwhile, many tours and cable television ghost hunting shows focus on another graveyard, Colonial Park Cemetery, which has tombs dating back to the 18th century.

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Old Changi Hospital, Singapore

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This vacant hospital in the booming city-state of Singapore is surrounded by ghost stories. Changi was built in 1935 by the English and first named the Royal Air Force Hospital. It served colonial and local troops stationed in Singapore. After the British withdrew from the country in 1975, the hospital changed its name to Changi and began serving Singapore's army and eventually the general public. However, when a newer facility took over for Changi in the 1990s, the old building was simply abandoned. Redevelopment projects have fallen through in recent years.

The hospital has a reputation for hauntings, thanks to urban legends and ghost hunting television shows. People wandering the now-vacant halls tell of hearing voices speaking Hokkien, the main Chinese dialect used in Singapore when the hospital was first built. To architecture aficionados and history buffs, however, Old Changi is a great example of the kind of colonial-era architecture that is quickly disappearing in ultra-modern Singapore.

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Akodessewa Fetish Market, Togo

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Voodoo originated in West Africa, and today Lomé, Togo is home to one of the world's largest voodoo fetish markets. Like other forms of traditional animism, voodoo revolves around rituals that utilize various potions, bones, animal parts and statues. The Akodessewa Fetish Market is like a shopping mall for all your voodoo ritual needs. The huge stacks of animal skulls and heads are what spook many outsiders. There are also herbs, statues and an array of charms and talismans.

Voodoo is a mainstream religion in Togo and neighboring Benin. Even people who practice other religions merge voodoo traditions with their faith's teachings. Since Akodessewa is located near the center of Lomé, it draws many tourists as well as people who actually make purchases.

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Hellfire Caves, England

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Located in West Wycombe in Southern England, the Hellfire Caves were dug out from the chalk and flint rock that is still common in the area. The tunnels stretch more than 400 yards underground. The original excavation project was carried out by a local baron, Francis Dashwood, in the 18th century. The design — narrow passages interspersed with wider chambers — was based on what Dashwood saw when visiting the Mediterranean and Middle East.

The caves are named for a secretive Hellfire Club, whose meetings were held in the caves. Rumors about the mysterious club, of which Dashwood was the head, include everything from various animist rituals to excessive parties where nothing was off limits. Others say that Dashwood and his friends were merely experimenting with the different religions that he had encountered on his extensive travels. The caves have been opened as a tourist attraction since the 1950s. Local legends of hauntings inside the caves have drawn interest from ghost hunters.

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Seattle Underground


Seattle’s Underground is a network of passageways that have fallen into disuse over the decades. Many of these dimly lit corridors and rooms reveal evidence of the people who once filled them: doors, windows, lighting fixtures and even unused furniture and appliances. Though the Underground does not have the sheer number of supernatural legends as some cemeteries or abandoned asylums, it has been the setting for everything from a Scooby Doo ghost mystery to video games set during a zombie apocalypse.

The Underground was once above ground. However, when the city had to be rebuilt after a 19th century fire, the streets were raised. Some buildings that survived the fire were covered up by newer structures and eventually by the streets and sidewalks. People continued to use the underground walkways as a way to move around the downtown quickly. However, the entire subterranean area was condemned by the city in the early 1900s because of fears about disease-carrying rats. Some of the underground buildings were turned into gambling halls, speakeasies, flophouses and hideouts used for other illegal activities. Today, tours put visitors face-to-face with the remnants of this secret world.

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Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

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The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was first opened in the 1850s in Weston, West Virginia. Designed to hold 250 patients, the asylum was perpetually overcrowded, housing more than 2,500 people in the 1940s and '50s. Journalists who visited the hospital at the time reported poor conditions including plumbing problems and a lack of heat. The building was finally closed in the 1990s after patients were transferred to a more-modern institution. It has been vacant since, though festivals and events are often held outside the building on the grounds.

Because of the reports of poor conditions and the rumors that patients were sometimes kept in cages when they could not be controlled, Trans-Allegheny is surrounded by ghost stories. Several cable “ghost-hunting” shows have visited the asylum, and there are daily ghost tours. All-night ghost hunting events are hosted on the weekends.