Creepy Vacation Destinations

These places are guaranteed to give you the chills

Posted Oct 01, 2017

The Church of Ghosts/Shutterstock
Source: The Church of Ghosts/Shutterstock

Looking for someplace creepy to go this Halloween?  If so, there is no shortage of spooky destinations to visit.

A quick “Google Search” guided by the phrase “creepy places” leads you into a surreal realm of actual geographic locations that the most creative of Hollywood horror writers could not dream up on even their best of days. 

There are, of course, macabre old cemeteries, catacombs, and burial grounds aplenty, including one in the Philippines that is nothing more than a collection of coffins hanging from the side of a cliff.  Abandoned hospitals, prisons, and mental institutions also feature prominently in this catalogue of creepy places.  You will encounter a plague island in Italy, a Czech church populated by realistic spooky sculptures of ghosts, and an abandoned subway system in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In Portugal, there is a chapel decorated with the bones of 5,000 monks, complete with two intact bodies (one of them a child!) hanging from ropes; there is another one in the Czech Republic made from the remains of at least 40,000 people.

And almost all of these locations have a story.

The Island of the Dolls

The Island of the Dolls/Wikimedia Commons
Source: The Island of the Dolls/Wikimedia Commons

For example, there is a place in Mexico that has become a somewhat disturbing tourist attraction known as the “Island of the Dolls.”  A man named Don Julian Santana lived on this island and, according to the legend, he one day found the body of a young girl who had drowned in the waters off the coast of his island. 

Not very long after this tragedy, Don Julian discovered a doll floating in the water near where the girl had drowned and he hung it from a tree to ward off the return of the girl’s spirit.  For the rest of his life Don Julian continued to hang dolls from trees, and soon visitors began to do the same thing until there were thousands of mutilated and creepy lifelike dolls hanging like rotting fruit across the island. 

The Island of the Dolls/Wikimedia Commons
Source: The Island of the Dolls/Wikimedia Commons

The story came full circle when Don Julian himself drowned in the very same waters as the unfortunate girl, fifty years later.

The Creepiness of Life Frozen in Time

Places exhibiting signs of life suddenly interrupted and frozen in time can be especially creepy; remnants of a half-eaten meal on a kitchen table or clothing laid out on a bed waiting for a homeowner who has apparently vanished without warning create a frightening ambiguity about what may have taken place in the house.

In Belgium there is an eerie abandoned estate. It is clear that its residents fled in quite a hurry because many valuable items of furniture dinnerware, artwork, and other personal artifacts were left behind.  What makes this seem all the creepier is the fact that after decades of being empty and unattended, no one has looted the place and there is little evidence that very many have even explored it.

Similarly, the abandoned city of Pripyat in the Ukraine has become the poster child for the creepiness of life frozen in time.  This city of 50,000 people was evacuated very quickly following the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 and its residents were never allowed to return.  All of the clocks in the city are frozen in time at 11:55 and the trappings of interrupted everyday life are everywhere to be seen: toys and schoolbooks lay where they were dropped long ago by children who are now middle-aged people; amusement park rides are seemingly stopped in mid ride; kitchens are still full of unwashed dishes.

The city is slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding forest and wildlife, and it will eventually be completely unrecognizable as the vibrant place that it once was.

While the empty Belgian estate and the city of Pripyat are not actually all that old, their abandonment and decay convey a sense of the passage of time that confers an aura of creepiness upon them that other locations of similar age do not possess.

Spooky Bodies of Water

Bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and ponds often provide the setting for creepy stories about ghosts.  This makes sense insofar as deep water has always posed a hazard to humans and drowning is a common cause of human death, both accidental and intentional.  It is therefore not very surprising to find that bodies of water are frequently linked with paranormal experiences.

An old woman named Mother Wakely drowned herself in a pond near Suffolk in England, and for generations the locals believed that her ghost would appear to people who approached the pond and attempt to drag them into the water.

In West Milford, New Jersey, there is a stretch of haunted highway named Clinton Road that has been the setting for many a ghostly encounter, including phantom trucks that chase cars.  This stretch of road passes over a small bridge, and the ghost of a small boy who lives under the bridge apparently tries to lure motorists into the stream below to drown them.  Ghosts haunting ships at sea, wells, and bridges are also the stuff of legends.

The fact that ghosts were once believed to have been cast into bodies of water or laid under bridges by priests performing exorcisms only adds to the ghostly mystique surrounding water.

Although not quite a ghost story, one of the creepiest tales involving water has got to be the story of “Grandpa.”

Grandpa is the name given to a man who drowned in 1927 when his ship, the SS Kamloops, sank in the very deep and cold waters of Lake Superior.  The frigid water has perfectly preserved his corpse, although it has now turned as white as snow according to reports of divers who have seen him. (Grandpa is sometimes referred to as “Old Whitey.”)  Grandpa is still wearing a wedding ring and it has become something of a ritual for divers exploring the ship to shake hands with him.  He spends most of his time in the engine room, but he has been spotted elsewhere in the ship as well.

There are many embellished fables surrounding grandpa and the sinking of the Kamloops, but it is apparently true that his corpse follows divers as they explore the inside of the ship, possibly floating along on the currents created by the divers.

Partially out of respect for the dead man, the shipwreck has been designated as a “cultural treasure” by the National Parks Service.