Wednesday, November 17, 2010

✈Worldwide Wednesdays: The Top 9 Haunted Places

From a mysterious tunnel door that no one dares to open to the headless carpenter stalking the castle grounds, the Top 9 haunted places from around the world are not for the faint of heart.

Aokigahara Forest, Japan

At the foot of Mount Fuji, with rocky and icy caverns popular with tourists, you'll find an enchanting ancient forest - and the "perfect place to die." Aokigahara Forest, with its reputation for its entrancing beauty and suicides, was described as a place with that deadly, dark side in Wataru Tsurumui's book
'The Complete Manual of Suicide'. Signs can be found throughout the forest asking people to seek help and not end their lives.

With some 30 suicides each year, Aokigahara Forest is notorious for being the most popular site for suicides in Japan and the second most popular after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. More than 500 people have died in the forest, most suicides, since the 1950s. Some local residents and visitors even claim the ancient woods is one of the seven gates to hell, haunted by ghosts, demons, beasts, monsters and goblins. Wandering the Sea of Trees or "suicide forest," eerily quiet with dense trees and no wildlife, death won't necessarily escape everyone. Volunteer groups do an annual search for human remains - and some claim images of the dead can be seen in the bark of trees.

Bran, Romania

He was ruthless, bloodthirsty and is known to still strike terror today, whether real or imagined, centuries after his death. Built in 1377, Bran Castle in Romania is often referred to as "Dracula's Castle," the setting for Bram Stoker's famous novel, Dracula, amid the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania. The castle is where Prince Vlad Tepes is believed to have stayed, though he never lived there or owned it. The prince, who legend says is the inspiration for the
famous novel, is also known as "Vlad the impaler" or "Draculya" after his father Vlad Dracul ("Dracul" means "devil").

He was known to have impaled anyone even for the pettiest crimes, or those who opposed and threatened him. Legend says he drank the blood of his enemies. The impaled victims showed off in the town square struck so much fear in everyone that there were no crimes when he had ruled in the 15th century. There are no vampire sightings, but some have claimed to have heard the moans of the tortured victims in a hidden tunnel at the castle. Many believe Vlad himself haunts the castle, especially in his room where glowing mists and lights have apparently been photographed.

The Rose Hall Great House, Jamaica

"The White Witch of Rose Hall" stood only 4-foot-11 yet she terrorized the plantation estate in Jamaica. The famous legend of Annie Palmer who is believed to have possessed black magic powers sounds like a Harlequin novel - in fact, she was the subject of Gothic novels - complete with a
beautiful young protagonist, steamy trysts, murder, revenge and hauntings. Since Palmer learned witchcraft in her childhood in Haiti, she was known by several nicknames, including "Obeah (voodoo in Jamaican) woman" and the daughter of the devil.

Palmer allegedly had affairs and murdered her male slaves after she got bored with them. She is also rumoured to be behind the mysterious deaths of her three husbands and series of lovers. She was later found strangled in 1831 in the Great House, supposedly by a slave who believed she had put a curse on his granddaughter. She is said to haunt the halls of the house, built in 1770. Despite its feisty 4-foot-11 resident, the house today has been restored with a pub.

Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada

You might feel a tug on your jacket or pant leg. Or someone holding your hand. You might even spot her playing peek-a-boo, giggling and vanishing without a trace behind the wall or building. Participants at Fort George's ghost tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake frequently report seeing the mysterious
apparition of Sarah Ann, aged 7 or 8. Don't expect the two-hour Fort George ghost tour to be a haunted hayride for kids, says ghost tour guide Kyle Upton. "We don't fake ghosts," Upton says. "On 60 per cent of tour nights people report something believable."

Participants have reported seeing the playful girl since 1994 when the tours first started, but her story and identity, aside from info from psychics, remain a mystery. Fort George, a national historic site, had been the headquarters of the British military during the War of 1812. While curiosity is stronger than the fears of Upton and participants - tours are sold out this month - no one has dared to open the door in the tunnel that has apparently appeared at night, but doesn't exist during the day.

