There are some places on earth that are downright scary – jinxed, inhabited by the devil or simply doomed. Many now are mostly ghost towns, where only the bravest of souls live. And for good reason: They claim bad things still inexplicably happen.
Even curious travelers talk of being awed by weird music, apparitions and generally bad vibes.
Roanoke Island, North Carolina
In 1587, a group of Englishmen led by Capt. John White settled here. White went back to England for supplies, leaving his family behind. Upon return, he found the fort in ruins and no trace of his family or any of the other colonists. Carved on a tree was the word “Croatoan.” To this day, visitors claim the island is haunted.
Nauru, in the South Pacific
Just 50 years ago, this tiny island nation was the wealthiest in the world. Locals say those who lived here back then sold out their livelihoods by over-mining the island’s natural phosphate, polluting the environment. The destruction infuriated the gods, who cursed the residents and their descendants to poverty and misery forever.
Today, Nauru is one of the poorest countries. To make money, the government rents most of its land to Australia for use as an internment camp for illegal immigrants and refugees.
Chateau de Montsegur, in southern France
This remote castle, at the top of a steep cliff, is also known by locals as Satan’s Synagogue. In the 12th century, the castle became the seat of the Cathars – Christians adored, then declared heretics, by the Catholic Church. The pope turned to France for help in driving out the sect members. After a 10-month siege of the castle, which may have once held the Holy Grail, 200 Cathars died in a bonfire – but not before cursing the place.
A general view of the 19th century Venetian geriatric hospital in Poveglia island in the Venice lagoon, Italy. (Getty Images)
There’s a local saying: “When an evil man dies, he wakes up on Poveglia.” Nicknamed “The Island of Death,” Poveglia lies right outside of Venice. Today, only a few winegrowers and sheep live there, but the island once had several hundred families so prosperous they governed themselves. The Plague wiped them out. Then, Poveglia morphed into a sanitarium for lepers and the insane. Abandoned for good in 1968, it is now called the “most haunted place in Europe.”
The island was sold in 2014 to businessman Luigi Brognaro, who wanted to restore it – but wouldn’t say why.
Timbuktu, in northern Mali
In 2012, extremists attacked Timbuktu, desecrating the graves of saints – and doing the unthinkable: blowing up a door in the Sidi Yahya Mosque. Legend said opening the door, over 600 years old, would signify the end of the world. Since then, locals point to chaos all around. But was Timbuktu, a trading mecca that allowed outsiders in only 100 years ago, doomed from the start?
Local soothsayers claim the city has lived under a curse for hundreds of years – since the days the Salt Trade, when it was rumored that the streets were paved with gold.