Crumbling, decaying buildings - there’s just something intriguing about them isn’t there? It’s more about the mysterious backstories and urban legends of these buildings than it is the buildings themselves. We're drawn to mysteries and generally all unsolved things. Sometimes those mysteries are ancient, sometimes they’re modern and often they’re unexplained. Still, we can’t help but find ourselves lured in by these mystifying abandoned buildings, regardless of their stories.
Buildings are fabulous things – from their architecture to their surroundings to their stories. But creepy, abandoned buildings with somewhat unsolved stories are even more thrilling. Not many of us have had the chance to witness a famous abandoned building, inside or outside, and now the explorer within us is dying to hear more about them.
The good news is, we can visit most of these abandoned buildings in real life. Some of them are more famous than others but in our opinion, they’re all equally as interesting. From ancient ruins to mental hospitals, these abandoned buildings are creepy but mesmerizing all the same and they all have a story of how they got that way.
Here, we look at 12 of the world’s most mysterious abandoned buildings and 8 secretive ones still in use – but still controversial.
20 Deserted: Craig House Sanatorium, New York – a neglected mental hospital that still smells of tragedy
Several miles outside the town of Beacon in New York, an empty Victorian mansion stands abandoned. Originally built for General Joseph Howland, a Civil War officer in 1859, the mansion was turned into a psychiatric hospital in 1915. It was mainly the wealthy that came here for treatment. One of those patients was Zelda Fitzgerald.
Although it was meant to be a place to help cure patients, it was a place of sadness and tragedy, with many patients unable to find an escape from their illnesses. The hospital closed in 1999 and has since become neglected and forgotten.
19 Deserted: Crookham Court Manor School, England – the school famous for all the wrong reasons
There is something so sad, so emotional, so tragic about this abandoned boys school in Berkshire, United Kingdom. And it’s not because of how it looks, but because of its heartbreaking history. It used to be a working boys school until the 1980s, when a high-profile case emerged. After several arrests, the school was forced to close and has remained a ruin.
Even reporters who have visited the empty school say they feel emotional as they walk around because of the terrible things that happened there. Although it closed down, the memories will always remain.
18 Still In Use: Area 51, Nevada – Do aliens live there?
Nevada’s military base, known as Area 51, has sparked a great deal of mystery over the years. That’s probably because nobody really knows what’s hiding there. It’s supposed to be the place that tests new weapons and aircraft, but with the amount of secrecy, there are plenty of rumors for things like aliens and UFOs.
However, it would be too risky ever to find out what’s really in there because anyone who attempts to enter the premises will face catastrophic consequences.
17 Deserted: Woodchester Mansion, England – An unfinished construction with WWII spirits
Built of honey-colored limestone and topped with turrets, this old mansion in the Cotswolds is as beautiful as it sounds on paper. Apparently, it was abandoned in 1873 in the middle of construction after its Catholic owner passed away. Woodchester Mansion was also used during WWII as a temporary morgue for Allied troops. Rumors spread and persist of troop spirits lingering and 1940s music playing distantly in the hallways.
You can actually visit the Mansion if you like. You will be blown away by its immense beauty, but also disappointed that it has become abandoned. It doesn’t look unfinished to us.
16 Still In Use: Room 39 – Nobody knows what goes on in there
Even if any of us do ever travel to North Korea, we’ll never see inside Room 39. It is forbidden and exists only for the purpose of getting foreign currency to their leader. As we can imagine, there are endless theories as to what goes on in that room. Everybody has their own beliefs about Room 39, however, it remains true that Room 39 as a whole isn’t something most people know about.
It’s been kept private, for obvious reasons. This secret building is still in use. It is not abandoned or neglected.
15 Deserted: Graun Church Tower, Italy – A floating bell tower in the middle of the lake
Old, abandoned buildings can be eerie at the best of times. Old, abandoned churches? Make that 100 times creepier. Graun Church, which can be found on Lake Reschen in South Tyrol, Italy, used to be an ordinary church that locals attended to say their prayers.
Then, in 1950, an artificial lake was built to supply the town with electricity and this ended up drowning the old church. Fortunately, it didn’t all submerge into the water. We can still see the bell tower which looks pretty ominous, floating in the middle of the lake – at least, that’s what it looks like.
