Peeling paint, walls dripping with condensation and windows with shattered glass – there’s something very eerie about an unlived-in building. From discarded hotels to ghost towns and flooded villages, we’ve rounded up some of the spookiest abandoned places in the world, for intrepid travellers with a macabre sense of adventure.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, USA
Once the world’s most expensive prison, from 1829 this Philadelphia facility boasted grand architecture, modern luxuries and notorious inmates including Al Capone. One of the first penitentiaries every built, it combined impressive design and strict discipline to inspire regret and reform in the hearts of convicts. Since its closure in 1971, the complex has crumbled into a mass of deteriorating cellblocks, which are now recognised as a National Historic Landmark. Eastern State Penitentiary is open to visitors year round.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where Al Capone was an inmate © Zack Frank/Shutterstock
Lee Plaza Hotel, Detroit, USA
The formerly luxurious Lee Plaza Hotel stands windowless and exposed. It is just one of Detroit’s many abandoned places that mark the shocking decline of a major American city. Once at the centre of a booming motor industry, the successive blows of economic recessions, competition from overseas and race riots chipped away at Detroit’s early prosperity. A staggering 60% of the city’s peak population has now moved away, leaving behind a living example of urban decay.
Abandoned hotel (illustration) © Cristian Lipovan/Shutterstock
Winchester Mystery House, California, USA
Eccentric and extravagant, this Victorian mansion in California is a maze of dead-ends, secret doorways and stairs that lead to nowhere. Driven by paranoia and superstition, the Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester began building in 1884 and ordered that construction should never cease. In the 38 years until her death, the residence mushroomed into a labyrinth of architectural oddities seven storeys high. Although damaged in the 1906 earthquake, the house is open to visitors who can explore the 160 surviving rooms.
Winchester Mystery House, California © Top Photo Corporation/Shutterstock
Bodie Ghost Town, California, USA
Settled by prospectors lured by the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, Bodie became a booming mining town of fortune-hungry men, saloon shootouts and barroom brawls. Its fortune was short-lived however. By the 1890s gold strikes elsewhere had drawn the crowds away, causing the population to dwindle. Frozen in time, this ghost town became a National Historical Landmark in the 1960s. Now, tourists, not miners, flock here to walk the deserted streets and admire the town’s arrested decline.
Bodie Ghost Town, California © Boris Edelmann/Shutterstock
An urban museum of corroding classic cars, dilapidated high-rise hotels and shop fronts boasting the latest in 1970s fashion: for the deserted Varosha quarter in Famagusta city, time froze in 1974. Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Varosha’s inhabitants were forced into a life of exile. Once a favourite destination of the rich and famous, people today can only peep through barbed wire as nature reclaims the buildings.
Varosha, Cyprus © Baran Arda/Shutterstock
Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang
Unoccupied, unopened and never finished, the 105-storey shell of the Ryugyong Hotel is a scar on Pyongyang’s skyline and North Korea’s pride. Construction on the hotel began in 1987 but stopped after five years due to a lack of funds. Once proudly emblazoned across North Korean stamps, this vacant hotel soon became airbrushed out of official photos. Despite nearly two decades of abandonment, construction resumed in 2008 but whether the hotel will ever be completed is open to debate.
Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea © Oleg Znamenskiy/Shutterstock
San Juan Parangaricutiro, Michoacán, Mexico
Defiantly protruding from a desolate landscape of ash and lava, this church tower is all that remains of the devastated village of San Juan Parangaricutiro, Mexico. Beginning in 1943, successive eruptions of the Paricutin volcano slowly engulfed houses, streets and livelihoods, masking all signs of life under a black cloak of molten rock and ash. Today, tourists drawn to this isolated ruin can marvel at the still intact, though vacant, altar inside.
San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro, Michoacan, Mexico © stacyarturogi/Shutterstock
Boldly rising 75 metres above the waterline, the bell tower of the flooded St. Nicholas Church marks the site where the Russian town of Kalyazin once stood. When the Uglich Reservoir was created in 1939, the town was purposely flooded, and the landscape was irreparably altered. Attracted to the simplistic beauty of the remaining belfry, tourists visiting on boats can explore this enduring landmark of the sunken town.
