The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council’s Creepiest Places on Earth
With Halloween tomorrow, we thought it would be fun to compile a list of some of the creepiest places on earth. Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, these places are still worth checking out in your travels!
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
The Scottish capital is teeming with ghost stories and haunted tours, from the dark and creepy underground and ancient pubs to the Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle, history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts alike will enjoy their visit to this city. As you wander the alleyways, commonly referred as Royal Mile Closes, you may encounter the ghost of the thief William ‘Deacon’ Brodie, a respected locksmith who copied his customers keys and used them to steal their belongings and make a profit. Those who are brave enough may enter the Blair Street Vaults and encounter the spirits of the infamous body snatchers Burke and Hare. No matter where you turn in Edinburgh there is a ghost story around every corner. If that’s not your thing, head to one of the many pubs in the city and have a pint. Just make sure you don’t go to a haunted pub, like the Tolbooth Tavern, or else their resident ghost may knock your drink out of your hands.
Interesting fact: Due to the prevalence of body snatching by “resurrection men” in the early nineteenth century to sell illegally (and profitably) to the medical profession for dissection, some graves in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (graveyard) have iron bars or stone walls enclosing them to deter would be body snatchers.
9. The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California, United States
This legendary house features the machinations and designs of the tormented Sarah Winchester, heiress of the huge fortune amassed from the manufacturing of the Winchester repeating rifle. After the tragic and untimely deaths of her husband and daughter, Sarah sought help from a spiritualist. What this spiritualist told her ultimately led to the creation of the Mystery House; the medium told Sarah that the spirits killed by the Winchester rifles were responsible for the deaths of her daughter and husband, and that in order to protect herself, she must build a great house to appease these spirits. So Sarah, in 1884, bought an unfinished farmhouse and began construction. What resulted is a huge mansion with stairs leading up to the ceiling, doors opening to nowhere or walls, and hidden rooms. Today you can take guided tours throughout this wonderfully eccentric building. Even if you don’t take stock in Sarah’s reasons for creating the Winchester Mystery House, this place is still an architects dream. And you may just meet one of the original builders hired by Sarah, long after they clocked out for the final time.
Interesting fact: This house helped to inspire the appearance of Rose Red in Stephen King’s miniseries of the same name.
8. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Peng, Cambodia
This museum used to be the former site of the Security Prison 21, used by the Khmer Rouge regime to torture and kill prisoners. The 17,000 victims who were killed in the prison are rumored to haunt this museum, their souls not finding rest in the afterlife. But please, should you visit this grim reminder of a horrid episode in Cambodian history, make sure you respect those who were killed here, and whose souls may possibly remain.
Interesting fact: Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees.”
7. Bobby Mackey’s Music World, Wilder, Kentucky, United States
This legendary country nightclub provides an invigorating blend of country music and, you guessed it, ghosts. Just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, this nightclub has two different ghost stories associated with it, the murder of Pearl Bryan and the suicide of Johanna. To learn more about Pearl Bryan, a true and documented murder, click here. As for Johanna, legend has it she killed herself to be with her murdered lover. Her ghost supposedly still resides there, waiting for her lost love. So yes, enjoy the music and nightlife offered at Bobby Mackey’s (you may even see Bobby himself perform his song dedicated to Johanna, which you can listen to here), but beware; make sure you don’t go alone.
Interesting fact: Pearl and Johanna were both allegedly five months pregnant at the time of their deaths. Janet Mackey, Bobby’s wife, claimed that she was pushed down the stairs by a ghost on the property, and coincidentally (or perhaps not), she was five months pregnant when she was attacked. Suffice it to say, she never went back to her husbands nightclub again in her lifetime.
6. The Catacombs, Paris, France
These catacombs are not for the faint of heart; they hold the remains of millions of people, all on display. To enter, one must descend a spiral staircase into the depths of Paris, wander through a twisting hallway, and enter the stone portal that warns visitors to stop, as they are about to enter the Empire of the Dead. Once through this grim entrance, visitors will see carefully arranged skulls and bones adorning the walls. With the amount of dead throughout the catacombs, it’s no wonder that this place is considered incredibly haunted. If you don’t like creepy, underground cemeteries featuring skulls staring into your soul, perhaps you should visit the Eiffel Tower instead, or maybe have a nice cup of café au lait in a Parisian coffee shop?
Interesting fact: In 2004, police discovered a fully fledged movie theater in one of the caverns in the catacombs, complete with a restaurant! No one knows who set it up nor how they were able to get electricity down there.
5. Lake Natron, Arusha Region, Tanzania
While not associated with any ghost stories, this lake is incredibly eerie. Why? Because the alkalinity and high temperatures can contribute to dead animals basically becoming mummified. While it doesn’t immediately mummify things that come into contact with it, which is what is being spread all over the internet, all manners of creatures can be found washed up on the shoreline covered in sodium carbonate deposits, giving them a mummified appearance. Photographer Nick Brandt did a series on taking these carcasses and placing them in “living” positions. Here is a link to his pictures, or you can find them as well as more of his photography in his book Across the Ravaged Land. You can visit Lake Natron and stay at one of the campgrounds surrounding the lake, although we recommend just looking at the water and not swimming in it. You may even get the opportunity to climb nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano. Either way, you can revel in the naturally creepy beauty of Tanzania.
