From horror movies to haunted houses, humans hold an odd fascination with the frightening.
There is something supremely satisfying about being scared out of your wits.
Each year, thousands of travelers make a point of crafting their vacations around this very concept; many wind up visiting these terrifying destinations:
1) Linda Vista Hospital — Los Angeles, California
Originally known as the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital, the Linda Vista Hospital operated in Los Angeles between 1904 and 1991. When it was first opened, the hospital elicited great excitement, with patients offered access to expansive gardens as well as onsite chickens and Jersey cows.
For its first eighty years, the hospital was managed by the Santa Fe Railroad. It served as a treatment facility for the railroad’s many employees. Unfortunately, as these employees began to switch from managed health care to traditional insurance plans, the hospital experienced a significant decline, which was only hastened by a loss of affluence in the surrounding area.
By the early 90s, it was clear that the Linda Vista Hospital could no longer provide an appropriate level of care. Doctors and nurses no longer wanted to work there and patients in dire need of treatment avoided the hospital at all costs. At this point, the hospital had already achieved a reputation for being haunted.
It ceased operations in 1991 and transitioned into a prominent set for horror films. In the past two decades, the hospital has served as a filming location for everything from Suicide Kings to Insidious Chapter 2.
2) Matsuo Ghost Mine — Iwate District, Japan
Once the home of Japan’s largest sulfur mine, the former village of Matsuo is now a part of the city of Hachimantai.
Matsuo’s sulfur mine has been closed since 1969, but it still attracts a surprising number of visitors.
In its heyday, the mine provided employment for 4,000 individuals, thereby supporting a local population of 15,000.
Most of these residents lived in large apartment complexes, which, due to the surrounding mist, were often referred to as a “paradise above the clouds.”
Decades after the mine’s closing, it’s hard to believe anybody could have ever thought of the Matsuo mine’s apartments as a paradise. The neglected buildings are covered in grime and slowly rotting away, but this isn’t enough to stop visitors from exploring its eerie hallways; nor is the foreboding mist that makes it nearly impossible for newcomers to find the apartments in the first place.
This mist is a nearly constant presence, hastening the sense of doom and gloom that already accompanies Matsuo’s abandoned apartments.
3) Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum — Weston, West Virginia
Formerly known as the Weston State Hospital the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum provided care for the mentally ill during the 19th and 20th century remaining in operation all the way until 1994, when it ceased.
Even without its tales of ghost hauntings, the historic asylum would be a fascinating place to visit.
Its distinctive architecture has long attracted the wonder of locals and tourists alike.
The asylum’s long history is similarly fascinating; it was the famed site of a major gold robbery, as well as several raids during the Civil War.
Today, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is part history museum and part ghost tour site. Visitors claim that they feel the presence of the supernatural; most notably, the ghosts of Civil War soldiers and former hospital patients.
Asylum ghosts are said to be particularly frightening, as they are believed to be seeking vengeance for the terrible treatment they endured in the 1950s, when, despite being built to house only 250 residents, the hospital was home to over 2,000 patients.
4) Capuchin Catacombs — Palermo, Sicily
The Catacombs of Capuchin are certainly not a destination for the faint of heart; visitors to this macabre tourist trap encounter the decayed bodies of over 8,000 individuals.
Many of the bodies have been reduced to skulls and bones, but the vast majority are still rotting, creating a truly terrifying spectacle for all who visit.
Bodies, skulls and bones alike are prominently displayed in open caskets and on the walls of the catacombs. These slowly decomposing forms include the bodies of monks, children, even infants.
Although it’s become something of a twisted tourist site, the catacombs began as a means of memorializing monks. Locals, saddened by the loss of loved ones, also wanted to have the opportunity to visit the deceased after their souls had departed. Monks made this possible by utilizing what, at the time, were very advanced preservation techniques.
Clearly, based on the mostly preserved status of the corpses, the monks were successful in accomplishing this goal; today’s visitors are simultaneously delighted and horrified to note such details as mustaches and teeth, still intact.
5) Simon’s Town Museum — South Africa
Those willing to leave the comfort of Cape Town behind for a day or two can enjoy the satisfyingly creepy suburb of Simon’s Town, which is a short drive from South Africa’s second most populous city.
Established in 1977, the intent of the museum was initially to preserve a variety of aspects of the town’s vibrant history, in particular the tragic Forced Removals incident that took place under South Africa’s Apartheid government in 1967.
Although the efforts of the Simon’s Town Museum to memorialize this incident (and others) is worthy of praise, many tourists ignore such exhibits in favor of experiencing the spiritual features for which the museum is now best known.
The most popular exhibit at the Simon’s Town Museum is easily the haunted painting. Hundreds of visitors have taken photos of this painting, but despite their efforts, these pictures never truly develop. Whether or not this is the result of the museum’s alleged haunting, it continues to fascinate visitors.