A ships float past the famous Kalyazin Bell Tower © Elena Ignatyeva/Shutterstock
ZKP Tagansky, Moscow, Russia
Hidden sixty metres below the streets of Moscow lies ZKP Tanansky, a 7,000 sq metre space which once served as a secret Cold War–era communications centre. Built in the 1950s, this vast complex was designed to withstand a direct nuclear attack and filled with enough supplies to stay running for months afterwards. Since its declassification in 1995, Bunker 42 has drawn many visitors keen to delve into the secrets of the past.
Tunnel at Bunker-42, anti-nuclear underground facility built in 1956 as command post of strategic nuclear forces of Soviet Union © Gilmanshin/Shutterstock
Presidio Modelo, Cuba
Empty since 1967, this “Model Prison” still radiates desperation and paranoia. Commissioned in 1926 by dictator Gerardo Machado, and inspired by the Panopticon model, its oppressive architecture was designed to create a sense of constant, invisible monitoring. Even though Fidel Castro was once an inmate here, under Castro’s government the prison’s population ballooned to over 6,000 “enemies” of the state. Now a museum, visitors can experience the forbidding atmosphere still present in these echoing corridors and vacant cells.
Presidio Modelo Prison on the Isle of Youth, Cuba © Danita Delimont/Shutterstock
Maunsell Forts, Kent, England
Jutting out of the waters of the Thames Estuary, The Maunsell Forts slowly rust away. Built in 1942, these offshore fortified towers were designed to provide anti-aircraft fire during the Second World War. After they were decommissioned in the late 1950s, a number of the structures were re-occupied by pirate radio stations. However, for the past three decades the forts have stood abandoned and largely ignored.
Maunsell Sea Forts © The Drone Company/Shutterstock
Cherokee Nuclear Plant, South Carolina, USA
Empty and unfinished for nearly two decades, this failed energy project in South Carolina got a new lease of life in 1987 as an underwater film set for science-fiction thriller The Abyss. Forgotten once again after filming finished, the sets were left on the site until they were finally demolished in 2007. However, there is hope on the horizon: a new power plant is due to be built adjacent to the old structure.
© Anna Vaczi/Shutterstock
A vast stretch of snow-covered bleakness, this Ukrainian city has been deserted since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in April 1986. In just four hours, Pripyat’s entire population was evacuated, and with radiation remaining too high for human habitation, the people never returned. Among the overwhelming sense of abandonment, the most iconic reminder of the disaster is a rusting ferris wheel in an amusement park that was due to open just days after the accident took place.
Battleship Island, Japan
A maze of cracked concrete, crumbling plaster and snapshots of frozen lives, Battleship Island in Japan resembles a long-forgotten war zone. It was deserted overnight after the closure of its coal mine in 1974. Fallen facades of buildings expose abandoned places littered with reminders of their inhabitants: shoes remain where they were kicked off, half-read newspapers litter the floor and once-loved posters slowly peel off bedroom walls.
Hashima Island (Gunkanjima / Battleship Island) © Sitthinart Susevi/Shutterstock
Beelitz Military Hospital, Berlin
A rotting carcass of deserted corridors and empty patient wards, this military hospital in Berlin once housed German and Soviet soldiers, but has been largely unused since the late 1990s. Derelict it may be, but it has not been entirely abandoned; empty bottles and rubbish scattered on the ground hint at the disparate groups of opportunistic looters. Weekend wanderers, curious travellers and inspired photographers are drawn to the decayed aesthetic of this moribund site.
Interior from the famous abandoned Hospital Complex in Beelitz, Berlin, Germany © Pixeljoy/Shutterstock
During the Cold War this top-secret submarine base was a hive of activity. Hidden in the hillside and designed to withstand a direct atomic attack, this giant underground complex once housed a fleet of Soviet nuclear warheads and submarines. Once so secret that the surrounding town of Balaklava had to be erased from maps, today, visitors can explore the maze of dark winding canals that make up this now deserted site.