Interesting fact: While death may be heavily associated with Lake Natron, so is life; the lake is a breeding ground for the endangered lesser flamingos.
4. Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan, India
Built in 1613, this fort is home to a dozen temples and a royal palace. However, the Archeological Survey of India mandates that no tourists are allowed to stay inside the gated fortress after sundown, lest they never be heard from again. It is said that the ghosts of an evil wizard and a beautiful princess haunt the location. The wizard tried to seduce the princess with a love potion, failed and was crushed by a boulder. However, he managed to curse the inhabitants of Bhangarh to be destroyed before he died. Subsequently, everyone in the fort was supposedly killed in an invasion by Mughals, including the princess. Regardless of the authenticity of this curse, locals greatly fear the fort, and will only live nearby outside of the fort’s limits. You’re more than welcome to visit during the day; just make sure you’re out before the gates are locked at sundown, otherwise the Indian authorities will be the least of your worries.
Interesting fact: Even though the temples found at the fort are Hindi, the Muslim tomb outside the gate of the fort is thought to belong to one of the sons of King Hari Singh, who had converted to Islam.
3. The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana, United States
This plantation was originally built in, at the time, Spanish territory by General David Bradford, who fled the United States to avoid imprisonment for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. The Myrtles Plantation changed hands a few times, and several deaths occurred along the way, though there was only one documented murder versus the legends that at least ten murders occurred on the grounds. Historical fact also contradicts the most famous legend, that of the slave girl Chloe and her vengeful spirit. Allegedly, although we must stress this is not proven that she even existed, one of the owners of the plantation had an affair with her and ended it, moving on to another girl. Chloe became fearful that he would send her to work on the fields, and so she decided to poison the family. Her reasoning is disputed, as some say she wanted to prove her worth by nursing them back to health, while others claim it was an act of revenge. Either way, the master’s wife and two of his children died, and she was lynched by other slaves for fear of retribution from their master. While the mother and two children did die, it was from disease, and not poison. Regardless of historical inaccuracies, plenty of visitors have experienced paranormal activity, and if you wish, you can rent a room here and see for yourself.
Interesting fact: There’s a mirror in the house that supposedly holds the spirits of the master’s wife and two children who had allegedly been killed by Chloe. However, on a recent episode of Ghost Adventures, the mirror was said to constantly smudge and collect dust, so the “spirits” that have been seen within may just be a fleck of dust or an ill-located smudge.
2. Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, Australia
This was one of the most notorious prisons in Australia’s history, having been called ‘home’ by inmates from 1883 to 1992, shut down after a series of riots and strikes. One infamous inmate was Arthur ‘Slim’ Halliday, who was originally sent to Boggo Road Gaol for house-breaking, and he ended up serving ten years instead of his original sentence of five years for six escape attempts, two of which were successful. Another infamous inmate, who is said to walk the halls of the Gaol to this day long after his execution, is Ernest Austin. He was convicted for the brutal killing of an eleven year old girl. After his hanging, his spirit was said to have tormented inmates and guards alike, even supposedly causing physical injury to some. It is rumored that his spirit still lingers there today, trying to collect souls for the devil.
Interesting fact: This prison had several notorious Australian inmates, including the cruel Florence MacDonald, stepmother of the “Longreach Cinderella,” who had been tortured and abused by her father Angus and Florence until her tragic death. Read more about the case here.
1. Sedamsville Rectory, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Located in our very own historic Sedamsville Village in Cincinnati, built over 120 years ago, the rectory originally belonged to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and housed priests that served the community. Local lore has it that the hauntings are attributed to a priest who abused and molested children and the ghosts of dogs who died in an illegal dog fighting ring that took place in the building when it was abandoned in 1989. Many people have claimed to have been scratched or bitten in this location by unseen evil entities. The owners are in the process of renovating it, and offer any brave soul to spend the night and conduct a paranormal investigation of their own for a fee that goes towards renovations. You may attempt to stay the night, if you dare, but be warned that the spirits that supposedly haunt this place can be very violent. In fact, the owners require a hold harmless waiver to be signed by participants before they conduct their investigations.
Interesting fact; The Midwestern Preservation Society, which is the organization restoring the Rectory, has recently acquired the historic Daniel Hensley House to renovate. Daniel’s wife, Eliza, and two of his children died in the home. The renovators have experienced bizarre occurrences there as well, but not on the same scale as the Rectory.
We are only listing places that you can legally visit and tour, as we do not condone breaking and entering private property that may not only lead to your arrest, but may also harbor danger to those who illegally enter them. Not to mention, for some of these places, visitors enter at their own risk, and may be required to sign waivers before entering. Travel responsibly.
Written by: Danielle Ott, GCWAC Data and Web Management Intern Fall 2015 & Undergraduate Student at Northern Kentucky University studying Criminal Justice and International Studies
Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council does not own or claim to own these photos.