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Area 51, Dracula’s castle, Loch Ness — these world-famous places are home to supernatural sightings and urban legends. And although some destinations seem to have more tales of creatures that go bump in the night, you can find plenty of stories of paranormal activity around the globe. If you’re on the hunt for otherworldly monsters, here’s a look at the weirdest destinations you need to visit.
If you’re headed to Roswell, you might want to pick up alien abduction insurance. The town is synonymous with UFOs since, in 1947, an unidentified flying object crashed outside of Roswell, leaving debris that was later found by a local rancher named Mac Brazel. Whether it was really just a stray weather balloon — as government officials have claimed — or the wreckage of an alien spacecraft is a matter for believers and skeptics to debate.
Today, Roswell is a bit kitschy and hokey. Roswell’s UFO Festival is a free event every summer, and for $5 you can visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center. But underneath the commercialization, there’s still a sense that something happened in 1947 that might never be fully explained.
Bran Castle, Romania
Yes, Transylvania is a real place. This quiet region in Romania is home to some of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval towns and castles. Among its collection of castles is Bran Castle, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
Stoker published “Dracula” in 1897, drawing inspiration for the iconic character from Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, a prince from the neighboring region of Wallachia. For the main setting of the novel, Dracula’s Castle, Stoker used descriptions of Bran Castle.
While no actual vampires ever resided in Bran Castle, it does appear a fitting home for one, with its lofty turrets perched on an imposing hillside. It casts a chilling silhouette on a moonlit night, and it’s even open to the public for an admission fee of about $8.
Rendlesham Forest, England
Sometimes referred to as the “British Roswell,” the 1980 incident in Rendlesham Forest outside Suffolk remains one of the U.K.’s most compelling UFO encounters. Military personnel at two separate air bases reported seeing lights hovering above the forest on the night of Dec. 26, 1980, and three patrolmen investigated the lights as they were seen descending into the woods.
The official report filed by Lt. Col. Charles Halt describes an object, “metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two and three meters across the base and approximately two meters high,” which bathed the forest with white light. Later, depressions in the ground — perhaps from landing gear — were found in the forest clearing where the patrolmen saw the object.
Although facts surrounding the incident only get hazier as time passes, you can explore the area yourself. Take the Rendlesham UFO Trail for just the cost of a parking pass, about $4.25.
Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Australia
Often referred to as the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum in Beechworth opened its doors in 1867 and saw thousands of patients pass through its halls over the following 128 years, until the asylum was decommissioned in 1995.
Psychiatric care in the 19th century was archaic to say the least. And given the real-life horrors that took place within the walls of Beechworth Asylum, it’s no surprise this imposing complex has a reputation for being haunted.
Many visitors have reported seeing, hearing and even photographing the spirits of the asylum’s former patients and employees. Among them is that of a patient whose face is said to appear in the window from which she was thrown to her death.
If you want to visit a notoriously haunted asylum, a guided ghost tour here will cost you $35. An overnight stay costs $165.
Haynesville Woods, Maine
One of America’s most terrifying roads winds through a quiet corner of northern Maine known as Haynesville Woods. Route 2A — a secluded road off Route 2 — runs through these woods and is a particularly dangerous drive. It’s famous for the countless tragic accidents it has seen over the years. Country singer Dick Curless even recorded the song “A Tombstone Every Mile” about Route 2A.
Ghost stories surround the road, including reports of motorists seeing the apparitions of those who met their untimely death along the route. One of the most common is that of a young woman who appears along the road and begs for a ride, only to disappear as you leave the forest.
If you’re planning a budget road trip, your drive through Haynesville Woods won’t cost you much. Rent a cabin to sleep near the town of Haynesville, though, and you’ll see rates around $120 to $135.
It’s hard to imagine the hysteria behind the Salem witch trials in 1692. But, those trials led to the imprisonment of more than 150 men and women, and the deaths of 27. Arthur Miller’s famous 1952 play, “The Crucible,” was inspired as much by the Communist witch hunts of his time as by the historical events in Salem.
Visiting Salem today can be a chilling experience. In some ways, the town takes an almost disturbingly lighthearted view of the tragic events, from the kitschy attractions at Salem Witch Village to the rows of shops selling witch-themed gifts and souvenirs. Other destinations are more somber, like the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and the Jonathan Corwin House, which was once the home of one of the local magistrates who presided over the trials of 1692. Guided tours of the house cost $10.25 for adults, $6.25 for children.
Loch Ness, Scotland
Legends of a monster in Loch Ness date back at least 1,500 years, when a tribe of people in the Scottish Highlands known as the Picts carved images of local animals on stones. The Picts were pretty good artists, and most of the animals in their work are easily identified — except for one.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the idea of the Loch Ness monster really took off. The completion of a new road alongside the lake in 1933 led to a rash of new sightings, including the first known photograph of the alleged monster, taken by a respected London doctor named R. Kenneth Wilson and published in the Daily Mail in 1934.