14 Deserted: Renwick Hospital, New York City – where illness still lingers
The second spookiest thing to an old, abandoned church is an old, abandoned hospital and this abandoned Smallpox Hospital in Roosevelt Island, New York City, doesn’t fail to intimidate. With its old granite walls, decaying roofs, and overall intimidating aura, this place makes our neck hairs stand up.
It’s not hard to believe this hospital dates back to the 1850s. It closed in 1875, after treating thousands of patients for all sorts of diseases and illnesses, including gum disease and smallpox. It’s definitely one of those eerie buildings that make you feel on edge just talking about it.
13 Still In Use: Vatican Secret Archives, Italy – the most private library in the world
The Vatican Secret Archives is no conventional library. In fact, it’s considered to be the most private library in the world. That’s probably because of what the library contains: personal documents of every Pope dating back to the 8th century.
Yep, there are a lot of important documents hiding in that library and of course, it is important that they remain safe. Until 1881, the library was closed to all non-Vatican figures. Today, only qualified scholars may enter the library – and even they have to apply for an entry card beforehand. However, they do keep their top-secret documents under lock and key.
12 Deserted: The Orpheum Theatre, Massachusetts – once lavish, now vacant
Once a stunning example of Beaux-Arts architecture, due to its symmetrical design and flat roof, the Orpheum Theatre is stunning inside and out. It’s hard to believe that this building is now totally desolate and hasn’t been in use since 1962.
It first opened the same day the Titanic sunk, on April 15, 1912. In addition to its being a theatre, it also boasted a gymnasium, large ballroom, and even a shooting range. At the time, it was the most popular event location in New Bedford. Since its closure, several different owners have taken over the theatre. Today, it remains an abandoned building crying to be re-opened.
11 Deserted: Haludovo Palace Hotel, Croatia – the million dollar casino washed up by battle
The Haludovo Palace Hotel opened in 1971, drawing tourists to the quaint Croatian island of Krk. The following year, Penthouse Magazine founder Bob Guccione invested $45 million in the building and turned it into the lush Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino. Then the Yugoslav Wars began in the 1990s and that was the end of the Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino.
Krk was no longer a tourist destination and the hotel ended up getting abandoned. It’s a real pity because now it looks like an ugly piece of waste property on the island, whereas back in its day it was a real treasure.
10 Deserted: Bannerman Castle, New York – the spectacular remains of a power explosion
Situated on Pollepel Island on the Hudson River, Bannerman Castle is a spectacular building – sadly, it is now just an abandoned property, unused. The castle was once used for arms storage for a Scottish munitions dealer named Frank Bannerman. He and his wife eventually built their own lavish castle on the property and used it as a home during the summer. Sadly, a power explosion in 1920 destroyed part of the castle and has made it a less breathtaking sight than it once was. Although we still think it looks spectacular.
Over the years, Bannerman Castle has had various owners. Today, visitors can go on a tour of the island and see the castle.
9 Still In Use: Iron Mountain, Colorado – the world’s most priceless treasures live here
It sounds like something out of one of those futuristic movies, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, this place really does exist, just not many people know about it. But it’s a pretty big deal. The 8 security guards equipped with AR-15s at its entrance tell us that.
Iron Mountain houses the world’s most priceless treasures, including company store databases, major bank information, and even iconic photos of Albert Einstein. It is believed this place can survive anything, even nuclear attacks not just once, but possibly several times. It’s definitely a place hiding a lot of secrets, but that’s part of its appeal.
8 Deserted: Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Denmark – the mysterious collapsing lighthouse
There’s just something creepy about lighthouses, whether they’re abandoned or not. So we’re not surprised Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse ended up on the list.
Built in 1900, it was abandoned in 1968 after sea and sand almost devoured it whole. Although we can still see the lighthouse, experts predict it will collapse within the next decade from coastal erosion.
A great mystery surrounding Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse is that in spite of it being built nearly 200 feet above sea level on a dune-less cliff, the sea and sand still managed to swallow it over the years – and still are to this day.
