Everyone loves a good fright. And in the 56 years we've been travelling the world, we've been to some pretty strange and compelling places. Some have fascinating ancient history, many just have a downright spooky atmosphere. To get you in the Halloween spirit, we've rounded up our favourites, below.
All together now: 'Mwah-hah-haaah!'
By day, the prestigious Forbidden City is a huge, beautifully preserved collection of ancient buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. But when the gates are locked at 5pm, it is said that a great sadness descends, as the ghosts of 2,800 Korean concubines awaken and mourn their mass slaughter in 1421. A horrific, politically motivated act by the 'evil' Ming emperor Yongle, the ensuing curse is said to have been the cause of the great fire that followed and burnt 250 of its buildings to the ground a few years later. Yongle was driven to depression, and died in 1424.
Medieval stronghold, 19th-century prison, Nazi execution ground – no wonder Akershus Fortress has a reputation. The most notorious of its ghosts is known as 'Malcanisen' ('Evil Dog'), the spirit of a dog that was buried alive beside the Maid Gates to guard the place from the 'other side'. Legend has it that whoever the dog approaches will be dead in three months. But if you intend to visit the castle, don't worry. We hear its bark is worse than its bite.
Not so much 'haunted' as extremely creepy, Évora's Chapel of Bones dates back to the 17th century, when the town's cemeteries were reclaimed. Faced with the task of saving 5,000 souls (and possibly a shortage of building supplies), the monks of St Francis Church hit upon the idea of incorporating the remains of the local dead into the structure of the chapel, as inspiration for anyone who'd lost touch with their own sense of mortality. If you visit the chapel, you'll see the inscription as you walk in: 'Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos', or, 'We bones are here, waiting for yours.' There now. Isn't that comforting?
This pentagonal complex is the oldest building in South Africa. It took the blood, sweat and toil of 300 sailors, natives, slaves, women and children to create it, which may be why its list of apparitions reads like a list of characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas. There's an angry, cursing Governor from the 1720s, a tall wraith who regularly jumps off the castle wall, a big black dog that disappears as it approaches, several ghostly ladies in different parts of the complex, and a bell tower that chimes occasionally, despite having been bricked up years ago.
You have to pity the staff at St Augustine Lighthouse. The resident spooks all either worked or had family who worked there, such as the original foreman's children who drowned in the bay, the lighthouse keeper who was fond of his cigars and the painter who fell to his death when some scaffolding gave way. Paranormal 'investigators' flock to this lonely structure armed with EMF readers, intent on capturing evidence of otherwordly beings. But mainly the ghosts play tricks on tour guides, who report incidents such as ankle-grabbing, moving furniture and shadowy figures in the doorways! Book onto a Dark of the Moon tour during our Florida Discovery tour and see what pranks will befall your guide.
The ghosts reported in this eight-pointed military stronghold are mainly soldiers, who seem to walk into rooms then seemingly vanish. But there are also a good number of civilians, including an old man, a woman, a man with a red cloak, and woman who appears in mirrors – as well as the ghost of a little girl who occasionally holds guests' hands, just in case they get lost. Exploring Fort George is part of the included guided sightseeing on our New England and the Canadian Maritimes tour
Chand Baori looks rather like an Escher painting. A cavernous square hole built around 1,000 years ago, it is said to be India’s deepest stepwell, at 64 feet, with 3,500 geometrically precise steps leading down to a bright green pond. And if you stare at it for long enough, you start to wonder which way up the stairs actually go. Said to have been built in one night by ghosts, Chand Baori’s resident bats, crows and screeching pigeons certainly add to the atmosphere. It is said that a djinn (genie) haunts the steps, trying to stop keen visitors from ascending again. Of course, this could just be a case of dead legs. Find out for yourself on our tour of India’s Golden Triangle and the Tigers of Ranthambore