Just in time for Halloween – head off on a terrifying trip to one of these five frightening locations IF YOU DARE!
This is definitely scary. Or spooky. Or maybe it isn’t. The idea of dead bodies in coffins above ground seems intrinsically unsettling for those of us who have grown up in cultures where, when we’ve shuffled off, we get buried or cremated. But then perhaps putting your dead in the same earth you grow your carrots in seems just as bizarre to the people of Sagada in the Philippines, whose custom is to hang coffins from the cliffs. Perhaps they in turn think the sky burials of the Tibetan culture are slightly odd.
Absence may well make the heart grow fonder, but it can also make the heart attempt to beat down your ribcage with terror. The abandoned buildings and streets of the Ukrainian city of Pripyat are entirely absent of human life since the city was evacuated following the Chernobyl disaster. It even has its own theme park which was still a few weeks away from its grand opening when the nuclear catastrophe occurred. In a dreadfully macabre move, the authorities allowed the public into the park to maintain some semblance of calm and normality whilst they prepared to announce the imminent evacuation of Pripyat.
Stanley Hotel, Colorado, USA
Never heard of it? Any self-respecting Stephen King fan will quickly recognise in this turn of the century Colonial Revival the inspiration for The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel. Spending the night there in 1974, the hotel’s long, hypnotic and desolate corridors, through which dim traces of its restaurant’s piped music echoed, gave the author vivid nightmares – and ultimately a blockbuster book. Surely being labelled as the inspiration for one of the classic horror stories of our time would lead to a down-turn in trade? Surely you’d have to at least rebrand and redecorate – try and get people to put from their minds thoughts of Jack Torrence running about, wielding an axe, as he hunts down his family. Or, you could do as the current owners have done and embrace it – with the Kubrick film of the book shown on continuous loop on its own dedicated channel in all bedrooms, and a brand new reconstruction of the movie’s maze just opened this summer.
(The hotel also claims to have a history of hauntings, but we think Stephen King bit is the most likely to send shivers down your spine.)
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, Rome, Italy
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini – more commonly referred to as Nostra Signora della Concezione – is possibly quite unlike anything else you have ever seen. Not the church itself, which is entirely ordinary, but the crypt beneath it which is made up of a series of five arched chapels ornately decorated with the bones of Capuchin monks. Words cannot express quite how strange this ossuary is – the bones of over four thousand monks have been broken up and then reassembled to create everything from winged angels to lanterns. The lucky ones have been left intact as robed figures dotted about the displays, clasping crucifixes or rosary beads. “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” reads the plaque on the wall. Whatever else the future may have in store for me, I for one have resolved that my skull will never feature as the keystone in a fantastical bone mantlepiece.
Isla de las Munecas, Xochimico, Mexico
Keep your ghost stories, forget your bone-filled claustrophobic nightmares – the location that will haunt your waking dreams is the innocently named Isla de las Munecas – The Island of the Dolls. Don Julian Santana Barrera has been hanging up dolls from the island’s trees for the past 50 years; by his own explanation, this was to appease the spirit of a young girl whose body he found in the water surrounding the island. Whatever the reasons, the result is a truly spine-shiveringly scary destination which proves that all the things kids are meant to love – dolls, clowns, being held upside down by their parents – are the most terrifying things we can experience as adults.