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By The Way
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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Spooky hotels, haunted battlefields, Dracula’s castle: Readers’ scariest trips

Readers shared their scariest travel stories, from a Romanian fortress to a murder house in Massachusetts

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7 min

Ahead of Halloween, By The Way reporters Natalie Compton, Andrea Sachs and Hannah Sampson interviewed people who travel professionally — TV hosts, writers, social media stars — about the creepiest places they’ve ever been. The story struck a nerve, eliciting a spirited discussion in the comments, where readers shared their own unsettling travel experiences, mentioning old battlefields, inns and other macabre landmarks. Here are some of our favorites (comments have been lightly edited for clarity, grammar and length).

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The “Church of Bones”: For Phil Levis, the Sedlec Ossuary near Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, is “the creepiest place I’ve been.” The Gothic chapel, called the “Church of Bones,” was established in the 1300s. “It’s below ground and it’s very chilly, even on a warm day,” Levis writes. “Staring at all of these sculptures made out of human bone while seeing your own breath seems straight out of a horror movie.” Reader treborN also calls the ossuary “not for the squeamish,” citing “the skeletons and bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 souls” decorating walls and archways in unusual patterns.

The real Dracula’s castle: On a visit to Poenari Castle in Walachia, Romania, commenter SlimeQSlimedog was “the most creeped out [they’ve] ever felt. I don’t believe in ghosts but it was the weirdest place I’ve ever been.” Vlad the Impaler, long thought to be the inspiration for the titular vampire in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” held the mountaintop fortress in the 15th century.

Bran Castle, another Transylvanian fortress built on a cliff, also resembles Stoker’s story and is commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle.”

The Massachusetts murder house: Owles Robinson Doerr had a sleepless night at the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Mass., when their then-boyfriend “whisked [them] away for a night at a New England bed-and-breakfast” that turned out to be the site of an unsolved double murder committed in 1892. “Of course he just had to book us the room where the stepmother was murdered. We thought it would be a funny story to tell later, but it was not so funny at 3 a.m. when both of us were wide-awake and completely freaked out.

We stayed the night in a haunted prison to look for ghosts

A Victorian mansion with hidden rooms: The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose was built by Sarah Winchester, the superstitious widow of a firearms magnate. This Victorian mansion’s secret rooms and dead-end passages frightened Alastriona, who writes they used to work there as a tour guide: “There are some weird places in the house, and more than once while cleaning between tours I found myself in rooms that weren’t on the tour without knowing how I got there.”

Animals acting unusual at an English church: The Oldest Billy Goat Gruff had a creepy experience at All Saints Church in Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England. They write: “I don’t believe in ghosts, but looking at the headstones, a cold chill came over me. I looked around but there wasn’t a soul and no sight or sound of people. Then, a hundred or so Jackdaw birds began cawing loudly. I hurried back to my rental car, which was now covered in flies. I left as quickly as I could, opening my windows once up to speed so the flies would leave. On the way out of this small town, a blackbird flew at my windshield, and at that same moment a small rabbit ran out from the roadside and died under my wheels. I’m never going back there.”

A historic inn on the Underground Railroad: The Buxton Inn in Granville, Ohio, was built in 1812 and said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. It has its fair share of ghost stories. QNB recalls being freaked out during an informal tour given by an employee when they visited: “In one of the rooms there was such an aura of fear and danger, the hair on the back of my neck just bristled. Turns out there were several secret cubbyholes scattered around that room.”

The abandoned Irish sanitarium: EssentialAugustine says the 19th-century Connacht District Lunatic Asylum, which later became St. Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital, in Ballinasaloe, County Galway, Ireland “puts the one in ‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ to shame. It was run by the Catholic Church, and all the equipment and patient records were still strewn about. It even has an old, spooky church.”

The moody Scottish battlefield: Izzi81 called the Culloden Battlefield near Inverness, Scotland, “one of the most atmospheric, bleak places I’ve ever been,” adding “there are lots of ghost stories there.” In 1746, it was the site of a bloody finale to the Jacobite uprising. Despite visiting on a warm day, Ben Casey recalled that walking there was “the creepiest sensation I have ever known.”

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Eerily quiet alien country: Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian called “the drive at dusk from outside Albuquerque to Roswell one of the eeriest experiences of [my] life. Talk about desolate.” Princess Leah agrees, saying “there are places out in the inner West where you can drive for dozens of miles and there is absolutely nothing, not even working radio signals.”

Ghosts of the Civil War: Of all the battle sites they’ve visited in Virginia, reader msmith2, called out Cold Harbor National Battlefield Park, in Richmond, as particularly unsettling. “Our dog went walking and sniffing out on the very small field. She came running back to us, literally with her tail between her legs and shaking like a leaf.”

Several readers mentioned ghostly sightings at Gettysburg National Military Park, where the war’s bloodiest battle take place. Reader Marie Roget visited with their sister and niece, who wanted to stop the car and look at the Wheatfield, where particularly brutal fighting took place. “My sister and I both shouted ‘no’ in unison. I asked if she’d seen what I saw near one small group of bushes. She’d seen the soldiers in gray, too, for an instant — then they vanished.”

Panda Lee had a similar spectral encounter, writing that they saw “a soldier walking out from the trees with bayonet over his shoulder. When I saw him, my partner said I turned white as a sheet. I ran to the car and locked myself in; I later found out it is the most haunted area of the battlefield. I didn’t believe in ghosts until that day.”

The spirits of Harpers Ferry: Several commenters mentioned Harpers Ferry, W.Va., as a supernatural haunt. Pierre Danger relays a story from “one of the most levelheaded, no-nonsense people [they] have every known” who visited a cemetery there on a warm, summer day: “She said at first she felt an extreme, chilling cold and heard what sounded like someone right next to her speaking in her ear. She assumed someone had come up behind her, but after looking around, saw no one. SoPoyTyro heard from a couple who saw “a naked man walk through the wall in their room in the middle of the night while staying at an old inn. Since they were not folks prone to leg-pulling or hyperbole, their tale of the supernatural has always stuck with me.” Popeponcho also felt “so many spirits” on a night alone at Highacre, a historic cabin in town that overlooks a cemetery.

The West Virginia hotel near another creepy landmark: Paul Davenport wants to revisit the Lowe Hotel in Point Pleasant, W.Va., but their wife “refuses to stay there again!” Situated on the Ohio River, the hotel, which is across the street from the Mothman statue and museum, was built in the 1800s and “at least three different ghosts have been reported (a riverboat captain, a little girl riding a tricycle in the hall and an elegant woman dancing in the mezzanine overlooking the lobby). We did not experience anything unusual, but definitely felt creepy being the only people in the building.”