If there was a go to guide for making a place haunted, it would include things like murder, deadly biological weapons, torture, and mass suicides. These top haunted places all have that and some even have a little bit more.
Also known as the Venetian Island of the Dead. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the legends about Poveglia partially inspired the Dennis Lehane novel Shutter Island, which was adapted to film by Martin Scorcese. After the hospital closed in 1968, the island was abandoned altogether. Today, it’s strictly off-limits to tourists, though some people manage to sneak in to take photographs.
Locally known as The Island of the Venetian Dead, Poveglia hosted over 160,000 infected people whose remains were eventually dumped into ‘plague pits,’ resulting in an unusually high amount of human remains on such a tiny island.
The existing buildings were converted into an asylum for the mentally ill in 1922, with many patients reportedly claiming to be haunted by the spirits of the dead; rumors flew around Venice that the island was the setting for all manner of psychiatric experiments and that particularly troublesome patients were taken to the bell tower for lobotomies.
This is a mysterious-looking, tree-covered island visible from both Venice and Lido, the Venetian Lagoon houses the mass graves of thousands of plague victims who were quarantined there between 1793 and 1814. This island is said to be the world’s first lazaret. A lazaret is a quarantine colony where they place the infected to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Considering the time this dates back to, who knows what type of diseases they were trying to prevent.
2. Gruinard Island
Sheep tied to a line are exposed to deadly weapons as part of the X-Base Anthrax Trials of 1942 and 1943, held on Scotland’s Gruimard Island. The tests proved that airborne anthrax is highly infectious – a little too well. While the island is uninhabited, spores eventually made their way to the Scottish mainland, causing an outbreak. The island had to be completely sealed off to visitors, and locals report that the animals that remained on the island after the tests displayed genetic abnormalities for generations. The soil remained contaminated for decades until a group calling itself ‘Operation Dark Harvest’ began sending samples of it to government facilities across the UK, demanding that it be cleaned up. The entire island was sprayed with a solution of formaldehyde and seawater to inactivate the remaining anthrax, and by 1990, it was declared safe.
3. Clipperton Island
Imagine being shipped off to a beautiful island in the Pacific Ocean to mine guano, relying on shipments from mainland Mexico for survival, only to be abandoned and left for dead when the people sending the supplies you need are distracted by war.
That happened to the one hundred men and women who began working on Clipperton Island in 1906 up until the Mexican Civil War, with all but one dying of malnutrition or failed escape attempts in the ensuing years.
The lone male survivor, Victoriano Alvarez, proclaimed himself ‘king’ over the 15 remaining women and children, and began a reign of terror, raping and murdering them one by one until the widow of the former ship captain finally killed him. Three women and seven children were rescued by a passing ship in 1917. Since then, the island has been largely abandoned, though it has occasionally served as a wildlife research station.
4. Corregidor Island
Occupied by the Spanish between 1570 and 1898, Corregidor Island in the Philippines’ Manila Bay was captured by the American military during the Spanish-American War and subsequently turned into a military stronghold for World War II.
By May 1942, the island was one of the last Allied strongholds in the Phillippines, under constant siege by the Japanese. The Americans were forced to surrender when Japanese barges managed to make it onshore, with all 11,500 surviving Allied troops evacuated to a prison stockade in Manila. Japan took over the island, but in 1944, U.S. airborne troops parachuted in to take out the 5,000-strong garrison.
It is the site of a bloody battle and mass suicide. Nearly all of the Japanese soldiers died in the fierce fight that followed, with a large group of them retreating into the Malinta Tunnel for safety and eventually igniting a nearby ammunition dump to die on their own terms rather than at the hands of the Americans. It’s unclear how many were killed in the explosion, but the event is believed to be one of the largest mass suicides in history.
5. Devil’s Island, French Guiana
Individuals whom Napoleon simply didn’t want around were imprisoned alongside murderers in a total population that peaked at around 80,000 on this island.
Once “one of the most feared places on earth,” Devil’s Island was the final judgment site for tens of thousands of criminals in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Officially known as the penal colony of Cayenne and located in French Guiana, the notorious prison was used for exile of French political prisoners as well as hardened criminals. The colony was rife with disease, and if any prisoners managed to escape, they didn’t get far in the shark-infested waters. The vast majority of them languished their for the rest of their lives, suffering extremely harsh conditions. The prison was shut down after a century in 1953 and the buildings having slowly crumbled into the jungle, the ruins accessible to the thousands of tourists who access the island each year.
6. Norfolk Island
Once Britain’s most brutal convict colony, Norfolk Island was reportedly such a miserable place to be that criminals begged to be executed rather than languish there.
It’s rumored to be the most haunted place in the Pacific. Located between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia, the remote self-governing Australian territory is 877 miles from the mainland, making it an ideal place to deposit violent convicts. Perhaps the jailers felt that these inhabitants deserved the vicious treatment that was doled out there – which reportedly included torture, lashings, murders, and rapes – from the time it was established in 1788 until it was closed in 1855. But according to a recent study on the 6,458 Norfolk Island convicts, more than half were detained without ever receiving a colonial conviction, and most of the convicts had committed non-violent property sentences. Most of them died there, but a final group was removed to Tasmania before the island was repopulated by the descendants of Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers, who had famously settled the Pitcairn Islands. Today, the island is home to about 2,300 permanent residents.
7. Gunkanjima: Battleship Island, Japan
At one time, this tiny island was home to 5,259 people working in the mines, but once Japan switched from coal to petroleum, work stopped and Gunkanjima was abandoned.
Access was forbidden for years, but tourists are now allowed to explore certain areas of it, and Google sent one if its employees there to capture images of the rubble in 2014.
It’s official name is Hashima Island and this uninhabited man-made island located about 9 miles from Nagasaki in Japan is colloquially known as Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island. Populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility, the island resembles a military warship from afar. Starting as a small reef, the island was developed and expanded over the years, the harsh concrete structures over-engineered to stand up to typhoons.
Personally I won’t be visiting any of these places anytime soon because it’s not my thing. It is more than enough for me to read about them and see the pictures. There are a lot of thrill seekers out there that would love to go to these places and check it out for themselves. And for those people I say… Good Luck!