1. Xochimilco, Mexico

Island of the Dolls, or ‘La Isla de la Munecas’ in Spanish, is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Abandoned toys are creepy enough at the best of times, but this place south of Mexico City takes doll horror to a whole new level, with plastic heads, rotting bodies and stray chubby limbs hanging from every tree branch.

You’d be excused for assuming you’ve stumbled on to an old slasher film set when you see this bloodcurdling spectacle, but the reality is far more terrifying.

The story begins in the 1920s, when a young girl drowned in the nearby canal’s murky waters.

Residents said her spirit refused to leave the island, so they abandoned the area. But 30 years on, a hermit called Don Julian Santana, unfazed by the rumours, moved there.

The tale goes that the little girl’s ghost began to haunt him, constantly weeping that she was lonely and had nothing to play with.

So Santana began collecting old dolls and hung them on the trees for her. He became more and more obsessed with his ‘job’, at one point selling fruit and vegetables he’d grown so he could buy more dolls.

In 2001, Santana was found dead in the same canal the little girl drowned in – bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Now he’s gone, the Island of the Dolls has become a sinister tourist attraction, with visitors saying the dolls move their heads and limbs at night, even when there’s no breeze, and sometimes even mysteriously move positions. Spooky stuff, indeed.

If you’re twisted enough to want to go, it’s a hell of a mission. To get there, you need to travel to the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, get a taxi to the Cuemanco landing, and then hire a boat.

But if the most horrifying experience of your life is what you’re after, it’ll be worth it.



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2. Transylvania, Romania

Gloomy skies? Imposing turrets? The odd bat flapping around? Must be the castle of… DRACULAAAA!

Well, sort of. It’s claimed that Bran Castle belonged to Count Dracula, aka Vlad The Impaler, who Bram Stoker’s famously fangtastic novel about the bloodsucking vampire was based on.

Actually, Vlad only lived here as a guest for a short time, but this is still a spooky castle, so let’s not let historical fact get in the way of a good scare.


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3. Paris, France

The remains of six million people can be found in the Paris Catacombs, an underground ossuary where skulls are stacked from floor to ceiling. Macabre isn’t the half of it. 

Bones are arranged in sinister patterns – one wall sports a love heart shape made of skulls, carefully surrounded with shin bones, while another room has a central pillar of bones built to look like a beer keg. Weird.


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4. Aokigahara, Japan

If you go down to the Aokigahara woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. A body hanging from a tree branch, for example, or the crunch of bones underfoot.

Also known as Suicide Forest, there have been more than 500 suicides here since the Fifties. A controversial bestseller published in 1993, called The Complete Suicide Manual, recommends Aokigahara as the perfect place to die. Copies of the book are apparently often found near the corpses.


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5. Salem, US

The Witch House is the last remaining building with a direct connection to the 17th-century Salem witch trials – it was the home of judge Jonathan Corwin, who famously sent 19 innocent women to the gallows.

A wave of accusations of witchcraft swept this Massachusetts town in 1692, with a number of women subjected to bizarre examinations and accused of being proponents of the dark arts. In addition to those executed, five more died in prison.



Photos: Thinkstock, Getty