I love horror. I mean love it. So much so that I spent over an hour preparing a rather intense scarecrow face last Halloween. I also love travel, so the thought of combining the two has always been a pretty exciting prospect – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that there are plenty of places which are ripe for exploration on this creepy holiday. From the fascinating to the downright eerie, here we round up the scariest places to spend Halloween:
Take a night tour of Alcatraz, USA
If you think Alcatraz is dark and moody in the day, try it after dark. You’ll be lulled into a false sense of security by the beautiful sunset casting shadows over the Golden Gate Bridge. But when you arrive you’ll quickly find yourself overcome by the unnerving stillness of the island, where the only permanent residents are the birds and a plethora of stories about mounted escapes, famous prison inmates and life after the penitentiary closed.
Stay in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre motel, Texas, USA
Earlier this year an Ohio businessman did the unimaginable: he transformed the old ‘Last Chance’ gas station from Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a four-bedroom hotel. Now we know the seventies horror flick isn’t real, but that doesn’t stop the idea of staying there from being absolutely terrifying.
Visit the Island of Dolls near Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico’s Island of Dolls was never meant to be a tourist attraction, but its hanging plastic limbs have attracted travellers from all over the globe. Legend has it that a girl drowned on the island many years ago, and that the dolls (and doll parts) are possessed by her spirit. Some even say that you can hear the dolls whispering to each other… Well, we don’t know how much truth there is to any of that, but what we can vouch for is that it’s certainly an unsettling place. The dolls seem menacing in the midday sun, let alone under the cover of darkness. If you’re not a fan of Chucky, maybe give this one a miss.
Hang out with the Hanging Coffins in Sagada, Philippines
Members of the Igorot tribe in the Filipino region of Sagada have been burying their dead in hanging coffins for thousands of years. The reasons behind this unusual practise are mixed, with many insisting that the higher the coffin, the closer they are to the sky and their ancestors, while others say it’s to protect the corpse from flooding, grave robbing and wild animals.
Pick a pew in St George’s Church, Czech Republic
If this art installation doesn’t unsettle you more than the Japanese version of The Ring, then I don’t know what will. Jakub Hadrava created his hooded ghosts inside the dilapidated 14th-century church in a bid to encourage people to visit, and thus donate money to restore the building. So far his bid to prevent it from falling into disrepair has worked – tourists have flocked to the church in their droves, sitting next to the ‘ghosts’ in the pews before making a financial contribution.
Step beneath the city at the Parisian Catacombs, France
Home to over six million skeletal remains, some used to create vast walls of bleach-white bone, the Catacombs of Paris have long held curiosity for locals and travellers alike. The world’s largest mass grave is particularly haunting around Halloween – don’t fear though, you can’t get stuck there after nightfall; opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-8.30pm, with last admissions at 7.30pm.
Look for ghosts or solve the enigma of the Winchester House, California, USA
Dubbed the world’s strangest home, this 160-bedroom mansion is believed by some to be haunted. Others think the brains behind it, Sarah Winchester, designed the property as a sort of puzzle. Whatever the truth behind the tale, this quirky house is certainly worth a visit on 31st October.
Explore Pripyat, Ukraine
Known for the Chernobyl disaster, this once-contaminated town can now be visited by tourists on organised excursions. After years of being a no-go zone though, the ghost town has fallen into an unnerving level of disrepair. The rusted Ferris wheel creaks in the wind, rooms are derelict, the streets have been claimed by the undergrowth and toys and books are littered outside the schools – a stark reminder of the speed in which the 50,000 residents were evacuated when reactor four exploded.
See the real Salem in Danvers, Massachusetts, USA
If you thought the witch trials of 1692 took place in Salem, you’d be wrong. Well, partly wrong anyway: the dark historical events actually took place in the neighbouring town of Danvers. Unlike modern-day Salem where you’ll experience Halloween at its tackiest, in Danvers you can visit the Homestead where convicted and executed ‘witch’ Rebecca Nurse lived. It was also once home to the Danvers State Hospital – also known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers – rumoured to be the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy. Please join us in a shudder.