With Halloween just around the corner, there could not have been a better time to read up on some of the most haunted places around the world. And if you are a thrill-seeker, maybe add some of these spooky places to your must-visit list. By Nishtha Grover
Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, those who have visited these scary sites claim to have witnessed paranormal activities, and their tales will give you the chills. From Mark Twain’s spirit residing in a New York apartment building to the ghost of a woman lurking around a gorgeous chateau in France, here is a list of haunted places around the world that many believe have something supernatural about them.
Bhangarh Fort, India
Situated between the cities of Jaipur and Alwar, in the lap of the Aravallis, Bhangarh Fort is a popular tourist attraction in the western state of Rajasthan. The serene fort, which is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the world, was built by Raja Madho Singh in the 17th century. Raja Madho Singh was the younger brother of the famous Mughal General Man Singh of Amber. The fort’s vicinity consists of the ruins of massive havelis, temples, deserted homes and marketplaces.
There are many narratives related to the now-abandoned building. Of these, there are two legendary tales that many have heard of, according to Rajasthan Tourism.
The first one is about a sadhu (a saint) — Baba Balau Nath. The area served as the saint’s meditating site before it was chosen for the construction of the magnificent fort. It is believed that the sadhu granted permission to Madho Singh to build the fort on one condition — that it must be tall enough to not cast a shadow on his home. The king’s grandson did not pay any heed to the condition and erected high walls, resulting in the annihilation of the entire town.
The other legend is of the beautiful princess Ratnavati, who a wizard adept in black magic fell in love with. To trick her into falling in love with him, he swapped a bottle of ittar (scent) she was going to purchase with a love potion. However, his plans backfired when the princess learned about the switch and discarded the bottle on a boulder.
This led to the large stone rolling towards the wizard and crushing him to his death. Unfortunately, he cursed the town before dying, which is believed to have led to the town’s destruction and the death of the princess in a war against the Mughals.
While these tales attract tourists from around the world, many say that they have witnessed no paranormal activities here. However, others have horror stories to tell—of being followed and voices being heard. The guards, too, deny having experienced any such activity. But surprisingly, the fort’s premises are out of bounds post-sunset until sunrise.
Eastern State Penitentiary, USA
Touted as the most expensive prison at one time, the gloomy corridors and confinement cells of the penitentiary have seen some of the most notorious criminals like “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone since 1829. The world’s first penitentiary was conceptualised as a centre to rehabilitate its prisoners rather than punish them for their crimes.
Given its 142 years of torture, suicides and disease, many say that the Eastern State Penitentiary on Philadelphia’s 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue is haunted. It has also been featured in shows such as Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures.
Moreover, staff members, visitors and inmates, while the prison was functional till 1971, have reported tales and experiences of paranormal activities. Reports say that when locksmith Gary Johnson was working in Cell Block 4, “he was overcome by a force so fierce, he was frozen.” He said: “I turned and I’m looking down the block and I know there’s nobody there. A couple of seconds later and I get the same feeling, I’m really being watched. I turn around and I look down the block and I don’t see anything and as I start to turn down the block, this black shadow just leapt across the block.”
However, tour guide Ben Bookman believes that it’s a “lot harder to find a believer than it is to find a sceptic here. We, at Eastern State, do not claim that the prison is haunted. We run a haunted attraction.”
Over the years, it has become a centre of research for many visitors documenting paranormal activities.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Canada
Built among the mountains and surrounded with lush greenery, the Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel might remind an onlooker of The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, USA, where Stephen King’s The Shining was filmed. The Fairmont hotel is located in the Banff National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been serving guests for over 130 years now.
The hotel, which is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Canada, has hosted many famous guests like the members of the British royalty, Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and acclaimed actress Marlyn Monroe, among many others.
Just like the Bhangarh Fort, many spooky legends surround the four-star hotel but two are among the most famous ones. The first one being the story behind the missing room 873. It is believed that a family, including the mother, father and their daughter, was killed here, and the room’s entrance has been reconstructed.
Not just that, there are also speculations that it was the father who lost control and murdered his family; sounds a lot like Stephen King’s novel, doesn’t it?
Additionally, it is also believed that the novel and the idea of The Stanley Hotel was somewhat inspired by the time the author spent here. Visitors have often mentioned blood-stained handprints appearing from nowhere on the mirrors and strange noises, including violent screams.
The other story that does the rounds is about the “Doomed Bride” or “Ghost Bride”. It is believed that in the 1930s a new bride fell from the curved staircase and died. Guests and staff working at the hotel have mentioned their experiences of ghost sightings. These include the spirit dancing in the ballroom and going up and down the staircase.
The Royal Canadian Mint, which manufactures the circulation coins of the country, released a collector coin and stamp based on the legend of the “Ghost Bride” in 2014.
Poveglia Island, Italy
Also known as the Island of Ghosts, Poveglia Island is one of the places with the most horrific history on this list. Measuring approximately 6.8 hectares, the island is 10 minutes away from St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. It has served as a burial ground. In the 1920s, it was home to a mental asylum that was under the administration of a deranged doctor who performed cruel experiments on the patients.
To fight the plague that caused numerous deaths since the 1300s, the people of Italy came up with a solution to isolate those showing any symptoms of the Black Death or facing mental or physical issues. “Patients” were forcefully sent to the island and left to die.
