In the center of Turkmenistan, there is an eternally burning pit. A church made of human bones in Prague. A tiny Japanese village where life-size dolls outweigh the humans by roughly ten to one. We live in a wide, beautiful globe, but it also has its fair share of terrible and strange places and Scariest haunted house in Ohio — places just waiting to be discovered by the next morbidly minded tourist. These are some of the scariest places on the planet, from hell-themed amusement parks to snake-infested islands. Have you begun packing your belongings?
Bolivia’s North Yungas Road
The North Yungas Road, which connects La Paz with Coroico, Bolivia, is a perilous journey: it winds precariously through the Amazon jungle at a height of almost 15,000 feet. It’s easy to see why this 50-mile stretch of roadway has gained the moniker “The Death Road,” given the terrifying height, 12-foot-wide single lane, absence of guardrails, and reduced visibility due to rain and fog. While the North Yungas Road used to see 200 to 300 deaths each year, it is now more of a destination for adventurous mountain bikers than a traffic corridor.
Nagoro is a city in Japan.
Nagoro is a tiny Japanese village with one unique feature: a population of life-sized dolls that outnumbers the human population by roughly ten to one. Tsukimi Ayano, a resident of the neighborhood, began crafting doll reproductions of her neighbors after they died or moved away. Fishermen lounging on the riverfront, students occupying entire classrooms, elderly couples resting on benches outside of buildings—the creepy doppelgängers can be observed in various positions across the town. Nagoro presently has over 350 dolls and 27 breathing persons (the youngest is nearly 50 years old), making it a strange and dangerous play.
Siauliai, Lithuania, Hill of Crosses
Since the 14th century, people have been putting crosses on this hill in northern Lithuania. The crosses reflected a yearning for Lithuanian independence in the benign throughout the medieval period. Following a peasant rebellion in 1831, people began to add to the site in honor of the fallen rebels. During the Soviet occupation of the hill from 1944 to 1991, it became a symbol of defiance once more. The hill and crosses were razed three times by Soviets, but residents continued to rebuild them. There are now over 100,000 crosses crammed into the space, clashing like spooky wind chimes in the breeze.
Xochimilco, Mexico’s Island of the Dolls
Xochimilco is best known for its Isla de las Munecas, or “Island of the Dolls,” despite its history and designation as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The tiny island, hidden among the borough’s many canals, is known for hundreds of dolls—and doll parts—hanging from trees and spread around the grass. The chinampa (similar to an artificial island) used to be the actual residence of a now-deceased guy named Julian Santa Barrera, despite the fact that it seems more like a horror movie set than anything else. Barrera acquired and exhibited the toys after discovering a deceased girl’s body in a nearby canal in the hopes of warding off evil spirits. Daring people can rent their own boat, persuade the driver to pay it a visit, and observe it from the sea.
Antarctica’s Taylor Glacier
The five-story, red cascade of Taylor Glacier (sometimes known as “Blood Falls”) may appear to be a geological murder scene, but it is a fully natural phenomenon. The phenomena dates back roughly five million years, when a microbe-rich lake beneath the glacier was locked off. Because it was cut off from light and oxygen, the water grew increasingly concentrated in terms of salt and iron. The salinity of the water (about three times that of the ocean) protects it from freezing, while the iron gives it color. It then leaks out of a fissure in the glacier, allowing us to watch the gruesome spectacle.
Centralia is a town in Pennsylvania.
Centralia, Pennsylvania, was a tiny but thriving town from the late 1800s until the 1960s, thanks to its profitable coal mines. However, when a mine caught fire suddenly in 1962, the flames traveled underground via the interconnected tunnels. The citizens were aware of the situation, but it wasn’t until two isolated incidents a few years later that they were truly concerned: a gas station owner reporting abnormally high gasoline temperatures in his underground tanks in 1979, and a young boy nearly falling into a 150-foot-deep sinkhole in his backyard in 1981. The town’s population has dropped dramatically after those distressing events. Only seven people live in Centralia as of 2014 (the most current census), despite the fact that it appears to be a ghost town when you arrive. You’ll find many torn down buildings, crumbling walkways, and the cracked, graffiti-filled Route 61 if you ever find yourself in the deserted city. Just in case you forgot why the town is desolate, you can see smoke spewing out from the subterranean fires, which scientists say will burn for another 250 years.
Germany’s Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital
If this historic German hospital appears unsettling, it is. The Beelitz-Heilstätten complex (50 minutes south of Berlin) served as a tuberculosis sanatorium from 1898 to 1930. During World War I, it also housed mustard gas and machine gun victims, including a young soldier called Adolf Hitler, who was wounded in the leg. The hospital later served as a major treatment center for Nazi soldiers during World War II, and from 1945 until the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it served as a Soviet military hospital. Although the rest of the structure remains abandoned, a few hospital wards are operated as a neurological rehabilitation center today. The surgery and psychiatric wards have both been left to degrade and give way to nature (and vandals), and the result looks like something out of an episode of American Horror Story—certainly not a fun day excursion for the easily frightened.