Another popular attraction at the Simon’s Town Museum is the punishment cell, where slaves and prisoners were once whipped mercilessly. Visitors report that the cries of whipped prisoners can still be heard from this basement location.
6) Island Of The Dolls — Mexico
Situated along the Xochimilco canals near Mexico City, the Island of the Dolls is easily the creepiest tourist attraction in Mexico.
Steeped in legend, this island is believed to be haunted by a young girl who drowned in a nearby river.
As creepy as this haunting may be, it is in no way the main attraction at the Island of the Dolls.
Rather, actual dolls draw flocks of visitors. These dolls hang from trees dotting the banks of the island, in various stages of disrepair. Many of the dolls are horrifically mutilated, with decapitated heads and severed limbs all too common on the Island of the Dolls.
For years, the Island of the Dolls has captured the fascinations of ghost hunters and morbid tourists. The disturbing attraction was actually featured in a particularly creepy episode of the popular SyFy series Destination Truth. The show’s team brought offerings to the site in which the Mexican girl was believed to have drowned, before investigating the area with infrared cameras.
Team members Josh and Jael believed that they saw the dolls’ eyes open and close, a common report among those who choose to visit the island.
7) Chuuk Lagoon — Federated States Of Micronesia
Typically, creepy tourist sites are situated above sea level. Although there are plenty of shipwrecks and abandoned cities under the sea, they are rarely accessible to your average visitor.
However, when it comes to the Chuuk Lagoon near the Federate States of Micronesia, intrigued spectators are more than willing to go through the necessary hassles; in return, they are rewarded with glimpses of several haunted shipwrecks.
Chuuk Lagoon represents the world’s largest ship graveyard, with many of its wrecks taking place during World War II.
The lagoon first captured widespread interest in the 1970s, when it was still known as Truk Lagoon. Two years earlier, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau visited the site, filming a fascinating documentary that was released in 1971.
Since then, it’s become a major destination for scuba divers of all levels, as the crystal clear water surrounding the wrecks make for easy observation. Due to the lack of standard ocean currents, divers can easily swim across the decks of these ships, examining the many artifacts that have emerged from torpedo holes over the course of the last several decades.
8) Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments — Prague, Czech Republic
Although sites haunted by ghosts can make for frightening tourist destinations, often, the scariest places to visit are those in which the capacity for horror among living humans is documented.
Granted, none of those who inflicted pain with the instruments displayed in Prague’s Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments are still alive, as these devices primarily date back to the middle ages.
Still, the mere thought of these awful instruments being used on actual human beings is enough to inspire dread.
The Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments holds an entire three stories of incredibly macabre torture instruments. During the Middle Ages, these devices were used to extract information from stubborn individuals.
One of the most disturbing exhibits featured here is The Rack, which, as many visitors already understand, was used to stretch apart the limbs of victims until they finally consented to tell torturers whatever they wanted to know. The Catalan Garrote is also cringe-inducing, as it required the victim to sit in a specially designed seat as an iron wedge was screwed into his or her skull.
9) Sedlec Ossuary — Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Chalk it up to a love of the morbid among residents of the Czech Republic; this nation is chock full of disturbing attractions.
The Sedlec Ossuary is far older than the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, but it is, if even possible, the creepier of the two destinations.
Located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, this Roman Catholic chapel is believed to house the skeletons of as many as 70,000 individuals.
Not content to simply prop up these skeletons along the wall, the monks responsible for preserving the bodies displayed in the ossuary used the skulls and bones of the deceased to create massive works of art, including a huge chandelier that features at least one of every bone in found in the human body.
Over the years, the Sedlec Ossuary has received a plethora of mentions in pop culture. In 1970, it was the topic of a frantic documentary, which was later banned by the Communist Party due to its alleged subversive nature. Later, the ossuary became a plot device in a novel by John Connolly, as well as a location in the Dungeons and Dragons movie and a feature for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
10) Tuol Sieng Genocide Museum — Phnom Penh, Cambodia
From the outside, the Tuol Sieng Genocide Museum looks a lot like an ordinary high school.
However, instead of housing grumpy teenagers, this building is the former site of one of Pol Pot’s most brutal prisons.
Although it began as a school, the site was renamed S-21 and transformed into a torture and execution chamber.
14,000 victims are believed to have entered the prison in the 1970s, but of these unfortunate souls, only seven emerged with their lives.
The Khmer Rouge were very thorough not only in their torturing of S-21’s victims, but also in their documentation of this horrendous process. They took pictures of all their victims, which are now displayed in one of the museum’s buildings. Another building has been preserved to look exactly as it would have in 1977, when tens of thousands were interrogated and executed.
In addition to these austere surroundings, visitors are also greeted by photos of decomposing bodies shackled to the beds found in these chambers. The disturbing images witnessed at the Tuol Sieng Genocide Museum are not quickly forgotten.
11) Door To Hell — Derweze, Turkmenistan
The majority of the world’s creepy destinations involve haunted or abandoned buildings, shipwrecks or stretches of road.
