There are as many different sorts of haunting, as there are costumes for Halloween. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, gremlins, ghastly gargoyles from beyond the grave… Two things unite them – they’re spectacularly spooky, and Halloween is their time to shine.
These spooky sites are known internationally for their creepy credentials – haunted hotels, abandoned lodges, and an island of the dead…
1. Banff Springs Hotel, Canada
A near-carbon copy of the creepy hotel from The Shining (some speculate the book was inspired by Stephen King’s own family’s stay here), this snow-flecked mansion in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies has welcomed patrons from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe.
But legend has it, there’s been some supernatural visitors too. Most famous is ‘The Doomed Bride’ who is said to have tumbled to her death down the grand staircase on what was supposed to be her wedding day in the 1930s. Apparently guests have reported seeing her ghostly figure gliding through the corridors, and dancing longingly in the ballroom.
2. Old Changi Hospital, Singapore
You simply cannot have a ‘most haunted’ list without at least one abandoned sanitarium, and the derelict Old Changi Hospital delivers the scares in spades.
A Japanese prisoner camp during the Second World War, today the crumbling corridors are overrun by shrubs and weeds, and the so-called "shadow people" (read: ghosts).
In 2010 a camera crew filmed a 'found footage' mockumentary on the hospital’s hauntings, while in 2017 a viral video claimed to show a ghostly nurse, with a ghost baby in her arms.
3. Château de Brissac, France
This medieval manor in the Loire Valley may look more Downton than daunting, but behind the facade of old-world charm lies a history of haunted happenings and ghoulish goings-on.
To visit the château is to enter the realm of "The Green Lady" – a victim of a gruesome murder said to have occurred during the 15th century. Some visitors have apparently seen her ghost in the tower room of the chapel, with a corpse-like visage missing both eyes and nose.
The tallest castle in the whole of France, for those not put off by the paranormal, it makes for a lovely afternoon out.
4. Poveglia Island, Italy
Some places are ‘fun’ haunted – famed for mythical monsters and things that go bump in the night – but others are just… bleak.
Widely called "the world’s most haunted island", the Venetian enclave of Poveglia was twice used to quarantine plague victims, and during the Black Death at least 100,000 people were shipped off to the island and corpses were supposedly burned in giant plague pits.
When the need for quarantine subsided, the island was turned into – wait for it – an asylum, which was dogged by rumours of twisted experiments and medieval torture. The list of apparent apparitions is endless, and today it is illegal to even set foot on Poveglia.
5. Island of the Dolls, Mexico
It may sound like a particularly weird episode of Scooby-Doo, but there is nothing cuddly about this deserted islet in the Xochimilco channels of Mexico.
The island’s former proprietor peppered it with dolls – all now in varying states of decay – apparently to ward off the ghost of a drowned girl tormenting him with footsteps, whispers and wails. Some limbless, some headless, most swinging from trees, we’d wager that the dolls are now far scarier than the vengeful spirit they were intended to repel.
Toy Story this is not, and we’re quite happy keeping an entire ocean between us and these creepy, creepy dolls.
6. Hell Fire Club, Ireland
There’s your run-of-the-mill haunted house with creaking floorboards and the odd local legend, and then there’s the Hell Fire Club, a hunting lodge where Satan worshippers are said to have met to summon cloven-hooved goat demons on a hilltop by the light of the moon.
Built in 1725, on top of – and with rocks from – a neolithic tomb, the lodge was apparently frequented by an Illuminati-esque group of Dublin-based elites, who engaged in all manner of debauchery. Of its resident ghosts, our favourite by far is a black cat the size of a wolf with horns instead of ears.
Now a weather-beaten, hollowed-out hut with earthy floors and moss-coated walls, it’s popular with brave ramblers plotting a path through the Dublin hills.