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Whether you’re a believer in the supernatural or a stone-cold skeptic, there’s no denying the old-fashioned fun of a good ghost story. Every town has its tales, from creaky old castles to haunted hotels, or a mysterious woodland where nothing is as it seems. These local legends can offer an educational glimpse into an alluring unknown history, but more often than not, they simply serve to scare. Read on to learn about some of the most haunted places around the world — just make sure you keep the lights on.
Stanley Hotel (Estes Park, Colorado)
This famous Rocky Mountain hotel is best known for inspiring the sinister Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s best-selling novel The Shining. King and his wife spent a night at the Stanley in the 1970s; they were the only guests at the time, giving the stately building an eerie — and evocative — solitude. King has said that, by the time he went to bed that night, he had conceived the entire book in his mind. The Colonial Revival-style hotel has a paranormal past that predates The Shining as well — the ghost of Freelan Oscar Stanley, who built the hotel in the early 1900s, is said to still roam the halls, while his wife, Flora, is known to play the building’s piano for unsuspecting guests. The Stanley embraces its folklore, offering nighttime tours that highlight the haunted tales.
Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Originally built as a military fortress in the early 12th century, Edinburgh Castle has defended the Scottish capital against many major battles, and the ghosts of its prisoners reportedly still haunt its ancient underground dungeons. Along with those more predictable paranormal sightings, however, are some inexplicable spirits. The fortress, which sits high above Edinburgh’s skyline, is also home to a reported phantom dog who can be seen roaming the property’s dog cemetery, a piper who disappeared in the underground tunnel and whose music can still be heard in the castle, and a headless drummer who first appeared before Oliver Cromwell’s Battle of Dunbar invasion in 1650. The popular tourist attraction has hosted a slew of professional paranormal investigators over the years, who have reported physical contact and other ghostly encounters throughout its hidden tunnels and vaults.
National Film and Sound Archive (Canberra, Australia)
Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive is considered one of the most haunted places in the country. Though it currently preserves and provides access to a three-million-piece collection of Australian films, television shows, radio programs, video games, and more, it has a macabre past. Between the years of 1931 and 1985, the building originally operated as the Australian Institute of Anatomy. Not only did the institute host hundreds of human and animal artifacts, from hearts to skulls — that some say were mysteriously obtained — but it also had an on-site morgue in the basement. (It’s said to be one of the most spiritually active parts of the building’s current iteration.) Former employees claim several strange happenings over the years, including an invisible figure which pinned folks to the wall, and professional ghost hunters have recorded paranormal phenomena that make the building’s ongoing ghost tours that much creepier.Geography4ptsTest Your Knowledge!What country has a state called Tabasco?PLAY!
Raynham Hall (Norfolk, England)
The mysterious Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is one of the most well-known ghosts in Norfolk — and perhaps even the world. The 7000-acre Raynham Hall estate, built in the 1620s, was the home of Viscount Charles Townshend and his wife, Lady Dorothy Walpole, in the 18th century. During this time, Dorothy was not permitted to leave the house, and she died there in 1726. Her ghost is said to have haunted the estate ever since. In 1936, her image was allegedly captured on film for the December edition of Country Life magazine. While the “Brown Lady” photo (named for the brown brocade dress she is seen to be wearing) may not ever prove to be real, the estate’s current resident told the BBC that no one has ever proved that it’s fake, either.
Catacombs of Paris (Paris, France)
Sixty-five feet below the streets of Paris, throughout the old limestone quarries that provided the stone for some of the city’s most beloved structures, lie the remains of six million people, who were placed there due to a shortage of cemetery space in the city. The skeleton-lined ossuary takes up only a small portion of the larger network of tunnels, and only a small part of it is open to the public. But that doesn’t stop people from illegally exploring the hidden world after dark, and that’s when, according to legend, people hear the walls talk to them. One of the most enduring creepy tales from the Catacombs of Paris involves a video camera that was discovered in 2010 containing footage from the 1990s of a man who got lost while wandering through the tunnels. He is seen becoming increasingly panicked until he eventually drops his camera and runs off into the pitch-black tunnels, never to be found again.
Teatro Tapia (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
The oldest freestanding drama stage in San Juan and one of the oldest operating theaters in the United States has some eerie history to go along with it. Local legend has it that an actress once fell to her death during a performance, and has appeared as an apparition on the grounds ever since, wandering throughout the theater. Visitors and employees have also claimed to hear mysterious footsteps and voices, doors opening and closing, and the sounds of people singing on stage — even when no one is around. The stunning neoclassical theatre has been a staple of San Juan’s cultural life since 1832 and remains an active performance (and paranormal) center.
