Come, come close.
Boys and girls, ghosts and werewolves, from fully membered beings to beheaded zombies or free willing single hands, gather round, come close to hear the tales of this halloween’s campfire edition of creepy things you can imagine doing, given that you cannot really leave the house!
Close your eyes (mentally, because I still want you to keep reading) and imagine yourself around the campfire, in an American movie. Marshmallow in stick, blanket around you and a pretty uncomfortable log to sit on, while you get ready to be spooked.
Now, that you are all nice and comfortable, I am going to tell you about some of the creepiest places in the world, to make you just a little less so. In order that when the scary times we are living in become a little less scary, you can get creeped out again – but then at least you’ll have a time frame for when the tour ends.
First on our creepy world tour around the world in less than 1000 words, we travel to Japan, to a little town called Nagoro, where amongst the living, a population of life-sized dolls outnumbers humans by a ratio of roughly 10:1. I don’t know about you but dolls are pretty much at the top of my list when numbering things that give me the heebie jeebies – cannot say this word without laughing.
For some reason, Tsukimi Ayano began making doll replicas of his neighbours who passed away to honour their lives. They can be found all around the village in different everyday poses, such as fishing or just sitting on a bench. The white-faced statues are now around 350, keeping company to the 27 elders who currently still reside in Nagoro. Even the local formerly abandoned school is now filled with eager pupils waiting for the bell to ring. I have found no evidence of this but I wonder, if the bodies are still there won’t there be souls around looking for them? Just putting this out there…
Isle of Dolls, Mexico
If it really is dolls that do it for you, and you’d like to indulge still in some creepier scare porn, you won’t mind travelling to the other side of the world to Xochimilco, Mexico, where the Island of the Dolls awaits you. Here no life-sized scary statues, just good old regular sized dolls, heads and other doll parts, hammered and tied to trees or dropped on the grass in a beautiful display of hundreds of items. Lovely, right?
It all started with Julian Santa Barrera, who used to live on the island and once found a dead girl’s body. He started collecting toy parts to ward off evil spirits (while at the same time creating their perfect home decor – just saying…). He has now joined that little girl in the outer world, but if you hire a boat and pay the driver a hefty sum you might convince him to sail near the island, but no one dares to enter it.
Bone Chapel, Évora
You might be reading this and thinking I’m a little chicken. Dolls, oh please, who’s afraid of Barbies? If you’re okay with fully organed humans, how about some less so? As in actual human skeletons.
I truly find this fascinating, alike many apparently, as the trend seems to have stuck a few centuries ago and you can find examples of bone chapels in a few European countries. I’ll tell you about my personal experience in Évora, Portugal, where in a well-known church, a smaller chapel, not recommended for children, welcomes you with the sentence: Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos. “Here, us bones are, for yours we wait.” How nice of them, in Portuguese it’s better, it rimes. If you’re afraid of dying alone, fear no longer, apply for a bone chapel today!* (*just kidding, obviously not a real thing)
All bones were taken from graveyards in the 16th century, to make space for new occupants. More than 5000 bones line the walls, ceiling and floor of the chapel creating a spellbinding however incredibly creepy experience. You want to look while simultaneously, you don’t…
You can find similar examples of bone chapels in France, Italy and Czech Republic, what are you waiting for? Go visit some skeletons! (Sorry, COVID, almost forgot, make a mental note to reread this next year – hopefully).
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
If you grew up christian surely a few crosses won’t scare you, or maybe they will even more, there’s only one way to know, going to the hill of crosses in Lithuania. More than 100,000 crosses rattle together in harmony, whistling to the flow of the wind. Since the 14th century, people have been stacking crosses in Šiauliai for different reasons throughout history. First to symbolise a desire for independence, later in remembrance of dead rebels, and again as a symbol of defiance against the regime during the Soviet occupation. Whatever the reason, I don’t know if I fancy visiting a hill of one too many crosses. How about you?
The Stanley Hotel, Colorado, USA
I have to admit I’ve never been one to watch horror films, I prefer sleeping peacefully, if you know what I mean. However, if you are that type of person, then this is the place for you. In Colorado, USA The Stanley Hotel is a very familiar place, especially if you have watched Stephan King’s “The Shining”. This hotel was the inspiration for the movie, specifically room 217, where allegedly various phenomenons of paranormal activity have occurred. The room is in high demand so you better book in advance if you want to report to Ghost Busters.
Nevertheless, if Colorado sounds too far away for you, the Langham in London, UK the Château de Brissac in Brissac-Quincé, France or even the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, India have all reported ghost activity, if you fancy a luxury night among the dead there’s nothing like spending the night at a nice hotel.
The Gomatong Caves, Malaysia
As we near the end of our journey, I have to tell you about this place that at first looks like paradise, but that has made me almost throw up after some research – don’t watch the videos! The Gomatong Caves in Sabah, Malaysia. What a dream!
Well, think again. Most visitors describe it as the most disgusting experience they have ever had. Given its high density population of bats, the floors, walls and handrails are covered with guano, in other words bat poop, resulting in a horrid smell and slippery slimy all around environment. Worse yet, not only is this cave known for its 2 million bats, but as well for an incredible amount of cockroaches surpassing millions, that love crawling up visitors’ legs. If somehow you can look past these two populations, you’ll then be surprised by the other fauna of the cave, including scorpions, poisonous snakes and some other horrid little friends. Why this is even an attraction is beyond me.
The Doors of Hell, Turkmekistan
Finally, on our trip around the world, I want to mention non inhabited creepy places, not by dolls nor skeletons, ghosts or even cockroaches. Some may find it the scariest of all, when the sole presence of nature is enough to scare the living soul out of you. On humans we can count on to be weird, scary beings, with nature you never know where you are standing.
Especially if you are standing at ‘The Doors of Hell’ which interestingly enough is in Turkmenistan, who’d figure? This piece of geological phenomena was given its name due to the everlasting burning flames that have lasted for the past 45 years. Apparently, the place in question was a methane chamber geologists accidentally stumbled upon when drilling for natural gas. They tried to burn it to protect the environment nearby from the chemicals but their solution turned on them and has since then become an eternally flaming crater on the soil.
This is it folks! We managed to return safely to our campfire, well most of us at least. The others might some day return in a less physical form to join us again next year for another Halloween edition. So tell me, are you this type of tourist?