Images of candlelit jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, and witches riding brooms may be equated with Halloween, but around the globe there are locales with even spookier decor. Though popular attractions, these creepy places have the benefit of being rooted in history with layers of culture, which means they’ve been well preserved over time. This is not your average haunted house night where thrill-seekers enjoy a few giggles and gasps in the dark. Instead, these are places packed with bones, scrawny cats, and the paranormal.
From frightening sculptures to dolls everywhere you look (even hanging in trees!), here are 10 places that might give you nightmares for weeks should you dare to visit. Consider peeking at the photos or watching Shawshank Redemption—one of the places served as a filming spot for the movie’s prison scenes—instead. Your mind will thank you for not cycling into full-blown hysteria by stepping foot into these spots.
A trip to an island off the coast of Mexico sounds great, but not if it’s packed with dead-looking dolls. Isla de las Muñecas, as it’s called in Spanish, is south of Mexico City in the Xochimilco channels, and while the surrounding area is well populated, the island is largely deserted, save for hundreds of dolls hanging in the trees. Many are unclothed, with eyes that move, and they’re said to be possessed by the spirit of a drowned girl who met her fate near the island. Legend has it that the former island caretaker began hanging the dolls after he found the drowned girl and was haunted by her spirit.
All you need to know is that scenes from The Shawshank Redemption were filmed in this former prison in Mansfield, Ohio. Legend says that it’s haunted, a convincing notion as plenty of inmates died during their sentences—and they just might still be roaming the halls here. It’s no longer in operation—it closed in 1990—but you can go on a guided or self-guided tour between Thursdays and Sundays throughout the year—if you dare. For a deeper thrill, book a public ghost hunt or “Escape From Blood Prison,”a haunted house meets escape room.
Small-town Japan is quaint, but this eerie village in the Iya Valley has just 30 residents—and over 400 large dolls. Local resident Tsukimi Ayano creates them in memory of the deceased, and they bear a striking resemblance to their deceased human counterparts, wearing their clothes and all, which adds to the creepy factor as they silently stare at you from all angles as you move about town. They are not clustered in one spot; rather, they are perched fishing on the riverbanks, siting at desks in the local school, or waiting for the bus.
Some cemeteries are beautiful, like Père Lachaise in Paris or Hollywood Forever Cemetery in L.A., but this Buenos Aires resting place is seriously haunted—even the city’s tourism website endorses the Neo-Gothic cemetery’s status. Stroll among the 6,400 statues, coffins, mausoleums, and gravestones and you might hear keys jangling. That is probably the late gravedigger David Alleno, who reportedly committed suicide after three decades on the job…and the day the statue of himself that he commissioned was complete.
Used as a residence for the mentally ill as far back as the mid-1800s, the The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is open from March through November for tours, truly capitalizing on Halloween’s energy. The hospital earned National Historic Landmark status in 1990 but closed down in 1994—and rumored ghosts have haunted the premises ever since.
Heard of the “church of bones”? This is it. Around 50,000 human skeletons lie in this monastery, which has been deemed holy land and was once a popular burial site. But the bones aren’t in one huge, messy heap. They are—piece by piece—artfully woven into chandeliers, candelabras, candleholders, and more. Similar to Buddhist prayer flags, bones are also strung above. The design dates back to 1870, when a local man was hired to take bones stored in a crypt and turn them into art.
Normally sculptures are inspiring, not scary, but Veijo Rönkkönen is not your run-of-the-mill sculpture park. Named for the artist who created the 550 concrete sculptures within—all human figures in a forested setting—it can appear overwhelming, as if you are being watched or maybe even judged. Some sculptures even sport human teeth. Described as a reclusive artist, Rönkkönen died in 2010 but the forest attracts thousands of visitors each year.
One cross is not scary. Hundreds, however, can frighten. Crosses began to appear atop a hill in this northern Lithuanian town following the 1831 uprising, which earned it the name the Hill of Crosses. Between crosses, crucifixes, rosaries, and carvings, there are now more than 100,000 littering the hill. Despite the country’s Soviet Union occupation between 1944 and 1990, and organized removals by the government, the crosses have never completely gone away.
Located in the capital city of Lomé, the Akodessewa is the world’s largest voodoo market, and not for the faint of heart. Imagine strolling the stalls and coming face to face with a human skull or an animal head. Beninese folks—Benin is said to be the birthplace of voodoo religion, not New Orleans or Haiti—run the market, and believe that in order to heal or rid yourself of a curse, talismans can hook you up with the right medicine.