The world can be scary – not just because of wars, plagues, and rampant crime happening all around – but because of the presence of literal, scary spirits lurking in every corner.
If you like a good scare, there are so many haunted places around the world to see. Some are traditionally eerie, like old hospitals, while some are unexpectedly spooky, like remote pubs. Whether it’s spooky season or not, these haunted locales bring the chills to life.
Here are ten places that could haunt your dreams for nights to come and the unsettling things that reportedly happened there:
Forbidden City – Beijing, China
The Forbidden City in Beijing, a stunning and vast landmark with 980 buildings over 180 acres, is not just one of China’s most famous sites but also a hub of ghostly tales. Home to Chinese emperors from the 15th to the early 20th century, this historical place is now believed to be a haunt for the spirits of former concubines.
Back in 1421, Emperor Yongle, suspecting poison in his harem, ordered a massacre of 3,000 concubines. At his funeral, 16 courtesans were hung with white silk nooses. It is said that their spirits still haunt the Forbidden City.
Visitors and staff today talk about sightings of a black-haired lady fleeing a spectral soldier, a woman in white weeping as she roams the grounds, chilling sounds of distress, and eerie visions of past tragedies. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Forbidden City welcomes the public, but only until dusk – perhaps to keep its ghostly residents undisturbed.
Still skeptical? Try asking a tour guide about the unusually high thresholds in the complex. It turns out they’re not just architectural features – legend has it ghosts can’t jump over them.
The Ancient Ram Inn – Wotton-Under-Edge, United Kingdom
Nestled on the edge of the picturesque Cotswolds (a short journey from Bristol) lies the Ancient Ram Inn, a 12th-century inn with a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the Western world. Built on what is believed to be an ancient pagan burial ground, the inn is rumored to be the haunt of over 20 spirits, including children and a monk. For those brave enough, the inn offers ghost tours for a chance to encounter these specters up close.
One of the most notorious spirits believed to reside here is a succubus, a demonic entity often depicted as a seductress. This presence alone might make you think twice about closing your eyes for too long in this eerie inn.
The building also purportedly lies on ley lines connected to Stonehenge, adding to its haunting allure. It originally served as housing for those who built the nearby St. Mary’s Church, and it was believed that since water streams had to be diverted around the church, it created a portal for dark energies. At one point, the house belonged to a priest before it was sold in 1968.
Its new owner, John Humphries, had a startling introduction to the property. On his first night, he claimed to be attacked by demonic forces, so he searched in and around the house for its causes. Terrifyingly, he found evidence of ritual sacrifices and the skeletal remains of children in the inn who had possibly been murdered with daggers.
Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, United States
Located in Pennsylvania, The Eastern State Penitentiary stands as a chilling reminder of the penal practices in America’s past. This historic prison, once housing some of the country’s most notorious criminals, is infamous for its harrowing punishments from over 150 years ago. It was among the first to introduce solitary confinement, a practice that often led to prisoners’ insanity. It was also the prison where inmates faced brutal treatments like being drenched and left in the cold until ice formed on their skin or enduring an iron gag that made their tongues bleed.
During restoration work in the 1990s, a locksmith was helping restore a cell when a negative energy overcame him and left him temporarily paralyzed before he saw haunting visions of faces on the cell walls. Since then, the penitentiary has become a hotspot for ghost stories. Visitors often recount sightings of shadowy figures and hearing unsettling sounds such as giggles, whispers, and wails. This eerie location continues to intrigue and spook those who dare to explore its dark past.
Lawang Sewu – Semarang, Indonesia
Lawang Sewu, which translates to “Thousand Doors,” is a historic site in Semarang, Indonesia, with a reputation for being the country’s most haunted spot. As a former railway headquarters of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company, this colonial-era building is distinguished by its 600 windows and an intricate network of doors and arches, making it somewhat of a labyrinth. It consisted of buildings named A, B, C, and D,
This complex took a dark turn during World War II when it was occupied by Japanese soldiers. The basement of Building B was converted into a makeshift prison where many prisoners were executed. It has been reported that restless, headless spirits haunt the premises. Visitors have also reported sightings of a Dutch woman’s ghost, believed to be a woman who committed suicide.
While the Indonesian government has made efforts to transform Lawang Sewu into a non-creepy tourist destination, the allure of its ghostly past remains strong. Visitors can explore the historic building on their own or embark on a haunted heritage tour to possibly encounter these phantoms themselves.
Recoleta Cemetery – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery is not only famous as the final resting place of Argentina’s beloved former first lady, Eva Perón but also for its captivating ghost stories. You may think spirits wandering the graveyard aren’t exactly weird, but the paranormal activity in Recoleta Cemetery is on another level.
Nestled in Argentina, this place enjoys the reputation of being haunted – even the city’s tourism website endorses it as a Neo-Gothic burial site. Home to over 6,400 mausoleums, statues, and gravestones, visitors often report hearing the jangle of keys, believed to be the sound of the late gravedigger David Alleno. Alleno, who worked at the cemetery for thirty years, is said to have taken his own life on the very day the statue he commissioned of himself was completed.
Another popular tale is that of a woman wearing white who beguiles single men, engaging them in conversation and getting them to fall in love with her. To their surprise, the men later discover that she’s been deceased since 1925, and her final resting place is actually near the cemetery’s entrance.
Fairmont Banff Springs – Alberta, Canada
In Banff, Alberta, a picturesque chateau built in 1888 is not just known for its stunning scenery and luxurious accommodations – it also boasts a reputation for paranormal encounters. Among the hotel’s most famous ghostly residents is the “Ghost Bride.” Legend has it that she tragically died during her wedding at the hotel and now lingers in her bridal gown, sometimes spotted dancing alone in the Cascade Ballroom.
