Most Haunted Cities in the World
Do you like staying in haunted hotels and searching for things that go bump in the night? (Hint: If you’re answering that question on a ouija board, it’s probably a yes.)
Well then, you’re in luck; the world is filled with cities that can satisfy your dark side. From witchy Salem, Massachusetts to blood-thirsty Bucharest, Romania, the following places will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up — even if you claim to be a non-believer.
With its charming historic squares, stately mansions and streets draped in Spanish moss, Savannah is as sweet as a Georgia peach — until you look below the surface.
The city was literally built on the dead, with many of its streets and buildings constructed atop old gravesites and sacred native burial grounds. Add in horrifying yellow-fever outbreaks and gruesome murders — including an infamous triple ax murder in 1990 — and you have the makings for a place steeped in supernatural lore. No wonder the city was named “America’s Most Haunted City” in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology.
Spooky Sights in Savannah
Fans of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” flock to the Mercer-Williams House, where antique dealer Jim Williams shot and killed his lover, Danny Hansford. Rumor has it Hansford’s soul lingered to torture his murderer (who was never convicted of a crime, by the way) and, in an eerie twist, Williams died of a heart attack in the very same spot he shot Hansford.
A short stroll away, Forsyth Park was once home to a morgue tunnel flooded with yellow-fever victims.
At Moon River Brewing Company, patrons report seeing a woman dressed in Civil War garb staring at them from the top of a staircase.
Spirits also reside in several hotels. At the Kehoe House, guests report hearing the ghosts of children, who tragically died in one of the home’s fireplaces. Couples may want to avoid the 1790 Bed and Breakfast, where the spirit of a scorned lover named Anne likes to visit room 204. Talk about terrifying turndown service!
Looking for a more immersive experience? Ghost tours abound, including one that transports guests in a funeral hearse.
An ancient city established over 3,000 years ago, Beijing is home to over 21 million people — and several ghosts.
The best time to greet spirits is on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month each year, when the country holds its Ghost Festival (or Zhongyuan Festival). It’s believed that, on this day, the gates of hell open to let ghosts roam free. Locals honor the dead by releasing water lanterns into rivers and lakes, burning incense and leaving out food for the ghosts to eat.
Spooky Sights in Beijing
In The Forbidden City, Ming and Qing emperors were quick to silence anyone who opposed them by having them publicly executed, while guards and concubines often murdered one another in jealous rages. At night, guards claim to see a crying woman walking amongst them, then vanishing into thin air.
A baroque mansion located at Chaonei No. 81 is another chilling site. A government official with the Nationalist Party once occupied the house with his mistress, but when Communists took over in 1949, the official fled to Taiwan and left the woman behind. Distraught and afraid to face a new way of life, she hanged herself. Her troubled spirit is said to haunt the mansion, but few people dare to go inside and find out. Chaonei No. 81 earned such a cult following that it inspired a popular movie, “The House That Never Dies.”
One of Beijing's most popular places is “Ghost Street,” but don’t be fooled: This converted alley is less about ghost hunting and more about finding cool shops and restaurants.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, it’s believed Scotland was Europe’s biggest persecutor of witches; during that time, some 3,800 women suspected of witchcraft were strangled, hung, drowned or burned at the stake, including many killed in the capital city of Edinburgh.
This terrifying period of history continues to literally haunt the city; add in tales of cannibals, body snatchers and devil worshippers, and it's easy to see why Edinburgh was recently named one of the 10 most haunted places in the UK.
Spooky Sights in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle looms over the city, filled with paranormal activity. That’s not surprising, given that this is where many witches were burned at the stake. In 1440, the castle was also the site of the so-called “Black Dinner,” a brutal mass beheading that helped to inspire the infamous “Red Wedding” on “Game of Thrones.” Oh, and once upon a time, prisoners of war were blinded with hot irons here as well.
No wonder visitors regularly report creepy occurrences at the castle, including encountering the ghosts of military soldiers, a phantom piper and a headless drummer. An invisible specter also likes to tug on tourists’ hair.
The Niddry Street Vaults offer an equally frightening experience. First opened in the 18th century, the vaults were a place for taverns and cobblers to set up shop, but extensive flooding caused a mass exodus. After years of abandonment, the site became a home for seedy brothels and the city’s poor, who were targeted by serial killers William Burke and William Hare. The duo murdered lodgers and sold their bodies to the local anatomy school. Today, there’s reports of extensive poltergeist activity here: Lightbulbs explode, forcing visitors to stay in the dark, and one can hear the sound of bodies being dragged through the vaults.