The Cuban Club (Tampa, Florida, United States)
Local paranormal investigators consider the Cuban Club, located in Tampa’s Ybor City, to be one of the most haunted places in the city. The current event space has a rich history among the city’s Cuban immigrants, who in the early 1900s, congregated there to enjoy recreational facilities and to organize outreach efforts within their community. But over the years, some unfortunate accidental deaths occurred within the club’s walls. One of the club’s former owners claims to have heard empty elevators running on their own and doors opening and closing themselves. Paranormal experts claim to see people sitting in photos of empty seats and in empty windows. The Cuban Club even acknowledges its hair-raising reputation, but that those brave enough to explore should decide for themselves.
Larnach Castle (Dunedin, New Zealand)
Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle — and it’s also one of Dunedin’s most famous supernatural sites. The sprawling estate was built throughout the 1870s and 1880s as the family home of prominent local politician William Larnach; it also served as a psychiatric hospital and a soldier’s residence during World War II. But it is the Larnach family who still haunt the property, particularly the ghost of Larnach’s daughter, Kate, who died of typhoid at age 26. Locals say that she still appears in the 3,000-square-foot ballroom, along with other ghostly figures (one of which is believed to be William Larnach himself) who have been captured in photographs standing on the staircase. One bedroom is of particular interest to paranormal investigators — the temperature is much colder than the rest of the rooms on the same floor, and staff routinely describe a feeling of great unease when entering the room.
Ancient Ram Inn (Wotton-under-Edge, England)
There are several reasons that people believe the Ancient Ram Inn to be the most haunted place in England. Built in 1145, the building’s Ley Lines — which are lines drawn between historic landmarks around the world and are believed to be areas of high spiritual energy — reportedly trace directly back to Stonehenge and absorb that site’s mysterious energy. The Inn also sits on the site of a 5,000-year-old Pagan burial ground. Over the years, it has served as lodging for construction workers, a priest’s home, and a pub, but its ghostly encounters stand out. They run the gamut — from eerie sounds of voices and laughter, to mysterious apparition sightings, physical altercations, and even some reports of visitors being pushed up the stairs by unseen forces. Many locals will avoid walking by the Inn at night as a result. And while it is no longer open for overnight stays, the inn hosts local ghost tours that will venture in after dark … if you dare.
Ponte Sisto (Rome, Italy)
Rome’s ancient history easily lends itself to legends and folklore. One of the most notorious involves a powerful woman of the 17th century who reportedly haunts the Ponte Sisto bridge. Donna Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj was the sister-in-law and close advisor (and controversially, the rumored mistress) of Pope Innocent X. After the Pope’s death in 1655, she attempted to flee town with the church’s riches to avoid confrontation and anger from a public who did not approve of this so-called “secret pope.” If you visit this bridge that spans the River Tiber, legend has it that you’ll see Donna’s ghost leading her carriage out of town at sunrise.
The Borgvattnet Vicarage (Ragunda, Sweden)
Since 1947, the Borgvattnet Vicarage (known locally as the Spökprästgården) is considered Sweden’s most haunted house. Originally built in 1876 as a priest’s parsonage, the building played host to strange and inexplicable occurrences throughout the early- to mid-1900s. There have been reports of ghostly sightings, mysteriously moved objects, strange voices, laundry torn from the lines, and an uninhabited rocking chair that just keeps on rocking. A professional paranormal hunting team spent 24 hours on the property in 2018 and reported what they considered to be an “intelligent energy” inhabiting the vicarage, who even knew one of the team members by full name. The site currently operates as a bed and breakfast, and should you bravely make it through the night, you’ll earn your very own certificate.
