There are some places out there in the world where it’s as if danger and mystery are lurking behind every corner. We’d like to introduce a few of them here. But we warn you: this is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re brave enough, though, read on!
Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic
Funerals took place in this cemetery over the course of nearly four centuries, from 1439 to 1787. In this comparatively small plot of land, around 100,000 people have been buried in total, and there are as many as 12,000 gravestones. Workers covered over some of the older graves with earth, and then buried more of the deceased on top of them. In the cemetery grounds there are places where up to 12 layers of graves lie on top of each other. As time passed, the ground sagged, revealing old gravestones once more for the living to see. The old stones pushed against the more recently placed ones, shifting their positions in the ground. The result is a graveyard that looks not only thoroughly unusual, but also downright terrifying.
The Island of Dolls, Mexico
There is a very strange, deserted island in Mexico, which is largely populated by a collection of terrifying children’s dolls. In 1950, Julián Santana Barrera, a recluse, is said to have begun collecting abandoned dolls from rubbish bins and displaying them on an island south of Mexico City, in an attempt to bring peace to the soul of a little girl who had drowned in the vicinity. Barrera himself drowned on the island on 17th September 2001. The collection of around 1,000 dolls are still there today.
Hashima Island, Japan
Hashima is a former coal mining settlement, which was founded in 1887. It was considered one of the most densely populated places on Earth — in 1959, a total of 5,259 people lived there, but the coastline is only around 1 kilometre long. Eventually, it became unprofitable to extract the coal, and the mine was closed in 1974. The settlement joined the ranks of ghost towns around the world.
Chapel of Bones, Portugal
This chapel was built in the 16th century by a Franciscan monk. It is not particularly large — just 18.6 metres long and 11 metres wide. But it contains the bones of 5,000 monks. The phrase ’Melior est die mortis die nativitatis’ (’Better is the day of death than the day of birth’) is written on its roof.
Suicide Forest, Japan
’The Suicide Forest’ is the unofficial name of Aokigahara Forest, which lies on the island of Honshu, Japan. It is notorious for its status as the preferred place where people go to commit suicide. The forest has always been associated with Japanese mythology, which depicted it as the abode of demons and ghosts. It’s now the second most popular suicide spot in the world (the first is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco). A notice stands at the entrance: ’Your life is the priceless gift of your parents. Think about your family. Don’t suffer alone — call us on 22-0110.’
Abandoned psychiatric hospital, Parma, Italy
The building which once housed a psychiatric hospital has now been turned into an art installation by the Brazilian artist Herbert Baglione. He certainly captured the spirit of the place, with ghostly figures of the former, tortured patients now depicted on the floors and walls.
St. George’s church, Czech Republic
This church in the Czech village of Lukova was abandoned in 1968, after part of its roof collapsed during a funeral ceremony. The artist Jakub Hadrava recently placed a collection of terrifying sculptures in the church, giving the place an especially sinister atmosphere.
Catacombs of Paris, France
A network of tortuous subterranean tunnels and caverns wind their way under Paris. Their overall length, according to various sources, is somewhere between 187 to 300 kilometres. Since the end of the 18th century, the remains of around 6 million people have been interred there.
Centralia, Pennsylvania, USA
Due to an underground fire that erupted 50 years ago and which continues to smoulder to this very day, the number of inhabitants of Centralia fell from 1,000 in 1981 to just 7 by 2012. The town’s populations is now the smallest in the whole of Pennsylvania. Centralia was the prototype for the survival horror computer game, ’Silent Hill’, as well as the movie of the same name.
Akodessewa market, Togo
This market of supposedly magical objects and herbs has spread out directly in the centre of Lomé, the capital of Togo, West Africa. The populations of Togo, Ghana and Nigeria practice Voodoo, believing in the magical properties of dolls. The assortment of objects found at Akodessewa is thoroughly exotic; it’s possible to acquire the skull of huge oxen, the dried-out heads of monkeys, buffalo and leopards, and many other no less ’magical’ items.
Plague Island, Italy
Poveglia is one of the most famous islands in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It is said to have been used as a place of exile for plague victims since Roman times, with as many as 160,000 people buried there. The souls of many of the dead supposedly returned to the place as ghosts; they now occupy every corner of the island. The place’s dark history is compounded by stories of terrible experiments which were apparently carried out on patients at the psychiatric clinic that was built there. As a result, some paranormal investigators consider the island to be one of the most terrifying locations on the planet.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
The Hill of Crosses is just that — a hill where a huge number of Lithuanian crosses and crucifixes have been placed (in total, around 50,000 of them). Despite its appearance, it is not a cemetery. According to popular belief, those who place a cross on the hill will experience good fortune. No one can say with any certainty either when the first cross was placed, or what the reasons were. Unsurprisingly, to this very day the hill is shrouded in mystery.
