Creepy, ghostly, and notorious spots.” That is how the Life magazine described “the world’s most haunted places.”
Life has come up with a book filled with blood-curdling photos and eerie stories about the world’s creepiest spots. It was Charles Dickens who stimulated the editors, writers and photographers to publish the book.
“There is no end to the old houses, with resounding galleries, and dismal state bedchambers, and haunted wings shut up for many years, through which we may ramble… and encounter any number of ghosts,” the great English writer wrote.
Think of those dilapidated farms which was home sweet home to those serial killers that were featured in such top grossing Hollywood films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs. Or those hotels that figured prominently in Psycho and The Shining.
Unknowingly, haunted places are not only found in the United States but all over the world. From Mayan tombs and Mexican mummies to underwater temples in ancient Lake Titicaca, Latin America is home to some of the spookiest sites on earth.
Europe, the continent where history and legend often intersect, is home to some of the world’s greatest ghost stories, along with goblins, vampires, and more than a few doorways to the underworld.
At least seven “bloody, bone-chilling” places in Asia and Australia were featured in the book. Too bad, not one from the Philippines is ever mentioned but I had the opportunity of visiting three of those featured: the lost temple of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia; and the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, both in Beijing.
Let’s start with Angkor Wat, which is “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.” That was what Antonio da Madalena, a Portuguese and one of the first Western visitors to the temple.
Henri Mouhot, the French naturalist and explorer who popularized the site in the West through the publication of travel notes, wrote: “One of these temples —a rival to that of (King) Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”
The tourism office of Cambodia describes Angkor Wat in these words: “… In its beauty and state of preservation, (Angkor Wat) is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp and a luxury surpassing that of a Pharaoh or a Shah Jahan, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal.”
Here’s what Life said on why it is considered a haunted place: “The temple creates an overwhelming sense of awe and disorientation among its many visitors—so much so that people have felt themselves walking in the realm of the spirits… and even getting lost there.”
No one really knows how long the Great Wall is, but some said it is around 6,300 kilometers in length. Now, if you measure the length of all the different sections of wall, the distance is more like 22,000 kilometers.
The Great Wall of China is perhaps the longest structure ever built by humans. The widest section of the wall is about nine meters (30 feet). The highest point of the wall is around eight meters (26 feet).
The labor force to build the Great Wall includes soldiers, forcibly recruited peasants, convicts and war prisoners. And it has been called the longest cemetery on Earth as over a million people died building the Wall. Some archaeologists have found human remains buried under parts of the wall.
As accounted in Life: “With all that suffering and bloodshed, it’s no wonder that the fortifications are said to be haunted. Some visitors have claimed that they felt uneasy or sick while exploring its paths… Others have seen what they said were ghosts of fallen workers, some of whom are known to even punch or kick.”
As one of the six ancient cities in China, Beijing has been the heart and soul of politics and society throughout its long history and consequently there is an unparalleled wealth of discovery to delight and intrigue travelers as they explore the city’s ancient past and exciting modern development. Italian explorer Marco Polo described its magnificence in glowing terms.
Aside from the Great Wall of China, another most-often visited place is the Forbidden City. Now called Gu Gong or Palace Museum, it covers an area of 100 hectares, extending 750 meters from east to west and 960 meters from north to south. It is surrounded by a moat. Just remember that when you go inside, you cannot come back; you have to finish the walk until you reach the other end.
Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government for almost 500 years. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
Life said: “If any structure in the world has the right to be haunted, it’s the 9,000-room imperial palace that served 25 Chinese emperors from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It has, needless to say, seen more than its share of intrigue and violence – not to mention everyday heartache and greed.”
The palace, after all, was built in a cauldron of grief and bloodshed. After his nephew became emperor in the late 14th century, Prince Zhu Di rebelled, assisted by eunuchs, killing his relatives’ loyalists and establishing a new stronghold as the Young Emperor in Beijing, where he embarked on the creation of the fabled city.