Planet Earth has many jaw-dropping and breathtaking natural wonders, enough to fill your bucket list many times over. But our gorgeous planet isn't always home, sweet home. In fact, there are many places that, while mesmerizing, can and will kill you. Others, while not deadly, can make you sick or make your skin crawl. For adrenaline-seekers who like death-defying challenges or those with an affinity for the spooky or the paranormal, these are some of the most frightening spots in the world.
Aokigahara Forest (Japan)
Commonly known as the "Suicide Forest," Aokigahara sits in the shadow of Mount Fuji outside of Tokyo and is perhaps the most haunted forest on Earth. Since the 1950s, the forest has had a dark reputation, with dozens of people committing suicide there every year. There was one period during which officials found 36 bodies in a span of 37 days. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and a sign outside the forest reminds visitors that "life is a precious gift."
Aonach Eagach Ridge (Scotland)
Tucked into the legendary Scottish Highlands, the route along Aonach Eagach Ridge is considered one of the scariest hikes in the world. The ridge is more than 3,000 feet up with sheer drops and intense exposure on either side. Its known as the narrowest ridge on the British mainland, and many climbers have fallen to their deaths over the years.
Beelitz-Heilstatten Hospital (Beelitz, Germany)
This 60-building abandoned hospital has a colorful history that matches its creepy appearance. Originally built to house tuberculosis patients, a young Adolf Hitler recovered from a thigh injury here during World War I. The hospital was then used to treat German soldiers during World War II. After East Germany fell under Soviet control, the building became a Soviet military hospital until 1994, with Communist leader Erich Honecker being the most famous patient. The abandoned site has since been used as a set for some Hollywood movies.
The Blue Hole (Egypt)
The Blue Hole has a straightforward name that belies its sinister side. This 394-foot-deep underwater sinkhole in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt is an infamous dive site. Nicknamed "Diver's Cemetery," the sinkhole has trapped many experienced divers in a dark, 85-foot-long passage known as The Arch. More than 100 divers are estimated to have died there in the past two decades.
Bonaventure Cemetery (Savannah, Georgia)
Savannah is one of the most haunted towns in the United States. The city is said to be built on Native American burial grounds, which seemingly cursed Savannah with more than its fair share of cinematic tragedies. Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by being featured on the cover of the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," features a statue of Little Gracie Watson, a girl who died of pneumonia at age 6, that is said to cry real tears.
Bran Castle (Romania)
"Dracula" author Bram Stoker never visited Romania, but he based his iconic vampire's sinister abode on Bran Castle, which is now a Romanian national landmark. Though Dracula is entirely a work of fantasy, this medieval castle does have spooky features like underground passages and might've once held Vlad the Impaler prisoner, making it a fun place to visit for those interested in learning the facts behind the fiction.
Cahills Crossing (Kakadu National Park, Australia)
"Crocodile-infested" is precisely the way to describe Cahills Crossing, a popular feeding ground for saltwater crocodiles. Rangers at Kakadu National Park once counted 120 of these reptiles in the 3-mile stretch south of the seemingly shallow crossing point. Despite the risks, including people being decapitated and eaten by crocodiles, the crossing is popular with tourists, daredevils and cocky locals alike.
Canopy Walk (Kakum National Park, Ghana)
If you want a bird's-eye view of African wildlife, the Canopy Walk in Kakum National park is the only bridge of its kind in any national park in Africa. This elevated trail is not for those afraid of heights, however. The bridge through the park allows visitors to walk through the treetops 130 feet above the ground among the birds and monkeys of the rainforest.
Capuchin Catacombs (Palermo, Italy)
The Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Italy, are home to the largest collection of mummies in the world. These catacombs were built as a cemetery for the monks of the monastery. When they outgrew the original cemetery, they expanded and exhumed some of the old corpses, only to find they had been naturally mummified and magnificently preserved. This was seen as an act of God, and soon thousands of people were requesting to be buried here. The catacombs effectively stopped accepting bodies in 1880.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (Northern Ireland)
First built by fishermen in 1755, this tiny rope bridge connects the mainland to the tiny Irish island of the Carrickared. The bridge is approximately 66 feet long and 89 feet above the rocks below. If you dare to look down, you'll see ancient cliffs and caverns.