Burial place of the Kabayan Mummies, Philippines
The famous fire mummies of Kabayan, which date from 1200-1500, are buried here. According to local inhabitants, their souls still occupy the place as well. They were preserved using a complex method of mummification, and are now well-guarded following repeated attempts to steal them. Why would anyone want to steal a mummy, you ask? According to one man who tried it, he ’had a right’ to do so because one of them was his great great great great great great grandfather.
Overtoun Bridge, Scotland
An old arch bridge not far from the small Scottish village of Milton. During the middle part of the 20th century, strange things started happening there. Dozens of dogs started jumping from the top of the 15-metre high bridge, often dying on the rocks below. Those which survived tried to jump again when they were taken back to the bridge. For reasons which are not entirely clear, the bridge became a truly dangerous spot for these animals.
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, Belize
Actun Tunichil Muknal is a cave located not far from San Ignacio, Belize. Part of the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, it is an important archaelogical site containing evidence of the Maya civilisation. In one part of the cave (the so-called ’temple’), the Maya carried out human sacrifices, as they believed it was here that one could enter the underworld.
Leap Castle, Ireland
Leap Castle, in County Offaly, Ireland, is believed to be one of the most cursed castles in the world. Its main attraction is somewhat grim: a large underground dungeon, the floor is studded with sharp stakes. It was only discovered during the castle’s restoration. Workers needed four trucks to take away all the bones which were found there. The locals claim the castle is home to a large number of the spirits of those who tied in the dungeon.
Chauchilla Cemetery, Peru
Chauchilla Cemetery lies about 30 kilometres south of the city of Nazca, on the southern coast of Peru. The necropolis was discovered in the 1920s. Researchers found 700-year-old bodies there; the last funeral to take place on the site occurred in the 9th century. Chauchilla has one distinctive feature compared to other burial places: people were laid to rest there in a special way. All the bodies were found in a squatting position, and all of them had a wide ’grin’ fixed on their faces. They have all been very well perserved thanks to Peru’s arid climate.
Sanctuary of Tophet, Tunisia
The saddest aspect of the religion of ancient Carthage was undoubtedly its practice of sacrificing children, in particular the smallest infants. It was forbidden to cry during the sacrificing ceremony, as it was believed that a single tear or sigh of grief would reduce the value of the offering. In 1921, archaeologists discovered a site containing several rows of urns, which held the charred remains of both animals and small children.
Snake Island, Brazil
Ilha da Queimada Grande is perhaps the most dangerous island in the world. It’s covered entirely by forest, has a rocky, uninviting shore line 200 metres high, and is populated by snakes. There are up to six snakes per square metre. The fatal effects of these creatures’ venom is instantaneous. The local inhabitants recall blood-curdling stories about the place, whilst the Brazilian authorities have now banned anyone from visiting.
This monument —the largest in Bulgaria — sits at the top of the 1,441-metre-high mountain of Buzludzha. It was built in the 1980s in honour of the Bulgarian Communist Party. It took almost seven years to build, and required the input of more than 6,000 labourers and engineers. The interior was give a partly marble finish, whilst the staircases were decorated with red cathedral glass. Now, the commemorative building has been completely ransacked; only the concrete shell and basic fixtures remain. The resulting hulk is similar to a destroyed alien spaceship.
City of the Dead, Russia
Dargavs, in Northern Ossetia, looks like a pleasant little village with its small stone houses, but it’s actually an ancient necropolis. The bodies of people together with their clothes and personal effects are buried in its numerous crypts.
Abandoned military hospital of Beelitz-Heilstätten, Germany
During the First and Second World Wars, this hospital was used by the German military. Adolf Hitler recuperated here in 1916. After World War II, the hospital ended up in the communist zone of occupation, and became the largest Soviet hospital outside the USSR. The entire complex is made up of 60 separate buildings, some of which have been renovated. Nearly all of the other, abandoned parts are now sealed shut. The doors and windows are completely boarded up.
Unfinished Cincinnati Subway, USA
The abandoned subway depot in Cincinnati was started in 1884. After the First World War, demographic changes meant the system was no longer needed. Construction slowed in 1925, when only half the 16-kilometre railway line was complete. Now, tours of the abandoned subway are organised twice a year, although it’s well known that many people wander its tunnels on their own.
Hanging Coffins of Sagada, Philippines
On Luzon Island in the Philippines, one can find the small village of Sagada. It’s arguably one of the scariest places in the country, where one can see evidence of an ancient, and very strange, funeral custom: coffins hang high above the ground from the faces of cliffs. The superstition persists among the indigenous population that the higher up a person’s body is laid to rest, the closer his soul will be to heaven.