Our Favorite Haunts

Places where things go more than bump in the night: A ghostly tour
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Rank and file: The subterranean environs of Paris' Catacombs  (Nathan Borchelt)

Haunting has no season—ghostly tours occur throughout the year, and in the most unlikely of places. Nevertheless, the end of October serves as an apt time to pause on reflect on the world's most haunted and horrid places. To whit, our wickedly good picks of ghastly and ghoulish places.

Les Catacombs: France
To step into a true house of horrors, descend below the streets of Paris into Les Catacombs. These dank, dark passages stretch for miles under the city streets and have existed since the Roman times; now they're the resting place of up to six million souls, many of them victims of the Black Death. Stacks and stacks of bones arranged in orderly patters line the hallways, interspersed with tidy rows of skulls and gravestones with arcane inscription. Tours run Tuesday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. But don't think about taking a bit of a bone along with you back into the light of day—rumor has it the bones are cursed if they ever leave the catacombs (that and the guards will search your bags).

Civil War Hauntings: Pennsylvania
Both generals and soldiers lost their lives in the great battles that had once divided the United States—but not their souls. Reports of military ghosts roaming the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, are legion. But the truly haunted part lies in Spooks Hill. Locals insist that the reason cars roll uphill is because a battalion of Union soldiers perpetually reenact their laborious effort of pushing of a cannon up that incline. (A side trip to near-by Burkittsville may give you a more modern scare, though sightings of the infamous Blair Witch are unlikely.)
California Screaming: San Francisco
Ghosts don't need to lurk in Alcatraz to make the place seem haunted, but some say the deserted corridors of the infamous rock in the San Francisco Bay are still inhabited by the souls of prisoners that met a violent end within its walls. A more residential retreat lies in nearby San Jose, where Ms. Sarah Winchester built her fabled Mystery House. With stairwells leading nowhere, doors opening into space, and some 10,000 windows, this labyrinth of crocked corridors is rumored to have been constructed to isolate Ms. Winchester from those who had fallen victim to the rifle that bares her name. (L.A.'s Halloween party is a literal scream in its own right, complete with cemetery tours, costume parades, and a spooky film festival.)

What Lies Beneath: Scotland
The darker side of Edinburgh’s medieval history is literally buried beneath your feet. As the Old Town slums grew ever higher on the volcanic mound that surrounds Edinburgh Castle, a labyrinth of squalid and disease-filled alleyways spread deeper—and with it tales of horror and suitably gruesome deaths. The recently opened underground vaults beneath Mary King’s Close are said to be one of "Britain’s most haunted locations." Perhaps you’ll sense the presence of Annie, a child ghost who wanders in rags lamenting the loss of her plague-stricken family. Or you might hear the desperate cries of entire 16th-century families who were entombed behind sealed doors to quarantine the spread of the plague, left to die in dark corridors that have since been described by one psychic as "the unhappiest place ever."

Hawaiian Uhanes: Kauai
Say aloha to the "Marchers of the Night," souls that separate themselves from their host bodies while they sleep and wander through the darkness, paying visits to the corporeal world. Tradition says that it's fatal to gaze upon the Marchers of the Night as they pass, unless they are your relatives or friends. Otherwise, you must strip naked and prostrate yourself. If luck is on your side, they'll pass over you. Fortunately, the local Kahunas know how to send the marchers back home again.

Published: 25 Oct 2012 | Last Updated: 10 Jan 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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