While history has led humanity to many triumphant moments, inventions, and societal accomplishments, it also has a lot of dark spots. Many places on our planet are the locations of horrific tragedies or have intensely scary energy (and sometimes both) that could make even the bravest traveler check over their shoulders twice.
Here are some of the creepiest places with disturbing stories behind them.
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel’s Georgian architecture and world-renowned whiskey bar have attracted travelers to Estes Park since 1909, but the hotel reached new levels of fame after inspiring Stephen King to create The Shining‘s fictional Overlook Hotel.
That eerie association aside, many other ghost sightings and some mysterious piano music have been connected to the hotel. However, the hotel leans into its reputation with nightly ghost tours and psychic consultations from the in-house Madame Vera.
Aokigahara Forest, Japan
This seemingly serene forest at the bottom of Mount Fuji has an extremely tormented history and is colloquially known as “Suicide Forest” because it is one of the world’s second-most popular sites for suicides.
Some attribute this phenomenon to the forest’s association with demons in Japanese mythology. Others point towards the density of the trees, which muffles sound and makes it extremely easy to get lost. Many hikers even mark their path with tape or string to make it easier to find their way back out again. Either way, it’s an eerie place to walk through.
Flannen Isles Lighthouse, Eilean Moor, Scotland
Flannan Isles Lighthouse is located near the highest point on Eilean Mòr, one of the Flannan Isles off the west coast of mainland Scotland. It’s best known for the mysterious disappearance of its three keepers in 1900.
When a relief team came to check on them, they found all the keepers’ coats hanging up, but none of the keepers were in the house. They searched all over the area and checked for bodies washing up in the area, but the keepers never were found. Oddly, they had written about a massive storm in the logbook that, according to everyone nearby, had never occurred.
Cannibal Island, Siberia, Russia
In May 1933, the Soviet Union deported 6,000 political prisoners and petty criminals to live on an island near Nazino, Siberia. They were abandoned with only flour for food and barely any tools, clothing, or shelter—those who attempted to leave were killed by armed guards.
The conditions of the island led to widespread disease, violence, and, eventually, cannibalism. Within 13 weeks, over 4,000 of the deportees related to Nazino Island had died or disappeared.
The Gateway To Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
The “Gateway to Hell” is a 230-foot-wide crater in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan that won’t stop burning.
Soviet scientists began searching for oil in 1971 and accidentally hit a methane reserve; the drilling platform collapsed, forming the crater and releasing dangerous gas. The scientists lit the crater on fire to burn off the methane, creating the Dante-esque anomaly that has remained lit for over 40 years.
Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy
Poveglia Island served as a quarantine zone for bubonic plague victims, storage for Napoleon’s weapons, and the site of an early 20th-century insane asylum where horrific experiments occurred. It was finally closed when a doctor threw himself off the institution’s bell tower.
Locals still claim to hear echoing chimes from the island—even though the bell was removed decades ago. It’s illegal to visit Poveglia today, but you can see the island and decaying hospital from the beaches of Lido.
Tower of London, England
Built by William the Conqueror in 1066, this fortress has been richly integrated into the history of England, but it’s best known for its bloody history as a prison and execution site; two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were executed here.
Additionally, two young princes were imprisoned after the death of their father, King Edward IV—they disappeared shortly after in 1483, and their remains weren’t found until 1647. Unsurprisingly, there are many ghost stories of the Tower’s victims.
Hiroshima was the first city hit by the Atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. The blast devastated the city, but one of the most horrifying images left behind were the shadows of people who had been incinerated burnt onto the sidewalks and buildings.
Today, you can still see these shadows on concrete slabs preserved in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary took solitary confinement to new levels when it was built in 1829. Prisoners lived alone, exercised alone, and ate alone; when an inmate left his cell, a guard would cover his head with a hood so he couldn’t see or be seen.
It closed for good in 1970 and the site now welcomes thousands of visitors every year, both for its museum and Halloween celebrations. Reported paranormal happenings have included disembodied laughter, shadowy figures, and pacing footsteps.
Island Of Dolls, Xochimilco, Mexico
The Island of the Dolls was only inhabited by Don Julián Santana Barrera for more than 25 years, with a large number of dolls—and doll parts—hanging from the trees and decorating the cabins.