Fort Mifflin (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States)
As with many historical locations that served as military defense sites, Fort Mifflin has a seemingly endless list of supernatural stories that make it one of the most haunted places in the U.S. Built in the 1770s on the banks of the Delaware River, Fort Mifflin still has regular sightings of its former lamplighter in the second floor barracks and an eerie, unexplained presence in the cellar, which was used as a solitary confinement cell for prisoners. Other ghostly reports from the Fort’s on-site tour guides include a pair of children and their dog, as well as the haunting sounds of a screaming mother, who is said to still regret disowning her daughter after the young lady started dating an officer. Fort Mifflin hosts candlelight ghost tours throughout the grounds and promises no “hype” — only real ghosts.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Banff, Alberta)
This luxurious resort was originally built as part of Canada’s grand railway hotel network, affiliated with the expanding Pacific Railway and intended to promote travel and tourism from coast to coast. But since its opening in 1888, the French château-style hotel has been the site of several incidents that give it a haunted reputation. One of the most enduring tales concerns the hotel’s Ghost Bride, a young woman who reportedly died on the candle lit stairs on her wedding day in 1930 and still appears in that very spot to this day. And guests would be remiss not to watch out for signs of Sam the bellman, a former employee who died in 1975 but still helps guests who are locked out of their rooms and pushes elevator buttons for random floors.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane (London, England)
It’s been called the world’s most haunted theater, and considering the current building is the fourth theater to have existed on site since 1663, it’s easy to believe that some spirits continue to linger. Staff have reported regular glitches with electrical equipment, encounters with the ghost of English comedian Joseph Grimaldi (who gives a kick in the pants to whomever he passes), and, most famously, the Man in Gray. The mysterious figure, dressed in a powdered wig, grey cloak, and a three-cornered hat, is said to stalk the theatre’s upper circle, crossing from one side to the other before disappearing into the wall. While his presence is unexplained and often unsettling, his appearance is also a sign of good luck, said to signify a successful run for a show.
Carl Beck House (Penetanguishene, Ontario)
Less than two hours north of Toronto in the quiet bayside town of Penetanguishene, you’ll encounter the Carl Beck house, a stately home built in 1885 by a lumber tycoon of the same name. When Beck’s wife died, their daughter Mary took over in raising the younger children. However, when Mary moved out to start her own family, it caused friction between her and her widowed father; when Beck died, he left Mary just $1 in his will. Over the years, townspeople have reported a visage of a female ghost in an upstairs window, while visitors to the house have said that lights turn themselves on and off and objects move around on their own. Many believe the mysterious occurrences to be Mary’s spirit protesting her unfair inheritance. The house, dubbed simply the “Haunted House,” is available as a vacation rental if you dare.
Bhangarh Fort (Rajasthan, India)
The Bhangarh Fort is considered one of the most haunted locations in India, just under 200 miles from Delhi. Standing out as a stark, lush green contrast to the surrounding deserts, the Bhangarh Fort was built in A.D. 1573 but later crumbled — allegedly due to a curse from a black magic priest who was angry that he was rejected by a local princess. To this day, locals believe that the site is inhabited by the ghosts of past residents and that the fort is doomed to be forever abandoned. Tour guides claim that people have attempted to rebuild it over the years, but each time, the new roof mysteriously collapses almost as soon as it is raised.
Hoia-Baciu Forest (Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
It’s known as the “Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania” — and one of the creepiest and most scientifically baffling forests in the world. The Hoia-Baciu Forest was named after a shepherd who, along with his flock of 200 sheep, mysteriously disappeared in the forest and never returned. There have been tales of other disappearances, such as that of a five-year-old girl who reportedly reemerged years later completely unchanged. Many also report feeling nausea and anxiety and seeing ghost-like matter when in the forest. And if that isn’t spooky enough, UFOs, inexplicable hoof noises, and spiral-shaped trees are also part of the Hoia-Baciu Forest’s repertoire. As you can imagine, not even locals like to visit this (literal) haunt.
St. Louis Cemetery #1 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
A storied and often tragic history places New Orleans among the most haunted cities in the U.S. Even its graves sit above ground as tombs, creating a sort of “city of the dead,” and New Orleans’ oldest cemetery has been the site of paranormal activity for nearly its entire existence over 200-plus years. The most famous ghost encountered on the grounds belongs to Marie Laveau. Better known as the Voodoo Queen, visitors have reported seeing her not only in the cemetery, but also throughout the French Quarter. Legend has it that people still visit her tomb and ask for guidance, during which she can sometimes be heard from beyond the grave. Whatever you do, don’t show any disrespect to her practices — she sometimes scratches or pushes offenders if she’s angry.
