Get Spooked: Creepy Places Around the World

Forget the neighborhood haunted house tour with the bales of hay out front—these destinations, mostly associated with crime and punishment and icky history, will give you the goosebumps you seek. Visit at the risk of nightmares.

Highlights
19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
There’s truly no other place in the world like this unique and disturbing museum. It’s probably best that photography is strictly prohibited inside, because that might spoil the bizarre surprises that wait for those who haven’t been yet. The Mütter is a medical museum in Center City that’s part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Be forewarned: Its world-renowned collections are often somewhat disquieting—biological oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. (Wooden cabinets in one gallery hold drawers full of objects that people have swallowed!) The gift shop may be the most interesting museum store you’ll ever visit, and might be the only place that sells conjoined-twin cookie cutters.
Hólmavík, Iceland
This fascinating museum is located in a former farmhouse in the small village of Hólmavík along the east coast of the Westfjords. As well as positing some interesting facts (most of the witches in Iceland were men, for example), it also showcases some fascinating and downright bizarre exhibits, including wooden stakes carved with ancient runes, animal skulls used in rituals, and—most sinister of all—a pair of “necropants,” trousers made from the dried skin of a man that were used as part of a spell that supposedly brought wealth to the wearer. A connected museum, a turf-roofed Sorcerer’s Cottage, lies farther along the coast in Bjarnarfjörður.
415 Barren Springs Drive
When you hear the name of this unusual museum—the National Museum of Funeral History—you can’t help but have a little morbid curiosity about what’s inside. The motto here is “Any day above ground is a good one,” and the inside is filled with death-related artifacts and exhibits that have included a “fantasy coffin” collection with casket shapes including a shallot, a Mercedes, and a chicken; a re-creation of a 1900s casket factory; a tribute to Batman star Adam West; a diorama on embalming practices during the Civil War; and a full-scale replica of Pope John Paul II’s crypt. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and veterans, $7 for children under 12, and free for children five and under.
300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89101
Though the city isn’t normally considered a go-to hot spot for history buffs, Las Vegas’ past is steeped in organized crime; without it, the city would be a very different place than it is today. Throughout the years, money has been exchanged through the hands of a number of interesting characters with colorful personalities, and the Mob Museum, located in downtown Las Vegas, examines all components of this chapter in the history books. The museum is well organized, helping people walk through the convoluted relationships and stories of organized crime that have shaped (and continue to shape) Las Vegas specifically and various parts of the world in general. Hundreds of artifacts, interactive exhibits, and regular events held at the Mob Museum make for an interesting afternoon. Give yourself at least a few hours to fully appreciate this museum.
Belize
Often called ATM Cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Maiden) is one of the most popular adventure excursions in Belize. Visitors hike dense jungle trails for an hour and a half to reach the mouth of the cave, then enter and wade through dry and wet caverns, spelunking past pottery shards and human sacrificial remains. The adventure ends with a steep ladder climb into a narrow passageway to reach the chamber where a full female skeleton rests. It’s spooky, surreal, and magnificent.
2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
What do Al Capone and Bruce Willis have in common? They both did time here at Eastern State Penitentiary. (OK, Willis wasn’t an inmate, but he did shoot the film 12 Monkeys here.) The facility’s first inmate was brought through these doors in 1829, and the prison was in use until 1971. After closing, it became a target for vandals and housed a sizable colony of stray cats. Real estate developers proposed repurposing it as condominiums (high-security, of course), but preservationists won out. They raised funds to stabilize the crumbling interior and remove trees that were growing inside some cells. Wander through its stark interior and learn about the fascinating history of this unique site and its previous tenants, including Capone. Don’t miss the special art installations that are on display here all year round.
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