According to reports, around 1,60,000 ill people were burned here to curb the spread of the disease. That is not all; the remains of the dead bodies were also never cleared. It is assumed that even today, 50 percent of the land’s soil comprises the ashes of those who were burnt there.
As the stories claim, the doctor later committed suicide by jumping from the bell tower. The tourists are prohibited from visiting the abandoned island.
Castle of Good Hope, South Africa
The castle is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town, South Africa, and is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Lady Anne Barnard. She lived there as the first lady of the colony and hosted several notable personalities in the late eighteenth century.
Visitors of the Castle of Good Hope have heard footsteps and voices that are supposed to be coming from a dungeon sans windows and corridors. It’s believed that prisoners were chained to the walls of the dungeon, which was then filled with water.
Many claim to have spotted a giant black dog who disappears into thin air. If this hasn’t creeped you out yet, wait till you hear the bells toll on their own, which is another paranormal activity often talked about by visitors.
Driskill Hotel, USA
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There’s haunted places, and then there’s this! Spirits exiting elevators, a young girl giggling, a sudden whiff of a burnt cigar at the hotel that has been smoke free over decades are some of the paranormal activities guests and staff at the Driskill Hotel in Austin have reported.
The land on which the luxurious hotel has been built was first bought by Colonel Jesse Driskill in 1886 for USD 7,500 (INR 5,63,970). The guests believe that one of the spirits that stays at the hotel is the Colonel. He used to smoke cigars.
Another spirit that is believed to inhabit the hotel’s premises is that of a little girl named Samantha Houston. She died at the age of four in the year 1887 while chasing a ball and falling to her death on the grand staircase. Visitors often hear the voice of a young girl laughing and the sound of a ball bouncing. Samantha’s father, who was a Texas senator, got a painting made of her, which now hangs on the fifth floor of the haunted hotel.
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The staff also believes that the spirit of a man named Peter Lawless haunts the spooky hotel. Lawless had been a guest at the hotel for 31 years, after which he passed away in 1917. According to reports, many visitors have seen his ghost wandering and leaving the lobby elevator doors.
Since we mentioned elevators, some guests have mentioned instances of the lifts taking them to their floors without any buttons being pressed.
Château de Brissac, France
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One of the most marvellously built palaces in France, Château de Brissac is reportedly haunted by the ghost of the ‘Green Lady’. The château that is now home to the Duke and Duchess of Brissac and their children has a rather intriguing dark past that dates back to the 10th century when the Count of Anjou selected this location to build a palace.
Having housed several families, undergone many constructions and seen wars, the supposedly haunted palace could not free itself of the spirit of the woman dressed in green.
According to a belief, she was murdered in the palace by her husband. Local legends say that Charlotte was the illegitimate daughter of King Charles VII and was married to Jacques de Brézé, who was in the service of the king. De Brézé was also the owner of the château. Charlotte, however, was unhappy with the marriage and soon got entangled in an affair.
One day, De Brézé caught his wife with her lover in bed and killed them both. It is Charlotte’s spirit that wanders the halls of the château. Many say that the face of the ghost has hollowed eyes and a nose.
House of Death at 14 West 10th Street, USA
It is believed that the spirit of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, famously known as Mark Twain, still resides in New York, particularly at the address 14 West 10th street.
The brownstone haunted house is also known as the House of Death among locals as they believe that it is inhabited by 22 ghosts who either lived or died in the building. No wonder, then, it is considered one among the country’s haunted places.
Although Twain resided in the building for only a year (1900-1901), people have mentioned spotting a white-haired man claiming to be Clemens and then disappearing moments later.
The home, which is one of the most haunted places of New York, was later converted into 10 apartments also witnessed the murder of a little girl.
Joel Steinberg was a New York criminal defence attorney who resided in one of the apartments with his girlfriend and illegally adopted child Lisa. Lisa was beaten to death by Steinberg in November 1987 and was charged with first-degree manslaughter.
Adding to tales of resident ghosts is that of actress Jan Bryant Bartell who had moved into the building’s topmost floor with her husband. She had mentioned feeling some paranormal activity in her apartment at 16th West 10 Street because of which she moved next door to 14th West 10 street only to feel the activities more closely. She even authored a book, which has accounts of many ghosts and a “monstrous moving shadow” whose presence she had felt in the apartment.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
One of the most haunted places in Scotland is the Game of Thrones-like Edinburgh Castle perched on mounds of volcanic rock. Numerous reports of paranormal activities are traced back to the hundreds of deaths, executions and tortures within the stone walls and dungeons of the imposing structure.
Visitors have witnessed incidents where someone has tried to push them off the battlement, leaving behind a dung-like stench. It is believed to be the ghost of the “Dung Prisoner”, who had crawled into the dung barrow to escape from the prison. Not knowing where the barrow was emptied, he fell to his death onto the rocks on which the castle rests.
Moreover, while a young “Ghostly Piper Boy” is heard playing a bagpiper from the tunnels beneath the castle, sightings of the spirit of the “Drummer Boy” have been witnessed around the castle. He can also be heard along with the music he would play to alert guards of a possible attack, according to Edinburgh Live.