Whether cursed, haunted by vengeful ghosts, or destroyed by natural (or unnatural) disasters, these abandoned places around the world stand as stark reminders of what once was. From Waverly Hills Sanatorium to the Land of Oz theme park, some of these eerie spots are majestic, while others are downright terrifying. Here are the 25 creepiest abandoned places to enter … if you dare.
1. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville, Kentucky
The now decrepit Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky, which operated from 1910 to 1961, was once home to hundreds of tuberculosis patients. While many survived, many others died—the body count estimate ranges from hundreds to thousands—some due to treatments which would be considered barbaric by today’s standards, such as removing muscles and ribs from the chest cage, and overexposure to the elements. One of the abandoned building’s most unusual aspects was the construction of a “body chute,” a 500-foot-long secret tunnel that allowed hospital workers to dispose of the deceased without alarming the surviving patients.
2. Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia
Once one of the largest insane asylums in the country, the deserted ruins of Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia, encompass about 2,000 acres of land. Opened in 1842, Central State housed the mentally disabled and ill for over 100 years before being shuttered bit-by-bit, beginning in 1970, and closed completely in 2010. In 1959, the doctor to patient ratio was 1 to 100. Primitive treatments, such as lobotomies and insulin shock were prevalent, and, supposedly, due to overcrowding, adults were kept in straightjackets while children were confined to cages.
3. Underwater City, Shi Cheng, China
Called China’s Atlantis, Shi Cheng is an ancient Chinese city that lies perfectly preserved beneath Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai. Known as “Lion City” in its heyday, Shi Cheng features architecture dating back to The Ming and Qing Dynasties, which ruled China from 1368 to 1912. In 1959, the need for a hydroelectric plant called for Shi Cheng to be flooded, and the city was forgotten until 2001, at which point the government began organizing expeditions to the lost city. It remains perfectly preserved under the water, protected from the elements, and has become a popular destination for divers.
4. Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico City, Mexico
This tiny island in Mexico’s Xochimilco Canals was home to one man named Don Julian Santana Barrera who claimed that one day, the body of a small girl washed ashore. The next day, a small doll drifted in, leading Barrera to believe it contained her spirit. He placed it in the trees as an offering. Another doll drifted by, then another. Now the entire island is filled with the rotting faces of plastic dolls, giving it its name, the Island of the Dolls. After 50 years of collecting, Barrera was found dead, drowned in the same waters that surround his island home.
Related: Journey to the Island of the Dolls
5. The Ghost Town – Garnet (formerly Mitchell), Montana
Montana’s best-preserved ghost town is located in Garnet, Montana. The closest city is Missoula, about 20 miles to the west. Originally called Mitchell, Garnet was at its peak during the gold rush, when nearly 1,000 people lived here. Twenty years later, when the gold ran out, the town was abandoned, then partially destroyed by a fire in 1912. Today it’s one of the most visited ghost towns in the U.S., attracting nearly 16,000 visitors per year.
6. Gulliver’s Travels Park, Kawaguchi, Japan
Opened in 1997 in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, the Gulliver’s Travels Park was inspired by Jonathan Swift’s popular tale. It features a larger than life (147.5 feet) statue of Gulliver tied to the ground by the tiny people of Lilliput. Adding to its general creepiness is the fact that the park was built next to Aokigahara, Japan’s famous “suicide forest.” It was also located close to the original headquarters of Aum Shinrikyo, the religious cult responsible for a 1995 attack on Tokyo. When the bank that financed the project went belly-up, so did Gulliver’s Travels Park, officially closing in 2001. It was demolished in 2007.
Related: Aokigahara: Japan’s Suicide Forest
7. Hotel del Salto, San Antonio del Tequendama, Colombia
About 19 miles southwest of Bogota, you’ll find the breathtaking Hotel del Salto, in San Antonio del Tequendama, Colombia. This palatial, now-abandoned hotel was built into the side of a waterfall in 1928, and attracted wealthy tourists from all over South America. But when the waters of the river became contaminated, people stopped coming, and the Hotel del Salto was abandoned. Because of its proximity to the waterfall, it became a popular place for suicides. Today it has been reopened as the Tequendama Falls Museum of Biodiversity … but many refuse to set foot there, claiming the hotel is haunted.
8. Michigan Central Station, Detroit, Michigan
At the time of its construction in 1914, Michigan Central Station was the tallest railway station in the world. In 1975, it was listed on the National Register for Historic Places, but that didn’t stop it from falling into disrepair when Amtrak service was suspended in 1988. The classical Beaux-Arts architecture of the building has made it one of the most visited ruins in America. Though there have been plans for renovation, the public has pushed back, hoping for restoration rather than a complete overhaul.
9. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Built in 1829 and shuttered in 1971, Eastern State Penitentiary was home to famous criminals like Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Until 1913, the prison promoted a theory of complete solitary confinement as rehabilitation, whereby prisoners were not ever able to communicate with fellow prisoners. When taken out of their cells, the prisoners had bags put over their heads, so other prisoners would not recognize them. Eastern State Penitentiary is now open to the public as a museum, and the building transforms into one of the world’s most terrifying haunted houses, “Terror Behind the Walls,” every Halloween.
Related: 7 Most Haunted Prisons in America
10. Land of Oz, Beech Mountain, North Carolina
Built in 1970, this Wizard of Oz-style theme park in North Carolina was only open for 10 years. Grover Robbins, who was head of the project, died just before the park opened. Now a glorious ruin, it reopens for one weekend every October, for an event called Autumn at Oz, for Wizard of Oz enthusiasts.
11. IM Cooling Tower, Charleroi, Belgium
This abandoned cooling tower is located in a small neighborhood known as Monceau-sur-Sambre, within the Belgian town of Charleroi. Built in 1921, the cooling tower originally served one of the largest coal burning power plants in Belgium, Power Plant IM. When environmentalists realized this was not exactly great for the air quality, (large CO2 emissions) the plant was closed in 2007, leaving spectacular ruins that look like something out of a dystopian nightmare.
12. Liu Family Mansion, Chiayi, Taiwan
Also known as the Minxiong Ghost House, the Liu Family Mansion, near Chiayi, Taiwan, was built in 1929 for the wealthy Liu Rong-yu and his family of eight. Supposedly the family abandoned the home because it was haunted. The story goes that the maid, infatuated with the family patriarch, drowned herself in the well, and then went on to haunt the family. Others say the house is haunted by the spirits of suicidal Japanese soldiers, who occupied it after the family’s departure. While many maintain that the Lius actually left the mansion to pursue business opportunities elsewhere, the site still has an undeniably creepy feel to it.
13. Villa de Vecchi, Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como may be home to celebrity mansions owned by the likes of George Clooney, but it’s also home to the gorgeous abandoned mansion Villa de Vecchi, the work of architect Alessandro Sidoli. When Sidoli died before work could be completed on the house, Count Felix de Vecchi should have known it was a bad omen. One day in 1862, upon returning home, he found his wife murdered and his young daughter missing. He killed himself in despair. Since then the house has lain in ruin, haunted by the ghosts of its past.
14. Bayside-Acacia Cemetery, Queens, New York
Though it is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in New York, the Bayside-Acacia Cemetery has lain in ruin, abandoned since the increasing developments of the 1950s. Home to over 35,000 burials, including Civil War veterans and one victim of the sinking of the Titanic, the historic cemetery fell into neglect, and with no rabbi and active services, it is now considered defunct. Nestled underneath train tracks, the abandoned burial ground is easily reachable for curious city dwellers, and has tragically fallen victim to many acts of vandalism.
15. Submerged Church of Curon, Curon, Italy
The Church of Curon was built in the late-1300s. However, in 1950, the town of Curon was flooded to connect its lake with that of the adjoining town, Resia, in order to produce more electricity. Sadly, the gorgeous church—as well as the rest of the town—sunk into the lake, and now only the church steeple is visible as the one remaining vestige of the town of Curon. Visitors say that when the lake freezes, you can walk (or skate) right up to the walls of the church’s tower: truly a striking sight.
16. Kolmanskop, Namibia
German diamond hunters invaded this small village in Namibia, settling there during the diamond rush in the early 1900s. After WWI, when the diamonds were all but gone, the Europeans left. By, 1954 the town of Kolmanskop was totally deserted. Now, many years on, the sands of the desert have made it their own, filling the abandoned structures with sand. Tourists must wade knee-deep into the sand to get a good look at the abandoned town.
17. Sanzhi District, New Taipei, Taiwan
These Sci-Fi pod-houses were built in the late 1970s in New Taipei, Taiwan, in hopes of building some kind of futuristic community that would be both eco-conscious and forward thinking. But when the company that had financed the project ran out of money in 1980, the settlement was abandoned. Some theorized that the project was cursed from the start, claiming that it had been built on a graveyard for Dutch soldiers, or, in a more outlandish theory, linking a series of car accidents that killed construction workers to the bisection of a Chinese dragon sculpture located near the community’s entrance. While the colorful structures were razed in 2010, the strange site and its eerie history still haunt our mind.
