'Tis the season to start embracing the spooky and supernatural. For some people, us included, there's just something about being safely scared that we can't quite resist. Maybe it's our curiosity about the unknown or just the excitement of a cheap thrill, but we even love reading about haunted places. But what makes a place haunted? Is it the ghosts, the stories, the history, the unexplained, or all of the above? Whether or not you believe in ghosts, visiting a place that's known to be haunted can still be frightfully fun. So here's a list of seven of the world's most haunted places, from right in our own backyard to halfway around the world. Don't worry if you can't visit them all this October, as they're around all year long.
1. Munich, Germany
Munich may be best known for Oktoberfest, but this gorgeous destination is also one of Europe's most haunted cities. The proof is all around the city -- in the architecture, the archives, and folklore. There's the story of the jeweler who was executed for stealing a royal necklace, only to have the accessory appear hundreds of years later inside an abandoned bird's nest. He's now immortalized as decor on a building in Munich, holding up a corner pillar on the building where the necklace was found. Then there's the woman who cursed a family by vowing to kill every last descendant. Her ghost has been spotted throughout the centuries, and, mysteriously, within four days of a sighting someone in the family dies. Even the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz has its own ghastly story to tell, if you dare listen.
2. Monte Cristo Homestead, Australia
It's easy to be branded as Australia's most haunted house when your legacy includes horror stories of a baby being torn out of a nanny's arms and thrown down the stairs, a young boy being burned alive in the barn, a caretaker being shot, and a staff member's mentally ill son being hidden away in the outhouse for over 30 years. The hard part is determining which tortured soul the footsteps frequently heard by current homeowners and guests belong to, and which one of these wronged spirits is heard wailing in the night -- or worse, possibly leaving mutilated animal remains scattered on the property. Purchased in 1963 by the Ryan family, Monte Cristo Homestead has been fully restored to its Victorian glory and is open to the public as a bed-and-breakfast -- if you think you can last the night. If not, there are also ghost tours that start guests off right with a home-cooked meal before they're led by candlelight through the property.
3. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is full of Southern charm, but this beautiful belle is hiding a whole lot of sinister stories under all her weeping willows and historic homes. Whether you're on a bonafide ghost tour or just walking through, it's hard not to stumble across one of the city's haunted houses, restaurants, bars, cemeteries, tunnels, squares, streets, or buildings. In fact, it seems like everywhere you turn, there's a spot eternally plagued by the ghosts of disease, war, murder, tragic death, and the paranormal. For folks who like to test their luck and courage, try a night at The Marshall House in Savannah's historic district. This haunted property frequently appears in top slots on "most haunted hotel" lists and guests have reported faucets turning on by themselves, children running up and down the thin hallways, and sightings of long-dead Union soldiers.
4. Forbidden City, China
Everyone knows that a solid ghastly history breeds the best ghost stories, and Beijing's Forbidden City is said to have been cursed right from the days it officially opened back in 1421. During the opening celebrations, Ming emperor Yongle ordered the secret slaughter of nearly 3,000 innocent members of his harem in an effort to save himself from a possible sex scandal. A couple of years later, the Forbidden City burned to the ground, turning its 250 buildings to ash. In 1424, Yongle died and his empress, Lady Cui, along with 15 of his favorite concubines, were hanged from nooses made of white silk on the day of his funeral. The sinister curse seemed to continue as Yongle's successor, Emperor Hongxi, died only a year after taking the throne. These days, puddles of blood, full-bodied apparitions, and sounds of screams, swords, and weeping have all been reportedly witnessed by visitors (some were even caught on camera). All we can say is thank goodness this place closes before dark.
5. Changi Beach, Singapore
Most people think of the beach as a relaxing place to get away from it all, but unfortunately, Singapore's Changi Beach is widely believed to be horrifically haunted. During the World War II Japanese occupation of Singapore, the Japanese militia mass executed close to 70,000 Chinese in several different locations -- Changi Beach being one. It's said that the ghosts of these slain soldiers not only haunt the shore with weeps and cries of agony, but also with their blood. Bloodstained beach and even headless corpses have been reported by beachcombers and passersby over the years. That sounds like a nightmare beach vacation to us.
6. The Shanley Hotel, New York
Not to be confused with the famous Stanley Hotel, which served as inspiration for Stephen King's "The Shining,"upstate New York's Shanley Hotel is a real-life creeper. Right from the get-go, this old-timey inn gives you shivers with its shabby facade, including a top-floor door that leads to nowhere. Inside, it looks like half ghost hunting headquarters (with night vision, EMF readers, and a generally shaken live-in staff) and half adorable bed-and-breakfast up in the second-floor rooms. However, make no mistake -- everyone staying here rarely sleeps. There are ghost hunts nearly every night of the year, and most curious overnighters leave frightened and thrilled after a late night of chasing active ghosts in the house.
7. London, England
London is another European city rife with scandal, murder, and misfortune, making it a hotbed of haunted activity. This capital city has seen scores of brutal horrors over its many lifetimes, and each time it rebuilds (it's estimated that the city's street levels have risen up to a possible 28 feet over time), this city only collects more and more wayward souls. From the unsolved slayings of Jack the Ripper and Henry VII's beheadings to haunted Tube stops and museums, it seems that nearly every inch of London may be haunted. However, the undisputed mother of all haunted spots in the Big Smoke is the Tower of London, which is said to be haunted by a laundry list of ghosts that include Anne Boleyn and even a collection of royal animals.
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