Or perhaps you'd rather visit Mary King’s Close, where the bubonic plague spelled disaster for hundreds of people. Many have reported seeing one victim of the plague, a young girl named Annie, roaming the site, and left sweets for her to eat. After-dark tours led by costumed character guides provide historic context and maximum chills.
And then there’s West Bow, the former home of Thomas Weir. Weir was a model citizen who served in the army and went to church, but toward the end of his life in 1960, he confessed to a secret life of bestiality, witchcraft and devil worship. At first, authorities refused to believe him, but he was eventually put on trial and sentenced to death. His house was torn down and became a Quaker Meeting House. During quiet times, house staff report seeing the presence of an old man and hearing demonic voices.
London’s sordid history and notorious fog make it the grand dame of the macabre. Almost everything in London is said to be haunted. Ghosts lurk in the tubes, alleyways and pubs. Highgate Cemetery’s most famous resident is said to be a living vampire, and a mischievous long-dead monk roams Westminster Abbey.
This is the city where Jack the Ripper’s terrifying murder spree remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries and beheadings were considered a thing of beauty.
The same survey that listed Edinburgh as one of the UK’s most haunted locales? It placed London in the No. 1 spot.
Spooky Sights in London
Is anywhere safe in London? Sure, by day, Hyde Park is the perfect place to enjoy some sun and a picnic. But come nightfall, people claim to see mysterious shadows and hear hair-raising shrieks.
And let’s not forget about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, beneath the River Thames, where the less-than-inviting ambiance includes dim lighting, eerily dripping water and the soft echoes of footsteps though no one else is there.
Famous tourist attractions, like the Tower of London, abound with hauntings. Torture and executions were almost daily occurrences throughout the tower’s 1,000-year history. Its most famous apparition is Anne Boleyn, the second wife (some say victim) of King Henry VIII.
If you’re not familiar with the story: King Henry was upset because Boleyn couldn’t produce a male heir, so he claimed she'd committed adultery and incest. Of course, he was a notorious womanizer who had his sights set on another woman, Jane Seymour. Though there was little evidence to support the king’s claims, Boleyn was imprisoned in the tower and publicly beheaded.
Centuries later, she wanders the grounds carrying her severed head.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is known for tango, red wine and, of course, Evita, but it also has a spookier side.
Parts of the city were constructed on old burial grounds, and Argentina’s “Dirty War” was one of the most inhumane periods in South American history. From 1976-1983, an unmerciful military forced over 10,000 people from the city. These individuals were then tortured and killed before being dumped in unmarked graves.
Across the city, this dark history manifests in ghost sightings and supernatural scares.
Spooky Sights in Buenos Aires
The ghosts of those killed during the “Dirty War” are said to haunt the Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Peron delivered her famous speeches.
The dead can also be found at Recoleta Cemetery, an intricately designed gothic mausoleum where Rufina Cambaceres, “the girl who died twice,” roams. As the story goes, Rufina was a 19-year-old socialite who unexpectedly passed in 1902. At the cemetery, heavy rains halted a proper burial, so workers left the casket locked up in the chapel. The next day, they came to work and saw the coffin had moved. Opening it, they were horrified to see scratches and fresh bruises on the girl’s body. They gasped, realizing Rufina had been put in a casket while she was still alive and died of suffocation.
Creepier still is Chacarita Cemetery, Buenos Aires’ largest cemetery. The site was founded in 1887 to deal with the city’s yellow fever break. Every day, corpses by the dozens were delivered on trains. With overgrown grass, empty crypts and cobwebs, the graveyard looks like it’s from the set of a horror movie. Visitors have reported seeing specters hanging in trees and a taxi with the license plate “666.” Some say entering this graveyard past midnight means you’ll end up staying forever.
In the center of town, the soaring Obelisco is one of Buenos Aires’ most iconic landmarks and a place where groups love to gather. Sometimes they are joined by the spirit of a man who fell to his death while working on the monument. If you listen carefully, you can sometimes hear his screams.