Related: The Haunted UFO Houses of Taiwan
18. Oradour-sur-Glane, Limousin, France
Perhaps the most tragic ruin on this list, the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, near Limousin, France, was once home to a small but bustling community. When Nazis invaded in June 1944, looking for a French officer, they mistook Oradour-sur-Glane for his actual location: a town nearby called Oradour-sur-Vayres. The Nazis rounded up the townspeople. Women and children were locked in the local church, and the men were led to barns where they were shot in the legs with machine guns. Once the men were unable to move, the Nazis set fire to the barns. The soldiers also set the church on fire. The women and children ran out, only to be met by a barrage of bullets. Six-hundred and forty-two residents were murdered within a matter of hours. The village has been carefully preserved, to pay respect to the residents that were brutally murdered by the Nazi troops.
19. Bachelor's Grove Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois
This large cemetery near Chicago was founded in the 1800s and became a notorious dumping ground for victims of the mob during the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1960s, burials at Bachelor’s Grove had ceased, and the cemetery fell into neglect and disrepair. Any activity was replaced by reports of strange paranormal phenomena, making it one of America’s most haunted places. Visitors have reported Satanic rituals (including animal sacrifices), strange floating blue orbs, the ghostly sounds of a phantom horse that drowned in the pond, and more. Bachelor’s Grove is also home to one of the most famous ghosts to be captured on camera, a weeping woman sitting on a gravestone known as “The Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove.”
20. Tennessee State Prison, Nashville, Tennessee
Opened in 1898, this gigantic state prison in Nashville, Tennessee, closed in 1992. It was the filming location for numerous movies, music videos, and television shows, and is known for its notorious “green mile”–the famous film was also shot here–the last stretch of cellblock that an inmate would walk on his way to the electric chair. In 1902, several inmates blew up the west wing of the prison, killing one prisoner and leading to the escape of two men who were never found. Riots occurred throughout the 70s and 80s. When a new penitentiary was built in the early 90s, Tennessee State closed its doors forever and now stands in ruin.
21. Six Flags, New Orleans, Louisiana
Destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Six Flags Theme Park in New Orleans has lapsed into total disrepair and has been closed since it was flooded. Though there have been many redevelopment proposals, none have gotten off the ground. Though many would like to venture into its ruins, it is illegal to enter the property. The lucky few that have snapped photographs reveal an eerie reminder of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and its lasting effects on the community.
Related: 9 Most Haunted Places in New Orleans
22. Pripyat, Ukraine
Pripyat, Ukraine is a ghost town for good reason. The town was home to the families of those who worked at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant. When the plant melted down in 1986, the town’s 49,000 residents had to be evacuated as soon as possible. Within 36 hours, Pripyat was completely abandoned, and it has remained so, due to the high radiation in the area. Now, nature has reclaimed most of the buildings and structures that once stood in Pripyat.
23. House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria
Built in 1981, the official seat of the Communist Party in Bulgaria looks like something out of a Science Fiction film. This gigantic concrete flying saucer structure, also known as the Buzludzha monument, sits atop the Balkan Mountains. Its dome, auditorium, mosaics and torch sculpture were built to commemorate the founding of the Socialist Party in Bulgaria. After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Buzludzha was abandoned, and the government doesn’t have the money it would take to tear it down. The eerie structure has come to symbolize the fall of Communism. One vandal scrawled “Forget Your Past” at the dome’s entrance.
24. Nara Dreamland, Nara, Japan
In 1961, Japan opened its own version of Disneyland with Nara Dreamland, an amusement park in Nara, about two hours outside of Osaka. By 2006, though, the park was out of money thanks to its competition with Tokyo Disney. Since then it has been abandoned, its rollercoasters and other rides rusting in the elements. Though you will be arrested if you try to breach its gates, some brave visitors have reported the park is a complete imitation of Disneyland, with replicas of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, a fire station, a pirate ship, tea cup rides, and Main Street USA.
25. New Bedford Orpheum Theater, New Bedford, Massachusetts
The gorgeous ruin that is the New Bedford Orpheum Theater in New Bedford, Massachusetts, opened the day the Titanic sank: April 15, 1912. The structure once housed a ballroom, a gymnasium, and a shooting range. As a space for the hugely popular Vaudeville theater, it transitioned into a movie theater with 1,500 seats in later years. In the 50s, the Orpheum hit its first stretch of bad luck, closing, then being sold as a storehouse for a Tobacco company. There was a supermarket in one part of the theater several years ago, but today it’s closed, and the property is back on the market.
Feature photo: Raymond Boyd / Getty Images