#8 : Paris Catacombs, Paris, France
Imagine journeying 60 feet beneath the city of Paris, the darkness is thickening around you, the loamy smell of dirt and clay is filling your nostrils, when all of a sudden you realize you’re in the grave. Freaky! That’s the experience you’ll find on a tour of the Paris Catacombs,an underground crypt said to contain the exhumed remains of an estimated six million Parisians. Yes, exhumed: when the city became overpopulated by dead bodies (imagine the stench!), the government dug them up and dumped the skeletons in centuries-old stone quarries on the then-outskirts of town. And because there were so many skeletons to transport, this process took more than 30 years. But they didn’t stop there; they actually “decorated” some of the walls with stacked bones and skulls. Macabre doesn’t even begin to describe this tomb of mismatched bones. Recent travelers say Les Catacombes de Paris aren’t for the faint-of-heart or for the claustrophobic, and some say they’re not for young children either. Located in the 14ème arrondissement (14th district), the catacombs can be found off the Place Denfert-Rochereau metro.
#7 : Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, USA
While staying in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Co. — room #217, to be exact — Stephen King was inspired to write what would become a cult classic, The Shining. The film adaptation displays some pretty creepy scenes: the little boy, Danny, wiggling his little finger and screaming “Redrum” with greater and greater intensity; the wife, Shelley, finding her writer husband’s manuscript, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy;” and finally, Jack peeking his head through the bathroom door, telling his wife in a calm voice that he’s going to bash her brains in. Yikes. Those prone to any kind of runaway imagination could scare themselves stiff staying at the Stanley, but some say you don’t even have to work your imagination: The hotel’s real ghosts are more than willing to frighten. The Billiards Room, the Ballroom and Room 407, in particular, are known for sheltering apparitions. To book a night at this fright fest, check out the Stanley Hotel’s website.
#6 : Underground Vaults, Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh puts up a great façade — the majestic rolling hills, the grand Balmoral Hotel, the refined Princes Street Gardens — but underneath all its pageantry rests a distinctly different reality. And we do mean underneath: a maze of vaults, which date back to the mid-1700s, can be found below the city, just south of the Royal Mile and underneath the arches of the South Bridge. Originally, Edinburgh‘s Underground Vaults served to benefit commerce — wealthy merchants would store their goods here. But they soon became a cesspool for criminal activity, where everyone from black market traders to prostitutes (and their clients), and even murderers congregated. Auld Reekie Tours, one company who leads brave souls through the vaults, claims the existence of ghosts, writing on its website: “The South Bridge Poltergeist has been known to attack,” and “We do believe that Niddry Wynd is home to a very active poltergeist. People have left with cuts, scratches, burns and bruises.”
#5: Lizzie Borden B&B, Fall River, Massachusetts, USA
In 1892 in Fall River, Ma., Lizzie Borden told the judge and jury that she was snacking on pears in the barn while her stepmother and father were being axed to death in the family’s house. Although she’d allegedly attempted to buy cyanide prior to the murders and she’d burnt some of her clothing after the murders occurred, she was eventually acquitted of the crimes. All the evidence was circumstantial, but doubt lingered. This creepy-catchy rhyme hovered around Lizzie for the rest of her days: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” Some say it’s the ghosts of the murdered Andrew and Abby Borden that wander the house; others say that it’s Lizzie herself. Visitors with enough mental fortitude can find out for themselves by staying a night or two in the Lizzie Borden B&B,the former home of the Borden family.
#4: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Cemeteries are always a bit creepy, especially at night, and especially when supposedly presided over by a Voodoo priestess. The St. Louis Cemetery #1 — nestled on the outskirts of the French Quarter in New Orleans — is one such graveyard. Marie Laveau, who worked her charms in the 19th century, is said to haunt the cemetery in several incarnations, one being a red-eyed black cat. Local lore says you should beware this black cat, or you could find yourself forever doing the bidding of this dead Voodoo Queen. Others say it’s the ghost of her pet snake that appears. If you visit — and like many guests before you, lay Voodoo paraphernalia on Laveau’s tomb — beware of muggers and vandals, a decidedly different (but no less disturbing) kind of danger that recent travelers warn against.
#3: Tower of London, London, England
One of the most notorious chopping blocks (for human heads, that is), the nearly millennia-old Tower of London is supposedly one of the most haunted sites in all of Britain. According to experts, a headless Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, is one of its most constant presences. The ghost of Sir Walter Raleigh is known to traipse the Byward Tower, and the screams of Guy Fawkes, who was found guilty of high treason in 1606, are sometimes heard, sending chills up the listener’s spine. If you see the ghosts of two young boys — Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury — you might help close an unsolved mystery from the 15th century. Back when the Tower of London served as a royal residence, the boys (one of them bound for the Crown) lived there, but in 1483 they mysteriously disappeared — never to be heard from again. Perhaps the most horrifying sighting is of Lady Salisbury who, in 1541, ran screaming from her axe-wielding executioner, who in turn chased after her and chopped her to death. Several witnesses have reportedly seen the gruesome scene played out in full. From November through March, visitors can steel themselves for a spooky sighting and take a twilight tour of the Tower of London.
#2: Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Beechworth, Victoria, Australia
At Beechworth Lunatic Asylum (later known as Mayday Hills Hospital), patients came in but few got out. It was a lot easier to enter the asylum than to leave it; eight signatures were required for a patient’s discharge while only two were needed for admittance. Historians today estimate upwards of 3,000 people — some of whom didn’t even need mental help — died captive within its walls. Inside the facility, which opened in 1867, a number of atrocities occurred, ranging from exploited labor and neglect to abuse and inhumane medical treatments/experiments like the Darwin chair (where doctors would tie patients to revolving chairs and spin them so fast, they would bleed from their mouths, eyes, noses and ears. With all this bad treatment, it’s easy to see why some spirits might want to linger; there are frequent ghost sightings, and not just of patients, but of doctors and nurses too. Visitors can see for themselves on a Beechworth Ghost Tour.
#1: Transylvania, Romania
Bram Stoker set his blood-chilling (or shall we say blood-sucking?) novel, Dracula, in the central Romanian region of Transylvania. According to Romania Tourism, the area is overgrown with thick forest and shrouded by steep mountains — a fitting milieu for the dark deeds Jonathan Harker witnessed at Castle Dracula. But that’s not all. Legend has it, the fictional character Count Dracula was inspired by a real-life Romanian royal, Vlad Dracula, nicknamed “Vlad the Impaler.” His nickname, the Impaler, references his preferred form of murder: impaling people to death. Yep, sadistic Vlad was known for brutality against his enemies, namely the invading Ottomans, in the 15th century. If you dare, you can follow in Vlad’s footsteps, visiting Sighisoara, Vlad’s hometown; Snagov Monastery, Vlad’s supposed gravesite; and Bran Castle, one of Vlad’s homes. But just in case, carry garlic and guard your jugular.