Some personal facts: I believe in ghosts. I’ve read way too many horror novels in my lifetime. Ergo, I get scared with very little provocation, at which point my memory starts spewing out every awful Stephen King/Dean Koontz scenario in quick succession until my imagination runs amuck.
But even the most hardened traveler will get the chills while visiting these terrifying places. Book your tickets, if you dare.
7. Riddle House
This seemingly normal house in West Palm Beach, Florida was built as a funeral parlor in the early 1900s, then became a private residence used as housing for the overseers of a nearby cemetery. In addition to (one would assume) the ghosts of some of the funeral parlor’s clients, there are two spirits associated with the home from its second iteration–a cemetery worker named Buck, and an employee in financial distress who hanged himself in the attic.
The place had trouble keeping workers, and in its later years, trouble keeping tenants. It slipped into abandonment and was about to be demolished. A Riddle descendant stepped in at the last moment and saved the house by moving it to a history park called Yesteryear Village.
6. The Paris Catacombs
This one shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The Paris Catacombs contain the remains of around 6 million people. Allegedly frequented by cultists, people claiming to be vampires, and, of course, the ghosts of the dead who are likely upset at the tourists parading through the burial site, it's little wonder the subterranean labyrinth radiates a spooky engergy. The catacombs beneath Paris, France definitely win in the creepy category.
Related: The Paris Catacombs: A Journey Into the Empire of the Dead
5. Byberry Mental Hospital
The Pennsylvania State Hospital at Byberry, located outside Philadelphia on Byberry Road, was the stuff of nightmares.
There are multiple firsthand accounts of malpractice, negligence, and abuse that ended in murder, torture, and multiple unexplained deaths within its walls. The stories are truly horrific–almost unbelievable, honestly, which means that even though the institution has its fair share of ghost stories, what happened to the living is just as terrifying.
4. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
This museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is a relic of the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Once a high school, the building was converted into a prison and torture center during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
An estimated 14,000 people died in the converted high school that became Cambodian Security Prison 21. Only seven prisoners survived to tell the stories of torture, interrogation, and execution that took place within its walls. There is also a massive amount of photographic evidence that survived: photos of broken men, women, and children forced to confess to charges they likely were not guilty of in order to stop the pain.
The place is understandably thought to be haunted, with thousands of protracted, violent, and unnecessary deaths having happened within its walls. The Tuol Sleng Genocide museum retains an unnatural air to this day.
3. The Ridges
The Ridges, formerly the Athens Lunatic Asylum, was an asylum in Athens, Ohio built at the turn of the 20th century. Naturally, this means the old structure is infamous for overcrowding, disease, neglect, and barbaric medical practices. This asylum was also home to infamous rapist and murderer Billy Milligan (most recently used as inspiration for the lead character in the film Split).
The buildings have now been repurposed by Ohio University.
Related: 9 Dark and Twisted Horror Books for Stephen King Fans
2. Leap Castle
When a building has existed for 800 years, it’s going to be rife with stories of previous occupants sticking around long past their official eviction date. Leap Castle in Offaly, Ireland is the rule, not the exception. With a rich history of warring clansmen, murderous family feuds, plus a secret room off the chapel that housed cartloads of bones, it would probably take another 800 years to name all of the people who have reason to haunt the place…but only a mere second for their presence to send chills up your spine.
Related: 9 Most Haunted Castles in the World
1. Stull Cemetery
As a Missourian, I feel slightly cheated that I was never informed that one of the gates to hell exists in my neighboring state of Kansas. In the town of Stull, no less—with a population of fewer than 100 people.
The story (legend, mostly) contains a few different pieces, all of which contain some reference to the Devil in the teeny, tiny town.
First, there’s a cemetery there that’s said to hide the actual staircase to Hell. It’s hard to find, and only opens up on the spring equinox and on Halloween—not that you’d want to go looking. There was also a church that once stood near the cemetery, allegedly used by witches and other occult practitioners before the town bulldozed it.
A perfectly healthy tree was cut down to deter the curious—the tree had split a headstone in half and was said to have once provided a sturdy branch for hanging witches. Old maps of the town also contain references to “Devil Road,” though no modern maps mention any such place.
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Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons; Additional photos: Alchetron; Allie_Caulfield / Flickr (CC); Michelle / Flickr (CC)