Travel to the Darkside: The Most Haunted Places in the World

by Kelsey Haynes

Cemetery sidewalk
Stroll through history by way of the Highgate Cemetery, but be weary of any floating top hats!

Ghouls, ghosts, and paranormal activity, oh my! Every year, brave and curious minds are drawn to the supernatural histories of the world. Tales of ghosts and strange sightings are an element all cultures have in common, and are an exciting theme for daredevilish travelers. Make like Scooby Doo and his gang, zoom along inside the Mystery Machine, and learn about the peculiar nature of the most haunted places in the world. Then, get ready to start your adventure travel abroad!

1. Highgate Cemetery – London, United Kingdom

Wander around this famous London Cemetery’s 53,00 grave sites and see if you can’t catch a glimpse of its historical ghosts. Highgate Cemetery received extensive notice from the press starting around 1960 when multiple reports were filed about the “Highgate Vampire,” a tall man with glowing eyes and a top hat. Other reported ghost sightings and horrible apparitions of the past have made this area a must-see site for horror fanatics and lovers of all things haunted.

Rooted not only in the thick, gnarly twists and turns of years of overgrown trees and brush, these grave sites are home to many historical figures. The east cemetery contains “famous” graves, including the final resting places of figures like German philosopher Karl Marx, Victorian novelist George Eliot, and author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams. The west cemetery is open to guided tours only as it contains preserved architectural beauties, like the Chapel, the Colonnade, Egyptian Avenue, and the Terrace Catacombs. If you’re dying for a visit to one of the most haunted places in London, make sure you purchase entry tickets to both the east and west side cemeteries.

View of the Stanley Hotel
Step right up and book a room, if you dare!

2. The Stanley Hotel – Colorado, USA

“Redrum! Redrum!”, is one of the most famous lines from The Shining, one of Stephen King’s bestselling horror novels, was inspired by The Stanley Hotel, which is located in Estes Park, Colorado. The book was later made into a horror/terror film (yes, that one with Jack Nicholson) and instantly became a classic in its genre. Renowned by experts in the paranormal investigation field, the hotel remains one of the nation’s most active sites for paranormal activity. For example, the late Ms. Elizabeth Wilson, the chief housekeeper in the early 1900’s, takes special care to those staying in Room 217, making her presence known by folding your clothes and sitting on the edge of your bed.

Whether you’re intrigued by the history, the hauntings, or both, the Stanley Hotel has tours catered to all. Cave into the peer pressure and book the Ghost Adventure Package for you and your friends. The experience includes a room on the fourth floor, a K2 Meter for ghost hunting, and a “redrum” mug for every person.

Draculas Castle
Navigate the hallowed halls of magnificent Bran Castle

3. Bran Castle – Romania

As the only castle in Romania that fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s home, Bran Castle is a must-see for lovers of all things vampiric. Although not directly related to the story of Dracula, the castle’s surrounding villages were supposedly home to evil spirits called steregoi. Among these spirits walked strigoi, people who lived normally during the day, and at night their souls left their bodies and haunted the village people. It is from these myths that Bram Stoker characterized his concept of “the undead” and thus created the infamous Count Dracula. Coupled with the castle’s mythic appearance, featuring sky-high towers that stand proudly and mysteriously on the border of Transylvania, the stunning inspiration for Count Dracula’s Castle that all Stoker fans know and love was born.

Opened recently to visitors as a museum of Romanian royal history and culture, the castle’s narrow corridors and secret chambers create an exciting and mysterious pathway into the inspiration of our favorite fictional Transylvanian villain. Combine travel with intrigue with literature and visit a fortress draped in a military history in a place built on haunted myths of immortality.

Catacomb corridors lined with skulls and bones
Say “Bonjour!” to the permanent residents of the Catacomb Corridors

4. The Catacombs – Paris, France

Beginning in the 18th century, the Paris underground became one of the largest burial sites. Spanning 300 kilometers (186 miles), the “Dark Underworld” winds and weaves and twists and turns through countless secret tunnels and passageways. The city above casually walks over six million skeletons below, most of which are stacked on top of each other, lining the underground walls, and sometimes even staged in artistic designs like a heart made out of skulls. Talk about haunted places!

Now an official museum in Paris, certain passageways are open for public viewing. The Catacombs have intrigued visitors since the late 18th century, including Napoleon III and Charles X. However, unless you’re a Cataphile, a (illegal) Parisian urban explorer, the general public only has access to viewing a small section of the catacombs. Nevertheless, do take a stroll among the undead and weave through history underground.

5. Xunantunich – Belize

A woman dressed all in white who exposes fiery, red-eyed stares to all who lay eyes on her is the Mayan haunting found at Xunantunich. This woman was so frequently reported by locals and guests alike that the site was named “The Stone Woman,” or “Xunantunich” in ancient Mayan language. Oddly enough, all reports, dating back to the late 19th century, are eerily similar in nature. The woman is seen ascending the stairs of El Castillo and disappearing into a wall. Her traditional Mayan dress and her repetitious manner of gliding up the temple intrigues history and paranormal enthusiasts, as she may indicate the ritualistic process of sacrifice common in ancient Mayan practice.

Mayan Temple ruin
Let amazement become you while navigating ruins, El Castillo, temples, red eyes, and all!

Grab a ticket to enter this haunted destination, along with some courage, and climb the ruins’ temple stairs yourself to see if you can meet eye to red-eye with this ghost from the past.

6. The Vaults and Mary King’s Close – Edinburgh, Scotland

Once a major storage space for cobblers and tradesmen, the vaults in Edinburgh’s South Bridge shifted to a paranormal activity site once two serial killers, Burke and Hare, used them to store the dead bodies of their victims. After an excavation in the 1980s found that there were toys, medicine bottles, and plates in the vaults of people that had once lived there, many people (including paranormal investigators) became curious and explored the passageways for answers. Paranormal experts have detected various voices and sounds picked up on investigative devices, making these vaults a must-visit on your list of most haunted places in the world to visit. 

Mary King’s Close was once a lively and bustling market area; however, once the plague swept through Edinburgh, the underground space was eventually sealed off and boarded up. It is behind these closed doors that countless ghoulish reports began. Many myths and legends circulate about this forgotten city, but your curiosity is best satisfied by partaking in one of the many ghost tours available through Mary King’s Close.

These are only a few of the most haunted places in the world, but these are prime examples of what awaits your curious and investigative mind. Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for visa information in case you want to begin your adventure abroad to any of these top haunted places in the world. From the dark underworld below Paris to the suspenseful hotel rooms in Colorado to the tops of ruins in Belize, the mysterious phenomenons of the world’s most haunted places are just waiting to give you a thrill.