Once upon a time, if word got around that a place was haunted, that was more or less the end of it. People did not want to go messing with the supernatural. Nowadays people are less superstitious. Less afraid of the supposedly supernatural. Maybe it’s because we were all raised on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and we’ve learned that the real spooky things in this world aren’t ghosts but usually crooked real estate developers. As a result, “hauntings” are just places of fun. We get to go around to spooky places with colorful histories and tell ghost stories. It’s kitsch and it’s entertaining!
Or, at least, that’s what we like to think. The truth is that people have enjoyed ghost stories in the same way we do for centuries. The stereotype of the superstitious locals who steer clear of a haunted spot is mostly a myth. Mostly. The truth is, whether you’re a firm believer in supernatural occurrences or a hardened skeptic, in the moment, when you’re sitting in a supposedly haunted place and people are telling ghost stories and then you hear that bump in the night...you’re not getting any sleep are you? And that’s the fun of these places. And that’s why having a reported 'sighting' can be good business for an attraction or hotel. But then there are some places where people haven’t tried to take economic advantage. Which can only make you wonder what’s going on there. Here are 15 haunted places that might be fun for the brave and ten where only the foolish would tread.
24 Only for the Brave: The Stanley Hotel (Estes Park, CO) - inspired The Shining
There are lots of good reasons to stay at the Stanley Hotel. Maybe you want to see some of Colorado’s famed natural beauty; after all, the hotel is a mere five miles from Rocky Mountain National Park. Or maybe you just want to stay in a 142-room, century-plus old, colonial revival hotel. But be forewarned: the Stanley Hotel has been home to numerous paranormal activities.
However, all of these paranormal sightings have come after the release of The Shining. Why is that relevant? It was the Stanley Hotel that inspired author Stephen King to write the macabre tale of a malevolent hotel tormenting its inhabitants while he was staying there in 1974. Indeed, King famously disliked director Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and so he shot his own (much less celebrated) The Shining miniseries at the Stanley Hotel in 1997.
23 No One Dares Visit: Hoia Baciu Forest (Transylvania, Romania)
The Hoia Baciu Forest in Transylvania is seriously weird. First of all, it’s in Transylvania so you should already be on guard. Second, the forest is home to creepy curved trees and fog often settles there, so that’s good. Now let’s get into to just some of the so-called paranormal incidents to have occurred there.
There has been a UFO sighting in 1968, some locals believe the forest contains a portal to hell or at least another dimension, and several people have disappeared in its midst, including one little girl who is now said to haunt the forest. Residents of the nearby city of Cluj are happy to walk and bicycle along the outskirts of Hoia, but to go into the interior? Madness.
22 Only for the Brave: The Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, CA)
A much worse movie than The Shining was the 2018 film Winchester (oh, Helen Mirren, why did you do this?). But while the film was flawed, the story of the Winchester Mystery House is legitimately unnerving. This bizarre, winding, byzantine, maze of a house was built and lived in (simultaneously) by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester. Sarah Winchester seemed to believe that the passing of her child and husband were karma for all the lives that had been ended by Winchester rifles. Mrs. Winchester reportedly believed that the souls of these who passed haunted her and influenced her to build this house, either to hide from them or to help them. Whether the Winchester Mystery House is a haven for trapped souls or a paean to grief-induced mental illness, it’s creepy.
21 Only for the Brave: La Recoleta Cemetery (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Cemeteries are always a little bit creepy. They’re often beautiful and impressive, and if you’re there for a funeral, you’ve probably got emotions like grief at the forefront of your mind. But hangout in a cemetery at dusk --or later-- and you’ll probably get the heebie jeebies. La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is beautiful during the day, and...unnerving at night. La Recoleta is home to thousands of monuments and several famous figures, including Eva Perón. But the most famous undead resident is that of former caretaker David Alleno, whose spectre is said to walk the pathways at night accompanied by his jangling keys.
20 No One Dares Visit: Bhangarh Fort, India
Bhangarh Fort was built in 1661 in what is now the Indian State of Rajasthan. It’s only 100 miles southwest of Delhi, but the ruins of Bhangarh Fort are kind of in the middle of nowhere. There’s not much around it and the area remains largely uninhabited. This is possibly because of a so-called curse.
The story goes that a wizard sophisticated in the arts of black magic fell for a princess with many suitors. He offered a love potion, but she rejected it, smashing it on a boulder that then rolled over and crushed the wizard. With his last breath he cursed the fort and soon after the Mughals invaded, destroyed the fort, and took many lives, including the princess. Nobody has dared rebuild it since.
19 Only for the Brave: Salem, Massachusetts
We all know the story of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, so we needn’t go over all that again here. Perhaps there is no such place affiliated with the macabre as is Salem; a place where the whole town is said to be haunted. Whether the Salem Witch Trials were the result of ergot poisoning, mass hysteria, misogyny, petty neighborhood squabbles, or some combination of the above, it would be silly, and frankly offensive, to say that any of those innocent victims were witches in league with Satan. But if ghosts do exist and they are, as many believe, souls who were wronged in their lives and have unfinished business, on this earth, then there are few better candidates for hauntings than Salem.
