What makes a destination Halloween-worthy? Spooky celebrations, haunting histories and legendary macabre. We’ve put together a list of places around the globe that touch on these scary attributes. Check them out to add to your Halloween festivities.
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
No bones about it, this place is creepy. Sedlic Ossuary, the small Roman Catholic chapel about 45 miles outside of Prague is filled with decorations and furnishings made up of human bones. The ghastly place gained fame centuries ago, when the abbot of the monastery spread soil from Golgotha throughout the cemetery. It quickly became a coveted burial place, and now, skeletons of between 40,000-70,000 make up elaborate doorways, decorations and fixtures. A renowned chandelier contains at least one of every single bone in the human body. Need we say more?
If there’s one quintessential Halloween town in the U.S., it’s Salem, Massachusetts. Steeped in the history of the Salem Witch Trials, this New England town is eerie all year round, but capitalizes on its ghostly demeanor in October. Historic presentations bring you back to true events that have haunted the town for centuries, and haunted walking tours go through the scariest parts of the town, pointing out the supernatural occurrences and “terror trails.” Families will enjoy the New England Pirate Museum or a visit to the haunted house at the Salem Wax Museum.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The Bytown Museum is considered one of the most actively haunted places in Canada, and six ghosts have been known to call it home. Duncan McNab, who died more than 150 years ago, particularly likes to frequent the money vault, which is a cave-like room that supposedly hangs on to his spirit. He also has a knack for tampering with museum computers and typing his full name repeatedly. Don’t assume the doll exhibit is innocent either: Visitors have repeatedly heard children crying and seen dolls wink and move on their own.
Not many people would object to visiting sunny Cancun, but we going during its Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, which occurs right around Halloween. The Day of the Dead is a three-day celebration when Mexicans believe that souls of dead loved ones come to stay in the comfort of their families. From Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, the Mayan custom is brought to life with gourmet food, waterfront festivities, and a Gastronomy Fest, which both the living and the dead enjoy. (The dead are believed to “absorb” the food.) On the last and final day, the souls leave their families and go to the netherworld, and children carry bags and collect candy from neighbors.
The Black Plague’s wrath sent its victims to this isolated little island between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon and more than 160,000 people have died here in unpleasant ways. A prominent building there was used as a hospital for patients with deadly and infectious diseases, and the island itself was known far and wide as a way to keep sick people away from the healthy. Apparently that applied to the doctor as well, who practiced brutal experiments on mental patients in another building nearby. The doctor then jumped to his death from the bell tower. Care to see the sights here?
Estes Park, Colorado
If you’ve seen The Shining, the image of the Stanley Hotel is burned in your memory. According to the story, Jack is a writer who takes a job caring for a deserted hotel in the winter. He and his family stay there, and when his son Danny begins to see things in the past and future, trouble unfolds. Jack is visited from a ghostly butler who urges him to kill his wife and son, and heart-pounding events unravel until the very end. (You can watch it on Channel 42 from your hotel room – it plays on a continuous loop 24 hours a day.) Guests have complained of hearing piano sounds from the empty ballroom, and loud children running and playing in the hallways, only to find that the hallway is empty. If you’re looking for the ultimate thrill, stay in room 417, where King himself stayed.
County Offaly, Ireland
Folks call Leap Castle the most-haunted castle in Ireland, and is known for its “Bloody Chapel” priest-stabbing in 1530, while the mass was going on. In 1599, mercenaries were killed in their sleep after a feast. Maybe the most terrifying of all is the dungeon that contained a large spike in the center. Victims were tossed there to suffer and die, and when it was cleared a century ago, three cartloads of remains left the grounds. In the 1970’s an Australian bought and exorcised the property after it had been burned down, but the ghosts reportedly chose to stay in the castle.
Once upon a time, Forks was an undisturbed town, frequented only by locals who worked for the timber industry and those who explored the Hoh Rain Forest or the Ozette wilderness. Enter Stephanie Meyer. In the wake of the multi-billion dollar cult teen series-turned-movie Twilight, Meyer’s sensation drew flocks of vampire-loving teens to the small Washington town. Twilight isn’t the only reason this town gets creepy on Halloween. For years, Forks has been known to attract visitors from yesteryear. One such ghost is a lumberjack who wanders around the Forks Dam, and vanishes upon awareness, and another is a pregnant woman who can be seen strolling lawns at night. Lastly, an old Civil War soldier has been known to approach the ranger station in the Bogachiel State Park searching for a lost photo.
While not the first of vampire legends, Romania certainly brings visions Count Dracula to mind. Saturated in legend and tied to Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Bran is the perfect international Halloween jaunt. You can even visit Bran Castle, where Dracula is said to have lived. Other areas like Poenari Casrle, Hunyad Castle – associated with Vlad the Impaler in the 15th century, also make for spooky spots.
Fall River, Massachusetts
Every family has issues. The Borden family’s issues just happen to have been solved by way of axe… or so we think. In 1892, Lizzie Borden may or may not have killed both her father and step mother by repeatedly hitting them in the head with an axe. Later, the police found the axe without the handle and acquitted her of charges, although legends of her guilty tirade still live on. The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts (about 45 minutes south of Boston) has turned that fateful house into a cozy B&B for thrill-seeking travelers. Visit the 19th century Greek Revival house built in 1845, and restored with 19th century pieces. There’s also a small museum onsite where you can purchase hatchet-shaped jewelry to accessorize your other weapon-inspired apparel.