Pelabuhan Ratu, Indonesia

Beach fashion advice: Avoid green. That's the favourite colour of the Queen of the South Seas, Nyai Loro Kidul, who legend says, would pull anyone wearing green on the beach or water into her sea kingdom. Pelabuhan Ratu ("harbour of the queen") is a tiny fishing village and seaside retreat in southern Indonesia, popular with surfers and tourists from Jakarta despite this sartorial caveat. The resort is found amid hills, mountains, tropical forests and wide beaches bordered b
y the deep blue and sometimes treacherous Indian Ocean. The sea goddess and her legend are hard to forget. Hotel Inna Samudra has reserved Room 308 only for the Javanese goddess.

Salem, Massachusetts

The curse of Giles Corey lives on in Salem, Massachusetts, home of the witch trials of 1692. When a major tragedy strikes "Witch City," the ghost of one of the witch hysteria's victims is said to appear. Corey was crushed to death by stones placed on top of him after he refused to enter a plea to the charge of
witchcraft more than 300 years ago. Corey allegedly put a curse on the whole town and its sheriffs, who died in office or were ousted from their positions after suffering from heart or blood problems. Many innocent people suspected of witchcraft were arrested, including four who died in prison and 19 who were convicted and hanged on Gallows Hill.

Guided tours can take you back in time to the frightening and disturbing parts of its history, including the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin called the Witch House, the only structure still existing in Salem directly tied to the witchcraft trials. Its disturbing history still touches a raw nerve. A bronze statue of 'Bewitched' TV comedy star Elizabeth Montgomery was reportedly vandalized in 2005 by protesters who didn't want the real-life witch trials to be trivialized.

Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy

You're no longer in the dreamy land of gondolas and Piazza San Marco. According to legend, Poveglia Island was for centuries a dumping ground for dying and deceased plague victims, mental patients and criminals. The small island in the Venetian lagoon was first in
habited in 421 by residents from the
mainland fleeing invaders. Dying and dead victims of the Black Plague were supposedly exiled there and burned on pyres during Roman times due to fears the disease would spread. Its dark history continues with tales of a doctor in the 1930s who allegedly experimented and tortured mental patients. He later went insane and jumped to his death from the bell tower. Closed to the public, the island is abandoned today but locals say they still hear the chimes. The bell was removed decades ago.

Muncaster Castle, England

Enjoy the rhododendrons, the historic castle overlooking the river and the diverse species of owls, but let's hope you don't run into Tom Fool and his friends. Muncaster Castle, home to the Pennington family since 1208 and the World Owl Trust charity dedicated to owl preservation, is known for its gardens,
parties, civil weddings and hauntings. The castle's unwelcome visitors include a woman in white who was supposedly murdered, King Henry VI and Tom Skelton, also known as Tom Fool, a court jester and a friend of Shakespeare who was known to be mischievous - and murderous.

Tom Fool was said to have decapitated a young carpenter under the orders of Sir Ferdinand Pennington, who disapproved of the carpenter falling in love with his daughter. The headless carpenter is among the ghosts who allegedly stalk the grounds. The tapestry room is said to be the most haunted chamber in the castle, where visitors claim to hear a crying child, as well as see black figures and the door mysteriously open. A cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist have attributed the supernatural phenomena reports to possibly being "magnetic fields" in the area affecting certain people with "more erratic" brain function. And if you ever encounter Tom Fool sitting under a chestnut tree as he had done when he was alive, be wary that he might send you off to the quicksand or marshes nearby.

Bhangarh, Rajasthan, India

By day, its ancient ruins of temples, walls and pavilions are impressive. By night, the once bustling 17th century town of Bhangarh in India is believed to be a real ghost town. Fearing evil spirits and ghosts, locals believe that anyone who enters the town after dark never return. Ominously, the Archaeological
Survey of India (ASI) has put up a sign that reads: "Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited." While the government requires each historical site to have an ASI office, Bhangarh does not have one.

Even as it is off limits to everyone at night, the town was once known to come alive only after dark with royals and commoners enjoying the bazaars, food and drinks in their finest attire. Several legends are behind the rise and fall of the town, including the tale of the sorcerer who put the curse of death on the palace after meeting his fate at the hands of the kingdom's beautiful princess, the object of his desires. Many say they have experienced ghostly phenomena in the abandoned town, from hearing music and anklets tinkling to sensing a strange aura and seeing strange colour spots in photos they take of the ruins.


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