Catacombs (Paris, France)
The City of Lights is one of the most romantic places in the world, and yet it has a dark side. Paris sits above over 200 miles of tunnels, some of which are lined from floor to ceiling with skulls and bones. Paris cemeteries were overcrowded by the 17th century and the solution was to bury more than 6 million bodies in these ancient tunnels initially built for mining. Today, visitors are only able to tour about a mile of these catacombs.
Cenote Esqueleto (Tulum, Mexico)
More popularly known as the "Temple of Doom," the Cenote Esqueleto near Tulum, Mexico, is a massive underwater cave in a sinkhole. Besides having claimed the lives of several divers, its shape from above looks like a skull. Its unique rock formations and mixture of salt and fresh water make it tempting for divers, but its dark, tight passageways can also be extremely deadly.
Centralia, Pennsylvania is a near-ghost town in Columbia County. The town sits over an underground coal mine fire that has been burning since 1962. The ground is always warm from the flames, even in the winter. Poisonous smoke seeps up from the ground, killing any sign of plant life on the surface. Sinkholes randomly open up, swallowing unsuspecting passersby, including pets, deer and a young boy who got sucked into a more than 100-foot-deep pit. The U.S. government finally ordered a total evacuation of the town in 1984, but a handful of residents still refuse to leave.
The Chapel of Bones (Evora, Portugal)
When this chapel was being built in the 16th century within the Royal Church of St. Francis, cemeteries were overtaking the town of Evora, Portugal. The Franciscan monks in charge of the construction came up with the creative solution to use bones and skulls from more than 5,000 bodies as decoration for the walls, columns, arches and ceiling. The inscription above the chapel door reads: "Nos ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos," meaning "We bones, are here, waiting for yours."
The last inhabitants of the cliffside Italian town of Craco abandoned the city in 1980, and it's been a ghost town ever since. When the town constructed its sewer and water systems, it compromised the ground under the already earthquake-prone hills, causing destructive landslides. Visitors can still explore the town on a guided tour, and despite the danger, some movies have been filmed here.
Danakil Depression (Eritrea)
Rainbow beaches are charming, but neon hues in nature can also warn of impending danger. That's the case in Eritrea's Danakil Depression, one of the lowest, hottest and harshest places on Earth. Temperatures can reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and its hydrothermal fields are colored by the microbes that live there. Cracked fields and bubbling lava lakes make this place look like a terrifying wasteland.
The Door to Hell (Darvaza, Turkmenistan)
Known as the Door to Hell or the Gate to Hell, Darvaza gas crater is a contained natural disaster. More than 40 years ago, a sinkhole that opened in a natural gas field was set on fire after a Soviet drilling accident. The crater, which is 225 feet wide and 99 feet deep, has been burning ever since.
Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary is one of America's most haunted spots. The world's first penitentiary opened in 1829 and kept inmates in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. More than 1,000 people died there before it closed in 1971. Although executions didn't take place, at least two guards and many inmates were murdered over the years. Touring the decrepit cells while hearing about life there is a chilling experience.
General Cemetery (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
One of the largest cemeteries in Central America, General Cemetery in Guatemala City is a tragic case of supply and demand. Guatemala City has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and the cemetary can see more than 12 funerals a day. Because of this, the expensive, vertically stacked tombs are rented out in four-year increments. If a crypt isn't renewed or has not been paid, the body is removed and tossed in a mass grave.
Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images
Gomantong Caves (Malaysia)
If the thought of Snake Island doesn't give you the heebie jeebies, Gomantong Caves in the Malaysian portion of Borneo just might. This winding cave system is home to hundreds of thousands of wrinkle lipped free-tailed bats that you can watch exit the cave mouth in droves each night. If bats don't bother you, perhaps the sight of a carpet of cockroaches teeming in the layer of guano on the ground might turn your stomach.
