Crumbling brick. Decaying wood. That damp, cold smell of dirty, stagnant water. That eerie feeling where you know you are the only person around and yet you don’t feel alone. Where the light seems dead but the shadows seem alive.
For some reason, abandoned buildings are among the most chilling places on Earth. There is something about the fact that they are utterly void of human beings and left to the chaotic forces of Mother Nature that just gives us the creeps. When you step into any abandoned building, whether it be a hospital, a house, a school, or anything else, it feels like you are stepping into a futuristic world where mankind has wiped itself out and all that is left behind are the disintegrating structures of a long-forgotten time.
The creepiest of all abandoned buildings tend to be churches. For whatever reason, an empty cathedral or sanctuary, devoid of parishioners and slowly succumbing to the ravages of weather and time, is absolutely haunting. Maybe it has something to do with how churches are supposed to be emblems of peace, love, and hope. And when human beings abandon the buildings that allegedly stand for such things, it makes us feel sad and dark. Much like seeing pictures of abandoned amusement parks, which should be places full of childlike joy, fun, and happiness, but become the antitheses of those things when there are no people around to enjoy them.
Or maybe it has something to do with churches’ perceived connection to the spiritual realm. Once they are abandoned by their holy guardians, it is not hard to believe that they could easily become portals for more sinister supernatural entities. In any case, here are 15 photos of creepy abandoned churches to remind us of what happens to a building when we walk away from it.
15. Church of the Transfiguration
The first entry on our list of creepy abandoned church photos doesn’t come from the deep south or an overgrown forest in eastern Europe, but from a place called the Church of the Transfiguration which resides in Buffalo, New York. And that might just be what makes this particular photo so unnerving. It doesn’t really have that freaky, otherworldly feeling that many other photos on this list do. If you walked into this place, you probably wouldn’t be worried about a demon-possessed serial killer lurking in its darkened corners or be constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for a ghostly figure to spawn behind you and drag you into hell. No, this seems more like a place where you would have to be careful not to step on any used needles. You’re less likely to be attacked by a malevolent ghoul than you are a toothless meth addict who wants your wallet.
14. New Orleans Church
It could be the looming, grey clouds overhead, or the low angle of the shot, or the desaturated, sepia-like color of the photo that makes it creepy. Or it could be the fact that one corner of it looks like it was gouged out by an enormous monster like Godzilla or that weird, giant alien thing from Cloverfield. From the outside, this church looks like it might otherwise be in pretty good shape, you know, if it wasn’t for the massive, gaping hole that is ruining almost a quarter of the entire building.
The actual story behind the destruction of this church is much sadder than an ancient behemoth lizard ravaging its exterior. This is one of several churches in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward that was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many of these buildings, including this one, were never repaired. While some have since been completely destroyed by fires or other storms, others remain standing as a sobering reminder to New Orleans residents of the hurricane that devastated their community barely a decade ago.
13. Cold Christmas Church
You’re looking at that photo and thinking to yourself, “That’s not a church. That has to be an old jail, or a cellar, or an ancient pit of torment concocted by a sadistic Slavic dictator.” And while it may look like something found in the ruins of a castle belonging to Vlad the Impaler or Countess Elizabeth Bathory, it is not. Rather, this is a photo of the interior of the only remaining tower of Little St. Mary’s Church in Hertfordshire, England. Having earned the nickname of “Cold Christmas Church” because of a nearby lane also dubbed “Cold Christmas,” the church has been a hotbed of paranormal activity since the majority of it was demolished way back in 1853. Perhaps due, at least in part, to the graveyard on the property, which has also been abandoned, numerous people have cited strange events around Cold Christmas Church. One woman even claimed to have witnessed an entire army of ghosts marching towards her while visiting the abandoned tower in 1978.
12. Lincoln County Church
Let’s try something real quick. Turn off the lights. Close your eyes. Shut ’em real tight. And then let your mind wander into that weird and twisted part of your brain you normally pretend doesn’t exist. Imagine that in the dead of winter, a coven of witches has taken over a small section of a forest in Lincoln County, Indiana. Using their dark magic, they’ve cleared out the trees in a perfect circle and carved a wide path leading up to it. Inside the circle, the coven inhabits a small, old, abandoned church built in the early 1900s.