Cape Town, South Africa
Though a major tourist destination, Cape Town’s history is as unsettling as the ghosts that haunt its streets. In 1948, the government ushered in the country’s most notorious era when it introduced apartheid, a new system that enforced racial segregation and heavily favored white communities. Those who protested the corrupt system, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned on Robben Island, a penal colony where brutal and inhumane conditions brought forth realities more terrifying than any ghost story.
As Cape Town tries to move on from the shadows of its past, tortured spirits linger.
Spooky Sights in Cape Town
Ghost sightings are particularly prevalent at the Castle of Good Hope, South Africa’s oldest building. Breathtaking from the outside, the building’s interior was a place of torture. Prisoners were put in a deep, dark hole and drowned by the ocean’s waves.
The castle is allegedly haunted by Governor van Noodt, a wicked general who, legend has it, died of a heart attack after he was cursed by a soldier he'd sentenced to death by hanging. Visitors are often scared by the governor's angry apparition. Other hauntings include screams coming from the black hole and a bell-tower that rings on its own accord.
The Tokai Manor House, a National Monument, is the setting for another one of Cape Town’s favorite spooky stories. In the 1900s, the house belonged to the Eksteen family, which loved to throw a good party. One New Year’s Eve, a guest challenged young Frederick Eksteen to ride a horse in the living room. He happily obliged, but loud cheers caused the horse to freak out and tumble down the steps. Neither Frederick nor the horse survived. Since then, workers have claimed to hear strange sounds like drunken laughter and horse hooves. Some say they’ve seen a man on horseback in the middle of the night, especially around New Year’s Eve.
The Green Point lighthouse, another popular paranormal spot dating back to the 1800s, is haunted by former innkeeper W.S. West. West inexplicably disappeared years ago, but returned as a one-legged figure who likes to be called “Daddy West.” Ghost hunters have captured a recording of a demonic voice believed to be Daddy’s — though disappointingly, it didn’t actually contain the word “Daddy.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
Since its inception in 1718, New Orleans has been a city of tragic occurrences. Menacing fires in 1788 and 1794 destroyed most of the city. In 1815, a bloody battle with the British resulted in the death of over 2,000 of their soldiers. And in the 1800s, the city was home to one of the largest slave markets in U.S. history.
In the French Quarter, Jackson Square hosted grizzly public executions of criminals and the enslaved, while socialite Madame LaLaurie turned her mansion into a house of horrors, performing grotesque and appalling acts of torture and murder on over 100 slaves.
Today, several people report hearing the screams of her victims, as well as the cries of those hung in the gallows, echoing throughout the city.
Spooky Sights in New Orleans
New Orleans’ culture was also heavily influenced by its Creole residents, including Marie Laveau, who quickly established herself as the city’s “Voodoo Queen.” Many sought her help with marital problems, childbearing, overcoming illness and troubles with the law. Even skeptics were drawn to her elaborate ceremonies filled with singing, dancing and spirit possession. She is now one of NOLA’S most famous ghosts who, according to legend, is still available for consultation. For the queen’s help, visit her crypt in St. Louis Cemetery and knock three times. Leaving alcohol, money or flowers increases your chances of winning her favor.
Some of the city’s other haunted spots include the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, where ghosts from different eras appear in the lobby and a dancer sways under the ballroom ’s chandelier, and Antonie’s Restaurant, where founder Antoine Alciatore presides over guests in a black tuxedo — even though he died in 1874.
Romania is a country steeped in legends and myths, none more popular than that of Count Dracula. Bram Stoker’s fictional blood-sucker was inspired by Vlad the Impaler, the infamously cruel Romanian ruler who once occupied Bucharest. This connection has turned the city into a favorite among goths and ghost-hunters.
This is a city with spooky sights well worth sinking your teeth into.
Spooky Sights in Bucharest
The Chiajna Monastery, a massive neoclassical structure completed in the 18th century, was supposed to be one of the most important churches in the history of Romania, but was abandoned when priests suspected it was haunted. Left empty, it was attacked by Turkish armies (who mistook it for a fortress) and became a place of refuge for people suffering from the plague, who still haunt the place. Visitors say they’ve seen gigantic shadows lurking on the walls and the ghost of a beautiful woman. Others have claimed they could hear bells ringing — even though they were destroyed long ago.
Former hospitals and orphanages show Bucharest’s grisly side. At the Hospital of the Posts, patients received the cruelest kind of treatment: Their organs were stolen. This site is definitely not recommended if you're squeamish, as the moans of these patients are said to be heard on the streets surrounding the hospital.
