Do you dare?
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...
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Ready to be scared out of your wits? Then head over to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located on the edge of Louisville, Kentucky. This hospital was built in 1910 as a treatment center for tuberculosis patients.
The bat-winged building earned a harrowing reputation after thousands of patients died there of the "white plague," a tuberculosis epidemic that ravaged the United States throughout the early 20th century. At the time of the epidemic, there was no known cure for tuberculosis, and many patients — historians put the number at around 8,000 — died at Waverly Hills over a period of 50 years. After the discovery of antibiotics to treat tuberculosis, the sanatorium was reopened as a geriatric hospital. Now privately owned, the sanatorium is a popular site for haunted Halloween tours, and plans are in the works to turn the allegedly haunted building into a hotel and conference center. Stay the night, if you dare.
What's the most haunted place in the United States? Ironically, it's the "Hostess City of the South," or Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is home to dozens of haunted houses and hundreds of ghost sightings and is a popular place for ghost tours. One of the city's spookiest locales is the Bonaventure Cemetery, a veritable jungle of tombstones and Spanish moss-covered trees.
Among Savannah's haunted homes is the Hampton Lilybridge House. Built in 1797, the house was later moved to a new location, which happened to contain a mysterious underground crypt. Since it was moved, dozens of people who lived in the home have complained of supernatural activities in the residence, including furniture that rearranged itself and doors that locked of their own volition.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery
All cemeteries are a bit spooky, but which cemetery is the scariest of them all? Many argue that the distinction belongs to Bachelor's Grove Cemetery on the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois. More than 100 documented ghost sightings and supernatural episodes have been reported in and around the burial ground.
Many of these ghoulish reports reference a ghost farmer and his horse, while other visitors report seeing a 1940s-style car that appears and disappears along the roads leading to the cemetery. The image above was published in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1991. It shows what appears to be a woman sitting on a gravestone inside Bachelor's Grove. However, the photographer claims that the woman was not present when the picture was taken. The figure, now known as the "Madonna of Bachelor's Grove" is popularly believed to be the ghost of a woman buried next to her young child. She allegedly walks the graveyard during the full moon with the child in her arms.
Tower of London
What historic building in England has been home to queens, criminals, the crown jewels, a menagerie and a whole slew of ghosts? The Tower of London, of course. The 900-year-old castle and fortress is said to be haunted by a number of specters, including the ghost of Arabella Stuart, a cousin of King James I. Arabella made the grave mistake of marrying against the king's wishes, and she's still serving her time inside the tower, according to legend. Other famous Tower of London ghosts include Queen Anne Boleyn (decapitated wife of the fickle King Henry VIII) and Thomas Becket (murdered Archbishop of Canterbury).
Nestled at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan is one of the world's most terrifying places: Aokigahara Woods. Also known as the Suicide Forest, Aokigahara is a 14-square-mile (35 square kilometers) swath of trees where hundreds of people have committed suicide over the past several decades. In 2010, 247 people attempted suicide within the forest's boundaries, and 54 of those people succeeded in their attempt, according to a report by the Japan Times. The same report also states that the number of attempted and successful suicides in the woods continues to rise every year.
El Aziza, Libya
If the idea of a hot summer day with no available air conditioning scares you, then get ready to scream about this next location. Often cited as the hottest inhabited place on Earth, El Azizia in Libya has experienced temperatures of 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius). The reason for the extreme heat has to do with southerly winds that blow hot air into this small town from over the Sahara Desert. Sounds a bit like hell on Earth, doesn't it?
No list of spooky places would be complete without a haunted house, and perhaps no house does a better job of looking haunted than the Croke-Patterson Mansion in Denver, Colorado. Built in 1890, the mansion resembles a small castle, with its red sandstone turrets and high garret windows. Those who have lived in the house claim to hear the incessant cries of a baby coming from the attic. And local lore suggests that one of the home's former owners committed suicide in the attic by inhaling poison gas.
If an island chock full of disintegrating doll parts isn't your thing, perhaps you'd prefer a quaint mountain town full of life-size dolls. Nagoro is a tiny village in Japan with a population of about 30 people. However, the village's doll population is booming; about 350 scarecrow-like dolls reside there.
The dolls are the work of local artist Tsukimi Ayano (opens in new tab), who creates the life-size figures to replace all the people who have left Nagoro for larger cities and for those who have died over the years. The inanimate doppelgangers inhabit the town in much like their human counterparts once did — sitting outside the local shops, attending classes and fishing by the river. Despite the dolls' sentimental underpinnings, some visitors to Nagoro say their presence all over town is a bit unsettling.
Isla de la Muñecas, Mexico
What could possibly be creepier than a tree full of hanging dolls? How about a whole island of trees full of hanging dolls?
Isla de la Muñecas, or Island of the Dolls, is a small island located in a canal south of Mexico City. The island is named for its doll population — a collection of intact toy dolls, doll heads and other disembodied doll parts that are strung from the island's trees and perched on overhead branches. The dolls were put there by a local man who reported finding a young girl's body washed up on the shore of the island about 50 years ago, according to Atlas Obscura. The man has since died, but the island now serves as a popular (and super creepy) tourist attraction. Some visitors say they have heard the now decrepit dolls whispering to each other in the treetops…
Bell Witch Cave
Bell Witch Cave has become a must-see attraction for ghost hunters in the U.S. The Adams, Tennessee, cave is located on a farm that once belonged to the Bell family. Legend has it that, beginning in 1817, the Bells were tortured by an evil "witch being." The family reported seeing strange animals around their farm and waking up to inexplicable noises throughout the house, such as scratching at the doors and the sound of chains being dragged across the floor. The Bell Witch, as this spirit came to be known, was thought to be the spirit of a deceased (and seemingly vengeful) neighbor named Kate Batts, according to the official Bell Witch Cave website.
Today, tourists are invited to roam the cave where the Bell Witch once taunted the youngest Bell daughter.