Half Dome Cable Route (Yosemite National Park, California)
Half Dome is one of the most stunning places in all of America's parks, but it's also deadly. The arduous, all day hike to the summit of Half Dome can only be completed by scaling 400 feet of metal cables along the steep ride of the rock. Injuries are common, and multiple people have died by falling or getting struck by lighting.
Hanging Coffins of Sagada (Sagada, Philippines)
The Philippines has some of the best beaches in the world, but it has plenty of off-the-beaten path adventures as well. The Igorots of Sagada, Philippines, are an indigenous tribe with unique, 2,000-year-old funerary customs. The dead are placed in coffins that are then tied or nailed to the sides of cliffs. They believe that putting the bodies of the dead higher up brings them closer to heaven and their ancestral spirits.
Hashima Island (Japan)
Japan's Hashima Island rapidly developed thanks to its underwater coal mining operation. But when the mine closed in 1974, the island's town was abandoned for three decades, and its concrete buildings, including apartments, a school and a movie theater, became ruins. Its deserted appearance began attracting curious visitors until a portion of the island was officially re-opened to tourists in 2009.
Hill of Crosses (Lithuania)
This pilgrimage site is spooky to look at because of the ominous assortment of more than 200,000 crosses, carvings and shrines that have been brought here since 1831. Located north of the city of Siauliai, this hill began as a shrine to Lithuanian rebels killed in an uprising against the Russian Empire. Despite multiple Soviet attempts to dismantle the site, people from all over the world have been bringing crosses here ever since. Pope John Paul II visited the site in 1993, declaring it a symbol of hope.
Hussaini Hanging Bridge (Hussaini, Pakistan)
Talk about hanging on by a thread. The ropes on this perilous bridge are so thin, someone walking across might look like they're walking on clouds. The Hussaini Hanging Bridge above Borit Lake in Pakistan is one of the world's most dangerous. It is old and narrow, has many wooden planks missing and is easily shaken by the wind.
Island of the Dolls (Mexico City, Mexico)
Isla de las Muñecas, Spanish for Island of the Dolls, is an island located in the channels of the Xochimilco neighborhood of Mexico City. As the legend goes, the island's caretaker became haunted by guilt after he was unable to save a little girl who tragically drowned there more than 50 years ago. He compulsively hung dolls around the island until mysteriously drowning himself in the exact same spot that she did. The unsettling, petrifying dolls with severed limbs, decapitated heads and empty eye sockets still remain there.
Kawah Ijen Volcano (Java, Indonesia)
Unlike the beautiful dormant volcanoes of Hawaii, the Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia will take your breath away for the wrong reasons. The peak spews sulfuric gases that combust when they reach the surface, creating flames that shoot 16 feet into the air. At night, these flames burn blue, and the liquid sulfur they create streams down the mountain like electric blue lava.
Lake Natron (Tanzania)
This lake turns birds into stone. Its rusty color comes from its high concentrations of salt and other minerals. The temperature can reach a scalding 140 degrees Fahrenheit and its pH level is 10.5, nearly as high as ammonia. The water is so caustic that it can burn the skin and eyes of animals that aren't adapted to it. Its high levels of sodium carbonate also act as a preservative, leaving birds, bats and other animals that die in its waters mummified.
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park (Rock, West Virginia)
The once bustling Lake Shanee Amusement Park in West Virginia was abandoned in 1966 after a young girl was killed on the swings. Despite a brief attempt to reopen the park in the 1980s, the old, creaky Ferris wheel and swings are now covered with vines - and reportedly haunted by ghosts of the little girl and others. The park's current owner says six guests died during the park's four-decade heyday - and it might have even been cursed from the start. It was built on the site of the 1783 Clay family massacre, in which Native Americans killed three children of European settler Mitchell Clay; Clay and a posse of other settlers murdered several Native Americans in retaliation.