At the Orphanage on French Street, a man named Hagi-Stavrache Orman personified pure evil. According to folklore, he deprived almost 40 children of food and water because he loved to hear them scream. People who have walked by the house around midnight have reported hearing the cries of small children, shouting, “We want water!”
Touring these sites can be overwhelming, so perhaps you’d like to get out of the city for a bit? Maybe stay clear of the nearby “Witches Pond,” where the water is said to be so haunted that animals don’t even drink from it.
Charleston, South Carolina
Majestic Charleston is nicknamed the “Holy City,” but some might opt to call it the “Supernatural City” instead.
Since 1790, South Carolina’s oldest city has faced considerable adversity. Major battles in The American Revolution and the Civil War left its residents pummeled and penniless. It suffered catastrophic fires, hurricanes and the largest earthquake the east coast has ever seen.
Thousands of African-Americans were also enslaved, tortured and hanged here, and it’s speculated that many rose from the dead to seek revenge on their tormentors.
Spooky Sights in Charleston
Charleston contains several allegedly haunted sites. The ghost of Junius Brutus Booth (father of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln) has been seen roaming around the Dock Street Theater, where he once performed. (Hmm, do you think ghosts can break a leg?) And at White Point Garden, restless pirate souls who were hanged in the 1700s search for their executioners.
But many agree that Charleston’s most chilling place is its old city jail, a petrifying gothic structure that held pirates, Civil War prisoners and wicked criminals. Among them was Lavina Fisher, suspected to be the country’s first female serial killer. Fisher was executed here (while wearing her wedding dress, no less) and likes to rattle the bars in the old jail. Visitors have claimed to feel unexpectedly cold and nauseated in the jail. Some say they’ve left with scratch marks and temporary blindness.
A beautiful and beloved Indian state, Rajasthan is known for its striking sandstone architecture and bright pink buildings. The area is extremely old — archaeological evidence suggests early humans lived along the banks of its Banas River 100,000 years ago — and steeped in folklore.
Little surprise, then, that it has many hair-raising ghost stories to tell.
Spooky Sights in Rajasthan
Many consider Rajasthan’s Bhangarh Fort to be the most haunted place in all of India. The story of the fort revolves around a wizard, Singhia, who was in love with a princess named Ratnavati. Unfortunately, his feelings were unrequited. Singhia was so heartbroken, he issued a devastating curse that condemned everyone in the fort to death and forbade rebirth.
While select tour companies have been granted limited access, you’re forbidden from visiting the fort on your own, especially after sunset. In fact, locals say that anyone who has dared to enter the fort after the sun goes down has disappeared forever. Those lucky (or perhaps unlucky) enough to get close to the fort have reported the sorcerer’s ghost shouting at them, a woman crying for help and musical instruments inexplicably clanking.
Another cursed location is Kuldhara Village, where legend has it an immoral minister wanted to marry one of the village’s women. When she said no, he threatened her family and tried to force himself upon her. Left with no choice, the villagers deserted their land, then placed a spell to prevent others from living in it. Visitors, including paranormal investigators, have captured recordings of what they say sounds like dead villagers asking for help and revealing their names.
If witches are more your thing, you may want to visit Jagatpura, where locals have reported seeing witches roam the streets before disappearing suddenly.
Taking in a performance at the Sydney Opera House is described as a spiritual experience, but it’s Australia’s capital city that delivers the best supernatural experiences. As "Conde Nast Traveler" put it, “the entire city of Canberra seems to be a paranormal hotspot.”
Warning: Its ghost stories are not for the faint of heart.
Spooky Sights in Canberra
The National Film and Sound Archive may not sound scary, but the building carries a blood-soaked history, as it formerly housed the Australian Institute of Anatomy. Thousands of body parts, including human hearts, skulls and skeletons, were stored here. An entire section was dedicated to liver dissection and there was an animal-testing lab, too.
Ghost sightings and poltergeist activity occur frequently. Founder Colin MacKenzie is known to pop out of walls to greet visitors, while staff members have reported strange sounds coming from recording booths and furniture flying through the room. Some say they were pinned against the wall by a mysterious force.
Similarly, The National Museum, once a hospital, today hosts deceased patients who like to roam the galleries. Some patrons have seen an elderly woman in a bathtub (though there’s no bathtub anywhere in the gallery) and an apparition of a young boy dressed in 1940s attire.