Underground submarine base in Balaklava, Crimea © Igor Krasilov/Shutterstock
Bannerman Castle, Pollepel Island, New York
Francis Bannerman VI built a huge storing space after buying the American military surplus from the Spanish war. However, much of the castle was destroyed following a massive explosion of ammunition in 1920. Thereafter, the remains of the castle were abandoned.
Dundas Castle, New York
The elegant New York castle was designed by architect Bradford L. Gilbert for his Scottish wife – Anna Dundas. But even before the completion of the structure, Gilbert died and Dundas committed herself to a sanatorium. So, though none got a chance to live in it, there are legends about the ghost of Dundas that roams through the halls of the abandoned castle.
Miranda Castle, Belgium
The Count Liedekerke Beaufort, a Belgian political activist, was forced to leave his home and move with his family to a neighboring land during the French Revolution. In 1866, the English architect Edward Milner was commissioned to build a summer home. But before the castle was completed, Milner died. Thereafter, the castle served as a camp for the Nazis during World War II, a holiday camp under National Railway Company of Belgium, and an orphanage. Finally, the castle was abandoned in 1991 due to the high maintenance costs.
Kilchurn Castle, Scotland
Built in the mid-1400s, Kilchurn Castle has served as the home to some of the most powerful people in Scotland. But despite its striking location, it was abandoned in the 1700s and remains to be only a prime photography location.
Bodiam Castle, England
Built in the 14th-century East Sussex (England) to protect the area against the French, the castle survived several wars before it was finally abandoned. Today, it stands as a popular tourist attraction in England.
Witley Court, Worcestershire, England
The 19th century palatial Witley Court never managed to fully recover to its former glory after the devastating fire of 1937. After some restoration to the huge estate, this otherwise abandoned place now serves as a tourist place. Visitors can wander through the gardens and see the large fountain of Perseus and Andromeda.
Dome Homes, Florida
A little off the coast of Marco Island in Cape Romano (Florida), the Dome Homes is a structure that was built as a vacation home. However, the alien-spacecraft-like structure eventually became abandoned following a series of hurricanes and the declining coastline.
The small hill town in Basilicata (south Italy) came into existence in 540 AD. But the town’s location ultimately became the reason for its downfall. Due to the poor agriculture, the landslide of 1963, the flood of 1972, and the continued instability of the slope on which the town was located, Craco was eventually abandoned totally by early 1990s. However, it was seen again in the popular movie The Passion of The Christ.
Nestled among the Taurus Mountains, Kayakoy town in Turkey has been deserted since the 1920s due to the political population exchange with Greece. With over 350 vacant homes, it is one of the popular abandoned places in the world.
Established by Henry Ford – the founder of Ford motors – in 1927, Fordlandia was intended to be a huge rubber plantation in the Amazon forest. Ford planned a corporate city surrounding it with every kind of imaginable luxury. Swimming pools, a golf course, bungalows, and even a place for practicing national American dances – all these were supposed to be a part of the corporate city. But the idea of liquor ban infuriated the native workers who threw the cars into the river and chased away the managers into the jungle in 1930. Since then, the city has been abandoned.
Varosha was a modern tourist area in the early 1970s in north Cyprus. Its luxurious beaches and hotels attracted celebrities including Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor, who took sunbaths right on the Varosha beach. But, with the invasion of the Turkish in 1974, things changed drastically and the entire population fled the area in fear of a massacre. Ever since, due to tense political situations, the area has remained abandoned.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster of 1986 caused a city-wide leak of nuclear radiation. Once a township of thousands of plant workers and their families, Pripyat had to be evacuated immediately.
Villa Epecuén, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
The erstwhile tourist village of Villa Epecuén on the shores of Lake Epecuén was very popular during the 1920s – early 1980s. However, when the dam holding back the lake’s waters failed in 19085, the entire village was flooded. Though the water receded, what remained of the village has been abandoned since then.
The town was founded in 1908 in the Namib desert by German settlers looking for diamonds. However, the resources were exhausted by mid-1950s and the town was abandoned thereafter. Today, the homes are filled high with sand that provides an eerie, but striking, image to the town.
