If your idea of a good time involves ghost encounters, vampires, and ghouls, you’re probably looking forward to Halloween. And you’re not alone — especially in a few places around the world, Halloween is a big deal. Here are some of the top places to visit on All Hallows’ Eve, from the infamous home of the Salem Witch Trials to the ancestral home of Dracula to the most haunted lunatic asylum in Australia.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ottawa’s Bytown Museum is widely considered one of Canada’s most actively haunted places. They say six ghosts call it home. Visitors to the doll exhibit report seeing dolls move and wink on their own and occasionally hear children crying. Duncan McNab, a man who died over 150 years ago, reportedly likes to hang out in the money vault. He also likes tampering with the museum’s computers and typing out his name over and over again.
You can also go on the Haunted Walk, which will take you past several different haunted buildings (including 30 minutes inside Bytown Museum).
Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Salem is one of the spookiest towns in the US year round; come Halloween, they get even spookier. You can experience the dark history of Salem firsthand with the candle-lit Witch Trial Trail or party the night away at Salem’s world-renowned Halloween Costume Ball, held in the very historic (and possibly haunted) Hawthorne Hotel. Just remember to bring appropriate dress!
Overall Salem is perhaps the prime location in the world for a Halloween celebration, thus you should book well in advance. Consider getting your room at The Inn on Washington Square, which is not just one of the better-reviewed bed-and-breakfasts in Salem but genuinely haunted.
You do not have to visit just on October 31; Salem’s Haunted Happenings festival lasts for the whole month of October. If you’re a ghost hunter, this is a good thing — Salem is chock-full of haunted locations. It also has plenty of history besides the witches and ghosts, including one of the oldest historic sites in the U.S.
If Salem is the ultimate blend of classic haunting and classic American kitsch, Romania is the stuff of pure legend. Romania is positively marinated in ghost and horror stories — it’s the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (based on a real Romanian historical figure) and “The Land Beyond the Forest” of Emily Gerard.
Most of these events center on the region of and around Bran, Romania, making it an ideal destination for the Halloween tourist seeking old-world authenticity. Dracula is said to have lived in Bran Castle, while the figure on which he was based (Vlad the Impaler) was more closely associated with Hunyad and Poenari castles, also in Bran.
(Vlad indeed drank blood; he liked to eat his dinner surrounded by the severed heads and bodies of his enemies impaled on stakes. Hence his “Impaler” nickname. The legend goes he left a golden goblet out in the open, unsecured, in a nearby town to demonstrate the fear that the townspeople had of him.)
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Just an hour outside of Prague by train, Kutna Hora’s Sedlec Ossuary is deeply creepy — though it has none of the violent past associated with Salem or Bran. Sedlec Ossuary is a small Catholic chapel filled to the brim with furnishings and decorations made of… human bones.
The story dates back to the 13th century, when the monastery father returned from Palestine with a pocket filled with soil taken from the Holy Land — and sprinkled it on the cemetery around the chapel. This association was enough to make the cemetery a much-sought-after burying place for the cognoscenti of Central Europe. Eventually the cemetery grew too full, the monks had to exhume remains and store them in the chapel, and… what would you do with the bones of 40,000 people? They used them as decorations.
Now Sedlec Ossuary has, among other things, a chandelier containing at least one of every bone in the human body.
J Ward Lunatic Asylum, Ararat, outside Melbourne, Australia
Two hours drive from Melbourne is Australia’s former home of the criminally insane. The ghost tour here tells the story of the many notorious criminals and weird happenings at the facility, which is rated “very high” in paranormal activity.
William Wallace, Gary Webb, and Chopper Read were all associated with J Ward, and you’ll learn about them and others. Governors murdered inmates here, infamous characters with strange links to the Queen lived here, as did men who thought they possessed superhuman powers and self-mutilators.