Halloween is around the corner, so it’s time to share some of the JFC team’s creepy travel experiences. A few of them, you might want to recreate for yourselves, others… not so much.
“I'm a sucker for anything remotely abandoned, I find it so fascinating to see how buildings are just left to decay. These are some of the most interesting and spooky that I've visited:
- A derelict sports complex in Havana, Cuba, still used by locals despite its decrepit condition.
- Tenerife’s abandoned leper village, built to control an outbreak but ultimately never populated thanks to revolutionary treatments.
- The now-famous holiday home of Pablo Escobar, a shell of what it once was after being blown apart by a bomb in 1993.
Wistman's Wood in Dartmoor National Park is also one of my faaaave spooky places. It's so quiet and eerie! The trees are so unusual and twisted, but just remember to keep your eyes peeled for the hellhounds…”
“I once went exploring around Coláiste Íosagáin, an abandoned Christian Brothers boarding school in County Cork, Ireland.
The school had a brutal reputation for abusing its students, and you could feel the sadness as you walked around it. The desperate messages scrawled on the walls only made it all the more eerie and depressing.
It was also known locally as a place where people would go to do seances and perform rituals. I’d thought those were just rumours, until I got there and saw the open books on the floor about exactly that.
It was also one of the filming locations for a film called Song for a Raggy Boy. The storyline had some uncomfortable parallels with the school’s own history, which only made the experience all the more grim.
“We were doing a late night walk in the Peruvian Amazon, near the three-border point with Colombia and Brazil. It was super dark, and we only had a tiny torch on our head. It was two of us, plus the guide, and thousands of tiny spider eyes staring at us.
At some point, we heard some noises coming from a bush close by and our guide froze, whispering, “it may be a jaguar, don't move.” I thought to myself, “bye mum, it's been fun.”
He got close to the bush, stomping on his old hiking boots and shook the leaves with his machete... it was a tapir mum with her baby! Our guide got SO excited and said it had been three years since the last time he saw a tapir. Took me a few seconds to start breathing again!”
“I fell asleep on a remote sand dune mountain in Nevada whilst star gazing.
I woke up in the middle of the night, no moon to light the sky, and panned my torch about. There was a quick, reflected flash from two forward-facing predator eyes away in the distance, on the crest of another dune.
My heart rate elevated. “They don't have cougars in Nevada, do they?” I wondered… (they do).
I panned the torch around again. The eyes are closer than before. I start walking slowly away… Probably just desert fox. Probably.
I try the torch again. Four eyes now. Loping. Even closer, only another ridge away. Probably just curious. Probably.
Confident walking away quickly turns into a terrified, careering run down 400ft of sand dune in the dark back to the safety of the car. Foxes (probably) laughing.
“After a late flight into Georgia earlier this year, our coach transfer to Tbilisi got held up by a landslide on the motorway around 50 minutes into a 3.5hr journey. There was no way around it, so the driver parked up in the main square of a small town in central Georgia for the night.
We were free to leave and find somewhere to stay for the night, but we quickly realised that accommodation in Zestafoni was few and far between—especially at 11pm. Plus, with snow up to our calves, none of us fancied abandoning the warmth and occasional Wi-Fi of the bus.
“I <3 Zestafoni”
After a restless night aboard the coach with 40-odd others, it became clear that the driver had no idea when we’d be able to move again. Thankfully, the one passenger who spoke both Georgian and English knew that the first commuter train out of there would leave at 6am, headed to Khashuri, which would perfectly circumnavigate the closure. So off we went.
Tickets acquired, we made our way towards the beaten-up, single-carriage Soviet relic on the platform. It was still dark, there was no indication that this train would take us where we wanted to go, and we couldn’t speak the language. As I grabbed the handles by the door to pull myself up into the unlit train, my partner jokingly said the words, “welcome to the abattoir.”
And that’s when the stench of raw meat hit me like a ton of bricks. As I moved through the first compartment, I was greeted by huge plastic containers full of mystery cuts of mystery animal, accompanied by grubby older guys in dusty work clothes. I quickly averted my eyes and made my way onwards through the darkened compartments.
Eventually, in the second-last of 8 compartments, I found a couple I recognised from our bus and joined them—this felt safe. Ish. We sat down on the solid bench seats, knowing we had a couple of hours of discomfort ahead of us, but at least there would be safety in numbers, right?
A few minutes later, the train started squeaking ominously along the platform, still in complete darkness. Sleep-deprived and basing our whole onward journey on the word of one seemingly kind man on the bus, we began to accept that we may be chugging along to our deaths.
My friend Mary, tired and suspicious of our surroundings
And then the light in our compartment came on. And then it went off. And then it flickered for the next two hours. All we could see out the windows was the occasional glowing neon cross on the hillside, which only added to the discomfort.
Then the darkness lifted somewhat, and the sky became navy blue, allowing us to make out the snowy, mountainous landscape of the Imereti region around us. It was breathtaking. The train meandered on for a couple of hours, squeezing in an unfathomable number of commuters along the way. But eventually we arrived in Khashuri, victorious.
Holding our breath, we manoeuvred our way off the train past containers of meat and into the snow. Then we remembered that we still had to get to Tbilisi.