18 Only for the Brave: RMS Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)
No decent, old, ocean-going ship worth her salt is without at least one or two ghost stories. But the RMS Queen Mary has more than just a few isolated incidents of the supposedly paranormal. She spent most of her active life as a luxury ocean liner before winding up being purchased by the city of Long Beach, California in 1967 and being moored as a hotel. During her time at sea, the Queen Mary experienced at least one recorded murder and several accidental deaths. Hotel guests have frequently reported paranormal activity from strange noises, to apparitions, to objects being moved by no clear mechanical cause. The ship’s engine room is thought to be a hotbed of paranormal activity.
17 Only for the Brave: Yuma Territorial Prison (Yuma, AZ)
Yuma Territorial Prison is now operated as a historical museum by Arizona State Parks. It’s an interesting and impressive looking place to go to learn about life, law, and justice in the old Wild West. But just as with ocean liners, no noteworthy prison is without a good ghost or two. Prisons are not fun places. And old prisons such as Yuma were definitely not fun.
From 1876 to 1909, over 3000 prisoners were bad enough (or unfortunate enough) to call Yuma Territorial Prison their home. And some of those prisoners, purportedly, still call Yuma their home. If you go to Yuma, don’t wander away from the tour group, or every thud you hear and every gust of wind you feel might just make you think you’re in the supernatural presence of one of those “bad hombres”.
16 No One Dares Visit: Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy
Not only would nobody dare visit Poveglia Island, you legally can’t. It’s not open to the public. You would either have to take your own boat there (and not get caught) or find a boat owner willing to take you there, but most taxis refuse to go; either because of superstition or because it’s just a hassle. Venice is made up of several islands but Poveglia has a dark and sad history. It was used as a quarantine for people with bubonic plague who were essentially sent there to live out their remaining days. Napoleon Bonaparte stored arms there and in the 20th century it was an “insane asylum” wherein the doctors cruelly experimented on the patients. One doctor passed under suspicious circumstances and some claim to still hear the bell tower chiming, even though the bell was removed years ago.
15 Only for the Brave: Château de Brissac (Brissac-Quincé, France)
A French castle. It doesn’t get much more romantic than that. But ghosts are romantic in their own kind of way, too, so it’s only natural that the Château de Brissac should have a spectral inhabitant. She is known as the “Green Lady” and if you visit the castle and you are unlucky enough to meet her, she might not be that nice to you. And, frankly, she has good reason to be ticked off. Charlotte of France was the illegitimate daughter of King Charles VII. According to legend, Charlotte's life was taken by her husband when he discovered she was having an affair. And what was Charlotte wearing at the time of her demise? A green dress.
14 Only for the Brave: The Whaley House (San Diego, CA)
A word to the wise: if you’re going to build your family an estate, maybe don’t do it on land that used to be grounds where bad things happened. This is a lesson that Thomas Whaley learned the hard way. In 1857, he built his house on the site of San Diego’s first public gallows. He and his family were then tormented by either bad luck, psychological illness, or maybe the ghost of “Yankee” Jim Robinson, a drifter and thief who lost his life there.
Over the years, the Whaley family was plagued by problems and many passed in odd ways, including some in the house itself. The Whaley House is now a museum, but if you visit it and you sniff a wafting odor of cigar smoke or perfume, maybe leave that room right away.
13 No One Dares Visit: The Sallie House (Atchison, KS)
People are seriously scared of this place. The Sallie House is named for the ghost of a little girl (“Sallie”) who appeared to the Pickman family who were tormented by what they perceived to be supernatural powers when they lived in the house. But there is no record of a little girl named Sallie having ever lived there which has made some aficionados of the paranormal suspect she is actually a demon in disguise.
Past tenants have been accused of witchcraft and satanism and a pentagram was apparently discovered in the basement. Noted paranormal investigator Ryan Bergara of the YouTube series Buzzfeed Unsolved has said the Sallie House is the one place to which he will not return.
12 Only for the Brave: The Viaduct Tavern (London, England)
The Viaduct Tavern was built back in 1874-75 smack dab in the City of London, right by St. Paul’s Cathedral on the site of a former jail (or as the English sometimes spell it, “gaol” - huh?). As we’ve already seen, building your establishment on the grounds of a former jail is a good way to get haunted. The Viaduct Tavern was also a former gin palace full of roustabouts and “colorful” characters, who you might still be able to meet, if you’re unlucky enough.
If you do decide to visit this old pub, try not to go between 5PM and 9PM on a weeknight, as it’s just down the road from the London Stock Exchange and is often full of investors, traders, and bankers in their pinstripe suits with pocket squares boasting about their recently closed deals. And what could be scarier than that?
