Some places on earth are just different. Some are loaded with a blood-red history or legends that just won't fade into the past. This Halloween it's time to celebrate these dark corners of the world.
We've scoured dusty old libraries (and Wikipedia) to collect some of the world's creepiest walking routes. From the British countryside to the American wilds, these destinations are ripe for some Halloween exploration. Just be warned, when you walk here, you may not walk alone.
Pendle Hill, Lancashire
Pendle Hill is famous for the cruel witch trials that took the lives of ten people in 1612. Ever since the hill has been associated with a full range of supernatural goings-on, including the ghost of a young girl, thought to be nine-year old Jennet Preston, a victim of the witch trials.
There are several guided ghost walks that explore the hill. If you want to take in the witchy atmosphere for yourself, though, then the route to the top is simple, if steep. Starting from the quaint but equally spooky village of Barley, the path shoots straight to the summit. From the trig point you can take in the expanse of Lancashire countryside and try to avoid ghostly Jennet’s attentions, before making your way back to Barley through the aptly named Fell Wood.
Wychwood Forest, Oxfordshire
Wychwood is a small forest in the heart of the Cotswolds. Shadowed by ancient trees and carpeted in bluebells, it looks an idyllic place to meander on an autumn day. Dark stories abound, however. Travellers have felt disembodied hands upon their shoulders and witnessed the shades of sobbing children.
The Wychwoods' most famous spectre is Amy Robsart, the wife of the Earl of Leicester. In 1560 she was found dead of a broken neck at home in Cumnor Place. Though the official verdict claimed she fell downstairs, rumours persisted that her husband had her murdered.
Legend says that her ghost later confronted the Earl in the Wychwood, prophesising he would die in ten days, which he then did. Since then, as the story goes, to see Amy means your own death is close by.
Pluckley & Dering Woods, Kent
Pluckley is widely regarded as Britain’s most haunted village. The small Kentish village is home to more than a dozen ghosts, including numerous Ladies, both Red and White, a phantom coach and horses, an 18th Century highwayman and several shades seen hanging (quite literally) around town.
The most frightening apparition may well be the shadowy outline seen in the doorway of the Old Windmill. Widely thought to be the remnant of the Miller, Richard ‘Dicky’ Buss, the shadow appears most frequently before thunderstorms.
The nearby Dering Woods is a particularly troublesome spot. Wanderers there report the shadows, whispers and cries of those who lost their way in the "screaming woods." For those who are brave enough, the woods offer a pair of waymarked paths and plenty of wildlife to see amongst the spooks.
Skirrid Inn, Abergavenney, Wales
The Skirrid is a small mountain in south east Wales. Its name derives from the Welsh word for "shiver" – a fact that many put down to the frequent landslides. You may find other reasons to tremble, though, with Wales' most haunted pub sitting at the foot of the mountain
The Skirrid Inn is the start and end point for the 4-mile circular walk up the mountain, From the summit you can enjoy panoramic views before returning to the Inn for dinner and an overnight stay. Be warned, though, the Inn dates back to the 11th Century, and has seen use as both a courtroom and place of execution. It is said that both the judge and his evil hangman still prowl the rooms, looking for those to condemn.
Hell Fire Club, Dublin
With a nickname like the Hell Fire Club, it's no surprise that Montpelier Hill ranks amongst Ireland's creepiest places. The hill shares its spooky name with the ruined hunting lodge that sits on its summit. This building was built on top of prehistoric graves (of course) and the roof blew off in a storm shortly after it was completed in 1725. Since then legends have transformed the lodge into a hotbed of occult practices and devil worship by the Irish Hellfire club members.
In the best-known story, members of the club invited a stranger to join them in a card game. When one player bent to pick up a dropped card he saw that the stranger had a pair of cloven feet! Another story tells of a gigantic black cat that prowls the site, maybe just waiting for an unsuspecting walker to turn up for dinner.
