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Halloween travel: Spookiest places to see
I have to admit, my idea of vacation involves quiet, serene, peaceful and warm places where relaxation is the number one objective.
For many others though, their objective is action and adventure. Spooky places are intriguing to a lot of people. If you fall into that category, here are some of the spookiest places in the world to visit, according a recent survey of travelers who search such places out.
• Bran Castle in Bran, Romania: The legend of Dracula — or Vlad Tepes, since you’ll be on a real-name basis once you’ve visited his “dark and frightening” home — harkens back to Bran Castle, rising atop a Transylvanian peak. Today the fortress is a museum, so you can call on Vlad the Impaler any time you want (during operating hours, anyway).
• Old Melbourne Gaol in Melbourne, Australia: Visitors to Melbourne’s infamous jail, today marketed with a “Crime and Justice Experience” subtitle, report feeling “disturbed by lost souls” yet find the trip “strangely intriguing” — especially the collection of death masks and hanging beams of Ned Kelly and other outlaws.
• Dilmun Burial Complex in Sar, Bahrain: One of the most intriguing ancient Arabian burial grounds, the Dilmun complex of intertwining graves is perhaps best known for its “honeycomb” appearance. Both the identity of the buried and the function of excavated buildings — thought to be temples of a very early civilization — remain unsolved.
• Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo, North Carolina: After nearly 420 years, visitors to Fort Raleigh are still asking the question, “Where, oh where, is Virginia Dare?” The first baby born to English arrivals in the New World vanished, along with an entire colony of settlers, with a mysterious tree carving their only trace. See the story, minus the mysterious ending, dramatized in the long-running outdoor musical “The Lost Colony.”
• Hill of Crosses in Siauliai, Lithuania: The hill sagging under tens of thousands of crosses is such a striking sight that many visitors to Lithuania claim you haven’t really visited the country until you’ve seen it. Its origins are unknown, though Lithuania ha maintained a tradition of carving crosses that express “both sorrow and hope.”
• Burning Town in Centralia, Pennsylvania: A must-see oddity on any northeast U.S. road trip, a coal vein has been burning beneath this town for 46 years. You’ll know you’re close when you hit “undulating blacktop” on Route 61, and then you’ll see the ghost town with its “few families who refuse to leave, several cemeteries, and the smoking strip mine where it all started.” If you’re not creeped out yet, it’s two hours to Philadelphia and the “haunted” Eastern State Penitentiary.
• Hallstatt Bone House in Hallstatt, Austria: Tight for space, for hundreds of years some Austrian graveyards gained new ground by burying and then exhuming bodies, painting the skeletal remains and arranging them in a beinhaus. Centuries of bones — the newest decorated skull, gold tooth still intact, dates only to 1983 — can be seen in the Hallstatt chapel, and while it is “in no way sterilized, it is not tasteless either.”
• Okefenokee Swamp in Waycross, Georgia: The Seminoles’ impenetrable “Land of Trembling Earth” still makes visitors tremble with fear. No one can confirm or discount the tales of swamp people, ghosts and larger-than-life supernatural beings, but visitors can confirm that the ancient Native American burial mound on Chesser Island is worth a visit. If it’s live things that scare you, go gator-spotting on one of the wildlife refuges boat tours.
• Castlerigg in Keswick, England: Locals prefer Castlerigg’s Cumbrian Druid formations to those at Stonehenge because you can “touch them, sit on them and appreciate how they’re set off by the dramatic backdrop.” (Perhaps also because it’s free.) Visits can be “peaceful,” “oddly disturbing,” or “threatening, mystic, and magical,” depending on the weather — and on whether you spot any of the bizarre light phenomena reported at the site.
• Catacombs of Paris in Paris, France: If you’re not “faint of heart” or “claustrophobic,” the “morbid” and “dim” catacombs have been a preferred place to beat the heat in the City of Light since the late 1700s. Besides walls of femurs and tibias, officials also “formed pictures, warnings, and messages out of the bones, making the sight even more grotesque.”
So if spooky is your idea of fun, may the witches be with you and remember, practice safe hex. Bats all folks!
Federal Way resident Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org