Madidi National Park (Bolivia)
Bolivia's Madidi National Park between the Amazon and the Andes is the most biodiverse place on Earth. But you might not want to get too up close and personal with many of the creatures in this pristine rainforest, including dangerous predators like jaguars and toxic species like giant hairy, poisonous spiders.
Mount Everest (Nepal and China)
The highest mountain in the world is also home to the world's highest cemetery. This majestic peak has claimed the lives of more than 300 climbers attempting to reach the summit. Many of them don't make it out of the "death zone," the highest portion of the mountain where there is not actually enough available oxygen for humans to breathe. Many of the dead bodies sitting on the way to the top have been mummified by the sub-freezing temperatures, making for a gruesome rather than inspiring sight.
The Narrows (Longs Peak, Colorado)
Despite being Colorado's most dangerous peak, intrepid climbers still attempt to tackle this route every year. The trail to the summit of Longs Peak, featured on the Colorado state quarter, includes a quarter-mile stretch along narrow mountain ledges that are prone to lightning strikes and rock slides. More than 60 people have died trying to climb to the top of Longs Peak.
National Park Service
The small city of Pripyat was home to 49,000 residents until it was evacuated and abandoned following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. The ghost town remains uninhabited and has been eerily overrun by nature, but it has been deemed safe to visit. A kindergarten class full of toys, an amusement park, a swimming pool and more are dilapidated and frozen in time, a monument to the destructive power of technology.
The Q'eswachaka Bridge (Peru)
Crossing Qeswachaka Bridge requires faith in Incan ingenuity. This bridge, located about 100 miles from Cusco, is one of the last remaining traditional Incan handwoven bridges in Peru. Made from woven grass ropes, it's roughly 100 feet long, 4 feet wide and 50 feet above the river below. Locals rebuild or renovate the bridge every year to keep the 500-year-old tradition alive.
The Sanctuary of Tophet (Tunisia)
This Carthaginian sacrificial site was uncovered by a French team of archaeologists in 1921. They uncovered more than 20,000 urns, some of which contain the ashes of newborns and children. Though according to the Greeks and Romans, the people of Carthage did practice child sacrifice, there are alternate theories about what happened at the site. Regardless, walking through the stone slabs marking the graves is a haunting experience.
Screaming Tunnel, Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada)
Niagara Falls is a popular romantic honeymoon destination, but the city surrounding the majestic falls is home to one of Canada's most famous haunted places. This former drainage passageway underneath the railroad tracks overhead is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a girl who died there under the archway. The legend goes that if you light a match off the tunnel wall around midnight, you can hear her scream.
Sedlec Ossuary (Kutna Hora, Czech Republic)
Churches and temples are home to some of the most stunning art in the world, though Sedlec Ossuary is adorned with more than 40,000 human skeletons rather than stained glass windows and frescoes. Known simply as the Bone Church, this small chapel even has bone candelabras, skull candle holders and a central chandelier made of bones.
Sichuan-Tibet Highway (China)
The Sichuan-Tibet Highway is one of the riskiest, highest and most grueling road trips in the world. This more than 3,000-mile winding route is prone to rockslides and avalanches due to its high elevation, and the precarious, winding roads have bad surfaces and hairpin turns, leading to many car accidents and even deaths. The return for traversing this perilous road is seeing amazing views, including mountains, stupas and monasteries.
The Shaft (Australia)
Appearances are deceiving near Mount Gambier, Australia. The Shaft appears on the surface as a small opening in a grassy field, but this hole is actually the entrance to a water-filled cave system that is one of the most dangerous in the world to scuba dive in. There are hundreds of long, cramped, twisting passageways down there but no natural light. After multiple tragic deaths, the Shaft was closed in 1973 before it reopened to divers more than a decade later.