Blundells Cottage, located on the shores of beautiful Lake Burley, looks lovely from the outside. Inside, however, it is said to be haunted by a woman named Flora, a teenager who died in the 1800s. Poor Flora was ironing a skirt when it caught fire and burned her to death. Visitors to the cottage report seeing the shadows and smelling a foul odor described as burning flesh.
St. Augustine, Florida
Founded by the Spanish in 1565, St. Augustine is considered to be America’s oldest city, and with this age comes many stories of looming specters. Not afraid of its dark side, the city is home to Potter’s Wax Museum, featuring wax replicas of famous characters from horror fiction, including Jekyll and Hyde.
But it’s the real horrors lurking within its historic sights that are most compelling.
Spooky Sights in St. Augustine
Two of the city’s most famous landmarks, The Castillo de San Marcos Fort and St. Augustine Lighthouse, are often listed among the world’s most haunted sites.
Completed by the Spanish in 1695, Castillo de San Marcos was instrumental in defending St. Augustine against pirates and served as a military prison in the Revolutionary War. It’s a lovely place to stroll during the day, but at night the fort takes on an ominous glow.
Dead soldiers have been seen pacing around, and there are reports of the ghost of a woman who carries a strong scent of perfume. She is suspected to be Delores Martis, the wife of Colonel Garcia Martis, who had an affair with another soldier, Captain Manuel Abela. How did the fort-crossed lovers get caught? The colonel smelled his wife’s perfume on the captain, then had them both killed.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse sees over 200,000 visitors every year. Many visit to climb the stairs and enjoy the view, while others hope to catch a glimpse of spirits lurking in the shadows. People have reported seeing Joseph Andreu, a lighthouse keeper who fell to his death while painting the outside, and hearing the screams of young girls, Eliza and Mary, whose deaths date back to the 1800s. The pair were playing with a cart when it suddenly rolled down a hill and crashed into the ocean’s waves, causing them to drown.
At Scarlett O’ Hara’s, a popular bar, the ghost of George Colee makes male patrons give a damn. Poor George had the place built for his fiancee, but she ran off with another man. Distraught, George drowned himself in the upstairs bathroom. Today, his ghost enjoys playfully splashing water and breathing down the neck of unsuspecting visitors to the men’s room. Happily, the owners have embraced George, calling upstairs the “Ghost Bar” and even giving him a Christmas stocking.
Founded in 1626 by Roger Conant and a group of immigrants from Cape Ann, this Massachusetts city was originally named Naumkeag, but settlers preferred the word Salem, derived from the Hebrew word for “peace.” Little did they know that it would be anything but peaceful.
In 1692, nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year old Abigail Williams started inexplicably shrieking and contorting their bodies into peculiar positions. They were soon joined by another girl their age, Ann Putnam Jr. When questioned, they claimed three women had afflicted them: Tituba, the Parris' Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly woman. Though only Tituba confessed to serving the devil, all three women were put in jail and labeled as witches, planting the seeds for paranoia.
The Salem Witch Trials lasted only a year between 1692 and 1693, but forever altered the lives of over 200 people accused of practicing the “devil’s magic.” Trials fueled by fright and resulted in 20 people being sentenced to death. Nineteen were hanged in Gallows Hill, and one was crushed by rocks.
Immortalized in books, movies and Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” the trials represent mass hysteria at its most dangerous. Though Massachusetts formally apologized for the events (250 years later, but who’s counting), many restless spirits remain in Salem, seeking more than just an apology.
Spooky Sights in Salem
Some ghosts linger at Gallows Hill looking for those responsible for their deaths. Giles Corey, the man crushed by rocks, has been sighted at the Howard Street Cemetery.
The Old Burying Point Cemetery holds the remains of the man known as the “hanging judge” during the witch trials, Jonathan Hawthorne, who shows up in tourists’ photographs. People have also reported hearing disembodied voices and experiencing sudden temperature drops as they walk past gravestones.
Another creepy locale is the Hawthorne Hotel. Though built much later than the trials in 1925, it was constructed on what was once an apple orchard owned by Bridget Bishop, one of the first women to be accused of and executed for witchcraft. Some say they’ve seen her ghost on the 6th floor of the hotel, while others have reported the smell of apples throughout the property. The hotel is also allegedly haunted by the ghost of a toddler, whose loud cries wake guests in the middle of the night.