We understand that when you book a cruise holiday, getting a case of some serious heebie-jeebies might not feature high on your list of considerations. However, with the nights getting longer and Halloween drawing ever closer, we have picked out our top five spookiest places to visit on a cruise should you wish to mix the magical with the macabre on your next holiday.
The Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires (Argentina)
When the official tourism website for Buenos Aires invites you to “lose yourself in the labyrinth city of the dead”, then you know you’re onto a good/bad (delete as applicable) thing. The final resting place of Eva Peron, as well as many of Argentina’s Presidents, the Recoleta Cemetery is a maze of above-ground crypts, tombs and mausoleums – 94 of which have been declared historical monuments and are protected by the Argentinian government.
Despite its quiet, tranquil atmosphere and some truly beautiful architecture, the Recoleta Cemetery certainly has its fair share of ghoulish tales. Most famous is that of “The Girl Who Died Twice”; Rufina Cambacérès, a 19 year-old socialite who was becoming an increasingly frequent fixture at the city’s various events and evening soirees during the turn of the 1900s.
While getting ready to attend a show, Cambacérès suddenly collapsed and was later pronounced dead by no less than 3 doctors. In the days that followed, a funeral was held and Cambacérès body was placed in a coffin and sealed in her family’s mausoleum.
A short time after the funeral, an employee of the cemetery noticed that Cambacérès coffin had been moved from its original place in the crypt. Not only that, but it was clear the door had been broken. Legend has it that upon closer inspection, the cemetery worker found scratch marks on the underside of the coffin’s lid, giving the impression that Cambacérès had attempted to break free – yet Cambacérès’ body was still inside.
The explanation given for this strange occurrence is that catalepsy had caused Cambacérès’ initial collapse, which in turn led to the misdiagnosis and Cambacérès’ evident desperation to escape her coffin. A desperation so great, that doctors believed her to have ‘died’ a second time from exhaustion.
The Recoleta Cemetery also has it’s own collection of ghosts; one of which is said to be the spirit of a worker who committed suicide there. According to other employees, you can occasionally hear the clinking of keys as he goes about his nightly duties.
In total there are 4,691 vaults the cemetery so make sure you pick up a map before exploring – you probably wouldn’t want to be stuck there when the sun goes down…
Salem, Massachusetts (USA)
Located just a short drive or ferry trip from Boston, Salem is a coastal town where over 200 women and young girls were accused of witchcraft during the 17th century. Reminiscent of what had happened in medieval Europe many years before, those believed to have made a deal with the devil were subjected to a series of distressing tests in order to determine their ‘witchy-ness’. These included being dunked in water and pressed between heavy stones in order to force a confession.
Depending on how they fared in the tests, those unlucky enough to be charged were either killed, or jailed without hope of ever being released. So crazed was the hysteria, it wasn’t until the wife of one of the colony’s governors was accused before things were eventually brought to a halt.
While those imprisoned were eventually released and pardoned, Salem’s reputation remains entwined in the cobwebs of this extremely dark period. Visit the town today and you will find an abundance of tours available, many of which visit key witch trial sites such as the town’s old jail and the dungeon where the supposed witches were held before being executed – there is even a museum dedicated to trials.
For an eerie treat, we recommend heading to the ‘Witch House’, an ominous looking building complete with jagged roofs and darkened wooden panelling. It’s the only building still standing with a direct tie to the witch trials and is the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin; the man partly responsible for sentencing the accused.
Witchcraft aside, Salem is an interestingly pleasant place to spend a bit of time; particularly if your ship is docked in Boston and you are looking for an alternative to exploring the busy city. It’s packed with colonial history and boasts some fantastic olde worlde New England architecture. If you are planning to spend an afternoon exploring, you could do far worse than follow the Heritage Trail, a red line painted on the sidewalks which will take you on a self-guided tour of the best sites in the town.
Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim (Norway)
A frequent port of call on any discerning Norwegian Fjords cruise itinerary, Trondheim is the third largest city in Norway. Famous for its picturesque harbour, pretty wooden houses and a year-round programme of musical festivals, Trondheim offers a neat little summary of everything there is to be celebrated about Scandinavian culture.
One of the cities hotspots is undoubtedly Nidaros Cathedral. Situated close to the banks of the Nidelva river and widely regarded as the most important church in Norway, Nidaros was built in 1070 and later restored in 1814. The cathedral was constructed to memorialise the burial place of King Olaf II, who was felled in battle in 1030 and stands today as a testament to the men and women who in many cases, spent their entire lives working on it.
