Not all travelers are tempted by sun-drenched beaches and museums packed with centuries-old art. Some tourists prefer their vacation destinations to be a little less ordinary.
From the forest where Bigfoot is rumored to roam to deserts visited by little green men, the world is rife with destinations that are paranormal, monstrous and downright creepy. If you’re excited by all things supernatural, skip the traditional travel destinations.
Airfare to Roswell, N.M.: $442
If you’re headed to Roswell, you might want to pick up alien abduction insurance. The town has been synonymous with UFOs since 1947, when an unidentified flying object crashed outside of the city, leaving debris that was later found by local rancher Mac Brazel. Whether it was really just a stray weather balloon — as government officials have claimed — or the wreckage of an alien spacecraft is a matter for believers and skeptics to debate.
Today, Roswell is a bit on the kitschy side. The city hosts a free UFO Festival every summer, making that a great time to visit if you can take the heat. If you’re there during the cooler months, spend $5 to visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center and learn about this city’s oddball history.
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Bran Castle, Romania
Airfare to Bucharest, Romania: $783
Yes, Transylvania is a real place. This quiet region in Romania is home to some of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval towns and castles, including Bran Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
Stoker published “Dracula” in 1897, drawing inspiration for the iconic character from Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, a prince from the neighboring region of Wallachia. For the main setting of the novel, Dracula’s home, Stoker used descriptions of Bran Castle.
While no actual vampires ever resided in Bran Castle — at least that we know of — it appears to be a fitting home for one, with its lofty turrets perched on an imposing hillside. The site casts a chilling silhouette on a moonlit night, and it’s even open to the public for a fee of around $11.
Rendlesham Forest, England
Airfare to Norwich, U.K.: $650
Sometimes referred to as the “British Roswell,” the 1980 incident in Rendlesham Forest outside Suffolk, England, remains one of the U.K.’s most compelling stories of a UFO encounter. Military personnel at two separate air bases reported seeing lights hovering above the forest on the night of Dec. 26, 1980, and three patrolmen investigated the lights as they were seen descending into the woods. Now you can visit this mysterious and unexplained spot yourself.
The official report filed by Lt. Col. Charles Halt describes the object as “metallic in appearance and triangular in shape” and notes that it bathed the forest with white light. Later, depressions in the ground — perhaps from landing gear — were discovered in the forest clearing where the patrolmen saw the object.
Although facts surrounding the incident only get hazier as time passes, you can explore the area yourself. Take the Rendlesham UFO Trail for just the cost of a parking pass, about $5.
Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Australia
Airfare to Melbourne, Australia: $1,165
Often referred to as the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum in Beechworth opened its doors in 1867 and saw thousands of patients pass through its halls during the 128 years before it was decommissioned. Now it’s a notoriously haunted spot.
Psychiatric care in the 19th century seems archaic to say the least. And given the real-life horrors that took place within the walls of Beechworth, it’s no surprise that this imposing complex has a reputation for being haunted. Many visitors have reported seeing, hearing and even photographing the spirits of the asylum’s former patients and employees. Among them is a patient whose face is said to appear in the window from which she was thrown to her death.
If you want to visit, take a guided ghost tour of the asylum for $38. An overnight stay costs $175, if you’re brave enough.
Haynesville Woods, Maine
Airfare to Bangor, Maine: $101
One of America’s most terrifying roads winds through a quiet corner of Northern Maine known as Haynesville Woods. Route 2A — a secluded street off Route 2 — runs through these woods and is a particularly dangerous drive. It’s famous for the countless tragic accidents that have occurred there over the years. In fact, country singer Dick Curless recorded the song “A Tombstone Every Mile” about Route 2A.
Unsurprisingly, ghost stories surround this famed road, including reports of motorists seeing the apparitions of those who met their untimely deaths along the route. One of the most common tales involves a young woman who appears on the road and begs for a ride, only to disappear as drivers leave the forest.
Your drive through Haynesville Woods won’t cost you more than the price of gas, making it a great budget road trip idea. Rent a cabin to sleep near the town of Haynesville, though, and you’ll see rates of about $150, according to Airbnb.
Airfare to Boston: $137
It’s hard to imagine the hysteria of the Salem witch trials in 1692. Those trials led to the imprisonment of more than 150 men and women, however, and the deaths of 27. Arthur Miller’s famous 1953 play, “The Crucible,” was inspired as much by the Communist witch hunts of his time period as the historical events that happened in Salem.
Visiting Salem today can be a chilling experience. In some ways, the town takes an almost disturbingly lighthearted view of the tragedy, from the kitschy attractions at Salem Witch Village to the rows of shops selling witch-themed gifts and souvenirs.
Other destinations are more somber, like the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and the Jonathan Corwin House, which was once the home of a local magistrate who presided over the trials. Guided tours of the house cost $10.25 for adults and $6.25 for children.
Loch Ness, Scotland
Airfare to Edinburgh, Scotland: $708
Legends of a monster in Loch Ness date back at least 1,500 years to the period when a Highland tribe known as the Picts carved images of local animals on stones. The Picts were skilled artists, and most of the animals in their work have been easily identified — except for one.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the idea of the Loch Ness monster really took off. The completion of a new road by the lake in 1933 led to a rash of new sightings, including the first-known photograph of the alleged monster, taken by a London doctor named R. Kenneth Wilson and published in the Daily Mail in 1934.
