International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Sometimes the best travel stories are the ones where you feel a smidge of fear. Perhaps it is because we all love scary stories, drawn from those conversations best held around campfire. So, if you like to be scared or perhaps you just like your travel a little bit dark, consider these destinations for your next trip.
Island of the Dolls
Lying off the canals of La Xochimilco, in Mexico, is a chinampa (floating garden) covered with the hundreds of dolls. Gathered by Don Julian Santana Barrera who scrounged rubbish piles, the dolls were hung from trees to keep away evil spirits and remember the drowning death of a young girl. According to Barrera, the dolls he planted and hung around the chinampa were still alive, but forgotten by their owners. While alive, Barrera would move the dolls around the island from different trees, creating a chilling sight. The chinampa is accessible by boat and the dolls are still around, despite Barrera’s death in 1992.
The grounds of Sedlec Ossuary, in Kutná Hora, were already a popular burial destination, due to a monk sprinkling the cemetery with dirt from Golgotha (location where the crucifixion of Jesus was said to occur). To cope with demand, a large church was built and thus began 400 years of exhuming bodies for a very unique form of interior design. Around 1870, a woodcarver named František Rint organised all the bones into elaborate and chilling sculptures, chandeliers and coat-of-arms. The Ossuary has since become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Czech Republic.
You may have some issues accessing this small, narrow tunnel located on a naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, but between midnight and 1 am on rainy nights a samurai apparently keen on revenging his master will appear. Surprisingly shy, this warrior only appears to solo travellers, and there are online reports from expats that left the tunnel disappointed. Some believe his spirit is unsettled as he is unable to finish a task for his master and loyalty prevents him from finding peace.
Hill of Crosses
Birds of a feather are not the only ones who flock together. On a lonely hill fort in 1831, people planted crosses to remember loved ones who died in an uprising against the Russian empire. Over time, with more skirmishes and unrest, the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, Lithuania, became popular as a place for prayer, remembrance, resistance and even more crosses.
As of today, there are well over 100,000 crosses teetering over one another, punctuated with small religious statues, rosaries and portraits. It has withstood repeated attempts to remove the crosses, including bulldozing. Though it appears out of this world and spooky, it is, at heart, a peaceful location earning plaudits from Pope John Paul II and others.
The Winchester Mystery House
After losing her husband and young child, Sarah Winchester became convinced that spirits were cursing her family due to the guns made by the Winchester family empire. To remedy this, she located an unfinished farm and commenced building around the clock. Construction work on what became known as the Winchester Mystery House never ceased during her lifetime (not even for a minute), with Sarah believing it would stave off angry spirits.
Today, the four-storey home with 160 rooms is open to the public, in San Jose, California. It is a confusing array of rooms, doors that open to walls and non-functioning bathrooms. Look out for Mrs Winchester’s favourite flourishes; the number 13 and spider webs.
Abandoned in 1986, Pripyat was established as a city for workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Evacuated after the devastating meltdown, the Ukrainian city has existed in standstill, a picture of slow dilapidation. With no maintenance performed on buildings, roofs fall, water leaks and trees grow through floors.
Some people have travelled through to take photos and measure radioactivity levels in the area, but this is an adventure best left to the experts.
London’s Tube network and the Tower of London
Scene to many a beheading and imprisonment, it is little wonder that the Tower of London is considered one of the spookiest buildings in Britain. For those who like to combine their celebrity spotting with their spooking, be on the lookout for the ghosts of Thomas Becket, the young Dukes of York, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lady Jane Grey, a bear and Queen Anne Boleyn.
And, as if public transport could not get any worse, apparently there are now haunted stations to deal with. At Bank station, people report foul odours and feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Though located on a former plague burial site and a figure called the Black Nun, we cannot tell if people are affected by the thought of going to work or supernatural activity, so we will leave it up to you.
Other allegedly haunted Tube stations include Covent Garden, Bethnal Green, Hyde Park and King’s Cross St Pancras. The disused British Museum station is reported to be haunted by an Egyptian princess upset at being on display nearby.