Sanzhi, the city of the UFO houses in Taiwan, was developed as a vacation destination for the US military officers returning from their positions in Asia. But the unfortunate car accidents & the loss of investments forced this site to close down in 1980. The structure too were torn apart entirely in 2010.
Ghost Town of Bodie, California, USA
It was in 1876 that miners discovered rich deposits of gold and silver in the town. But the city soon gained the reputation of a ‘sin city’, owing to its myriad brothels and hop joints. And it wasn’t long before it finally went bankrupt in the 1940s and become one of the best well-preserved ghost towns in the world.
Gouqi Island, China
Located on the Yangtze River in China, the fishing village of Gouqi island is known for the lush buildings covered in greenery and ivy.
Ross Island, India
The erstwhile British administrative center for the Indian Penal Settlement, Ross Island was an abandoned island in southern Andaman until recently. It is now maintained by the government and is a major tourist attraction in Andaman. The graveyard and the ruined church provide an eerie feeling to this abandoned island.
Hirta Island, Scotland
Once a lush island occupied by a large population, the Hirta Island has remained abandoned since the 1930s due to the threat of starvation and the harsh weather conditions.
Hashima Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Popularly called the Battleship Island, the Hashima Island was home to a coal mining facility, a hospital, a school, and numerous restaurants during its prime time (late-19th century to mid-20th century). However, they are all in a dilapidated state today.
Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
The Island of Dolls is situated on the outskirts of Mexico City. The story speaks of the island’s former caretaker who discovered a dead girl in the canal bordering the island. In order to appease the dead girl’s spirit, he began collecting dolls from the trash and hanging them up throughout the island. Strangely, the dead body of the caretaker was found in 2001 in the same spot where he claimed to have spotted the dead girl.
Poveglia Island, Italy
Located in the Venetian Lagoon of Italy, Poveglia island became a dumping ground for plague victims under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was, then, converted into an asylum for the mentally ill before it was abandoned altogether.
Six Flags, New Orleans, USA
The erstwhile theme park was destroyed by the Katrina hurricane of 2005 that destroyed about 80% of the rides. Due to the high restoration costs, the theme park was eventually abandoned.
Wonderland Amusement Park, Beijing, China
Designed to be Beijing’s answer to Disneyland, the Wonderland Amusement Park could become nothing more than one of the abandoned places around the world. The land prices led to the halt in construction in the year 1998. The land area is partially being used by local farmers to grow crops. There are also plans of demolishing the abandoned structures to make space for a shopping centre.
Dadipark, Dadizele, Belgium
Dadipark was one of the chic amusement parks in Belgium that got shut down over a decade back when a young boy lost his arm in one of the rides. Despite numerous leaks about its renovations and reopening plans, all that the park has seen so far is rust, graffiti, and underground skating parks.
Nara Dreamland Theme Park, Japan
Inspired by the Disneyland, the Nara Dreamland Park was opened in 1961 but was shut down by 2006. Ever since it has held one of the spooky-looking abandoned places in the world.
Spreepark, Berlin, Germany
Opened in the then-Soviet-ruled East Berlin in 1969, Spreepark was the only amusement park in the region back then. With the passage of time, the wall fell and bigger & better parks opened up. Subsequently, the amusement park was shut down in 2001 and has remained abandoned ever since.
Gulliver’s Travels Park, Kawaguchi, Japan
Opened in 1997, the Gulliver’s Travels Park in the Kawaguchi region of Japan could not last any longer than 10 years despite the financial aid from the Japanese government.
Floating Forest, Sydney
Built in 1911, this SS Ayrfield retired in 1972 and was dumped in the ship graveyard in the Homebush Bay (west of Sydney). But the majestic mangrove trees and the greenery sprouting out of the vessel make it stand out from the rest.
Hotel del Salto, Columbia
Once a luxurious hotel, Tequendama Falls Hotel was built in the early 1920s in the city of San Antonio del Tequendama. But with the passage of time, the Bogota river became contaminated and the tourism declined. Eventually, the hotel was shut down and is now believed to be haunted.