Gomantong Caves are located in Sabah, Malaysia.
The Gomantong Caves in Malaysia are natural wonders, with limestone walls reaching up to 300 feet in some places, yet visitors frequently describe the caves as one of the most repulsive wildlife encounters they’ve ever had. To begin, Gomantong is home to nearly two million bats, resulting in unimaginably thick quantities of guano (also known as bat poop) covering the ground. Don’t even consider slipping because the handrails are as filthy as the floor. If you can get through the river of bat droppings, you’ll come upon millions of Malaysian cockroaches scurrying around. Cockroaches will congregate anywhere there is guano (read: everywhere). Finally, if you can get over the bat odors and cockroaches crawling up your legs, you might come across some amazing creatures like snakes, scorpions, freshwater crabs, and the fabled big scutigera centipedes—poisonous bugs that are at least three inches long.
San Fruttuoso, Italy, Christ of the Abyss
The original form of the same Jesus monument can be found in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of San Fruttuoso. There are other versions of the same Jesus statue dispersed over the ocean floor (including Key Largo, pictured). Italian diver Duilio Marcante commissioned the eight-foot-tall image in 1954. Marcante wants to build a memorial near the spot where his friend Dario Gonzatti died while scuba diving a few years ago. Christ of the Abyss was born as a result. With the deity’s outstretched arms and upward look, the outcome is eerily eerie. Although the statue was evacuated from its watery home in 2003 for some much-needed restoration, the algae and corrosion just contribute to the spectacle (including replacing a hand that a rogue anchor had broken off). Whether you find the statue creepy or beautiful (or both), it’s definitely worth diving down 55 feet to take an underwater selfie with Jesus.
Pripyat would have to be the poster child for strangely abandoned areas all across the world if there was ever one. The city was founded in 1970 and had grown to approximately 50,000 residents by the time it was completely evacuated following the Chernobyl tragedy in 1986. Since the evacuation, Pripyat has remained an abandoned city, despite the buildings, furniture, and other traces of life are exactly where its former residents left them. In classrooms, weathered books can be found, decomposing dolls can be found abandoned in cribs, and photographs can still be found in their original frames. The most notable feature is the Pripyat amusement park’s ferris wheel—a skeletal reminder of what used to be. Following HBO’s Chernobyl series, Ukraine’s government has stated that the site will be designated as an official tourist attraction.
Sagada, Philippines, Hanging Coffins
In Sagada, you’ll have to look up instead of six feet under if you want to see the dead. People in this area are known for burying their deceased in coffins mounted to the sides of cliffs, similar to an aerial cross-section of a typical cemetery. The custom dates back thousands of years: make your own coffin, die, and be buried with your forefathers. Many of the cliffside coffins are hundreds of years old and each one is unique, as they were all handcrafted by the person who now lies within.
Derweze, Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”
While Joss Whedon misled us into believing that the entry to hell was in Sunnydale, California, he was 7,500 miles off the mark. Located in the middle of the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan is the “Door to Hell,” a name locals given to a 230-foot-wide crater that simply won’t stop burning. In 1971, when Soviet scientists were looking for oil, they struck a methane reservoir by accident, and the drilling platform collapsed, producing the crater and spilling deadly gas into the atmosphere. The scientists decided to put the crater on fire to burn off the methane, creating a Dante-esque oddity that has remained blazing for the past 40-plus years.
Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo, Italy
None of the world’s catacombs, from Salzburg to Paris, are as scary as Sicily’s Catacombe dei Cappucini (Capuchin Catacombs). When the cemetery at the Capuchin monastery got overcrowded in the late 16th century, the horrific space was built. Religious men were supposed to be the only ones allowed to live there, but after news got out about the natural mummification processes taking place there, it became a status symbol for locals to have a final resting place there (in their best clothing, of course). As a result, the underground tombs today house around 8,000 dead, segregated into different pathways for religious dignitaries, professional men, children, and even virgins. The bodies are dressed to the nines and arranged in grotesquely lifelike positions, as if they were on show at a museum. Sounds like a good time?
Snake Island is located in So Paulo, Brazil.
Ilha de Queimada Grande (also known as Snake Island) is one of the world’s most dangerous islands, located 90 miles off the coast of So Paulo. The place got its name because of the outrageously high density of golden lancehead vipers; according to certain studies, there are one to five snakes per square meter. When sea levels rose 11,000 years ago, separating Snake Island from mainland Brazil, the newly isolated snakes evolved to adapt to their altered environment, becoming hyper evolved—and super frightening. The snakes learnt to hunt among the treetops and strike at birds from the air because there was no ground-level prey on the island. Because they couldn’t find the birds and wait for the poison to take effect, their venom evolved to be five times stronger than that of their mainland counterparts, capable of instantaneously killing their prey and melting human flesh. The Brazilian government forbids the general public from ever setting foot on the island because to its potency (as if you would want to).
