Most people have an inherent fascination with morbid curiosity and whether it’s a car crash on the side of the road or a gory scene in a horror movie, some of us just can’t look away. Whatever the reasoning, the lure of the morbid can filter into every area of our lives, including when we travel. So it’s no wonder then that some of the busiest tourist attractions include things like fossilised bodies, grave sites and haunted forests. To take us further into the darker side, we round up the top ten creepiest destinations around the world, from the slightly eerie to the just plain creepy.
ISLA DE LAS MUNECAS IN MEXICO
Just South of Mexico City lies Isla De Las Muecas (Island of the Dolls), a nightmarish island covered with thousands of mutilated dolls hanging from the trees. The site was created years ago, when a reclusive Mexican artist by the name of Julian Santana Barrera found the body of a small girl floating in a canal. Shortly after, he also found a doll floating in the same waters. As a sign of respect, he hung the doll from a tree, but over time began to feel haunted by the dolls presence, claiming it was possessed by the dead girl. Slowly descending into insanity, he would hear whispers, footsteps and screaming outside of his hut, even though he lived miles away from civilisation. In an effort to rid of the ghost he began to collect other dolls and hang them from the trees. The tragedy continued to unfold when years later, Barrera was mysteriously found dead, having drowned in the same canal where the girls body was originally found. Whilst it was never intended as a tourist attraction, today the site lures visitors from all over the world, wanting to experience the same eerie whispers in the night or feel the dolls’ eyes following them through the trees.
*Images by Cindy Vasko.
JAPAN’S SUICIDE FOREST
Sitting at the base of Mount Fuji is Japan’s Suicide Forest, Aokigahara, the haunting resting place for those in their final moments. Also known as The Sea of Trees, it is arguably Japan’s creepiest tourist attraction, with suicides taking place there since the 19th Century. Aokigahara was originally the venue for ubasute, the Japanese custom of leaving the elderly to die in the wilderness. Today it is the second most popular suicide destination in the world, sadly having attracted people of all ages wanting to end their lives, with only the trees as their witness. Whilst Aokigahara is naturally eerie with it’s winding trees and treacherous forest floor, it is also said to be haunted by the angry spirits of the dead.
*Images by Tryse, World of Travel and Laviezine.
CATACOMBS OF PARIS
Located 20 metres below street level sits the ‘worlds largest grave’, the Catacombs of Paris. Housing the remains of more than six million people, this underground network of skulls and bones was established in 1738 as a way of fixing the problem of overflowing cemeteries. In the early 19th century the 300 kilometre long skull-lined tunnel became a tourist attraction for those with morbid fascination. Today it continues to be a popular tourist attraction and so much so that in 2015 home rental site Airbnb offered 2 brave souls the chance to stay overnight in the Catacombs.
*Images by Lonely Planet and Airbnb.
DEAD BABY TREES OF TANA TORAJA
Nestled deep in the mountainous wilderness of South Sulawesi in Indonesia lies the remote town of Tana Toraja, famous for its unique burial rituals. ‘Ma’nene’, is the ritual where dead babies are buried inside tree trunks to honour the childs’ existence and as a way to ensure their ‘souls can go with the wind’. These tree graves are made from holes carved into the side of tree trunks and the dead babies are placed inside, before the hole is sealed and the baby is left to rest in peace.
*Images by Amusing Planet.
THE ABANDONDED CITY OF PRIPYAT UKRAINE
Once a bustling city inhabited by 50,000 people, Pripyat in Ukraine is now a ghost town, completely deserted after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Less than 3 kilometres away from the reactor, Pripyat was evacuated 36 hours after the accident, when the town was deemed totally uninhabitable. More than 30 years later, the deserted town has become over-run by nature, a silent yet vibrant testament to the sudden departure of residents. Scientists have since estimated it will be around 20,000 years before humans can inhabit this town again.
*Images by ABC and Travel + Leisure.
Once a thriving seaside Roman town, Pompeii was wiped out in 79A.D in the volcanic eruption of Mount Versuvius. Destroying the city and literally burying alive the inhabitants under tonnes of ash, Pompeii is now a preserved burial site. The people of Pompeii died from many causes – suffocation, burning and being crushed by debris. When archaeologists uncovered the site and began to sift through the remains, they realised they were finding bones sealed inside air pockets, covered in layers of pumice and ash. These bones had been ‘frozen’ into shape by the debris which had quickly hardened around the bodies as the devastation unfolded. Archaeologists filled these air pockets with plaster, which then preserved the shapes the bones were in. Today tourists get an insight into the aftermath of Mount Versuvius, which is now the most popular tourist attraction in Italy.
*Images by Planetware and Daily Express.
THE CHURCH OF BONES IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Known as the ‘Church of Bones’, Sedlec Ossuary is a Roman Catholic Chapel decorated with more than 40,000 human skeletons. Featuring a chandelier of bones, bone candelabras and skull candle holders, this bone church has a long history that dates back to the 13th Century. Abbot Henry bought back a handful of soil from the Grave of the Lord in Jerusalem and scattered it across the grounds, making Sedlec Cemetery one of the most desired burial grounds in the world. More than 30,000 people were buried in the holy land and it wasn’t long before there wasn’t enough room for everyone to rest in peace. So in 1870, a wood carver was appointed to artistically organize the bones. Bleaching the bones to give them a unified look, the wood carver then set to the morbid task of creating the Church of Bones, composing an artistic arrangement of the glorified dead.
*Images by Lonely Planet, Two Small Potatoes and Bohemian Blog.
PORT ARTHUR IN TASMANIA AUSTRALIA
Port Arthur is a former 19th century Australian convict settlement, once known as the ‘inescapable prison’ that housed some of the world’s most hardened criminals. The world heritage site is considered one of the best surviving examples of large scale convict transportation and colonial expansion. Located 60 kilometres South East of Hobart, it is a dramatic part of Australia’s history, offering a glimpse into life of criminals. Port Arthur is also the site of the tragic Port Arthur Massacre that took place in 1996, the worst massacre in Australia’s history that killed 35 people and injured 23. Today it is Tasmania’s top tourist attraction, luring people from all over the globe who want an insight into Australia’s eerie history.
*Images Convict Voyages and Datu Opinion.
HILL OF CROSSES IN LITHUANIA
A powerful testament to religious devotion, the Hill of Crosses in northern Lithuania began in 1983 after an uprising against the Russian tsar. Hundreds and thousands of crosses now claim the land to commemorate the dead and to act as a symbol of resistance to the communist regime. It is estimated 200,000 crosses mark the land, which has now become a popular site for tourists and pilgrims alike.
*Images by My sendoff and Rex Features.
SNAKE ISLAND IN BRAZIL
145 kilometres off the shore of Sao Paulo Brazil sits Queimada Granda, or ‘Snake Island’. This remote island sits peacefully in the Atlantic Ocean and at first glimpse looks like an untouched paradise, but on closer inspection it is literally hell on earth. Home to an endemic of the most venomous snakes in the world, Snake Island is so dangerous that it is impossible for humans to coexist on the land. Researchers estimate that between one and five snakes inhabit every square metre, making it the highest concentration of snakes anywhere on the planet (or, one of the most dangerous places on earth). So dangerous it is that the Brazilian Navy have even forbidden people from landing there.
*Images by Marcos Rosa.