Welcome to Your Worst Nightmares: 6 Creepiest Places in the World
Picture a ghost town: abandoned buildings covered in graffiti, rusting remains of cars, cracks in the roads. And now add to that a thick blanket of black smoke coming from under the ground. And the ground itself is hot to the touch. You’re entering Centralia, Pennsylvania.
Centralia used to be a lively place during the 1800s and up to the 1960s: its rich coal mines attracted a lot of people to work and live there. But in 1962, one of those mines accidentally caught fire, which started to spread underground. Coal is a slowly burning fuel, so the citizens continued to live peacefully for almost another two decades. Until the fire began to undermine the town.
One of the worst accidents was when a giant sinkhole appeared out of nowhere in the backyard of a house in Centralia. Luckily, no one was hurt, but after that, people started leaving the place. In the following 30 years, almost everyone moved out — though not all. As of 2020, five people still live there. But other than that, Centralia is by all means a ghost town. And crumbling abandoned buildings and cracked roads are just a minor part of it.
The most disturbing thing about this place is the smoke billowing from under the ground through cracks. The fires down below are still raging, heating up the surface and slowly destroying the remains of the town. In fact, this was what inspired the famous fictional town of Silent Hill. The blaze is estimated to last for another 250 years. And by that time, there will be nothing but scorched wasteland in the area.
If you’re afraid of bugs, then this place will probably be your worst nightmare. The Gomantong Caves in Malaysia could be one of the most picturesque places in the world, if not for their dwellers. First off, there are bats. Over two million of these animals live in the vast expanses of the caves. They’re easily scared, but I guess you don’t want that: millions of winged horrors flying at you in panic aren’t to be taken lightly.
Secondly, there are cockroaches. And while the number of bats is more or less determined, the roaches swarming the floors and walls of the caves are uncountable. There are so many of them that you won’t be able to make a single step without a dozen of these creepers crawling up your legs.
And finally, if you manage not to scream from the cockroaches and wake up hordes of bats, you might be rewarded with other wonderful dwellers of the caves. Those include snakes, scorpions, and giant venomous centipedes. Charming. Still, the caves are open to the public, and there are lots of people who visit this place.
Right in the middle of nowhere, in the empty wastelands of the Karakum Desert in Central Asia, there’s a great hole in the ground that burns... forever. It’s called the Darvaza Gas Crater, and it is an actual pit, broad and deep, that has been ablaze for over half a century now. The locals call it the Gate to the Underworld, and the view is indeed frightening. There is no way to extinguish the flames, and scientists believe the crater will keep burning for centuries on end. The pit apparently appeared in 1971, when a group of engineers scouted the area and thought they stumbled upon an oil deposit.
It turned out to be a natural gas pocket, though, and when the drilling rig started working on site, the ground collapsed. The engineers were afraid that the poisonous gas might put nearby towns in danger, so they thought it’s best to set it on fire and let it burn out in a few weeks. But as we can see, the blaze is still going strong. The crater has since become a popular tourist attraction. But despite that, it still poses some danger, so efforts are being made to finally extinguish the “gates of the underworld”.
Imagine seeing an insanely venomous snake right next to your foot — terrifying enough, huh? And now, multiply that experience by a couple thousand times, when no matter where you try to run, there are similar snakes all around.
That’s Snake Island for you, and the name couldn’t describe it better. The island is located not far from the coast of Brazil and is home to thousands of golden lancehead vipers. About 11,000 years ago, the sea levels rose and separated the island from the mainland, and lots of lanceheads became trapped on it. Their mainland siblings are venomous as well, but not as much. The golden variety had to evolve to survive, and oh they did.
Since there are not many land animals for the vipers to hunt, they adapted to hunting birds instead. And for their venom to be effective, it had to be instant. So golden lanceheads developed a venom that is five times more potent than the regular variety. This helped the snakes thrive, and now there are one to five vipers per square meter of the island. It is considered so dangerous that Brazil banned all visitors — like someone would really want to go there.
Lost in the woods at night, you suddenly stumble upon a human figure. Relieved, you touch their shoulder to ask for directions, but it’s hard as stone and covered in moss. And then you look into the face of the person and your mouth opens in horror: it’s anything but human. My advice would be not to wander around south-east Finland at night if you don’t want a shocking experience. Because it’s here that a renowned Finnish sculptor made his eerie sculpture garden in his own backyard.
The garden’s main exhibition consists of 200 human figures in various yoga poses. But as you walk around, you may come across more sinister-looking works. Such as a cloaked figure with its arms stretched forward and deep black gaps for eyes. Adding to the creepiness are real human teeth in the mouths of some statues. The garden itself appeared because the sculptor was a recluse and didn’t want to leave his home. And when asked to lend some of his sculptures to museums, he would say he needed to ask them if they wanted to. It seems they never did, though.
Creepy statues are eerie enough, but how about creepy dolls? If you ever find yourself in Japan and want to give yourself some chills down the spine, make sure to visit Nagoro. It’s a tiny village in the south of the country. Driving by its houses and yards, you will see villagers sitting on their porches or tending to their gardens — nothing special. Until you realize they’re not moving, and never will. Because they’re life-sized dolls.
One of the local residents returned to her hometown in 2002 and made a hobby of creating stuffed scarecrows in gardens and fields. But then it turned from a practical thing into a sort of memorial job. Whenever any of her neighbors left the village or passed away, she would make a life-sized doll in their image. She made them as she remembered them best, so all her dolls are doing something normal people would. They’re sitting, standing, lying on the ground, and there are even full classrooms of dolls in the local school.
But probably the eeriest thing about this installation is that the human population of Nagoro is less than 30 people, and the scarecrows outnumber the living dwellers more than 10 to 1. There are over 350 dolls in the village now. As their maker remembers, there were around 300 people living in Nagoro when she was a child. And now, for 20 years, she has been commemorating all of them.
About 3,000 visitors come to Nagoro every year, and many of them return in the following years as well. The village is pretty hard to reach, because it’s located on one of the less-traveled islands of Japan, and the nearest train station is an hour away. But that doesn’t stop the tourists who want to see the wonderfully creepy scarecrows with their own eyes.