Nearly six years ago, I wrote about eight real places that’d make for some fantastically creepy settings for horror games. From Japan’s eerily silent “Suicide Forest” where hundreds of people have entered and never left, to an old Czechoslovakian cathedral decorated with the remains of tens of thousands of people, it became immediately clear the world we live in is strange and terrifying, and we’re all one GPS glitch away from accidentally venturing into a real-life Silent Hill, valley of rock knives, or an island run by indigenous cannibals, deadly snakes or evil dolls.
With that in mind, here are five more reasons why you should never ever leave the safety of your home, lest you risk losing your life, soul or sanity to one of the seemingly infinite number of abandoned asylums our society just left lying around over the years.
The Catacombe dei Cappuccini, or Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, is the name that was given to a labyrinthine series of burial catacombs in Palermo, Italy, but don’t be fooled, this is absolutely a dead people jerky meat rack. It began at the end of the 16th century when the first corpse, a Capuchin monk named Fra Silvestro da Gubbio, was mummified inside the crypt alongside about four dozen other friars, who were all mummified so effectively that their faces were still identifiable hundreds of years later.
For centuries, the catacombs welcomed thousands of people into the ranks of the dead, including undergoing the extraordinarily effective mummification process — after a small donation, naturally — until its official closure in 1880. It’s only accepted two bodies since then, with the most recent being two year-old Rosalia Lombardo, who’s since claimed the unfortunate title of “world’s most beautiful mummy,” in case you’ve ever wondered if traveling the world playing Hot or Not with mummies was someone’s actual job description.
Suspended somewhere between life and death, the Capuchin Catacombs have become a popular, albeit delightfully macabre, tourist destination for a myriad curious artists, poets and philosophers, among them the famous Italian poet Ippolito Pindemonte who wrote of it in the Dei Sepolcri, “Death looks at them and it seems to have missed all shots.”
In addition to the otherworldly and decidedly sinister atmosphere the Ghost City of Fengdu always exudes, this place is proof that China is better than us. Even their ghost towns are superior to ours. Have you visited an American ghost town lately? They’re mostly trash and graffiti that form a general town-like structure, and not a single one of them are as photogenic as Fengdu, unless you fancy pictures of tumbleweeds, broken dreams and used heroin needles.
Woah, that got sad fast. Sorry about that.
What’s neat about Fengdu is how it’s both a tourist attraction and a spiritual hub the dead must travel to so they can endure an intense screening process that sounds more or less like a DMV for dead folks. The belief is the dead must pass through three tests before they can move on. The “Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge” tests their morality, the “Ghost Torturing Pass” has them present their sins for judgment, then they have to do the Flamingo outside the Tianzi Palace for three minutes or be sent to Hell.
“But Adam, I’m no ghost!” you say? Well, it’s not just a scenic spot the dead can gather at for strenuous exams or to shop for fresh meat bags to cling to so they can siphon their life essence, it’s also a strangely haunting lesson in morality for the living.
Scattered about the massive complex are statues depicting an impressive cast of wholesome characters, such as the man who got over-turnt, the oversexed man, and two boys who appear to be taking turns spanking each other’s bare bottoms. Are you motivated to do good yet?
All you really need to know about the Sanctuary of Tophet in Tunisia to understand why I felt I had to include it here is that it was once the spot where many drummers would come to make music, music that was used to drown out the dying screams of thousands of children the Carthaginians once brought there to be burned alive. It’s also the home of a Roman necropolis.
“Sanctuary” seems like an odd label for what was basically an enormous bonfire made of kids, for kids, and so does the erroneous belief that burning scores of living children before they’re old enough to be allowed to see a PG-13 movie — that wouldn’t be invented for a few thousand more years — is going to please any deity that’s worth pleasing.
‘Tophet’, I should mention, is Hebrew for ‘place of burning’, though a more accurate description would go something like ‘place of-FUCK ME THAT’S A LOT OF URNS’. Since this Sanctuary for Shitty Old Beliefs was discovered by archaeologists nearly a century ago, it’s produced more than 20,000 urns filled with the ashes of children.
“20,000 urns filled with the ashes of children” isn’t a particularly enjoyable sentence to have to read, and you’ve done it twice now. If life had achievements, you would’ve just earned the saddest one. Let’s celebrate that feat with a look at Kampung Monyet, or “Monkey Village”.
Don’t you dare laugh. Don’t even crack a smile. See, these aren’t ordinary monkeys, whatever that even means. No, these furry freak shows are the monkey equivalent of a modern failed circus performer, if that sad individual was also mentally unhinged and prone to wearing inordinately creepy baby doll mask. I wish I made that up. I didn’t. And if you think that’s frightening, wait until you see the gaggle of nightmare monkeys I’ve trained to wait for you in the gallery below.
These foul creatures once had a purpose in providing some much-needed entertainment to poor slum kids back in the 80s. It’s easy to picture the delight on a child’s face as they watch a costumed macaque dancing around — so easy, you can almost forget about the tens of thousands of kids from earlier. You know, the ones who died unimaginably painful deaths at the hands of extremely stupid adults. Remember them? Me neither! They probably deserved it, those rabble-rousers.
I think we can all agree those masked monkeys are right up there with Rick Astley and everything everyone ever wore on the list of things the 1980s can promptly take the fuck back.
Compared to the other places on this list, the ‘City of the Dead’ in Dargavs, Russia is like one of those fancy new playgrounds with the free salt water taffy dispensers that aren’t really a thing, even though they absolutely will be if you vote for me, Adam “Eh?” Dodd, as your new Mayor of Bloody Disgusting.
What’s interesting about Dargavs, aside from the creepy moniker its been given by the locals, is no one seems to know why it exists. The site is a necropolis — hence the name — with numerous tombs hidden beneath it, but there’s no record left to explain the significance of the nearly 100 huts that pepper the surface, or why they’re in such an isolated spot deep within the Caucasus mountains.
There’s more, but first, some bad jokes: I bet their HOA meetings are… lively. I’d move there, but I heard the rent is ghoulish (thanks Jon!) Or hey, what do City of the Deadites ask to borrow a cup of? Sugar? No, you dumb idiot! Salt! Get it – cause ghosts?
Locals have been burying their dead in Dragovs for hundreds of years, with the earliest mention of it dating back to the fourteenth century. The huts are void of any human life, obviously, with window-esque holes that weren’t for spying on neighbors, but rather, for dumping deceased loved ones along with any garbage they accumulated back when they still had hopes and dreams.
Another mystery that has yet to be solved is the purpose of the boats that house the dead in the tombs beneath Dragovs, or how they got there. The most likely answer is they believed their dead had to cross a river in the afterlife, similar to the river Styx in Greek mythology, the Sanzu River in Buddhism, or the Vaitarna River in Hinduism.
That’s it. A fifth list of freaky places to make you question whether it’s really worth leaving your house to get groceries when you can just order them online. It’s probably safe where you live, surely there’s no masked monkey waiting under your bed, or in your cabinet, closet, car, pants pocket, or waiting silently behind you.