Uncover the world’s most haunting crypts, catacombs & bone churches. From the Capuchin Crypt to the vast Paris Catacombs, explore our macabre travel guide to the dead.
Is cabin fever setting in? Do you need to get out of the house and explore? Take some virtual museum tours and armchair expeditions into the weird! Here is a selection of 10 fascinating and curious places for both the casual history explorer and the experienced dark tourist alike that you can explore right now.
The Paris Catacombs were originally mining tunnels dating back to Roman times, where much of the stone was quarried to build the city. By 1786, Parisian cemeteries had become so overcrowded from centuries of burials dating back to the middle ages that it had become unsanitary. The decision was made to begin clearing out the cemeteries around the city to prevent disease caused by increasing numbers of incompletely decomposed bodies. The remains of some six million burials were exhumed and transported down into the mines, transforming the subterranean depths beneath Paris into the world’s largest ossuary.
This virtual tour of the Paris Catacombs will give you a taste of what’s it’s like to wander the eerie tunnels of the dead hidden beneath the City of Love.
Pitt Rivers Museum
Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum is a “cornucopia of ethnographic treasures from shrines to shrunken heads, packed in according to type” to highlight the parallels and distinctions among cultures from around the world.
This virtual museum tour lets you walk among two floors of old glass cases filled with fascinating objects encompassing the full breadth of human existence.
Pripyat, Abandoned Chernobyl City
Safely explore the empty streets of Pripyat, the city left abandoned after the Chernobyl Disaster, without the risk of mutation. No Geiger counter needed. With Google Street View, you can go deep inside the radioactive Exclusion Zone to see how nature is swallowing up what remains of the place that was once home to Chernobyl workers and their families.
Harry Potter fans can enjoy a stroll down the cobblestones of Diagon Alley, the famed shopping district of the Wizarding World, at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London. See the fantastic storefronts used in the films, from Ollivanders where Harry purchased to his wand, to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop.
The nearly vacant Pennsylvania town of Centralia is best known as the inspiration for the Silent Hill video game series and subsequent films. Fires have been burning beneath Centralia since 1962, when a controlled burn of garbage at the local dump accidentally ignited a massive seam of coal in an abandoned mine. It wasn’t a big deal for a while, though, and the town’s population of 1,400 weren’t worried about it. Until 1984, that is, when a 12-year-old boy fell into a sinkhole in his yard. That sparked concerns about rising temperatures underground and toxic fumes in the air.
The town was basically condemned, and as residents die or move out, their homes are torn down. Only a few still remain, but you can still wander the empty streets on Google Street View, including the deserted section of old Route 61 known as the Graffiti Highway.
Graffiti Highway will be closed and covered with dirt soon, so eventually this will be our only way of visiting it.
Angkor Wat is a 900-year-old Buddhist temple complex surrounded by a massive moat in Cambodia. It was originally built by the Khmer Empire in the 12th century as a Hindu funerary temple dedicated to the god Vishnu. It is believed to have been constructed as a mausoleum for King Suryayarman II, an idea supported by the fact that, while most Hindu temples had gates pointing to the east, Angkor Wat’s is to the west, which represents the setting sun and death.
In recent years, LiDAR scans have revealed the remains of an long-gone civilization – buried towers and mysterious structures forming a giant spiral underground that were previously unknown to archeologists.
Japan’s Cat Island
Aoshima is a tiny island in Japan known as Cat Island, where cats greatly outnumber the residents of its single village. A small number of cats were first introduced on the island in 1945 to combat the mice plaguing the fishermen’s boats. There were 900 people living there at the time. Today there are only 13 humans left on the island, but over 120 cats.
Inside the Hindenburg
On May 6th, 1937, the German transatlantic dirigible LZ 129 Hindenburg erupted in a massive fireball while attempting to dock in New Jersey. Passengers and crew jumped from the windows and ran from the burning wreck as it crashed to the ground. 36 people died, and the disaster effectively ended the era of the airship. During its short life, however, the Hindenburg was the largest of its kind. Its two decks contained 34 passenger cabins, a dining room, lounge, writing room, washrooms, crew mess hall, bar, smoking room, and a promenade on either side of the gondola.
The Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen contains a full-size replica of a section of the Hindenburg that lets you walk through some of those spaces. Thanks to Google, you can also explore those spaces without having to leave home.
Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft is home to necropants and other bizarre relics. This isn’t a virtual tour, but you can drop Pegman into various spots inside the museum and get a 360-degree view of the rooms.
Black Dahlia Murder House
The John Sowden house on Franklin Ave. in Los Feliz is one of LA’s most unusual homes. It’s unique Mayan Revival style was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, and built in 1926. The unusual facade resembles the mouth of a shark, leading some to call it the “Jaws House.” It served as the home of Ava Gardner in the 2004 film The Aviator about the life of Howard Hughes.
But the Sowden House has a sinister past that may be connected to the darkest corner of Hollywood’s past.
Dr. George Hodel was living with his family in the Sowden House in January 1947 when the body of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was found horrifically mutilated and dumped in a vacant lot in LA. Police had wiretapped the home and were close to making an arrest when Hodel abruptly left the country and never returned. In the book Black Dahlia Avenger, George’s son Steve Hodel, a former LA detective, builds the case for why he believes his father tortured and murdered Short in their home.
Take a tour of the house, and see if you can spot the sliding bookcase that concealed a secret room for hiding booze during the Prohibition era.