This time of year there are plenty of man-made terrors lurking, ready to leap out and pounce. But vampires, the undead and other ghoulish fictional horrors can at least be explained away. Our planet offers up some very real scary spots, and no amount of rationalizing will snuff them out of existence. Here we've put together a list of a few terrifying places you may not have thought of. A crucifix and garlic will do nothing to save you in these places...
Yes, the name itself is sinister, but Death Valley has its name for a reason. Spend too much time in the area the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America and you'll learn why early settlers bestowed such a forbidding name upon the place.
Nestled between steep mountains, Death Valley stretches for 140 long, hot miles (225 kilometers), and lies 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level. In July, temperatures hover around 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). The scorched valley boasts the second-highest temperature ever recorded, a stunning 134 F (57 C) in July of 1913.
Make sure to bring plenty of water if you visit. Large parts of the valley have no cell phone coverage, so you may not be able to call for help.
This continent is rife with biting beasts that may not steal your eternal soul but can definitely do some nasty things to your corporeal parts.
It's the only place on Earth where venomous snakes outnumber non-venomous snakes. Australia's brown snakes and tiger snakes can kill humans with a single strike, but life-saving anti-venom treatments are widely available.
However, no amount of anti-venom can protect against the saltwater crocodile, one of Australia's most dangerous animals. Common in the northern Outback, the crocs kill one or two people a year. They are monstrous; the largest males can grow up to almost 23 feet (7 meters) long, and they are very aggressive.
Add to that the infamous great white shark and a host of venomous creatures the deadly box jellyfish, the blue ring octopus, the creepy-looking stone fish, dangerous spiders and Australia lives up to its reputation as a spot that'll toughen you up if it doesn't kill you first.
Perfect for aspiring Dr. Frankensteins, pretty scary for everybody else. This area gets more lightning strikes than any other place on the planet, as shown in this satellite map of global lightning flash density.
The average lightning bolt carries about 30,000 amps of charge, has 100 million volts of electric potential, and is about 50,000 F (27,760 C). Lightning strikes are the second-deadliest weather-related threat in the United States, killing, on average, 58 people a year.
The odds of being struck in your lifetime (if you live to be 80) are 1 in 3000 in the United States, but probably a bit higher if you spend time in the planet's lightning capital.
On Komodo Island no one can hear you scream...at least the Komodo dragons can't. Their ears can't pick up high-pitched frequencies like a human howling in pain, but their tongues can smell you, even if you are hiding a couple of miles away.
The largest lizards in the world, these cannibalistic, scavenging, predatory monsters would do well in a B-grade horror movie. Not only are they big and scary-looking, they're also just plain gross.
The largest recorded Komodo was 10.3 feet (3.13 m) long and weighed 366 pounds (166 kg).
Komodo dragons eat carrion, but they also hunt, attacking everything from smaller lizards to rodents to water buffalo. To kill, the Komodos will knock an animal off its feet and tear it to pieces. If the Komodo's large, serrated teeth don't do the trick, the venom and deadly bacteria in a Komodo's saliva will kill any animal that escapes within a few days, and the dragons can then feast on the carcass.
The lizards are efficient eaters, polishing off bones, hide, hooves, even intestines to clean out the feces of their victims, they vigorously swing the innards around. Since Komodo dragons are cannibalistic, juveniles often roll in fecal matter. The smell keeps the bigger adults from turning the little ones into breakfast.
During the Antarctic winter, darkness rules the land. From late March until mid-September, the sun never appears above the horizon, vicious blizzards can reduce visibility to just a few feet, and temperatures stay around or below minus 76 F (minus 60 C).
Vostok Station, a Russian research center, holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth: minus 128 F (minus 89.2 C), in 1983.
If you don't freeze to death on the southernmost continent, you might die of loneliness. Antarctica is the only continent on Earth with no native population. Only scientists and adventurers spend time in this windswept, frozen, forsaken place.
Like a self-contained horror film, in this cave, the darkness is alive!
If the millions of bats don't creep you out, maybe the millions of cockroaches feasting on massive mounds of bat guano will. And the roaches don't just eat the guano. Bats or birds foolhardy enough to fall into the heaving mountains of insects are quickly devoured, their tiny bones picked clean by the insatiable cockroaches.
However, there is some poetic justice at work. Enormous, cockroach-eating centipedes skitter across the cave's walls. And so the circle of life, in all its beauty, rolls onward.
Don't get caught in here without a flashlight. Or perhaps a completely-sealed space suit.
We humans are accustomed to our spot at the top of the food chain. The conditions in this tropical rainforest turn that paradigm on its head. In this steamy spot, you are the food.
Photographer Joel Sartore's unforgettable account of his time in the park, first published in National Geographic in 2000, was so terrifying we still can't get it out of our heads.
During frightening days and dark nights filled with the cries of mysterious beasts, Sartore recounts horror after horror: botfly maggots that burrow into the flesh; packs of wild pigs that will tear a man to pieces; stingray bites that can leave a person bedridden for more than a month; parasitic worms that infest the human stomach; stinging ants; fungus that attacks human skin.
Even the leaves and moths here are venomous, and touching them can leave a person in pain for several hours.
Sweet dreams tonight...