Beware, take care, beware.
Around the globe, spirits set about their nightly haunts, revenging transgressions, lamenting wrongdoings, or simply wanting their stories remembered. Historic houses, museums, forts, parks, and more are filled with paranormal tales. Some sites offer tours where you learn about the histories of the tormented souls and—horrors upon horrors—possibly face them head on. Others forbid visitors for safety reasons. Whatever the case, some sites are hands-down scarier than the rest. On this Halloween, here are nine of the world’s most haunted places. Visit only if you dare.
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The Fort That Forbids Entry at Night
WHERE: Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan, India
Amid the rolling green hills between Jaipur and Alwar, in Rajasthan, India, stands the magnificent fort of Bhangarh. Dating back to the 17th century, it once included a royal palace and more than 9,000 houses. Mysteriously abandoned, its ruins are a popular tourist site today, but no one is allowed to enter at night. Why? Because the few who have wandered inside (mostly tourists) failed to return alive. Those who venture nearby hear screaming ghosts, crying women, and strains of music and dance. The haunted legacy is pinned on an evil saint who fell in love with beautiful Princess Ratnavatil and attempted to use a magic potion to win her heart. She learned of the plot and ordered him killed. Alas, before he died, he cursed the fort, promising all inhabitants would die and it would become uninhabitable—as it remains today.
The Queen’s Spooky Palace
WHERE: Glamis Castle, Scotland
Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, the Queen Mother, grew up at Glamis Castle in Scotland. It’s unknown if her ghost haunts the sprawling, 14th-century abode, which is open for guided tours, but among the ghosts that do is the Grey Lady, a.k.a. Lady Janet Douglas. The story goes: She poisoned her husband, the 6th Lord Glamis, John Lyon, but was acquitted. Years later, she was falsely accused of poisoning King James V of Scotland, plus witchcraft. Burned at the stake for her “crimes” in 1537, her ghost today seeks revenge, running up the stairs in the clock tower.
But she’s not the only apparition at Glamis. Others include a woman without a tongue who roams the park around the castle and an 18th-century boy servant who had been mistreated. But the most famous ghost of all is that of Earl Beardie or the Earl of Crawford. He visited the castle in the 15th century, got drunk one night, and demanded to play cards. He said he would play the devil himself if no one joined him. A mysterious man in black showed up and offered to play. Even to this day, visitors hear swearing, loud voices, dice, and clinking classes.
A French Château’s Dark Murder
WHERE: Château de Brissac, Val de Loire, France
One dark night in 1477, at the fairy-tale Château de Brissac, in the Val de Loire, France, the husband of King Louis XI’s half-sister, Charlotte de Valois, discovered she was in bed with another man. Jacques de Brézé raced upstairs and killed the lovers with a sword…or perhaps a hunting ax. At her funeral, he wore her favorite color, green, instead of black. Ever since, the Dame Verte—Green Lady—is said to roam the castle’s rooms, especially the tower, wearing a green dress. Sometimes just her moans are heard, cursing her murderous husband, while other times, she makes a full-fledged appearance. If that’s not bad enough, those who have seen her are horrified by a mutilated, corpse-like face with holes where her eyes and nose should be. It’s not known where the spirit of her lover may be.
A Forbidden Venetian Island
WHERE: Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy
Just off Venice, near the Lido, looms the scariest island in the world. Anyone who visits the small Poveglia Island will not leave alive, so the rumors go. Voices, screams, and laments pierce the nighttime silence; researchers have detected an electromagnetic field, although no source of electricity exists nearby.
Poveglia was a thriving port during the Roman Empire, but after the outbreak of the war of Chioggia in 1378 between Venice and Genoa, its inhabitants moved away. Its darkest moments came with the Black Death in 1700, when more than 160,000 people were dumped there, dead or alive. Decomposing bodies were burned, and their ashes were thrown into mass graves. If that wasn’t bad enough, in 1922, an asylum for the mentally ill opened. Internees were tortured, experimented upon, and/or given lobotomies. Interestedly, there were many reports of strange shadows—were the patients of Poveglia’s asylum seeing ghosts of the plague victims?
Those alleged ghosts also haunted the torturing doctor, finally driving him crazy. He jumped (or was thrown?) from the clock tower and strangled by the fog. Even though the bell was removed years ago, you can still hear it tolling across the bay.
It is illegal to visit the island.