After finding a dead girl’s body in a nearby canal, Barrera collected and displayed the toys in the hopes of warding off evil spirits. Daring souls can hire their own boat, try to convince the driver to pay it a visit, and view it safely from the water.
The jungle town of Port Kaituma, Guyana is the site of Jonestown, where the People’s Temple cult, lead by Jim Jones, congregated to live together in the 1970s.
On November 18, 1978, over 900 members were instructed to participate in a mass-suicide by consuming juice laced with cyanide, instantly poisoning and killing almost all of them. While the area has been revamped into a village, its dark history makes it a terrifying site.
Nagoro is a tiny Japanese village with a life-sized doll population that outnumbers the human population nearly 10:1. Local resident Tsukimi Ayano began handcrafting doll replicas of her neighbors after they died or moved away.
The inanimate doppelgängers can be seen posing in different ways around the village. There are now about 350 dolls and 27 humans in Nagoro, making it a unique and terrifying toyland.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oświęcim, Poland
Auschwitz-Birkenau was an extermination and work camp operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. It consisted of the main camp where they kept prisoners, an extermination camp with gas chambers, and a labor camp.
It’s one of the most well-known reminders of the genocidal horrors Nazi Germany inflicted upon the Jewish population (amongst other groups including homosexuals and disabled people). Touring the grounds and walking where so many people died is quite an eerie and heavy experience.
Established in 1970, the city had reached a population of nearly 50,000 by the time it was entirely evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Pripyat has remained an uninhabited city since the evacuation, although the buildings, furniture, and all other signs of life are exactly where its former citizens left them—books, dolls, and family photos still hanging in homes.
The most famous landmark is Pripyat amusement park’s Ferris wheel—a skeletal reminder of what used to be.
Hoia-Baciu Forest, Romania
The Hoia-Baciu Forest became known around the world in 1968, though the locals have avoided it for a long time. The locals noticed that once they entered the forest, something strange and unusual happened to every single one of them: they’d experience nausea, anxiety, vomiting, severe headaches, and even skin burns. People believe it to be under a powerful curse and even a place where the Devil wanders free.
Catacombs Of Paris, France
In 1780, heavy rains flooded and unearthed bodies in the overcrowded Les Innocents cemetery. This horrifying event started a 12-year project to move bodies from Paris’ cemeteries down into the city’s former quarries, packing the underground tunnels with about 6 million bodies.
Today, about a mile of the subterranean labyrinth is open to visitors, who can take tours of the tunnels and artfully arranged displays of bones.
The Langham Hotel, London, England
The spirits are so active at this 153-year-old hotel that several English national team cricket players relocated to different hotels in 2014, citing sudden heat and lights, as well as an unexplained presence during the night.
Ghosts have long been associated with the building—it’s thought to house elite spirits such as former resident Emperor Louis Napoleon III and a German prince who jumped to his death from his upper-level window.
Oriental Theater, Chicago, IL, USA
Ghosts have been said to haunt the Oriental Theater (formerly the Iroquois Theater) in downtown Chicago, where almost 600 people famously perished in a fire in 1903.
Even though the theater was completely rebuilt and rebranded, spirits of the dead remained: apparitions have been seen in “Death Alley,” the street behind the theater where bodies were stacked after the disaster—now a common stop on many Chicago ghost tours.
Taylor Mountain, WA, USA
Taylor Mountain, located in King County, Washington, USA has many hiking paths often used by people who enjoy outdoor adventure. However, it also has the dark past of being the place infamous serial killer Ted Bundy left the bodies of his victims from the Seattle area.
The remains of Janice Ott, Denise Naslund, Georgann Hawkins, and four other women were found in the forests of the mountain.
Carib’s Leap, Grenada
It was here, in 1651, that the last of Grenada’s early settlers, the “Amerindians” (relatives of the North American “Indians”) who had moved up the island chain from South America died. They collectively jumped off the 130 ft. cliff to their deaths in order to avoid being conquered and possibly enslaved by the French colonists who had landed on the island.
The point is located in a graveyard and there’s an eerily heavy feeling about standing on the same point they jumped from.