Now open your eyes and check out that photo. Is that not exactly what you pictured in your mind’s eye? Or at least really damn close? The building itself might not be overtly creepy. It is pretty standard, as far as tiny abandoned churches from the Midwest go. But the fact that it is smack dab in the middle of a circular clearing in the woods, with nothing else that would indicate human activity visible, makes it incredibly creepy.
11. Louisiana Church
This decaying church from near Chackbay in Louisiana has all the markings of an appropriately creepy abandoned building: rotting wooden beams, spindly tree branches growing through the walls, a precariously angled tower, window frames without any glass left in them, walls that look like they will collapse at the slightest hint of a breeze. Of course, the tinted black and white photography and overcast skies only makes it that much creepier. The only thing that is missing is a ghostly face peeking through one of those broken window frames at the camera. Or the black silhouette of a hooded figure standing terrifyingly in the woods behind the church. Or maybe a flock of birds perched high up in the trees with blood dripping from their beaks. But even without those over-the-top additions, this abandoned church from the home of gumbo and jazz music is exceedingly creepy.
10. Loxley Chapel
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a photo of the church itself. Rather, it’s a photo from inside the church, peering through a window out at the abandoned graveyard which houses some of the bodies of the victims of one of England’s deadliest man-made disasters. In 1864, the Dale Dyke Dam cracked and then burst open, flooding the community of Sheffield and killing 240 people. Many of the victims were small children peacefully sleeping in their beds who were suddenly washed away by 650 million gallons of water cascading through their homes in the middle of the night. One horrifying story of that awful event tells of a newborn that was torn from its mother’s arms by the renegade dam’s rushing waters. Another recounts how three children drowned in a cellar. Now, the church and the cemetery where many of these children are buried are both ignored and nearly forgotten.
9. St. George’s Church
Who did this? WHO DID THIS?
Apparently an abandoned, rundown shell of a church wasn’t frightening enough for one conceptual artist in the Czech Republic. Jakub Hadrava was actually commissioned to create an array of ghostly, shrouded statues to hang around the sanctuary of St. George’s Church in the town of Lukova, in hopes that it would increase tourism and generate enough money to make the necessary repairs to reopen to the church. Right. Because that’s exactly what tourists are looking for when they sneak into an abandoned church in the middle of Nowhere, Europe: a spine-chilling art installation that is more likely to make them crap their pants than donate to the gallant cause of rebuilding an historical, 14th century house of worship. For the record, the haunting statues are, according to Hadrava, made of plaster and not the tormented souls of a long line of dead witches who have the capability of stopping your heart with a single whisper.
8. Young’s Chapel
Nestled along a quiet, lonely dirt road in Georgia (the state, not the country), definitely looks like it might secretly be the clubhouse for a collective of misanthropic hillbillies who spend their weekends dabbling in cannibalism and the occult. Or maybe like it could be a set piece discovered by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in the first season of True Detective, which inevitably turns out to be the home base for a group of greedy politicians and businessmen who attempt to maintain their powerful places in society through child sacrifice and the occasional bout of witchcraft.
On the other hand, the lone structure silently looming beside an endless, country road does give off a profound sense of solitude. It seems so calm and peaceful. And like it probably has a long and dark history of kidnapping, murder, and corruption perpetuated by evil men who are willing to sell their souls to the devil in exchange for money and power.
7. City Methodist Church
Originally constructed in 1927, this church in Gary, Indiana was designed with a Gothic aesthetic, including huge pillars, a massive auditorium, and elaborate stonework. However, the cost of upkeep on such an ornate structure was a bit overwhelming. After the congregation size dwindled from around 3,000 down to less than a tenth of that in the 1970s, the church was eventually forced to close its doors, leaving it to be disfigured by the effects of time and neglect. Now, on the plus side, it can be used as a location for action and horror movies, including Transformers and Friday the 13th. And let’s be honest, if your church seems like a suitable place for a machete-wielding psychopath in a bloody hockey mask to hunt down and violently hack apart sexually promiscuous teenagers, then it is a super creepy place. Maybe keeping it closed off to the public is a good idea.
6. Church in the Snow
No, it is not photoshopped. No, it is not a painting. Yes, it is very, very real. And yes, we are pretty sure that it is the blinding portal to another dimension where your skin will melt off your face like that Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark and you will be forever plunged into a suffocating abyss consisting of your worst nightmares and the sound of nails on a chalkboard. For all eternity.