Although the photograph was later determined to be a hoax, rumors of the monster persist, and new sightings continue to be reported. Photographs of the creature have appeared as recently as 2016. For a firsthand encounter, take a Loch Ness cruise by Jacobite for as little as $19, but note that some consider Loch Ness a pricey destination that is seriously overrated.
Pacific Coast Highway, Calif.
Airfare to Los Angeles: $320
UFOs have reportedly been sighted along California’s Pacific Coast Highway and other parts of the Southern California coast since the mid-20th century. Even Ronald Reagan is rumored to have seen an unidentified flying object above the highway while he was Governor of California.
The abundance of sightings has led some to believe in the existence of an underwater UFO base off the California coast. Whatever the explanation, the highway remains one of the world’s UFO hot spots. Even if you don’t see a flying saucer on your journey, the PCH makes for a great scenic road trip.
The White House, Washington, D.C.
Airfare to Washington, D.C.: $97
Of all the headaches that come with being president, one of the worst must be having to live in a haunted house. For years, rumors have persisted that the ghosts of presidents past haunt the hallways and bedrooms of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., making the White House one of the most haunted historical sites in America.
The ghost of Abraham Lincoln is by far the most commonly sighted spirit in the White House. Grace Coolidge, Lady Bird Johnson and Eleanor Roosevelt all reported brushes with the former president. And, Reagan once told a story about his daughter Maureen experiencing a ghostly presence while staying in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Tours of the White House are free of charge, and you can even take free ghost tours in the general area.
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Château de Brissac, France
Airfare to Paris: $422
France is home to numerous castles, many of which boast a ghost story or two. Take the tallest castle in France, Château de Brissac, for example. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, but its grisly history offers little in the way of happily ever afters.
It seems this 11th-century castle was once home to Charlotte de Brézé, the illegitimate daughter of King Charles VII and his mistress, Agnes Sorel. Charlotte had an unhappy marriage with Jacques de Brézé, and one day her husband caught her with another man. There are a few versions of the story, but the most common is that Jacques killed both Charlotte and her lover. The ghost of Charlotte is said to haunt the castle to this day, and those who have seen her call her the Green Lady.
You can take a tour of the castle for about $14.
Pierce County, Wash.
Airfare to Tacoma, Wash.: $331
No state in America has had more reported Bigfoot sightings than Washington. And nowhere in Washington has he shown himself more often than in Pierce County. Home to small towns, open farmland and the secluded forests of Mount Rainier National Park, Pierce County is the place to go if you want to spot Bigfoot.
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has been tracking Bigfoot encounters across the U.S. since 1995. One of the group’s most vivid accounts comes from 2010, when a group of hikers spotted a large black creature crouching like a human drinking from the river.
If you’re looking to hunt Bigfoot, go camping in the national park. Sites at the park cost $20, except at Mowich Lake, where you can go primitive camping for free.
Island of the Dolls, Mexico
Airfare to Mexico City: $285
Nestled among the canals of Xochimilco, Mexico, is a chilling island known as Isla de las Muñecas, or the Island of the Dolls. Hidden in the thick jungle growth of the island are countless dolls, many of which have been hung in the trees and underbrush for decades, placed there by the island’s one-time caretaker, Don Julian Santana Barrera. The story behind the Island of the Dolls is one that begins and ends in tragedy.
The legend goes that Barrera found the body of a little girl who had drowned in the canal. Shortly after he found the girl’s doll and hung it from a tree as a show of respect, he found himself haunted by the girl’s spirit. He began collecting more dolls and spent the next 50 years hanging them in various locations around the island. Then, in 2001, he was found dead in what some say was the exact spot where the girl drowned 50 years earlier.
The Island of the Dolls is accessible by boat, and visitors often pay tribute by adding their own dolls to the growing collection. The cost to visit varies based on who gives you a ride.
Airfare to Winnipeg, Canada: $402
UFO and alien sightings occur everywhere, from major cities to the inhospitable wilderness. But Manitoba seems especially prone to alien activity. In fact, UFO sightings in the area date back to before the province’s founding.
In 1792, two explorers named David Thompson and Andrew Davy reported seeing several bizarre meteors crash into the ice of Northern Manitoba but could find no trace of them when they went to investigate.
Manitoba leads Canada in UFO sightings by a vast margin. At least 2,000 reports of unidentified flying objects have been made there in the past 200 years. Hotels around Manitoba start at about $77 per night.
Airfare to Shizuoka, Japan: $935
Aokigahara, known as the Suicide Forest at Mount Fuji, has a dark history. The forest is known as the No. 1 suicide spot in Japan and one of the most popular ones worldwide.
Statistics on the annual number of suicides in Aokigahara are hard to come by, but a 2018 CNN article reported that 100 people who were not from the Aokigahara area committed suicide there between 2013 and 2015, according to local government data. Annual suicides might be higher, though, as bodies can be difficult to find in the forest’s dense vegetation.
Despite — or perhaps because of — its dark reputation, the Suicide Forest is a popular hiking destination. It’s also widely known to be haunted. Although you can easily traverse the forest on your own, numerous tours exist in the area. A one-day tour of Mt. Fuji, the Suicide Forest and caves costs around $174.
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Note: Airfare estimates were found using Skyscanner and are valid for travel in early June from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Prices are accurate as of March 21, 2018.