Snake Island (São Paolo, Brazil)
Ilha da Queimada, or Snake Island, is straight out of a nightmare. The island is completely infested with thousands of venomous Golden Lancehead Vipers, some of the most deadly snakes in the world. The snakes became stranded on the island when sea levels rose and cut them off from the mainland. Researchers estimate there are up to 4,000 of these snakes on the island with one snake per square meter in some spots. The Brazilian Navy has forbidden anyone from landing on the island, which is just 20 miles off the coast of São Paulo.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
One of the most famous - and infamous - cemeteries in America is located in New Orleans, Louisiana, a Southern city known for its many grisly ghost stories. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, near the French Quarter, is the oldest cemetery in the city and is nicknamed The City of the Dead. Its maze of above-ground tombs houses many famous locals, including Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau.
Stanley Hotel (Estes, Colorado)
Estes Park, Colorado, is home to the Stanley Hotel, the famous mountain hotel that inspired Stephen King's "The Shining" after he and his wife stayed there in 1974. On top of the eerie ambiance, the Stanley Hotel has several resident ghosts known to cause trouble and visit guests. Those willing to risk their sanity can specifically book haunted rooms.
Thrihnukagigur Volcano (Iceland)
Because it's been dormant for a few thousand years, Thrihnukagigur Volcano near Reykjavik, Iceland, is the only volcano in the world where you can go inside. This ancient volcano is 700 feet deep, and visitors hike up to the crater's summit before hopping in an open cable lift that descends 120 feet inside the magma channel, a once-in-a-lifetime ride that's not for anyone who is claustrophobic.
Titlis Cliff Walk (Switzerland)
Titlis Cliff Walk is the highest suspension bridge in Europe at a whopping 1,640 feet up from the ground below. Set alongside Mount Titlis, the tallest mountain in the Swiss Alps, this bridge's views are absolutely stunning as well as frightening because of the mind-boggling height and partially open sides.
The Tower of London, England
The Tower of London one of the most visited tourist spots in the world. The stronghold was originally designed as a castle for William the Conqueror in 1078. It is currently a museum and home to the Crown Jewels, but it has a dark past. In the Middle Ages, it was a prison where people were tortured and executed, such as Anne Boleyn. King Edward V and his younger brother were imprisoned there by Richard III before mysteriously disappearing.
This park has almost 500 sculptures, all created by the late reclusive Finnish artist Veijo Ronkkonen over the course of about 50 years. These figures, displayed around the home in which he lived, are in a variety of forms and poses, including hundreds doing yoga and other exercises with blank eyes and creepy grins. Some of them even have real human teeth, while others have speakers inside that emit eerie sounds.
West Coast Trail (Vancouver Island, Canada)
Hiking the West Coast Trail is a life-changing experience that is on many people's bucket lists. On top of being a strenuous multi-day backcountry trail that crosses shaky wooden ladders and potential raging flood waters, the terrain is teeming with black bears, wolves and cougars. More than 100 hikers a year don't make it through the trail after getting seriously injured and evacuated.
Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California)
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is a fascinating 160-room mansion with a tragic, haunted history. Sarah Winchester, the wealthy widow of firearms businessman William Wirt Winchester, believed she was plagued by spirits killed by Winchester rifles and that the only way to appease them or keep them at bay was to continually build onto her home. The eerie result has hundreds of rooms with staircases and doors to nowhere and dozens of secret passages. Whether or not the spirits are real, the house is unsettling.
Wind Cave (Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota)
The first cave to be designated a national park, Wind Cave in South Dakota has plenty of short, family-friendly tours. But longer excursions into one of the world's longest and most complex caves aren't for the faint of heart. Crawling through the pitch dark when the cave suddenly "breathes," sending air shooting out the cave mouth or sucking it back in, depending on the outside pressure, is an unsettling experience.
Wittenoom is one of the most contaminated, and most creepy, places in Australia. The site of a former blue asbestos mine, the city's streets were literally paved with the stuff. The government deemed it too expensive to clean up all the asbestos in the town, so they declared it unfit to inhabit and struck it from maps. Despite this, a few residents still refuse to leave this dangerous, near-abandoned ghost town. For those looking for less toxic vacation spots, try the safest tourist destinations in the world.
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