For some people, holidays and vacations are synonymous with fancy hotels, beautiful beaches and shopping sprees. Others choose to immerse themselves in the culture and history of their chosen destination, within the safe and secure confines of a museum or national heritage site.
However, a niche market has begun to open up around the world for thrill seeking tourists. Haunted and mysterious destinations are proving extremely popular, as adventurous explorers travel the world to witness the scariest and most disturbing places imaginable. People flock to creepy destinations for a number of reasons; some are paranormal enthusiasts who look for proof that an area or building is haunted. Many are also enticed by the history of these areas, which is often shocking or shrouded in mystery. Whether or not you believe in spirits and the paranormal, the shock value of an area’s history or it’s haunting aesthetic can prove entertaining in itself.
Creepy tourist destinations are growing in popularity, with haunted houses the most popular – according to Hauntworld.com, Americans spend almost $500 million every year on haunted house tickets. Haunted houses are just one fairly common example but there are many more strange and unnerving haunted tourist destinations scattered around the globe. If this is your idea of a holiday, take a look at our list of the 5 Creepiest Tourist Destinations on Earth to discover some unusual and possibly even terrifying examples of creepy tourist attractions. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the troubled past of these places is enough to send shivers up your spine.
5. Poveglia Island, Italy
Poveglia Island doesn’t look very threatening, but this island’s history is enough to make anyone squeamish. The island’s history is varied and extremely troubled so it’s little surprise that many believe it to be extremely haunted.
Poveglia was once inhabited by the Romans; during the age of the Roman Empire, many plagues broke out in Europe. The Romans devised a solution to this threat to humanity, capturing anyone who was infected and sending them on Poveglia, where they were left to die or were burned in mass graves. The island lay unused for many centuries afterwards.
However in the 1800’s, a mental asylum was constructed on the island. The island housed some of Italy’s most troubled patients, but the management of the mental asylum was questionable. In those days, mental patients were often used for horrific experiments. Inhumane operations that are now illegal were performed on the island’s patients. The crumbling mental asylum is still standing today, though it’s been abandoned for many years. Tourists who enjoy ghost-hunting can now visit the island, although obtaining permission from the government to go there is extremely difficult. Of course, it is impossible to say whether the island is actually haunted, but the region has a dark past that visitors report is tangible in the atmosphere on the island.
4. Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic
The Sedlec Ossuary is one of the Czech Republic’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving over 200,000 visitors a year. The history of the ossuary goes back hundreds of years; when death rates were high due to illnesses such as the Black Death, space to bury the dead was often hard to find. It was common practice to bury a body in the ground temporarily, and exhume their skeletal remains some time later. The bones were then stacked on top of one another in an ossuary.
The Sedlec Ossuary is one of the most well known ossuaries on earth. It is noteworthy because the bones are not just stacked- they are used as elaborate decoration. This was the work of a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint, who began to use to the bones to construct decorative objects in the 1870’s. The most impressive of his constructions is the Sedlec chandelier (pictured above) which is rumoured to contain at least one bone of every kind found in the human body. The room in its entirety contains the bones of over 40,000 people. Impressive work, but undeniably unnerving.
3. Isla de las Munecas, Mexico
Much debate surrounds the tale of Don Julian Santana Barrera, the former caretaker of this island. Barrera claimed that he once found the body of a drowned girl on the island, along with a doll floating in the river. He hung the doll from a tree to comfort the spirit of the girl. Many doubt the authenticity of his story, claiming that Barrera fabricated it. Regardless of the truth, Barrera spent 50 years collecting dolls and hanging them to trees around the island to appease the spirit of the girl. In 2001, Barrera’s body was found drowned in the same spot he claimed to have found the body of the little girl. The abandoned island was eventually christened Isla de las Munecas – the Island of the Dolls.
Whether you choose to believe the story or not, the island itself is particularly haunting as the many dolls hanging from trees have become contorted, disfigured and decomposed due to prolonged exposure. The island has become a popular tourist spot, and you can hire a boat to take you there at the rate of $15 an hour. The dolls are haunting as they are, but many thrill-seekers choose to visit the island at night, when the hanging dolls create a truly terrifying effect.
2. Pripyat, Ukraine
Pripyat, built in 1970, was planned as an industrial town that would house workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and their families. As such, Pripyat is located less than two miles from the power plant and was massively impacted by the 1986 nuclear disaster when a routine experiment went badly wrong, causing a nuclear reactor to explode and release radiation into the environment. The radiation released was a staggering 400 times larger than that of Hiroshima and the Chernobyl disaster is regarded as the worst nuclear accident in history.
Pripyat was quickly abandoned, and over the years has become a ghostly skeleton of the town it was meant to be. Due to decreased radiation levels, it is now a tourist attraction, with day tours starting at $100. Pripyat is extremely popular due to the haunting frozen-in-time feeling it offers tourists. Everyday objects have been left in buildings, swimming pools sit dried-out and unused, Soviet propaganda posters still hang on classroom walls. The tour is obviously a startling experience, but it has caused controversy among survivors of the Chernobyl disaster who believe that the site should be used for educational purposes instead of tourism. The disaster claimed 32 lives, with many more deaths due to cancers in the following years. Overall, an untold amount of damage was done to the health of thousands of people, animals and plants.
1. Aokigahara, Japan
Aokigahara is a forest on the northwest base of Mount Fuji, one of Japan’s most well-known tourist attractions. Aokigahara has become infamous in recent years due to the huge numbers of people who commit suicide there. The numbers are so huge that the forest is often called “Suicide Forest”. The increasing number of suicides in the forest has been attributed to the popular novel Kuroi Jukai by Seichō Matsumoto, in which the protagonist takes his own life in a forest. Annually, the government searches the forest to remove bodies. Currently, almost 100 people take their lives in the forest each year.
The forest is filled with unsettling signs designed to deter people from claiming their own life- slogans include “Please think of your parents, siblings and children”, as well as suicide prevention line numbers. As the pathway through the forest is open to the public, it has become a morbid tourist hotspot. Tourists come to experience the forest itself, or to explore the greater area and Mount Fuji. The forest is known for its deafening silence, caused by how closely the trees grow together. The forest is certainly terrifying, but the heartbreaking stories of those who take their lives there are the worst thing this forest has to offer.