We’ve chosen 10 of our members’ favorite eerie sites to help you revel in the most mysterious of seasons with a haunted jaunt or two. Ranging from the Carolina coast to Bahrain, perhaps one is lurking right outside your door.
The legend of Dracula—or Vlad Tepes, since you’ll be on a real-name basis once you’ve visited his “dark and frightening” home—harkens back to Bran Castle, rising atop a Transylvanian peak. Today the fortress is a museum, so you can call on Vlad the Impaler any time you want (during operating hours, anyway).
Old Melbourne Gaol
Visitors to Melbourne’s infamous jail, today marketed with a “Crime & Justice Experience” subtitle, report feeling “disturbed by lost souls” yet find the trip “strangely intriguing”—especially the collection of death masks and hanging beams of Ned Kelly and other outlaws.
Dilmun Burial Complex
One of the most intriguing ancient Arabian burial grounds, the Dilmun complex of intertwining graves is perhaps best known for its “honeycomb” appearance. Both the identity of the buried and the function of excavated buildings—thought to be temples of a very early civilization—remain unsolved.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Manteo, North Carolina
After nearly 420 years, visitors to Fort Raleigh are still asking the question, “Where, oh where, is Virginia Dare?” The first baby born to English arrivals in the New World vanished, along with an entire colony of settlers, with a mysterious tree carving their only trace. See the story—minus the mysterious ending—dramatized in the long-running outdoor musical The Lost Colony.
Hill of Crosses
The hill sagging under tens of thousands of crosses is such a striking sight that many visitors to Lithuania claim you haven’t really visited the country until you’ve seen it. Its origins are unknown, though Lithuania has long maintained a tradition of carving crosses that express “both sorrow and hope.”
A must-see oddity on any northeast US road trip, a coal vein has been burning beneath this town for 46 years. You’ll know you’re close when you hit “undulating blacktop” on Route 61, and then you’ll see the ghost town with its “few families who refuse to leave, several cemeteries, and the smoking strip mine where it all started.” If you’re not creeped out yet, it’s two hours to Philadelphia and the “haunted” Eastern State Penitentiary.
Hallstatt Bone House
Tight for space, for hundreds of years some Austrian graveyards gained new ground by burying and then exhuming bodies, painting the skeletal remains and arranging them in a beinhaus. Centuries of bones—the newest decorated skull, gold tooth still intact, dates only to 1983—can be seen in the Hallstatt chapel and while it is “in no way sterilized, it is not tasteless either.”
The Seminoles’ impenetrable “Land of Trembling Earth” still makes visitors tremble with fear. No one can confirm—or discount—the tales of swamp people, ghosts, and larger-than-life supernatural beings, but visitors can confirm that the ancient Native American burial mound on Chesser Island is worth a visit. If it’s live things that scare you, go gator-spotting on one of the wildlife refuge’s boat tours.
Locals prefer Castlerigg’s Cumbrian Druid formations to those at Stonehenge because you can “touch them, sit on them, and appreciate how they’re set off by the dramatic backdrop.” (Perhaps also because it’s free.) Visits can be “peaceful,” “oddly disturbing,” or “threatening, mystic, and magical,” depending on the weather—and on whether you spot any of the bizarre light phenomena reported at the site.
Catacombs of Paris
If you’re not “faint of heart” or “claustrophobic,” the “morbid” and “dim” catacombs have been a preferred place to beat the heat in the City of Light since the late 1700s. Besides walls of femurs and tibias, officials also “formed pictures, warnings, and messages out of the bones, making the sight even more grotesque.”