The Door to Hell is unique in that it offers none of these features.
What it does provide is a close look at a an environment disturbingly similar to your standard fire and brimstone description of hell.
Although the Door to Hell makes for a terrifying visual prospect, it also serves as an assault on several other senses. Probably the most notable of these is the sense of smell; visitors report that the scent of sulfur is tangible even several miles away from the natural gas field.
This natural gas field was first lit by Soviet petrochemical scientists in 1971; it has not stopped burning in the over forty years that have passed. Local natural gas deposits continue to feed the fire, although some skeptics believe that human sin is the real source of fuel. Either way, the door to hell is expected to continue burning for a long, long time.
That is unless it is hampered by the efforts of Turkmenistan’s president, who ordered the filling in of the Door to Hell back in 2010. However, a general lack of infrastructure in the area has made this order incredibly difficult to carry out, opening the possibility for the gas field’s continued burning for, at minimum, several years.
12) Karosta Prison Hotel — Liepaja, Latvia
If you are sick of being a spectator and actually want to experience a terrifying situation, you are the perfect candidate for a visit to Latvia’s Karosta Prison Hotel.
This site began as an actual prison, but was later converted into a hotel.
But it’s certainly not your ordinary hotel; visitors are subjected to the same type of treatment an inmate in the past might have experienced.
This includes sleeping on an iron bed and experiencing a real prison meal. Some might wonder why anybody would subject themselves to these austere questions, but this question becomes even more pronounced when you consider the harsh treatment the prison “guards” impose on the hotel’s guests.
Even without the simulated prison experience, the Karosta Prison Hotel is awe-inspiring. Many visitors claim that the historic prison is even more impressive than Alcatraz. Given the number of people who experienced violent deaths inside its walls, it should come as no surprise that the site is widely regarded as haunted.
Many guests find the presence of ghosts far scarier than any of the prison life simulations that they endure while staying overnight at the Karosta Prison Hotel.
13) Shades Of Death Road — New Jersey
Often referred to simply as “Shades” by locals, Shades of Death Road is a two-lane rural road located in New Jersey’s Warren County.
The road stretches for seven miles, which, as visitors claim, are the longest seven miles any driver will ever experience.
Although the entirety of the road is widely regarded as frightening, visitors point to the southern portion as the most terrifying, perhaps due to the old-growth trees that typically prevent sunlight from reaching the road.
According to legend, bandits used to hide out among these trees, robbing unsuspecting visitors before slitting their throats.
Although stories of bandits are more than enough to frighten your average ghost-hunting tourist, a far creepier tale of murder has actually been substantiated by evidence. During the 1920s and 30s, a series of three gruesome murders took place along Shades of Death Road. In the first killing, a man was struck with a tire jack during a robbery.
The second murder involved the beheading of a man by his wife; she is believed to have buried his head and body on opposite sides of the road. Finally, a local named Bill Cummins was shot along Shades of Death Road and buried in a mud pile; to this day, his murderer has yet to be identified.
14) Aokigahara — Japan
Better known by tourists as Suicide Forest, Aokigahara has long held an important role in Japanese mythology.
The forest rests in the shadow of Mount Fuji and has achieved the distinction of being the second most popular place to commit suicide.
Interestingly enough, the most popular place to kill oneself is on the Golden Gate Bridge, but obviously, the beautiful bridge does not hold the same sinister appeal as Japan’s creepy Suicide Forest.
Locals believe that the rates of suicide in Aokigahara are only bound to increase in the future. They point to the spirits of those who died in the forest as being embedded in the trees, from there convincing other visitors to take their own lives. Whether or not this is true, it’s clear that local officials are trying their best to convince suicidal visitors to quit killing themselves.
A number of signs posted throughout the forest ask viewers to consider just how precious life is and how big a mistake it would be to commit suicide. Unfortunately, these pleas are not enough to convince visitors to continue living; a shocking 57 suicides took place in the forest in 2010 alone.
15) Pripyat, Ukraine
Possibly the eeriest ghost town in the world is the city of Pripyat, best known as the metropolis abandoned due to the horrors of Chernobyl.
Forced to leave suddenly in order to escape the effects of radiation, residents abandoned their homes while in the midst of everyday activities.
This sudden abandonment is made obvious with a simple glance inside any home or apartment. Dolls lie strewn about, while dishes continue to wait on kitchen tables.
Although the dangers of radiation are not nearly as rampant as they were in 1986, visitors are still forced to go through a long ordeal to ensure that they are properly protected. Once this process is complete, they are allowed to explore the ruins of what once was a thriving city.
Photographers are particularly fond of Pripyat, as they are able to capture disturbing images that are not available anywhere else. These include pictures of abandoned schools, gas stations — even Ferris wheels. Pripyat offers undeniable proof that, given the right circumstances, the most impressive city can turn into decrepit ruins in a shockingly short period of time.