Another well-known spectral inhabitant is Sam Macauley, the former hotel bellman known for his irritable behavior. Legend has it that he threatened to haunt the place after he died. It seemed that Sam was true to his word, as guests have reported encounters with a silent bellhop who mysteriously assists with their luggage and then vanishes into thin air if they try to tip him.
Tower of London – London, United Kingdom
The Tower of London had a 900-year history as a place of imprisonment and execution, making it a final resting place for many people of historical significance. Among its most famous ghostly inhabitants is Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII, who was beheaded in 1536 on the Tower Green. Visitors today claim to encounter her spirit lingering in the area.
Another sorrowful tale is that of Lady Arbella Stuart, who chose love over duty and paid the price with her life, as she died in the Queen’s House in the Tower in 1615 after a prolonged hunger strike. Her apparition is said to be seen by several who visit her former prison.
The tower is said to be home to no fewer than 13 ghosts, ranging from former queens to explorers and even anonymous souls who suffered within its walls. A visit to the Tower might even include an unexpected tap on the shoulder – but beware, turning around might reveal more than the rich history of this ancient castle.
Poveglia – Venice, Italy
Off the coast of Lido in Venice, the picturesque yet eerie island of Poveglia holds a dark history. Once a quarantine zone for people suffering from the plague and later a psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century, this island is believed to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Ghost hunters and paranormal investigators often cite Poveglia as a place where the spirits of past patients seem to linger. Fishermen claim to hear moans and screams from the island, and they also say that the bell in a tower can be heard sometimes, even though the bell itself was removed years ago.
Poveglia has a reputation so daunting that it has often been put up for sale at surprisingly low prices, with owners eager to relinquish responsibility for both its upkeep and the intense spiritual presences reported there. Some believe that the number of restless spirits could be in the hundreds. Because of this, Poveglia remains largely abandoned, and its dilapidated structures may not be brought back to life again.
The island is a stark contrast to the romantic allure of Venice. The island is officially closed to the public, likely due to concern about the fear it might invoke. However, it can be visited through pre-approved trips via ferries or charter boats.
Bhangarh Fort – Rajasthan, India
Located in a valley northeast of Jaipur, the Bhangarh Fort in Rajasthan stands as one of India’s most haunted sites. This long-abandoned fortress is wrapped in legends and ghostly tales. One such story involves a tantric priest who, while hopelessly in love with the beautiful Princess Ratnavati residing in the fort, casts a spiteful spell after she rejects him. This curse was said to doom everyone in the fort and the surrounding village, preventing their souls from being reborn.
Another legend speaks of a sadhu, or holy man, who strictly instructed Ratnavati’s grandfather to construct the fort in such a way that it never cast a shadow over his house. This command was ignored, leading to a towering addition that allegedly brought destruction to the entire town. These curses are believed to have trapped the spirits of the princess and her villagers, causing them to roam the desolate ruins forever.
Legend has it that the Bhangarh Fort was completely abandoned overnight for reasons unknown, but myths surround this 16th-century fortress. Its spooky status is too rare – it’s actually illegal to be there from sunset to sunrise. This regulation might be more than just a safety measure – it could also be a way to respect the space of the fort’s eternal ghostly inhabitants.
Port Arthur – Tasmania, Australia
It would be unusual if a 19th-century penal colony wasn’t haunted, right? Port Arthur is a spine-chilling destination in Tasmania (Australia’s most haunted state). More than 1,000 people died here in grim circumstances, where inmates endured brutal solitary confinement, grueling hard labor, and both physical and psychological abuse. Its history of misery and death ended when it ceased operations in 1877, but the site, as one may expect, is enveloped in tales of restless spirits.
Visitors to Port Arthur often report eerie occurrences, such as empty rocking chairs moving unaided or ghostly figures in 19th-century attire appearing in windows. Some become emotionally haunted while in there, as visitors were reported to feel disturbed, teary, angry, or distressed.
Port Arthur is not just a historical site; it’s a vivid reminder of its harsh and grim past, resonating with the stories of those who suffered within its walls.
Lizzie Borden House –Massachusetts, United States
The Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts, gained notoriety following the 1892 murders of businessman Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abigail. The prime suspect was Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie Borden, who, despite being acquitted in a sensational trial, remains linked to the mystery of the murders. Today, this unassuming house has been transformed into a bed-and-breakfast, attracting guests curious about its gruesome history.
Visitors to the Lizzie Borden House often report strange occurrences, from unexplained noises to mysterious shifts in furniture placements. These eerie experiences have only fueled the house’s reputation as a site of intrigue and paranormal activity. Ghost tours and overnight stays offer brave souls a chance to immerse themselves in the chilling atmosphere of this infamous residence.
Glamis Castle, Scotland
Glamis Castle, dating back to the 14th century, holds a special place in history as the childhood home of the Queen Mother, mother of Queen Elizabeth II. Its ancient walls are rumored to be roamed by several ghosts, including the Grey Lady, known as Lady Janet Douglas. She was tragically executed for witchcraft and alleged murder in 1537.
Visitors often speak of her spirit rushing up the clock tower stairs, leaving a trail of ash in her wake. Another spectral figure is a woman without a tongue, seen wandering the castle’s park. A young servant boy from the 18th century, known to have been treated harshly, is said to linger near the queen’s bedroom door.
But the most famous ghost is Earl Beardie, otherwise known as Earl Beardie, the 4th Earl of Crawford. He visited the castle in the 15th century. One night, he got drunk and vowed to play cards with the devil himself. By the next morning, he mysteriously vanished, and visitors of the castle reported hearing loud voices, swearing rattling dice, and clinking glasses. He was said to be gambling for all eternity in a secret room with the devil.