haunted places

Would you dare to visit the Island of Dolls? (Photo: Getty Images)

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Don’t Believe in Ghosts? These 8 Spooky Spots Could Change Your Mind

Fall is the time of year when haunted houses start popping up in cornfields across America, scary movies are on every channel on TV and kids get excited about dressing up for a night of trick-or-treating.But some places in the U.S., Canada and Mexico feel like Halloween year-round.

From hotels to boats to lighthouses, these eight spots are sure to bring the spooky — and have you second-guessing every little noise — whether it’s October 31 or not.

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Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico City

Just south of Mexico City, tucked between the canals of Xochimico, lies the floating Isla de las Muñecas (Island of Dolls), home to hundreds of creeptastic dolls hanging from trees and vines. Visitors to the island have reported seeing the small figures moving their heads and arms and opening their eyes.

The dolls were hung from the trees in the 1950s after a young girl was found drowned in the water lilies in the canal. The owner of the island, Don Julián Santana, strung up the dolls because he believed they would appease the girl’s spirit. In a dark twist, Santana eventually drowned himself in the same spot where he found the little girl years before.

Getting to the island is tricky (it’s about a three- to four-hour round trip by ferry from Embarcadero Cuemanco or Embarcadero Fernando Celada) but worth it for a truly spooky experience.

Queen Mary, California

If you’ve ever been through Long Beach, California, it’s not a replica of the Titanic that you see docked — it’s a famous British ocean liner named the Queen Mary. Her maiden voyage took place in May of 1936, and she sailed to her permanent mooring in California in 1967.

After boat tourism dropped off, the Queen Mary survived a collision at sea and played a significant role in the Allied campaign in World War II, including D-Day. The world’s most haunted ship is said to house about 150 known spirits that have never left its holds.

Consistently voted one of the most haunted places in America, the Queen Mary holds twilight tours and séances regularly, allowing visitors to experience the paranormal activity firsthand.

Haunted hot spots include the engine room and the swimming pool rooms where women dressed in 1930s bathing suits and wet footprints have been found even though the rooms are no longer in use, and there are frequently ghost sightings and odd sounds in the first-class staterooms.

West Virginia Penitentiary, West Virginia

The unique Gothic-designed prison first opened in 1866 in Moundsville, West Virginia, and didn’t close until 1995, meaning there is a long history here and plenty of ghost stories to go with it.

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The state pen is a terrifying place. (Photo: Getty Images)

There were executions, riots and murders among inmates, and legend has it that they still haunt the grounds. Besides the violence among the inmates, prisoners were regularly beaten and tortured by prison officials, so the exact number of inmates who died here is unknown.

We do know that 85 men were hanged and nine were electrocuted in a chair called “Old Sparky” in one of the most violent correctional facilities that ever existed in the United States, and spirits have been seen in the prison’s chapel, showers, death row cells and more. Tours are offered daily with special events during the Halloween season.

Robert the Doll, Florida

Robert the Doll is named after Robert Eugene “Gene” Otto, a 19th-century boy in Key West, Florida. But Robert was never a typical toy. This life-sized, straw-filled doll is said to have supernatural abilities and tormented Gene and his family with manic giggling and movements.

His mom locked the doll in the attic, but after Gene’s parents passed away, he inherited the house and returned Robert to his childhood bedroom.

Visitors reported hearing the doll laugh, seeing it move from window to window from outside the house, and some say the doll drove Gene’s wife crazy (literally).

Today, you can visit Robert the Doll at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, but make sure you ask permission before taking a picture — Robert is known for casting curses on those who don’t.

Craigdarroch Castle, British Columbia

This famous Canadian castle was built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir in the late 1800s and is now a National Historic Site.

He died in 1889 before the castle was finished, but his family lived in the castle until his wife’s death in 1908. The ghost of his wife, Joan, is rumored to frequent the ballroom, while guests have reported hearing children crying and the piano playing on its own. The castle is open for tours daily.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, Ontario

The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes and one of the oldest buildings in the city of Toronto. During the War of 1812, the first keeper of the lighthouse, German-born J.P. Radelmüller, disappeared mysteriously in January of 1815.

haunted places
The lighthouse is an ominous place. (Photo: Getty Images)

Human bones were found nearby, and it later came out that he was murdered by drunk soldiers seeking bootlegged beer. Local legend has it that Radelmüller’s ghost still haunts the lighthouse. Some have seen an apparition wandering the grounds, while others have heard noises coming from inside. Tours are available by appointment.

Smith College, Massachusetts

With a history dating back to Colonial times, Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, is said to be rife with paranormal activity. The most famous ghost story involves the campus’s Sessions House, built in 1710 with a secret passageway underneath.

The passage was built by the home’s residents as a hiding place and was also a secret meeting point between General John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, who was being held as a prisoner by Captain Jonathan Hunt during the Revolutionary War, and Hunt’s granddaughter, Lucy. A pair of ghosts has been spotted near the staircase.

Reports from several buildings across campus involve spirit sightings, as well as odd sounds and mysterious occurrences such as doors opening and bookcases moving on their own.

Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has served as an orphanage, insane asylum and military barracks in its long history, and there are plenty of ghost stories to go with it.

The paranormal activity mostly involves children, and one of the most famous legends is that the massive clock from 1952 stopped every time a child died in the orphanage. The building is open for tours throughout the week.