World's Creepiest Attractions (PHOTOS)

10/13/2014 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 10, 2014

Why do we get a kick out of being scared stiff by ghoulish places? "It's like watching a good horror movie," says Andrea Liskova, media relations manager for Czech Tourism USA. Of course, visiting a creepy place is more like living in the movie. And, Liskova says, the Czech Republic has its own scary spot--a 15th-century Gothic church about 90 minutes outside Prague containing 40,000 human bones. Would she spend the night there--alone? No, she admits, "It's a very scary place."

At these morbid must-sees, the subject matter ranges from religious to political to archaeological to bizarre. The Torture Museum in Amsterdam, for example, documents man's cruelty to his fellow man. Both real and reconstructed torture devices give visitors a sense of how deep that cruelty can run. But if you've ever wanted to see a skull cracker or limb-dislocating rack, this is the place.

And you don't have to travel overseas to find creepy attractions. Sunny California has its own dark side. The 160-room Winchester Mystery House in San Jose was built by the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune to appease the spirits of those killed by her family's guns. At least three ghosts are said to live in this labyrinthine Victorian mansion with 2,000 doors and 10,000 windows. The home's twisting hallways and dead-end stairways may have been designed to confuse unfriendly spirits, but even with 160 rooms, there are only so many places to hide.

Whether you're spooked by skeletons, ghosts, mummies, or murderers, get ready to cover your eyes at the world's creepiest attractions.

By Donna Heiderstadt and Joe Yogerst

  • Manchac Swamp, Louisiana
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    While you may not encounter vampires and shape-shifters, this alligator-infested wetlands near New Orleans is about as close to the HBO show True Blood as you’re likely to get in the flesh. Manchac is said to be inhabited by all sorts of things that go bump in the night, including the ghost of voodoo princess Julie White and the Rougarou werewolf of Cajun mythology. Also keep an eye out for the eerie landmarks Frenier Cemetery and the Hanging Tree. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo: New Orleans Plantation Country
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia
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    Cabinets full of bones and a wooden waterboard are among the gruesome exhibits at former Security Prison 21 in Phnom Penh. The collection pays homage to the estimated 17,000 people imprisoned there during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror (1975 to 1979). After being tortured and interrogated, most were sent to the nearby Choeung Ek extermination center. Black-and-white photos in the cell blocks document the horrors inflicted on prisoners, including women and children. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo: Barbara Castello/Godong/Corbis
  • Stanley Hotel, Colorado
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    Then-unknown writer Stephen King spent a weekend at the Stanley in 1973 and got so creeped out wandering the almost empty hotel that it inspired him to write the horror cult-classic The Shining. (The movie adaptation now plays on a continuous reel in the guest rooms.) Indeed, the Estes Park hotel has been spooking guests like King for more than a century. Among its permanent paranormal residents are a spirit who plays the piano in the ballroom and ghostly kids who play pranks on the fourth floor. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo courtesy of Stanley Hotel
  • Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
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    A real-life Mexican version of The Ring, this eerie “island of dolls” was created by a farmer haunted by the memories of a young girl whose dead body washed ashore on his island in Lake Xochimilco near Mexico City. To placate her spirit and those of other dead children—and end his nightmares—the farmer collected hundreds of old dolls, some missing eyes, limbs, and even heads. They dangle from trees and wires all around the forbidding island. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo: Anne Lewis / Alamy
  • Pripyat, Ukraine
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    Evacuated after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, this northern Ukrainian city is the world’s single largest ghost town. Around 50,000 people lived here until the meltdown; nowadays the apartment blocks, schools, hospitals, and amusement park are hauntingly abandoned. Scientists estimate it will be roughly 20,000 years before humans can safely inhabit the city again. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo: Anatolii Stepanov/Demotix/Corbis
  • Truk Lagoon, Micronesia
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    Sixty Japanese warships and 275 airplanes lie at the bottom of this turquoise lagoon, the largest maritime graveyard on the planet and one of the most fascinating underwater attractions. Sunk during a daring American raid in 1944, this ghost fleet is a dream trip for scuba divers. But it’s not for the squeamish: veteran divers say the remains of more than 3,000 sailors who went down with their ships haunt the wrecks. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo: Chris A Crumley / Alamy
  • Underground Paris
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    The French capital offers three subterranean haunts. Skeleton-filled catacombs contain the remains of more than 6 million Frenchmen, many of them arranged in macabre displays. Underground aficionados—who don’t get freaked out by rodents—can also descend into the 700-year-old égouts (sewers). The city’s buried carrières (stone quarries) are still off limits, however, and can be explored only on unofficial (in other words, illegal) tours. —Joe Yogerst

    Photo: Hemis / Alamy