7 Still In Use: ADX Florence Prison, Colorado – Housing some of the world’s most dangerous men
It’s so bad, cameras are not even allowed on the premises. Even the Federal Bureau of Prisons won’t say much about this prison, which houses the world’s most dangerous men. That’s probably because it’s one of the worst prisons we’ll ever lay our eyes on.
Inmates reside in cells measuring 7ft by 12ft where they spend 23 hours each day. There’s a shower, toilet, desk, stool and a bed made from poured concrete. No wonder nobody speaks about it! We can’t even imagine how bad it must be inside those cells, but at least it’s one of the most secure prisons in the world.
6 Deserted: Chateau Miranda, Belgium – a ghost hunter’s haven
The Chateau Miranda in Celles, Belgium, has served a variety of different purposes. Originally, it was built by French aristocrats fleeing the guillotine. After that, it became an orphanage. Today, sadly, it is nothing more than a ruin. Its owners got numerous offers on the castle, but they do not wish to sell the property. It’s a pity really.
With its stunning architecture, a paint job and basic renovation could make this castle look spectacular today. Then again, maybe it’s just meant to fade into its surroundings. Sometimes it makes sense to preserve history. The Chateau Miranda deserves to be preserved.
5 Still In Use: Mezhgorye, Russia – the secret missile base
While 17,000 people may live in this town, don’t expect to be the next resident. It’s a secretive town with heavily restricted access. It doesn’t sound like the town will be welcoming any newcomers any time soon. That could be because of the secret nuclear missile base hiding in the town.
It's guarded by two battalions and equipped with sensors that trigger ballistic missiles automatically upon the detection of nuclear activity. Frankly, it sounds like the kind of place we wouldn’t want to find ourselves in. Although it may be secretive and mysterious, we think we’ll stay at home for now.
4 Still In Use: Skull & Bones Society, Connecticut – an exclusive place for powerful men
Skull & Bones is as mysterious as its name suggests: it’s a secret society located at Yale University. The location of the society is at ‘’The Tomb,’’ which is the society’s headquarters. The group was founded in 1832 by William Russell after spending a great deal of time among elite clubs in Germany.
The prime purpose of the society is to get as many group members into positions of power. It has even been reported that mysterious whispers and moans come from within The Tomb during initiation ceremonies. According to one Tomb member, John Kerry, nobody is allowed to say what goes on in The Tomb.
3 Deserted: Loretto Chapel, New Mexico – the spiral staircase and its phantom creator
Loretto Chapel’s spiral staircase is literally a woodwork masterpiece. Anyone with a pair of eyes can appreciate the beauty of this place – it is simply stunning. Equally as fascinating as the staircase itself is the urban legend that goes with it.
Some people believe that an unknown carpenter built the staircase in around 1878 and then suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. He didn’t even get paid for his work, legend believes. It’s one of the greatest mysteries surrounding Loretto Chapel. But it’s worth the visit just to see the staircase because it’s one of the most beautiful woodwork works of art.
2 Still In Use: White’s Gentlemen’s Club, England – we’ve gotta be best buds with William to get in
Gentlemen’s Club sounds so prehistoric; we can’t believe one actually exists in London. It’s London oldest, most exclusive club and, by the way, we cannot get in unless our name is William, and not just any William.
Okay, so maybe it doesn’t need to be that name exactly, but being a big deal is the only thing that will allow us access into the White’s Gentlemen’s Club. Actually, it’s not the only thing. Members can only join if they receive an invitation from a current member, and even that invitation has to be approved by two other members. You’ve really got to want to be in this club.
1 Deserted: Ross Island, India – once thriving, now only surviving
Originally a British settlement, Ross Island used to be a lively place between the 1850s to the 1940s. The British residents of the island filled the place with extravagant dance halls, clubs, pools, bakeries and gardens. That was until an earthquake and invasion by the Chinese in 1941. Both the Japanese and the British claimed the island until 1979 when Ross Island was given to the Indian navy.
Today, the island has almost been consumed by vegetation and doesn’t look a patch on what it was. Back in the day, it was a pretty fun place. Unfortunately today, it is abandoned and only receives visits from tourists on tour groups.
References: mentalfloss.com, atlasobscura.com, historicmysteries.com, littlethings.com, dailymail.co.uk