Sun and palms trees may come to mind when we think of a holiday, but for some, morbid or spooky travel destinations may be more interesting. Creepy, scary, or downright disturbing, these vacation curiosities would be great stops, if you’re up for a thrill.
Island of the Dolls (Isla de las Munecas)
Just a two-hour canal ride from Mexico City, La Isla de las Munecas, or Island of Dolls, pays homage to a young girl who drowned under mysterious circumstances. The caretaker who found the girl also found a doll in a nearby canal. He hung the doll from a tree to pay his respects to the spirit, and it was then his family said he changed. He began collecting dozens of dolls to decorate the trees, and visitors began bringing dolls as well. What was a simple island has become a surreal sight. The effect of the memorial is disturbing, particularly at night.
The very name of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine is synonymous with disaster. After the nuclear explosion that occurred there in 1986, life stopped. Following the massive containment and cleanup effort, everyone left for fear of cancer. A total of nearly 4,000 deaths are attributed to the fallout, and cancer rates remain high in the surrounding area. But years have passed since then, and many now visit the unusual site. Tour companies control permitting to enter the area, which is now essentially safe, at least for an afternoon.
What’s left of Chernobyl is skeletal and overgrown. The places of daily urban life are now deteriorating, but tell a story of what was. A Ferris wheel forevermore idles in the city square, and trees have broken the sidewalk to obstruct the roads. This ghost town area might be best experienced after a fresh snowfall.
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
The famous Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum has branches in multiple companies, but its headquarters and its story hail from London. The renowned likenesses of celebrities rotate between locations, with new exhibits opening regularly. But the original wax statues created by Tussaud don’t reflect pop culture – they stem from the 1700’s. Tussaud created likenesses of Voltaire, Ben Franklin, and victims of the guillotine in the French Revolution. She would rummage through the corpses and severed heads to create plaster casts, or “death masks,” of prominent individuals. This allowed her to accurately cast wax in their likenesses, capturing their appearances in a time before photography.
Whaley House: Most Haunted Place in America
The Whaley House seems unlikely in sunny San Diego, but the 150-year-old house is said to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. Multiple hangings occurred on the property when it was the county court house, and young Violet Whaley committed suicide in the home. Other deaths are rumored as well, but these are documented.
When the Whaley family moved in, they noticed the sound of heavy footsteps in other rooms. They believed these to be Jim Robinson, or “Yankee Jim.” Thomas Whaley had watched Jim Robinson’s hanging for grand larceny years prior, but was not dissuaded from buying the property. Sightings of Yankee Jim persist, as do reports of multiple female apparitions of various ages.
The Paris catacombs, or l’Ossuaire Municipal as the locals call it, is a classic attraction. Six million individuals are entombed there. The construction of the underground tunnels solved two problems for Paris in the late 1700’s: massive cave-ins throughout the city, and overflowing graveyards. Nightly processions of bones from the graveyards to the tunnels created the space needed to continue burying bodies in the local cemeteries. The ultimate ages of the entombed bones are largely unknown. The artistic arrangement of the Parisian skulls and femurs honors the dead in a way that a landfill burial could not. The experience of the tunnels is a beautiful, uncomfortable, and poignant meditation on mortality.
Golden Gate Bridge
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge seems an unlikely candidate for this list, but hundreds of violent deaths have occurred here since its construction in 1937. An estimated 1,700 people have committed suicide by jumping from the bridge, making it the most popular, and perhaps most romantic place in the world for ending things. The 245-foot, 4-second fall results in a 75 MPH speed that kills nearly all jumpers instantaneously. Suicide hotline toll phones are located at several places on the bridge, and in 2008 a prevention barrier was erected at an expense of $76 million. Regardless of this creepy side of the bridge, it is an iconic landmark that is a must-see when visiting San Francisco.