In many countries around the world, October (and the beginning of November) are reserved for holidays that focus on honoring the dead, warding off evil spirits, and exchanging stories of the supernatural. For those who prefer not to delve too deeply into ghosts and gore, Halloween is just one more excuse to dress up like a superhero and get hyped up on sugar (or alcohol) while the rest of us go off in search of horror movies and haunted houses. If the zombie costumes and the over-the-top blood and gore of Halloween aren’t doing enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck, try visiting one of these locations to experience the world’s most notorious curses, vengeful spirits, and unexplained paranormal activity.
The Parisian Catacombs, Paris, France
Created as a solution to Paris’ burgeoning population and an inability to properly bury everyone in the church graveyards located within city limits without jeaopardizing the city water supply, the Catacombs project began in 1786. The bodies were exhumed and the transfer of Paris’ dead from the church graveyards to the abandoned stone quarries took around two years to complete. Now open for guided tours, it’s listed as one of the top haunted places in the world. Visitors claim to have been touched by unseen hands, have the sensation of being watched or followed, experienced temperature changes, hysterical breakdowns, and the feeling of being strangled.
Most famous for the Salem Witch Trials, this town in Massachusetts offers year-round excitement for those looking to catch a glimpse of its haunted past, but during the month of October, Salem turns it up a notch. Take a candlelit tour of the Witch Trial Trail or stop by the historic Hawthorne Hotel for the Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball. Click here for a complete guide to Salem’s Halloween activities.
Built in 1337, Bran Castle has become the stuff of legends. In the 15th century it was home to Vlad the Impaler who became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Reported to have consumed the blood of his enemies, Vlad the Imapler was known as a harsh and unforgiving ruler who killed his subjects for even the most petty of crimes. Visitors have reported hearing moans coming from a hidden tunnel underneath the castle while other claim Vlad himself still haunts the castle citing photographs of his room where strange lights and mist can be seen. Want to learn more about the man behind Dracula? Sign up for a Halloween Tour of Transylvania.
Eastern State Penitentiary (Terror Behind the Walls), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Built in 1829, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a creepy place to visit any time of the year. Famous for housing criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton, the Penitentiary has a reputation for chilling and ghostly experiences, but for those who especially delight in being terrified, this former prison is turned into a haunted house attraction every Halloween. With actors hired to jump out and chase visitors, the Terror Behind the Walls event adds a new dimension to the Penitentiary’s regular hauntings. Rumors of strange happenings have plagued the place since its closure in the 1970s. Visitors report hearing footsteps in the yards, the sound of someone pacing in the cells, wailing coming from the corridors. Cell Block 12, in particular, is famous for its disembodied laughter.
Tower of London, London, England
Since its construction in 1078, the Tower of London has been the scene of some of London’s particularly gruesome murders and torture accounts. Now considered by many as one of the most haunted buildings in London and by a few as the most haunted in all of England, the Tower of London is home to the ghosts of Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey as well as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who was hacked to death by an executioner in 1541. Sign up for a Twilight Tour of the Tower of London to hear its tortured past and the eerie stories of famous prisoners whose spirits still drift through the damp passages.
Leap Castle, County Offaly, Ireland
Widely regarded as the most haunted castle in Ireland, Leap Castle has a troubled past full of massacres and murders leaving a slough of vengeful spirits in their wake. The castle was allegedly built on a Druidic site by a family called the O’Carrolls, who had a habit of murdering people and dumping the bodies down a hole in the castle walls. Its most infamous murder took place in a chapel now known as “The Bloody Chapel,” where hauntings are reported to take place. The castle is privately owned, but tours are available.