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Although the superstitions and believes surrounding Halloween may have evolved over the years, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people can still look forward to parades, costumes and sweet treats to usher in the winter season. With Halloween just around the corner, we thought you might be interested to find out where some of the spookiest, spine-chilling, weird, ghostly and mysterious places around the world are. In honor of this eerie Celtic-Catholic pagan holiday, we will take you on a journey to places where mummies will stare back at you and ghosts will roam the hallways – haunted houses, torture caves, dungeons and prison-mazes. Halloween is a celebration of superstition, so pack a piece of bread, some witch-repellent salt and nuts, to be your magic charms, and let’s go!
P.S.: We’ll be back before sunset!
Although St. Michan’s church in Dublin was founded in the middle of 16th century and has the oldest organ (dated 1724) still in use in the entire country, this creepy destination is much more known for the vault that lies under the church. Further down the a limestone and mortar tunnel, the vaults extend into a series of coffin galleries.
Through the iron doors of some, visitors can take a peek at a multitude of coffins with an arm or leg, occasionally poking from the coffin lid. Then, in one of the open chambers, deep in the dark, damp tunnels below the church are 4 caskets with the lids completely removed, exposing mysteriously mummified remains—corpses partly covered with a layer of taut, leathery skin. Three of the four coffins lie in a row with a woman on the right, a man with a hand cut off and both feet missing in the center and a nun on the left. Some hypothesize the corpse is missing limbs because he was a thief and was punished by having them cut off, others believe he was simply too large to fit in the casket.
The final mummy in the vaults of St. Michan’s is a man believed to have been a soldier returned from the crusades, whose body is cut in half to fit in the casket and whose hand lifts eerily into the air. If visitors are brave enough to venture further into the underground vaults, they can see the caskets of the Sheare brothers, who were hanged, drawn and quartered in punishment for treason after an uprising in 1798. The most mysterious thing about the mummies of St. Michan is that no one understands why these bodies have not decomposed like others in surrounding areas. Maybe it’s the climate in the underground vaults, maybe it’s the high concentration of lime in the soil, or maybe it’s just something a little more paranormal and a lot spookier.
Although a popular tourist attraction year-round, the famous catacombs of Paris are a particularly good place to visit in honor of Halloween. The underground ossuary, which was organized in a section of the city’s vast network of underground tunnels in the 18th century, were designated as a place to store the remains from condemned cemeteries in the Paris city limits. In the late 1700s, bodies from several burial grounds in Paris were moved into the underground tunnels and the result we see today is the mass stacking of bones, with skulls and femurs lining the walls like decorations. The creepy Parisian catacombs have inspired ghostly stories for generations.
The cracked and cock-eyed tombstones in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague date back to the 15th century and this cemetery is the second oldest Jewish burial site in all of Europe. The crooked graves and tombstones, with caskets protruding from the ground in some places, give this cemetery a definite creepy crawly feel. Jews were forbidden to bury their dead outside of their own quarter and the number of tombs layers is believed to be twelve. It is unknown how many people are actually buried in this cemetery. It has been estimated that 12 000 tombstones are presently visible, but the burials could be as many as 100 000.
As you turn the corner in this plainly decorated little church and venture down a cold, narrow hallway, you find yourself in a chilly, one-room chapel with walls lined with human bones. The cages along the walls, holding skulls and leg and arm bones, are stacked high to the ceiling – but rather than just utilitarian piles or plain old orderly stacks, most of the bones are arranged in a decorative fashion, including several large panels where the bones are formed into cross-like designs. In wire cases along the back doors are the skulls from individuals who had been beheaded in a nearby piazza outside the modern day La Scala opera house. As it turns out, this chapel in San Bernardino alle Ossa became a storage place for bones when a cemetery next door became full, and in 1210 a room was built to house the bones of deceased. So, since the 13th century, dead people and their spirits have been housed in this little church in Milan.
Edinburgh is internationally renowned for the strange paranormal activity and dark tales shrouding the city, but the series of underground closes in this Old Town area, has been probably the most mystical and creepy place for centuries. The dark narrow street passageways were closed, and the surrounding buildings were used as foundations for new ones, which made up an underground maze of eerie of haunted dark tunnels. Terrifying stories about ghosts and murders, plague victims, cast to die into the close are numerous. There is even a dark corner in the close where visitors leave stuffed animals in attempt to appease the ghost of a woman who was murdered in the tunnels centuries ago. It is said that her ghost, as well as others, haunt visitors, making these ghost filled tunnels and their blood-curdling mystique, the perfect place to experience the paranormal this Halloween.