Nidaros Cathedral is also home to one of Norway’s most famous ghosts, commonly known as ‘The Bloody Monk’. In fact, the monk gained such notoriety that he was the inspiration for a novel by Norwegian writer Frid Ingulstad and even made a fleeting appearance in The Brothers Dal, a Norwegian comedy series that took inspiration from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Like all ghost stories worth their salt, this one starts with a detailed eyewitness account. Back in 1924, a Bishop’s wife known only as Marie was attending a service at the cathedral when, during the middle of a hymn, she noticed a strange apparition standing in one of the archways. Noting his appearance – a tonsure, a monk’s robe and glowing eyes – Marie watched him make his way through the congregation until he was standing directly behind the singing priest.
What happened next sounds like something from a horror film and is certainly not for the squeamish. Placing his hands around the neck of the priest, he began to choke him, stopping only to look up and reveal a gaping wound across his neck, pouring with blood.
Unable to look at the grisly sight any longer, Marie diverted her gaze, only to glance up again and see the monk standing in the same place he originally appeared. With his arms folded, Marie then watched him remove his head from his body and vanish.
Adding weight to Marie’s story, the priest later recalled being struck by a panicked desperation, as if he was choking on something, while others attending the service said that while they did not necessarily see a monk, they confirmed seeing a pair of hands clasped around the priest’s neck.
As the years have passed, many either working at or visiting the Nidaros Cathedral believe they have seen the same monk. Some even recall seeing the him reach out to choke someone…
Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona (Spain)
Two fires and one arson attack. To say Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu has had an unfortunate history would be something of an understatement.
Built in 1847, the theatre was intended to support and promote the city’s artistic endeavours. Famed for premiering a range of musical performances, Liceu quickly rose to prominence as one of Europe’s leading opera houses. However in 1861, just 14 years after its opening, Liceu suffered its first disaster; a raging fire that ripped through the building leaving only the foyer, entrance hall and facade untouched.
Having been rebuilt in just over a year, the theatre reopened – but it wasn’t long before a second disaster stuck. This time, during a performance of William Tell, two bombs were thrown from the stalls. While only one exploded, the blast’s close proximity to those attending the show led to the death of over twenty people and left many others injured.
At the time, Barcelona – like many European cities in the late 1900s – was experiencing an unprecedented level of social unrest. The attack was carried out by anarchist Santiago Salvador, who in the immediate aftermath fled to Zaragoza, attempted suicide (twice) and was later arrested and executed by garrote.
Following a period of relative calm – and ignoring the various ownership issues that arose due to the Spanish Civil War – Liceu experienced a second fire in 1994. Again, the flames caused widespread destruction, resulting a complete rebuild which sought to improve the theatre’s facilities while retaining and preserving the few areas that had remained unaffected by the fire.
Legend has it that the grounds the theatre was built on were used as an execution site during the Middle Ages and that an evil curse still permeates its way deep into the building’s walls. While it’s true that many old theatres and opera houses claim to be haunted, few have manifested themselves in such horrific real-world tragedies.
If visiting Barcelona on a cruise, you will find Gran Teatre del Liceu located on the busy Las Ramblas boulevard. In its current guise, Liceu frequently hosts ballet and opera performances with tours available to book from €16.
Dragon Lodge, Hong Kong
If heading to Hong Kong in the future, a trip up Victoria Peak is highly recommended. Regarded as offering the best possible vantage point of the glorious cityscape below, The Peak (as it’s known locally), boasts a colourful history and was once one of the most city’s exclusive neighbourhoods, luring in the rich and famous with its impressive views and cooler air.
It is on The Peak where you will find the final inclusion on our list of the spookiest places to visit on a cruise – and where better to finish than a haunted house?
Situated on a residential street called Lugard Road, Dragon Lodge is an abandoned villa where suicides, executions and ghosts have all played a part in its eerie past. Built shortly before World War II (although there are no official records of its actual year of construction), Dragon Lodge has frequently attracted misfortune and disaster throughout its relatively short life.
According to reports and internet hearsay, the first owner of Dragon Lodge was a wealthy businessman who lost the property after filing for bankruptcy. Its second incumbent, also one of esteemed wealth, committed suicide. Shortly after – and perhaps most disturbing of all – comes a tale claiming the front lawn of Dragon Lodge was used as an execution site to behead seven Catholic nuns during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.
In the years that followed, Dragon Lodge was used in a “pump and dump” property scheme, before its last permanent residents took up the property in the 1970s. An old blog post (now expired) written by a lady who claimed to have lived there during this period stated that they were visited by the ghost of a child. Dressed in a white gown and with thick matted hair, the ghost made frequent visits, with the lady stating “there was something very sorrowful about the child as she seemed to be asking for help”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly – and despite initial interest from multiple potential buyers – the current owner of the property has been unable to drive a successful sale. No-one knows why this is the case, though it’s once eye-catching exterior is unlikely to do it any favours. Now covered in graffiti, decaying plaster and surrounded by overgrown jungle, Dragon Lodge has become a regular haunt for urban explorers, squatters and those piqued by its interesting past.