There are dozens of stories like this, each more horrible than the rest. That said, the hill is a key destination for hikers and weekend walkers. It's a moderate climb of around 1.5 hours, through forest paths, with a fantastic view of the city from the top.
Wistman's Wood, Devon
Artists and storytellers have been inspired by Wistman's Wood for centuries. Even then the trees were ancient; today, covered in moss and lichen and gnarled like witches' hands, they present a deliciously creepy backdrop for an evening outdoors. It also helps that the woods are another entry in the list of "Britain's most haunted places".
Locals tread reluctantly into the woods after nightfall, possibly because of the Wisht Hounds that are said to roam. This legendary pack of devil dogs are described as jet black giants with red eyes and a terrifying hunger for flesh.
If hell hounds aren't enough to scare you, maybe the rumours of snakes will do the job. Wistman's Wood is said to be slithering with adders, each more venomous than their cousins elsewhere in the UK. Science hasn't backed these claims up, but if you feel something slither over your hiking boot, take care.
Culloden Moor, Scotland
The Battle of Culloden was the last to be fought on British soil. In 1746 the Jacobite rebellion faced the much larger governmental forces . . . and were wiped out to the last man. Culloden Moor remains stained by the slaughter, with clan graves dotted across the stunning, if bleak, landscape. Birds are said to fall silent here.
The Culloden Battlefield trail crosses woodland trails and tracks, taking you right up the clan graves and earlier, prehistoric cairns. The graves are only a short walk from the Visitor Centre, but the entire trail covers 8 miles.
This is one of the few places that feels safer to visit at Halloween, as the bulk of the spectral activity occurs on the anniversary of the battle each April. Then, it is said, the anguished cries of fallen soldiers can be heard rolling across the moor. Don't feel too secure, though. All through the year hikers report sightings of a tall, gaunt man wearing tartan. Over and over he mumbles the word "defeated". Also, a giant black bird, called the Great Scree, is said to be a harbinger of doom. If you see it, maybe it's time to head back to the car.
Chillingham Park, Northumberland
Of all the places on this list described as "the most haunted," or "the scariest" – Chillingham Park has possibly the strongest claim. How many walks, after all, include homicidal wild cattle as a feature?!
The park surrounds Chillingham Castle, a 13th century stronghold that is positively overflowing with ghosts. Some (and I mean some) of the more famous include the White Pantry Ghost – a white lady who begs for water - and the 'Blue Boy' who haunted one of the bedrooms. He appeared as a blue flash hovering above the sleepers' bed, giving off a wailing sound. The castle's owners claim that his appearances ended after the bones of a man and young boy were found buried inside a wall.
Chillingham's wild cattle are a more natural, but no less worrying feature of the castle grounds. The herd are the last few survivors of the wild herds that once roamed Britain. Many declare them the last wild cattle in the world. They are extremely dangerous and can only be visited up-close with a warden.
You may catch a glimpse of them on the 4-mile walk around Chillingham Park. The moderately easy route crosses moorland and forest to reach an outstanding lookout point at Kay Hill. You can finish up with a tour of the castle and, if you're really brave, book in to stay the night.
Hoia-Baciu Forest, Romania
Europe's creepiest forest by a country mile, Hoia-Baciu is a real-world horror movie setting. Often referred to as" Romania's Bermuda Triangle", it hides a ghoul or ghostly legend behind every crooked tree.
There are tales of people disappearing, only to re-emerge from the trees months or years later, with no memory of where they have been. Electronic devices malfunction and people report rashes and headaches. Walkers have heard giggling and screaming from the trees.
At the heart of Hoia-Baciu is The Clearing. This oval-shaped break in the trees is the focus of paranormal activity. In 1960s scientists and engineers photographed discs and strange lights in the sky above The Clearing. So, there may be aliens to worry about as well as ghosts. Failing that, you may also meet a brown bear.
If you want to explore this freaky forest then you can make the trip from nearby Cluj. For this one we would recommend a guide.
Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park
The seven-mile hike between Yosemite's Vernal and Nevada Falls has its share of dangers. The pounding cascades create wet, slippery rocks, and give rise to the name Mist Trail. Over the years numerous hikers have had accidents or come to unfortunate ends on these slick paths. Whilst the majority of incidents can be dismissed as missteps, local folklore pins the blame on something else.
According to legend, these and other Yosemite waterfalls are haunted by a trickster spirit named Po-ho-no, or 'The Evil Wind'. If a hiker draws too close to the edge of the falls Po Ho No may take the chance to shove you over the precipice.
Add this to the park's numerous Bigfoot sightings, odd disappearances, and 'Nightcrawlers" (google it!) and hiking Yosemite seems like a the headquarters of odd USA.
Freetown-Fall River State Forest, Massachusetts
Freetown covers 5000 acres of southeastern Massachusetts, and offers miles of unpaved roads for runners, hikers and cyclists. It is incredibly scenic.
Despite all of this, the forest is better known for the oddness that has occurred within its boundaries. Firstly, it is the home of the Pukwudgie: a race of little troll-like with a love for causing mayhem. Native American legends feature plenty of stories of these critters causing misery for unsuspecting visitors.
Profile Rock is an epicentre for hauntings. This 50 foot granite slab is eerie enough on its own, looming from the misty trees like the face of a god. Local Wampanoag natives long claimed it was the unnatural likeness of their chief Massasoit. Strange lights, disembodied voices and weird glow are common. Elsewhere in the park, Hockomock Swamp is a stalking ground for strange entities, including giant red-eyed dogs (yes, them again) and a large apelike creature that attacks hikers. All of this goes back years, with early settlers quickly referring to the site as The Devil's Swamp.
Scariest of all, though, are the disappearances. Over the years dozens have entered the woods never to come out. Some have been put down to murder, whilst for others there has never been an answer. So, tread carefully…
Aokigahara Forest, Japan
Some people call Aokigahara the "Sea of Trees". Sounds lovely doesn't it? Its more famous name is "The Suicide Forest." Not so good.
It sits on the low slopes of Mount Fuji, a 35-square kilometre of dense trees and secret caves. Though it is beautiful and eerie, in recent years it has gained an unfavourable reputation as one of the world's most-used suicide sites.
As if that doesn’t make the Aokigahara horrifying enough, locals claim that all the grief has 'infected' the landscape. Spooky encounters are common, with the Japanese legend of ghostly yurei finding fertile ground. People also report feeling that the forest was stopping them from leaving. This disorientation isn't helped by the fact that magentism in volcanic soil can affect compasses.
For hardy hikers the Aokigahara makes for a fascinating and truly beautiful trip. It is an accessible two-hour drive from Tokyo and a way to escape the churn of Japanese urban life. Be warned though, travellers report confusing trails, narrow paths, and an overwhelming silence.
Bhangarh Fort, India
Easily the most famous 'haunted' site in India, Bhangarh Fort lies in the Sariska Reserve in the north of the country. It has become a site of pilgrimage for lovers of the paranormal as well as people keen to see the grandeur of the site. Walking through it you find ruined temples and palaces as well as natural beauty.
All of this is easy enough during the day, if you're willing to make the 150-mile trip from Delhi. At night though, the rules change. So fearsome is the fort's reputation that visitors must ask permission from the government to visit the site after dark.
Bhangarh's creepy history centres on black magic. A sorcerer tried to seduce Princess Ratnavati with a love potion. When she spilled it on the floor, the liquid became a boulder that crushed the sorcerer. With his dying words he cursed the princess, Many think that curse has lingered, poisoning the area.
Needless to say, visitors have reported seeing faces staring out from the ruined building, the voices of women screaming in the night, and shadowy figures who follow before suddenly disappearing.
Do you have a terrifying tale from the trail? Heard howls from the hillsides or seen a shadowy figure staring back from around the trees? Tell us in the comments below.
Have a great Halloween. Mwah ha ha!