We all get a little more spooked as Hallowe’en comes around again – but there are some places where the freaks come out to play 365 days a year. Keep your wits about you (and keep the lights on) as we share our five favorite haunted haunts…
Southern Gothic reaches its dark and delicious best in New Orleans. Or should that be Boo Orleans? This elegantly decrepit old town is like a movie set, with the flickering gas lamps and wrought-iron balconies of the French Quarter its spooky centerpiece.
1) The Museum of Death
With its carved human skulls, shrunken heads and displays entitled ‘the history of embalming’ this is a celebration of all things afterlife.
2) St Roch Chapel
This curious little chapel is packed with anatomical casts, limbless dolls, stuffed animals and false teeth — left as offerings to St. Roch, the Patron Saint of falsely accused people. It’s a lonely and poignant place.
3) The Mortuary
The ‘Zombie Warning’ sign is a clue that this place ain’t no ordinary mortuary. It’s a former funeral home turned genuine haunted house attraction, offering tours that mix history and mystery – deliciously. Enter at your own risk.
In a city as glittering and glorious as Paris you just know – there has to be a darker side. And you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to unearth it. Just a wander around the legendary Père-Lachaise cemetery alone – final resting place of hundreds of writers, artists, and politicians – is confirmation enough.
1) Le Manoir
Is it a museum? Is it a house of horrors? In truth, the Manoir de Paris’ displays of the capital’s most disturbing legends sits somewhere between the two. And is all the gloomier – and more thrilling – for it.
2) The Catacombs
The 3,000km tunnel network that runs under the city houses the bones of six million people.Wall upon wall of the yellowing skulls and femurs lead to the ossuary, with its sign ‘Stop! This is the empire of death.’ It’s actually quite a moving experience.
3) Musée Fragonard
Veterinary surgeon Honoré Fragonard’s 18th-century collection of specimens preserved in formaldehyde is a testament to the man’s skill, for sure. But his ‘Homme à la mandibule’ – a skinned man riding a flayed horse, is genuinely the stuff of nightmares.
When you site your capital on the plug of a dormant volcano you can imagine – there’s going to be some strange rumblings going on beneath your feet. But, in Edinburgh, they could easily be the ghostly footsteps of a long-buried city…
1) Mary King’s Close
Giving a glimpse of life in 16th century Edinburgh, this maze of streets was actually built over, transforming the alleyways into an underground labyrinth, notorious for its nefarious activities. And, of course, it’s alive with ghostly tales.
2) Edinburgh Vaults
For over 200 years these chambers, made within the arches of the South Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland, once housed taverns, tradesmen and family homes – but they were also used for storing the bodies of people killed by serial killers Burke and Hare. Paranormal reports are rife – including phantom voices and poltergeist activity.
3) Edinburgh Dungeons
Edinburgh’s grisly and gory past is brought shockingly to life in this slick attraction – with its cast of ghoulishly-attired actors recreating the city’s seamier stories. You’ll enjoy a boat ride through the gloom, learn about Burke and Hare, and be sentenced in the courtroom (word or warning: the judge is in a foul mood).
Voodoo, witchcraft and a bizarre fascination with all things afterlife – yes, Mexico’s predilection for magic and mysticism marks this chaotic and colorful city out as a must-visit at any time of year. But during Hallowe’en? Its ghoulishness steps up a gear.
1) Day of the Dead
For three days over Hallowe’en, Mexico celebrates those who’ve gone on ahead – in one of the world’s most bizarre cultural institutions. The city is awash with zombie-hewed revellers, and its museums and attractions get in on the act– visit the museums of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and learn all about their fascination with death. There’s skulls and skeletons aplenty, but the city is also festooned with flowers too.
2) The Witchcraft Market
Mercado Merced is the city’s bustling food market. At the heart of it all is the Mercado Sonora, a market dedicated to all things brujería – witchcraft. Fortune tellers, mystics, witches and shamans promise insight into your future, and love potion sellers hawk a bewildering variety of exotic ointments!
3) Island of the Dolls
Just south of Mexico City, Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls) is dedicated to the soul of a poor girl who drowned here. A floating doll all that remained. Now this small island is home to hundreds of terrifying dolls with severed limbs, decapitated heads, and blank eyes: supposedly to support the restless spirit of the girl. But this is Mexico – and they’ve a strange relationship with death. As we’ve said.
Is New England America’s spookiest region? It certainly puts up a good fight. There’s something about those picket-fence villages, their clapperboard houses, whitewashed churches and silent, dark and leafy lanes… oh, and the witches, of course.
They were innocent, of course, but the 20 souls who perished in the Salem Witch Trials cast long shadows over this quiet city. The Witchcraft Museum tells their story admirably – but for more drama (and fun) try one of the city’s voodoo, vampire and ghost tours.
The master of horror – a resident of Maine – Stephen King sets most of his books in the region. If you’ve enjoyed IT, and wondered what the little town of Derry’s like, take a trip to King’s hometown, Bangor. The “Tour of Stephen King’s Derry” covers 30 different locations relating to the author’s life, stories, and films, including the trailer where he first wrote Carrie.
3) Nightmare New England
Fittingly, with its reputation for all things, the region is home to what’s possibly the world’s scariest theme park. Or should that be scream park? Probably. With a one-mile-long haunted hayride, the Monster Midway, zombie paintball, and the ghoul-infested Brigham Manor, this one’s not for the faint of heart.