Chaonei Church (Beijing, China)
The reputation of Chaonei Church (or Chaonei No. 81) as a haunted building is so pervasive in Beijing that a sign was placed out front to deny the existence of any such ghosts on the property. Its muddled history adds to its notoriety, since it was built before accurate records were kept about who, or for what purpose, the building was originally intended. Locals report a feeling of unease and noticeable temperature changes near the house, while several mysterious disappearances have also happened on the premises. Over the years, various agencies and government offices have occupied the building, though many have exited hastily. The church is now owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing.
Kellie’s Castle (Batu Gajah, Malaysia)
Kellie Smith was a Scot who moved to Malaysia to work as an engineer, and within a few years found himself flush in cash thanks to some sound investments. In the early 1900s, he started to build the now-infamous Kellie’s Castle, an eclectic hybrid of architectural styles that created an odd sight in the middle of the Malaysian jungle. Smith and his family didn’t get to enjoy their opulent home for long, however; he died suddenly of pneumonia on a routine trip home to Scotland, and his wife and son never returned to the mansion. It was sold off and sat abandoned as the jungle overtook it. The castle eventually attracted curious explorers, which has resulted in a slew of strange sightings — a car discovered in a hidden passageway and the restless (and possibly homesick) ghost of Smith wandering the second floor.
Charleville Castle (County Offaly, Ireland)
Situated in County Offaly’s oldest oak woods — also the home of Ireland’s ancient Druids — the Charleville Castle spooks locals with tales both tragic and mysterious. One of the most common apparitions is the daughter of the 3rd Earl of Charleville, eight-year-old Harriet, who tragically fell to her death in 1861. Her ghost can allegedly still be seen and felt on the stairs, and often the laughter and voice of a young girl rings throughout the 200-year-old halls. Visitors have also reported seeing balls of light flashing throughout the castle, though their source and what or who they embody is unknown.
Mary Kings Close (Edinburgh, Scotland)
In Scotland, the term “close” refers to a narrow alley. There are over 70 closes in the city of Edinburgh, and while many hold curious histories or quirks of their own, none are quite as memorable as Mary King’s Close, wedged between tall apartment buildings as one of the most haunted places in Scotland. When the plague hit Edinburgh in the mid-1600s, Mary King’s Close was sanctioned as a quarantine for the sick and was subsequently abandoned for many years. When people started to inhabit the surrounding buildings again, many reports of footsteps, unexplained chills, and ghostly apparitions followed. Some claim that it was merely gases from a polluted nearby marsh causing the hallucinations. The remains of Mary King’s Close are now underground, having been built over in the late 1700s, but it remains a popular destination for ghost tours and history buffs.
Loftus Hall (Wexford, Ireland)
The first incarnation of Loftus Hall was built in 1170, and in the 18th century — after rebuilds, renovations, and changes in ownership — it became the site of a devilish incident that has haunted the grounds to this day. According to legend, a visitor arrived one stormy night and was taken in by the family — not an unusual occurrence for a seaside home that often attracted stranded sailors. But before long, one of the owners’ daughters discovered that their guest had cloven hooves instead of feet. When the girl screamed, the strange visitor bolted through the ceiling into a ball of flames, traumatizing the daughter forever. It is said that her shocked spirit still roams the house.
The Queen Mary (Long Beach, California)
The RMS Queen Mary is now permanently docked in Long Beach, California, but its days as a luxury British cruise ship (and a brief stint as a war ship during World War II) have given it a storied history — one that continues to unfold in the afterlife. During its final ocean voyage in 1967, guests reported several supernatural oddities such as phantom knocks at the door, bathroom faucets turning on and off, and a dark figure pulling blankets from sleeping guests at night. Over the years, professional ghost hunters have confirmed large volumes of paranormal activity, and today the Queen Mary hosts several ghost tours, including after-dark séances and guided paranormal investigations.
Voergaard Castle (Dronninglund, Denmark)
In 1578, a woman named Ingeborg Skeel acquired the Denmark estate that she would later expand into the stunning Renaissance castle known as Voergaard. Despite her proven success as an esteemed property manager and businesswoman, myths about the fiercely independent Skeel piled up over the years, framing her as a greedy and ruthless woman. One enduring legend claims that Skeel pushed the castle’s builder into its surrounding moat so that no one else could have a home as beautiful as hers. She was said to haunt the castle after her death, appearing as an apparition who walked the halls, until a priest performed an exorcism to lay her soul to rest. Today, the castle hosts historical tours, an impressive art collection, and — as some still believe — the alleged spirit of Skeel.
Written by Nicole Villeneuve