Well, actually, according to the photographer, it is a carefully timed photo of an abandoned church on a chilly winter night in Canada (as though there are other types of nights in Canada), as the headlights of a passing train burst through the building’s cracks. Which, assuming the aforementioned photographer is telling the truth, is very cool. However, we are much more inclined to believe that this particular photo has less to do with fancy lighting tricks and more to do with aliens made out of electricity or extra-dimensional monsters that feast in the Canadian Arctic or malicious fallen angels. Or something like that.
5. Bokor Hill Station Catholic Church
Standing alone, over three thousand feet above sea level in Preah Monivong National Park in southern Cambodia, is this abandoned Catholic church. Constructed primarily out of stone in the 1920s as part of a collection of buildings that would ultimately form a luxury resort and getaway for French colonials, the church is now an emblem of oppressive colonial rule, rather than of charitable Christian evangelism. Tucked away, high up on a remote mountain location, Bokor Hill Station consists of the church, a casino, a royal residence, and a few other buildings, all of which have now been abandoned. Shockingly, during the nine months of construction that it took to erect these structures, over 900 Cambodian laborers died. It’s hard to imagine that the souls of almost a thousand Cambodians, worked to death by their French colonisers for the sake of their opulent vacation community, don’t haunt the area to this day.
4. Iglesia de Santa Ana Church
Built at some point in the 18th century, this abandoned church in Trinidad, Cuba has since become a fairly popular tourist destination. The architecture is a perfect reminder of a long-gone era and its bell tower, stretching into the blue Cuban sky, is an impressive sight to behold. On the same square as the Iglesia de Santa Ana are numerous stores, including art galleries, various markets, restaurants, and even an old Spanish jail that has been turned into the local tourism and culture centre.
Despite all this, however, there is something eerie about the church, probably stemming from the fact that all of its doors and windows have been bricked up. Whoever decided to shut the place down didn’t just lock the doors and turn off the lights. They made sure that no one could ever even see inside. It makes you wonder what kind of dark secrets the Iglesia de Santa Ana is hiding behind its pretty façade.
3. Craco, Basilicata
Okay, we are cheating a little bit with this one. This is a photo of the ghost city of Craco, Basilicata in Italy, but somewhere amongst all of those nearly identical stone buildings is the town’s church. Craco was a medieval village in Italy, constructed on a rocky hilltop as a strategic defensive position, allowing for easy visibility of any potential attackers. Some estimates date the original settlement back to the year 540 AD, making Craco almost 1500 years old. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the last of its residents were finally evacuated due to dangerous conditions— the site has a long history of earthquakes and landslides which have taken a toll on the city’s structural integrity as well as the stability of the ground itself. Now that the incredibly ancient site is completely abandoned, it makes one wonder what has been left behind in those strange stone buildings.
2. Warleggan Church
Is anyone else getting a distinct Braveheart vibe from this one? Not so much in the Mel Gibson making impassioned speeches astride a majestic horse kind of way. Or in the patriotic Scottish kind of way. Or even in the extended scene of gruelling and gruesome public torture kind of way. More in the William Wallace sneaking into the snow-covered residence of an English lord and bludgeoning his enemies to death with a spiky mace kind of way.
To be fair, this 15th century stone church doesn’t even reside in Scotland, but in the civil parish of Warleggan, Cornwall, England, so the Braveheart references are a little inaccurate. Still, there is something about the harsh, grey architecture that evokes a sense of political violence and feudal cruelty. Maybe it’s just the low angle of the photograph, forcing us as the viewers to gaze up at the church’s impenetrable walls like dirty, little peasants.
1. Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
You didn’t really think you would get through this list of abandoned places without at least one entry from Detroit, did you? Of course not. Michigan’s largest city is the capital of abandoned buildings. And it should not be all that surprising that this church is the only one in which spray-painted graffiti is a prominent feature. It might not be immediately obvious in this particular photo, but others of the same building show it nicely, and if you look close enough you can see some lovely slogans scrawled across the church’s rotting pews. The oddest and, arguably, creepiest aspect of this church isn’t its Gothic architecture, dusty stained glass windows, or moulding walls, but the reason the building was abandoned. Although the church had struggled with a diminishing congregation, it wasn’t completely abandoned until 2005 when the pastor died. It seems that once he passed away, no one really knew what to do with it and it has sat in a state of disintegrating limbo ever since.