The 6 most haunted towns in the world

Some towns haunt you with their beauty. Others are literally just haunted. This list is all about the latter: the places full of ghosts, apparitions, and all kinds of gory histories.

We’ve scoured the most ghost-addled towns around the globe, and these are the most frightening.

flickr/andrew borgen

Helltown, OH

Satanists, slaughtered children, deranged mental patients, mutant animals, and even a road to hell and a haunted cemetery – Helltown's has it all. It's named Helltown, after all.

In fact, the town used to be called Boston before switching its name to Helltown. Which is more fitting, unless you're a Yankees fan, in which case they're synonyms. Ever since the National Park Service started purchasing homes in 1974 to clear way for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Helltown's been mostly burnt down and boarded up houses. People's imaginations ran wild with the surroundings, but honestly, it's hard to blame them.

Helltown includes the Satanist church full of upside-down crosses, which is said to have hosted many animal (maybe even human?) sacrifices; there's also an escaped mental patient roaming the woods, of course, who managed to murder a bus full of children. Both the murderer and the murderees occasionally appear in said abandoned school bus. And, to top it off, there’s a mutant “Peninsula Python”, a legendary snake allegedly created by a chemical spill. The serpent is so revered, it even gets its own holiday: the annual Python Day.

forbidden city
flickr/john chandler

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Built over 14 years in 1406, the Forbidden City was once the Chinese imperial palace and home to 24 emperors and their entourages, and must’ve seen some stuff. A lot of ghosts can accumulate in 608 years, after all.

Executions on a whim were common, murder plots and intrigues the norm. And then there’s that story about a mass slaughter in 1421 that colored the walls red with blood, because Ming Emperor Yongle commanded his guards to murder pretty much everyone, from political opponents to 13-year-old concubines -- 2,800 people killed in total. Today, visitors to the Palace Museum and even its bravest guards claim to hear women crying, see eunuchs and concubines strolling around the grounds, and spot the occasional faceless lady-ghost.

church puckley

Puckley, Kent, UK

Puckley claims the dubious honor of being considered the most haunted village in England – confirmed by Guinness World Records in 1989, when that sort of nebulous category was still a thing.

Accounts vary, but it’s said between 12 and 16 poltergeists permanently reside in Puckley. Well, inasmuch as incorporeal beings can reside. Spectral selections include a farmer who shot himself, a man who stabbed himself, and a bloody soldier, all at the 1406-built Elvey Farm B&B. There's also a Red Lady in the graveyard, a White Lady who primarily haunts the church, a screaming man who fell to his death, a man who was murdered by sword and gave “Fright Corner” its suitable name, the "Watercress Woman" who accidentally set herself on fire, and a teacher who hanged himself and was discovered by students, to name a few.

Seems like something about Puckley makes people suicidal… or just exceptionally clumsy.

flickr/guilhem vellut

Aokigahara, Japan

Known as “Suicide Forest”, this isn’t a town per se; but neither is Helltown, really. Plus, it’s called suicide forest… or Demon Forest, which is no less terrifying.

Apparently one of the world's most popular suicide spots, Aokigahara has seen more than 500 people off themselves since the 50s. There’s even an annual body hunt, and though officials now keep the numbers under wraps, volunteers found 105 bodies in 2003, and 108 in 2004. In 2010, police records indicated 247 people attempted suicide in the forest. That's also the year The Last Airbender came out. Maybe just a coincidence. Maybe not.

Seicho Matsumoto allegedly started the trend with his novel Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees), in which two lovers commit suicide in the forest. Today, nooses, signs asking people to reconsider, personal effects like wallets and jewelry, and, far too often, rotting bodies litter the woods. Don't Google image search this place unless you feel like looking at dead people. Obviously, the forest is said to be haunted by the tormented souls of those that killed themselves here.

flickr/kevin schraer

While its human population shrunk from around 15,000 to less than 400 lonely souls (and even as low as 50 in the mid 1900s), this former copper mining town maintains a thriving population of ghosts, explaining its nickname “Ghost City”. Because it's a city of ghosts.

All the foibles of the Wild West brought the “wickedest city in the West” to its hauntings: mining accidents, opium overdoses, stabbings, as well as good, old-fashioned gunfights. The community center – or “Spook Hall” – used to be a brothel, and the town had hundreds of hookers while business was booming. Now, various ladies of the night haunt the place, including one who was stabbed by a client. Former Madam Jennie Banters, who became one of the richest women in Arizona before also getting killed by a john, is often seen around her former digs, the Inn at Jerome.

Old mining shafts are said to echo moans and groans, and the Jerome Grand Hotel, previously the United Verde Hospital, is a haunted hotspot full of former patients who died during the great Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. It's also home to a lady dressed in white; a caretaker who hanged himself in the boiler room; a man who was crushed beneath the elevator; and a guy who shot himself in room 32.

That's a lot of ghosts.

sleepy hollow
flickr/ J J

The line between fact and fiction has blurred in Sleepy Hollow, where Washington Irving penned the short story “The Headless Horseman”, about a ghostly – and yes, headless – horseman terrorizing the town. But it wasn't always called that. North Tarrytown changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996, years after the book came out, like Katy Perry changing her name after she already released an album. Alright, bad analogy, but it's all still revisionist history. Look it up.

People claim to have seen the ethereal Revolutionary soldier and his severed head (not Johnny Depp), as well as other apparitions said to have inspired the story -- not the other way around. No matter whether the chicken or the egg came first, in 2005, a British ghost hunter named Dean James Maynard claimed that both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow make “the most haunted place in the world”.

Sophie-Claire Hoeller is Thrillist's über-efficient German associate travel editor, and has had frequent flyer status since she was born in a Lufthansa terminal. Follow her @Sohostyle