A Spirit-Filled Residence With Cold War History
WHERE: Höfði House, Reykjavik, Iceland
Höfði House along Reykjavik’s waterfront is famous for hosting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1986, whose discussions there led to the end of the Cold War. But another cold war brews inside—in the guise of a young woman ghost. Sólborg Jónsdottir allegedly poisoned herself after the house’s early 20th-century owner, revered poet Elnar Benediktsson, delivered an unsatisfactory verdict in a notorious assault case (he was a lawyer, too). She appeared to him at night, begging and sobbing, finally chasing him out. Subsequent owners claimed they heard her as well, including the British Ambassador, John Greenway, who resided here in 1952. He pressured Britain to sell the house because of “bumps in the night.” Today, it’s open only for official receptions and meetings, though it can be viewed from outside.
A Railroad Hotel’s Roster of Ghosts
WHERE: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff National Park, Alberta
At the world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which opened in 1888, it’s not uncommon for guests to find their pillows yanked out from under their heads; or to hear screams—or so the stories go. The most popular is the Ghost Bride, a veiled figure who awaits guests by the ballroom entrance. Sometimes she even dances. On her wedding day in the 1920s, dressed in her finery, she slipped on the hotel’s marble staircase and tumbled to her death. She spends eternity searching for her husband, yearning for their first dance.
There’s also Sam the Bellman, a Scotsman who worked at the hotel in the ’60s and ’70s. His ghost remains ever helpful, just as he was during his life. Two elderly women, for example, received his attentive care, helping them to their room when the real-life bellman had been occupied. When he finally caught up, their door was unlocked, and one of the women described the bellman who had assisted them—an older gentleman wearing a plaid jacket just like Sam used to wear.
A Lighthouse’s Tragic Tale
WHERE: St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, Florida
The black-and-white St. Augustine Lighthouse stands above the glistening Atlantic Ocean, welcoming visitors by day to climb its 219 steps for gorgeous views. Nighttime tours are offered, too—only if you dare. A woman yells, a mysterious dark figure lurks on a winding staircase, furniture moves, a former lighthouse keeper smokes a cigar, and a woman cries for help. Along the way, you learn the stories behind some of the hauntings, including one of the most horrific. When the lighthouse was under construction in the 1870s, the supervisor’s three daughters and a companion rode a supply cart down a hill. They fell into the water, and two daughters and the companion drowned. Their giggles now ring throughout the night.
The Cemetery Where a Girl was Buried Alive
WHERE: La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The high-wrought La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is a city upon itself, with pathways wandering around a labyrinthine of “city blocks.” Except the only buildings occupying this austere, white cemetery are family mausoleums containing more than 6,000 graves, one more ornate than the next. Dating from 1822, La Recoleta includes the graves of many rich and famous people, drawing masses of tourists every day—the most famous of which belongs to Argentine icon Eva Péron. Come nighttime, however, it’s a different story when the spirits come out to play.
The most disturbing tale centers on 19-year-old Rufina Cambaceras, who was buried alive in 1902. She had contracted a rare medical condition leaving her comatose; her doctors proclaimed her dead. Her burial was delayed due to a terrible storm, and her body was stored in a coffin inside the cemetery chapel. The next morning, after staff noticed her coffin had been disturbed, her parents insisted the coffin be opened to ensure she was inside. She was indeed still inside, bruised and scratched and bloody, having tried desperately to escape. Her ghost now roams the cemetery for eternity.
Her spirit is joined by many others, including that of David Alleno, a cemetery worker who saved up and bought a plot for himself. Rather than delaying matters, he committed suicide and was placed into his commissioned tomb. His ghost has never been sighted, but his keys are heard jingling.
The Fortress Prowled by Tormented Souls
WHERE: Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa
The ghost of Lady Anne Barnard appears in the Castle of Good Hope ballroom in Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest existent building—and its most haunted. She was an 18th-century travel writer, artist, and socialite, who entertained important guests who visited the castle—a task she evidently takes seriously in death. And she’s not the only one. The fortress, built by Dutch colonists in the 17th century by enslaved people, sailors, and soldiers, supplied ships negotiating the dangerous coast around the Cape as they traveled between the Netherlands and Indonesia. It became an important seat of government and military operations for two centuries. You can tour it today, taking in several museums and expansive grounds, including changing the guard at noon.
But about the ghosts. Lady Barnard is joined by other spirits, including that of governor Pieter Gijsbert van Node, who sentenced seven men to death in 1728 and, upon refusing to grant one his last wish, was cursed. Although in tip-top shape, van Node died from a heart attack later that day. To this day, visitors hear his cursing and swearing inside the castle walls. There’s also a black dog known to attack visitors before vanishing (and leaving his victims unmarked), among other unexplained thumps and creaks.