11 Only for the Brave: Dauphine Orleans Hotel (New Orleans, LA)
In 2019, good luck finding a hotel that doesn’t have a reported haunting of some variety. And if that hotel is in a city as old as New Orleans, with its troubled past and history of Voodoo practitioners, forget about it. But the Dauphine Orleans Hotel stands above the rest of the Big Easy’s lodgings in the haunted department.
Located in New Orleans’s historic quarter of debauchery --Storyville-- the Dauphine Orleans Hotel is comprised of several buildings, some of which are up to 200 years old, and which used to be private homes, stables, and a bordello. Wounded Confederate soldiers recovered there during the US Civil War. Whether it's the souls of soldiers passed, bordello owner May Bailey, or her younger sister Millie (“the Lost Bride”), guests have reported spectral apparitions, unexplained footsteps, and slamming doors.
10 Only for the Brave: Mission San Francisco Solano (Sonoma, CA)
Despite its name, Mission San Francisco is not in San Francisco. It’s actually in Sonoma. It was one of a number of missions built by the Spanish in Alta California which was then part of Mexico (though Mission San Francisco was actually built after Mexican independence). The purpose of the mission was twofold: to establish a Mexican presence in Northern California to stop the encroachment of the Russians (yes, they had settlements in California - who knew?), and to spread Christianity to the indigenous peoples in the area. And the Mexicans/Spanish treated the indigenous population with as much disrespect and brutality as most Europeans did. As such, Mission San Francisco has a darker history than you would imagine a place of God having. Furthermore, some believe that a demon lives there today. Yes, a demon.
9 Only for the Brave: Sorrel-Weed House (Savannah, GA)
Designed by noted architect Charles B. Cluskey and completed in 1840, the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, is named for the first two families to own it: the Sorrels and then the Weeds. The story goes that the original man of the house, Francis Sorrel, married his wife’s younger sister after his wife’s passing. Sorrel also owned people and had a relationship with one of them, Molly, to whom he gave “preferential treatment”. When his second wife Matilda caught him and Molly in the act, she leapt from a balcony. Two weeks later, Molly passed as well. If you’re unlucky enough, you might meet them at night at the Sorrel-Weed House. The House was also built on or near the spot of the Siege of Savannah, so you might meet some Revolutionary War soldiers as well.
8 Only for the Brave: Colchester Castle (Colchester, England)
Colchester Castle is a Norman Castle in Essex, England, and was built in the 11th century. That’s a long time ago and a lot of history has happened since then. Before then, as well, as Colchester Castle was built upon Roman ruins; a spot where the Briton Queen Boudica is said to have taken down a bunch of Roman soldiers. Centuries later, at the end of the English Civil War, two prominent Royalist Cavalier leaders lost their lives on the grounds of the castle. In 1656, Quaker James Parnell passed while imprisoned there, becoming a martyr for his religion. With millennia of dark and violent history, it’s no wonder people report paranormal activity here.
7 Only for the Brave: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Banff, Canada)
Banff is famously beautiful and while there is perhaps nothing to rival the natural beauty of Banff National Park, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel makes a good go of it. This marvelous grand hotel is a beautiful building in a beautiful spot, but it hides something ugly. The 130-year old hotel has had its fair share of supposed paranormal incidents.
One involves a ghost bride who apparently perished by falling down the stairs on her wedding day. That sucks. On a cheerier note, longtime bellman “Sam” swore he would haunt the hotel when he left this world. And he apparently has, but his afterlife hasn’t differed much from his normal life; even as a ghost he helps guests with their bags. Thank you, Sam.
6 Only for the Brave: Old Alton Bridge (Copper Canyon, TX)
During the day the Old Alton Bridge is just that: an old bridge. But at night it is the Goatman’s Bridge! Ooh, scary. “Goatman”. What is a goatman? Apparently he’s some beast: a satyr, a demon, or maybe Beelzebub himself, who, I guess owns the bridge or something. He supposedly lives in the nearby forest and will torment those who cross his bridge at night without a light. He torments them by grabbing their clothes and throwing rocks at them.
It all sounds a bit silly, to be honest, but put me there in the middle of the night and I’d probably get nervous.
5 No One Dares Visit: Isla de las Munecas - “Island of the Dolls” (Mexico City, Mexico)
No item on this list is as instantly creepy or visually unsettling as the Island of the Dolls. Located in the original Aztec neighborhood of Xochimilco (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) on the outskirts of Mexico City, the Island of the Dolls is a place where nobody but the very brave (crazy?) would visit. First, the island is full of hanging dolls, doll heads, and doll parts, so that’s creepy as heck. Second, it’s full of spiders. And lastly, some local boat taxis will refuse to take you there.
The story of the Island of the Dolls is actually sad and kind of sweet (maybe?). It was the home of recluse Julian Santana Barrera who one day found a girl wash up on his island. He began hanging up dolls either in tribute to her or to ward off evil spirits.