Although the photograph was later confirmed to be a hoax, rumors of the monster persist, and new sightings continue to be reported. Photographs of the purported monster have appeared as recently as 2016. For a firsthand encounter, take a Loch Ness cruise from Jacobite for as little as $17.
Pacific Coast Highway, Calif.
UFOs have reportedly been sighted along California’s Pacific Coast Highway since the mid-20th century. The number of UFO sightings along the highway, and in the surrounding area on the Southern California coast, is staggering. Even Ronald Reagan is rumored to have seen an unidentified flying object above the highway while he was governor of California.
The abundance of sightings has led some to believe in the possibility of an underwater UFO base off the California coast. Whatever the explanation, the highway remains one of the top UFO hot spots in the world. Even if you don’t spot a UFO on your trip, the PCH makes for a great scenic road trip.
The White House, District of Columbia
Of all the headaches that surely come with being president, one of the worst must be having to live in America’s most famous haunted house. Rumors have persisted for years that the ghosts of presidents past haunt the hallways and bedrooms of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., making the White House one the most haunted places in American History.
The ghost of Abraham Lincoln is by far the most commonly seen spirit in the White House. Grace Coolidge, Lady Bird Johnson and Eleanor Roosevelt all reported brushes with the former president. Ronald Reagan once told a story about his daughter Maureen experiencing a ghostly presence while staying in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Tours at the White House are free of charge, and you can even take free ghost tours in the general vicinity.
Château de Brissac, France
France is home to a good many castles, and it would seem that just about all of them come with a ghost story or two. Take the tallest castle in France, Château de Brissac, for example. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, but its gristly history is anything but fanciful.
It seems this 11th-century castle was once home to Charlotte de Brézé, the illegitimate daughter of King Charles VII and his mistress, Agnes Sorel. Charlotte had an unhappy marriage with Jacques de Brézé, and one day her husband caught her with another man. There are a few versions of this story, but the most common is that Jacques killed both Charlotte and her lover. The ghost of Charlotte is said to inhabit the castle to this day, and those who have seen her call her the Green Lady.
You can explore the grounds around the castle for about $5, and take a tour of the castle itself for about $10.
Pierce County, Wash.
No state in America has had more reported Bigfoot sightings than Washington. And nowhere in Washington has he shown himself more often than in Pierce County. Home to small towns, open farmlands and the secluded forests of Mount Rainier National Park, Pierce County is the place to go if you want to spot Bigfoot.
According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which tracks Bigfoot encounters across the U.S., there have been 76 reports of Bigfoot since the 1960s. One of the most vivid accounts comes from 2010, where a group of hikers spotted a large black creature crouching like a human drinking from the river.
If you’re looking to hunt Bigfoot, go camping in the national park. Campgrounds at the national park cost $20 except at Mowich Lake, where you can go primitive camping for free.
Island of the Dolls, Mexico
Nestled among the canals of Xochimico, Mexico, is a chilling island known as Isla de las Muñecas, or the Island of the Dolls. In the thick jungle growth of the island are countless dolls, many of which have been hung in the trees and underbrush for decades, placed there by the island’s one-time caretaker, Don Julian Santana Barrera. The story behind the Island of the Dolls is one that begins and ends in tragedy.
The legend goes that Santana found the body of a little girl who had drowned in the canals. Shortly after, he presumably found the girl’s doll and hung it in a tree as a show of respect to the girl. But, he soon found himself haunted by her spirit. He began collecting other haunted dolls and hanging them around the island for the next 50 years. Then in 2001, he was found dead in what some say was the exact spot he found the drowned girl some 50 years earlier.
The Island of the Dolls is accessible only by boat, and visitors often pay tribute by adding their own dolls to the growing collection. Costs to visit vary based on who gives you a ride.
UFO and alien sightings occur everywhere from major cities to the inhospitable wilderness. But nowhere do they happen as frequently as they do in the Manitoba. UFO sightings in the province date back to before there even was a province. In 1792, two explorers named David Thompson and Andrew Davy described witnessing several bizarre meteors crash into the ice of northern Manitoba, but could find no trace of them when they went to investigate.
Manitoba leads Canada in UFO sightings by a vast margin. At least 2,000 reports of unidentified flying objects have been made there in the past 200 years. Hotels around Manitoba range from $70 to easily over $150.
Aokigahara, the famed Suicide Forest at Mount Fuji, has a dark history. The forest is known as the No. 1 suicide spot in Japan and one of the most popular worldwide.
Statistics on the annual number of suicides in Aokigahara are hard to come by, but the last available police data from 2003 recorded 105. Annual suicides might be higher, though, as bodies can be difficult to find in the forest’s dense vegetation.
Despite — or in spite — of its reputation, the Suicide Forest is a popular hiking destination. It is believed to be haunted. Although you can easily travel to the forest on your own, you can find numerous tours in the area. A one-day tour of Mt. Fuji, the Suicide Forest and caves costs around $160.