Kutná Hora, Czech Republic: Sedlec Ossuary
The magnificent Sedlec Ossuary is a little chapel beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints that is noted for its morbid decor all over the world. When an abbot of the Sedlec Monastery returned from Jerusalem with holy soil and distributed it around the church’s cemetery in the early 1300s, everyone wanted to be buried in that precious land. However, due to overcrowding, the old bodies had to be dug up to make way for new ones. The abbots decided to put the excavated bones to good use in typical “waste not, want not” fashion. Frantiek Rint, a local Czech woodcarver, was tasked with arranging the collection of more than 40,000 human remains in a visually appealing manner, and he clearly succeeded. Four candelabras, a family crest, and various streamers of bones cascade down from the ceiling are among the bony constructions. The church’s huge chandelier, which comprises nearly every bone found in the human body, is undoubtedly the most spectacular sight (plus some creepy cherubs for good measure).
Volcano Kawah Ijen in Java, Indonesia
The Indonesian volcano Kawah Injen is both dangerous and gorgeous. The sulfuric gases atop the Java peak reach temperatures of over 1,000°F and ignite when they seep through fractures and come into touch with the air (terrifying). The gases condense occasionally into liquid sulfur, which takes on an otherworldly blue hue and runs down the volcano like lava (spectacular). While the lovely lights can only be seen in the dark, Kawah Ijen’s sulfur burns at all hours of the day and night. As a result, the atmosphere is thick with sulfur dioxide, and the nearby crater lake has turned green due to hydrochloric acid saturation.
Singapore’s Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa is an 82-year-old Singapore amusement park that is almost the polar opposite of Disneyland. Its colorful entryway of Chinese arches appears harmless enough, but once inside, you’ll notice that Haw Par Villa is covered in almost 1,000 statues, each one wilder than the previous (yes, it gets stranger than a human head on a giant crab). Haw Par Villa’s major attraction is the underworld-themed Ten Courts of Hell. The dioramas depict severe techniques of punishment, accompanied by a plaque detailing the transgression that merited such lashings, and are intended to teach young children about morality. People are being sawed in half (crime: “misuse of books”), mutilated (crime: cheating on examinations), and tossed into a hill of blades (crime: lending money with exorbitant interest rates).
Belize’s Great Blue Hole
The Lighthouse Reef, about 60 miles off the coast of Belize, is known for its gorgeous coral and shallow blue waters, as well as a vertical drop of more than 400 feet. The Great Blue Hole, in the heart of the atoll, is a 1,000-foot-wide, perfectly circular sinkhole. Divers come to see the unique geology, which includes gigantic underwater stalactites and stalagmites developed during the last glacial period. The limestone shelf that surrounds the vertical cave is roughly 40 feet below ground level, and then it’s a straight drop into the unknown. The rock formations are said to become clearer and more magnificent the deeper divers go. Check out the popular video of world champion Guillaume Nery free-diving directly into the Blue Hole to get a sense of how terrifying this experience is.
Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan’s Aokigahara Forest
This deceptively tranquil forest at the foot of Mount Fuji has a long and tumultuous past. Aokigahara, sometimes known as “Suicide Forest,” is the world’s second-most popular suicide destination (after the Golden Gate Bridge)—in 2010, 247 people tried suicide here, with 54 of them succeeding. Some attribute this phenomenon to Japanese mythology’s link of the forest with demons. Others highlight towards the density of the trees, which muffles sound and makes it incredibly simple to get lost. Many hikers even use tape or twine to mark their path so they can find their way back out. This, paired with the strewn garments and letters across the labyrinthine forests, gives Aokigahara a chilling Blair-Witch–meets–Palace–of–Knossos vibe.
Parikkala, Finland’s Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden
During his lifetime, Veijo Rönkkönen was one of Finland’s most well-known contemporary folk painters, but he was also a recluse who refused to exhibit his work in public areas. Instead, he created his own personal sculpture garden in his backyard by assembling approximately 500 concrete statues. The main display on the grounds is a group of roughly 200 statues placed in a variety of yoga poses. While the sculptures (all allegedly self-portraits) are unsettling, they aren’t the most sinister elements in the garden: A nun lurking behind bushes to a shrouded man with long, outstretched arms are among the scary individual statues in Rönkkönen’s collection. These figurines’ malicious grins (complete with real human teeth) and black, sunken eyes are just what the doctor ordered…if you want to never sleep comfortably again.