It's that time of year again when we celebrate the ghoulish, the creepy and the downright terrifying. So, where can you go to get your fix of frightening phenomena?
From haunted houses to musty mausoleums, the past can provide us with plenty of scary places and spooky stories to explore. In this feature, history travel website Historvius.com takes on some of the best* examples of historic sites with an eerie twist, offering up some of the most chilling places to visit all around the globe.
(*or worst, depending on which way you look at it...)
An evocative ruin in rural Staffordshire, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/tutbury-castle-1574/" target="_hplink">Tutbury Castle</a> was the source of fear and hatred for Mary Queen of Scots, who spent many of her final days here, imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I. Today, it seems that the doomed monarch is still captive in her former prison, now in ghostly form. Visitors to Tutbury have reported sightings of Mary and of her keeper, wandering the grounds and buildings of the castle, especially at night. In fact, Tutbury has become a favourite of ghost hunters worldwide, having featured on programs such as "The World's Biggest Ghost Hunt" and "Most Haunted".
Beneath the streets of Palermo, two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo seems to sleep angelically, her face the very picture of serenity and her hair in a pretty pink bow. Yet, little Rosalia has lain here since 1920 having perished of pneumonia, the last person ever to be laid to rest in the extraordinary and undeniably macabre <a href="http://www.historvius.com/catacombs-of-the-capuchins-1018/" target="_hplink">Catacombs of the Capuchins</a>. Thousands of corpses inhabit this underground space, all remarkably well-preserved, many with unnervingly contorted expressions and the oldest of whom date back to 1599. <BR> <BR> Wikimedia Commons: Sibeaster
Halloween and teenage sleepovers would be incomplete without a vampire flick to liven things up and, for those who want to feel like they’re right in the blood-sucking action, a trip to <a href="http://www.historvius.com/orava-castle-1604/" target="_hplink">Orava Castle</a> may be just the thing. Perched high atop cragged rocks, this imposing medieval Slovakian castle was the setting for the classic 1922 German horror-fest flick <em>Nosferatu</em>. For the full effect, take one of the night tours, sure to tingle even the sturdiest of spines. <BR> <BR> Flickr: laslandes
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, it froze the city of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/pompeii-2/" target="_hplink">Pompeii</a> in time, perfectly preserving a moment of terror for future generations to view. For today, those who wander the ruins of this ancient marvel can view not just its buildings and roads, but the bodies of its citizens, each in the exact position of their tragic demise as they asphyxiated from the fumes and ash. Some are lying face down, others sit or huddle in desperation - whatever their final pose, each is unique, chilling and tragic in its own right.
When you think your favourite team is underperforming, the prospect of even the most humiliating defeat shouldn’t be enough to incite real terror, yet the same couldn’t be said for the people of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/el-tajin-595/" target="_hplink">El Tajin</a>. In fact, if the reliefs found at the site are anything to go by, the ball games for which this fascinating historic city was famed had a particularly gruesome twist. It is thought they were linked to human sacrifice, apparently spelling an especially nasty end for the losing team.
Standing alone in the historic city of York, the picturesque sight of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/clifford-aeos-tower-258/" target="_hplink">Clifford’s Tower</a> belies a past filled with terror and misery. Not only has the site served as a prison, but it actually gained its very name from <em>Roger de Clifford</em>, who was executed here in 1322 after defeat at the Battle of Borough bridge. Yet arguably the most horrific chapter of this medieval tower can be traced back to the time of Richard the Lionheart, when the city’s Jewish population attempted to use it to shelter from persecution, some eventually committing mass suicide, others being massacred when they tried to leave.
Most people who visit Nazca do so to see its iconic geoglyphs, the Nazca Lines. Yet, this Peruvian town is also within reach of another remarkable yet much more unsettling vestige of the Nazca people, the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/chauchilla-cemetery-157/" target="_hplink">cemetery of Chauchilla</a>. Those who visit this historic burial ground are met not with gravestones or mausoleums, but open graves, many of their mummified inhabitants sitting upright, complete with their burial outfits, skulls grinning up at passers-by.
Amongst the impressive <a href="http://www.historvius.com/carthage-sites-map-and-carthage-tour-ideas/fr216" target="_hplink">ruins of Carthage</a> lies a truly haunting place known as the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/sanctuary-of-tophet-1619/" target="_hplink">Sanctuary of Tophet</a>. Dating back to Punic times, this stark burial ground is home to a huddle of hundreds of ancient graves, disconcertingly and tragically all belonging to children. Adding to the disturbing nature of this forlorn visage are the theories that its young residents were not the casualties of some unexpected disease or tragedy, but rather the victims of ritual child-sacrifice.
Staring out blankly at all who enter their subterranean lair, the skulls of the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/the-catacombs-of-paris-82/" target="_hplink">Paris Catacombs</a> provide an eerie audience to the hordes of tourists who come to explore this creepy site. Built in the 18th century, these underground quarries became the home of some six million skeletons, providing an alternative to what were then the city’s overflowing cemeteries.
On the edge of the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/roman-forum-340/" target="_hplink">Roman Forum</a>, away from the main throng of the crowds, the church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami hides an ancient secret. Delve into the depths of this pretty yet unassuming church and you find the remains of the most famous of all ancient Roman dungeons, dating as far back as the sixth century BC - the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/mamertine-prison-727/" target="_hplink">Mamertine Prison</a>. Yet time has not dulled the sense of fear and foreboding which this dark and ominous place would undoubtedly have evoked in its inmates, which are said to have included defeated kings, Roman traitors and even Saints Peter and Paul.
It was where the princes in the tower vanished, where monarchs and citizens alike were held captive and where countless numbers of people were executed by royal command - the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/the-tower-of-london-364/" target="_hplink">Tower of London</a> clearly ranks among the most chilling of all historic sites. Numerous ghostly sightings have been reported at the Tower over the centuries, including stories of a fearsome bear that scared one guard so badly, he died of shock. There is even a “haunted gallery” said to be frequented by the screaming ghost of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Kathryn Howard, who was executed there for adultery.
In Russia’s capital, tourists queue to gaze upon the face of one of the nation’s most iconic leaders, Vladimir Lenin. Housed in <a href="http://www.historvius.com/lenin-aeos-mausoleum-210/" target="_hplink">his daunting marble mausoleum</a>, this notorious figure still manages to inspire a spark of apprehension in those who pass his perfectly embalmed body. Even more creepy than this relic of the communist era are the rumours that Lenin’s body is now a fake, having been replaced long ago with an unknown substituted corpse.
The catacombs of Rome are the remnants of early Christianity, a reminder of a time when persecuted Christians would bury their dead in underground passageways and chambers outside the city walls. Several examples of these subterranean cemeteries still exist, the most famous of which are the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/st-sebastian-catacombs-496/" target="_hplink">St Sebastian Catacombs</a> and the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/catacombs-of-san-callisto-495/" target="_hplink">Catacombs of San Callisto</a>, each of which comprise level after level of ancient remains and tombs.
Underneath modern day Seattle is a dark labyrinth of passageways, houses and buildings, the shady remains of the city as it once was. Known as the <a href="http://www.historvius.com/seattle-underground-streets-1290/" target="_hplink">Seattle Underground Streets</a>, the story of this site is traced to the great fire of 1889, which wreaked utter devastation. When it came to rebuilding, it was decided to raise the level of the whole place as a way to solve the issue of flooding and, as a result, Seattle created a ghost of itself. Today, tours offer a way to explore this forgotten place and an eerie glimpse into an interrupted past.
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