Located in a small space comprised of several tiny chapels in Rome, the Capuchin Crypt is the final resting place for over 4,000 Capuchin monks, who died between 1528 and 1870, as well as several poor Roman citizens. There are six total rooms in the crypt, where large numbers of bones are nailed to the walls in intricate patterns and some bones create working light fixtures and chandeliers.here are themes for each of the rooms, including a room decorated using bones in honor of the Resurrection, a room full of skulls, one with pelvises, and another with leg and thigh bones. There is also a crypt of three skeletons, which include a center skeleton holding a scythe (a symbol of death). A sign in the last chapel reminds visitors that “As you are now, we once were. As we are now, you one day will be.” Although visitors flock to this crypt at all times of the year, I can imagine few spookier ways to spend Halloween than in crypts decorated with human bones.
It is no wonder that the oldest surviving building in Cape Town is rumored to be haunted. The castle, which was built between 1666 and 1679 as a replacement to an older military fortification, was declared a national monument in 1936 and has been vigorously restored. Located in the castle are cells where prisoners marked the walls with terrifying graffiti. The most decorated was the Donker Gat (the dark hole), which was a windowless dungeon and torture chamber located in the depths of this castle. During winter floods, it has been recorded that rising water levels in the dungeons would drown prisoners chained to the walls in the dark hole. It would seem natural, then, that is castle is haunted, no? A semi-luminous ghost is said to have been seen roaming the halls of the castle and ringing the castle bell from time to time. Lady Anne Barnard, who once lived in the castle, is also said to be one of the most prominent ghosts, as her curly-haired but transparent ghost appears at parties and can be seen bathing in the Dolphin Pool of the castle.
This picturesque mountain town in Austria, which is an easy day-trip from Salzburg, is known for its ossuary full of painted skulls and stacked bones. The ossuary contains over 1200 skulls alone, with the most recent being added in 1997. The ossuary, which is located behind the Parish Church of St. Michael, contains decorated skulls dating back to the 15th century. Due to lack of space in the cemetery, the right to any grave would expire after 10-15 years, when the bodies were then exhumed and the skulls were lovingly decorated by family members with the names of the deceased, their professions in life, when they were born, and when they died – and then placed in the ossuary. Even if you can’t read the inscriptions, you can usually tell the men from the women by the extra decorations – women tend to have flowers while men tend to have leaves. This isn’t the first bone-filled church in Europe on this list (in fact, ossuaries like this were once incredibly common), but the decorated skulls – and the fact that it’s still in use in modern times – definitely make it an interesting Halloween destination.
For more than 500 years, the Valley of the Kings served as the burial place for kings and powerful nobles of Ancient Egypt. Standing on the west banks of the Nile, there are thousands or ornate tombs, some of which contain numerous entrances and complex chambers, others of which are simple pits. These tombs are also home (or, more accurately, were home) to thousands of mummies, carefully wrapped and preserved. Since the discovery of King Tutankhamen, this area of Egypt has ignited the curiosity of archaeologists and laymen alike, who love stories of ghostly mummy raids and spooky happenings. Many of the tombs have curses written upon them, warning any who enter may suffer from death. This legend was given validity when several members of the team that first opened Tutankhamen’s tomb mysteriously died, adding to the creepy nature of this area. Whether you believe in the curse or not, this ancient burial ground remains full of mystery to this day, making it a great Halloween destination.
If you like the idea of walking the corridors of cemeteries on Halloween, than Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Parisis the place to do it. With its miles of tombstones and mausoleums, Pere Lachaise is the mother of all cemeteries. The old burial place is not only home to many French greats (not to mention American rock musician Jim Morrison, probably the cemetery’s most famous resident), but the cemetery’s above ground tombs, statues and thousands of tombstones make for a perfect, creepy Halloween backdrop. In the fall, golden and red leaves cling to the dying branches of trees in the cemetery, making October the perfect, eerie time to explore this huge cemetery. Surrounded by the ghosts of Balzac, The Doors music legend, and Chopin, visitors might get goose bumps and feel their skin crawl in this sprawling land of the dead. Or perhaps they will feel inspired by the souls of the deceased French poets, leaders and authors. Obviously, you’ll need to visit for yourself to see what effect this place has on you.