World’s Creepiest Places
tense up a jaw. It can unsettle thoughts and interrupt sleep. Yet somehow, we love the intoxicating way it draws us in.
Test your nerve at some of the world’s creepiest places, from a haunted
Louisiana swamp to a real African voodoo supermarket and an eerie suicide forest in Japan. These 8 delightfully disturbing destinations will give you the willies.
Chapel Of Bones (Evora, Portugal)
A reverent grimness falls over every soul visiting this chapel (Capela dos
Ossos) inside the Church of São Francisco. Its walls and columns are covered in artistically composed designs of bones from more than 5,000 exhumed skeletons. Meticulously placed ribs and tibias form the bands of arches.
Tightly arranged skulls and vertebrae fill every gap. Each bone was arranged by a 16th-century Franciscan monk with a message (and a dark sense of humor): Life is temporary.
Chapel Of Bones- Courtesy of Camara Municipal de Evora
Get creeped: Chapel tours ($3) take you beneath the entrance’s
warning, which is translated, “We bones, lying here, for yours we wait” and into the beautifully lit chapel. On one wall a child’s dried corpse hangs from a chain. That a display can be both gorgeous and gruesome at once is troubling.
Mütter Museum (Philadelphia, PA)
To describe this museum as disturbingly informative would be an
understatement. Part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum ($14 admission) is a collection of anatomical oddities. One man’s enormous colon, the body of an 1830s woman whose fat turned soapy, and a slice of someone’s face suspended in fluid are among the 20,000 items on display. Take the virtual tour, and shop the online store for a haunting $50 book of historic medical photographs.
Get creeped: For more of the city’s unnerving medical past, wander the
halls in the historical wing of Pennsylvania Hospital ($4 donation) and see the country’s oldest surgical amphitheater. Amputations, tumor removals, and hernia repairs were performed here—many without anesthesia—from 1804 through 1868. When you examine the assortment of instruments, it’s not hard to imagine the screams of strapped-in patients that once filled this 180-seat room.
Haunted Galveston Island (Galveston, TX)
It was the deadliest storm in U.S. history. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 leveled what was then Texas’ biggest city, killing 8,000 people. The stench of bodies could be smelled for miles. Burying them all was impossible. Even some of those buried at sea washed back onto the beaches. Spirits of the dead, still dressed in 1900s attire, have a heavy presence here. They’re most often encountered at Ashton Villa—a mansion that survived the storm—and Hotel Galvez, the island’s oldest hotel.
Haunted Galveston Island- Courtesy of Hotel Galvez
Get creeped: See chilling images of the aftermath in The Great Storm
documentary at the Texas Seaport Museum ($5 admission) at Pier 21. In October the Galveston Historical Foundation runs haunted tours of Ashton Villa, the harbor, and a cemetery. Paranormal expert Dash Beardsley leads $20 ghost tours throughout the year. There’s also a new year-round haunted house: Mayfield Manor.
Chernobyl Amusement Park (Pripyat, Ukraine)
This amusement park, built for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers and their families, was scheduled to open May 1, 1986. But five days earlier the world’s worst nuclear accident caused the evacuation of the town of 49,000 residents in four hours. No one ever returned. Instead of children’s laughter there’s an eerie silence, a bizarre emptiness in the amusement park and surrounding buildings, now abandoned for 25 years. The corroding Ferris wheel and bumper cars are forever frozen in 1986.
Chernobyl Amusement Park- Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockphoto
Get creeped: Radiation levels around the park vary, so tour guides
carry radiation monitors. Read: Danger truly does lurk just off the path. The government permits only organized tours to enter the Chernobyl/Pripyat Exclusion Zone. Day trips including transportation and meals range from $160 to $190 with Lupine Travel, Tour2Chernobyl, or Solo East Travel.
Manchac Swamp (near New Orleans, LA)
“One day I’m gonna die, and I’m gonna take all of you with me,” oracle Julie Brown would sing on her front porch. And in 1915, on the day of her funeral in Frenier, Louisiana, it happened. A hurricane swept hundreds of residents to their deaths in the Manchac Swamp near Lake Pontchartrain’s western shore. See the mass graves by torchlight on a nighttime swamp tour through the cypress trees. Hear stories of the spirits sighted, and see the red eyes of crocodiles as you float into the moss-draped darkness.
Manchac Swamp- Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockphoto
Get creeped: Plantation Adventure offers nighttime tours for groups
year-round, and Cajun Pride Tours has day tours. On Halloween weekend in nearby New Orleans, partygoers in outlandish and bizarre costumes come out of the shadows for the Frenchmen Street block party, a French Quarter parade, and a vampire ball.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula Setting (Whitby, England)
On dreary days, when rolling fog enshrouds Whitby’s clifftop abbey ruins and ocean waves slam into the rocks below, you can easily imagine Dracula’s arrival in England: a lashing storm. A dead captain at the helm. The crash beneath the East Cliff. And an immense shape-shifting dog leaping onto English soil. Bram Stoker’s visit to this North Yorkshire seaport inspired the foreboding scene of the novel, which he wrote while staying in town. Sit in the West Cliff memorial seat erected in his honor and take in the view that was his muse.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula Setting- Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockphoto
Get creeped: In the novel a dog-shaped Dracula climbs 199 church steps after the shipwreck. Climb those stairs to the abbey ruins and the St. Mary’s Church graveyard, with its bizarre Huntrodds gravestone. Check out the city’s Bram Stoker International Film Festival in October and the Whitby Goth Weekend in November.
Akodessewa Fetish Market (Lome, Togo)
When West African voodoo practitioners’ stocks of monkey skulls, mummified bats, and elephant feet are dwindling, they replenish their supplies at this voodoo supermarket, one of the world’s largest. Tables in outdoor stalls hold row upon row of precisely aligned and categorized animal parts—thousands of them—in every state of decomposition for every type of black magic ritual. The scene is otherworldly. And the stench is unforgettable.
Akodessewa Fetish Market- Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockphoto
Get creeped: Mali-based Saga Tours and Boston-based Spector Travel run private overland trips throughout West Africa. Packages include a stop at this voodoo market and at a traditional voodoo ceremony, where devotees dance and drum with increasing intensity until they become possessed and lose control of their bodies.
Aokigahara Suicide Forest (near Mount Fuji, Japan)
At the northwest base of Mount Fuji is an 8,600-acre forest so dense it’s
peculiarly silent. Wind can barely sway the trees. And wildlife is scarce here. The dark forest, linked with demons in Japanese mythology, is best known for its suicides. More than 500 people have taken their lives here since the 1950s. Every year bodies, bones, makeshift nooses, and flowers left by grieving friends and family are found on the forest floor.
Aokigahara Suicide Forest- Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockphoto
Get creeped: Even with a GPS or compass it’s easy to get lost.
Fujikawaguchiko Town leads nature hikes through Aokigahara to a large lava cave where bats hibernate in winter. En route, watch for the plastic tape used by local volunteers to mark search patterns during the forest’s annual search for bodies.
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