Travel for Scares

In honor of the upcoming holiday (which is Halloween not Christmas–by the way–put away the damn music) BTR has scoured the Earth, or at least the internet, to find the scariest places to visit… if you dare!

Sure, you could go to your town’s corn maze, drink some orange punch, and dole out candy to screaming brats. But wouldn’t you prefer to head somewhere really scary? You could hop on a jet to a snake-infested island or dive so low into the ocean you could easily die from “rapture of the deep.”

Here are BTR’s top five most terrifying places in the world.

The Great Blue Hole

Photo courtesy of Eric Pheterson.

Just off the coast of Belize lies a 984-foot sinkhole (sudden underwater cliff) in the middle of the Lighthouse Reef, called the Great Blue Hole. You can be swimming along with just a few inches between your toes and the sandy ocean floor when boom, the ground drops 400 feet away from you without warning.

Thousands of years ago sea levels were much lower and the Great Blue Hole was a massive limestone cave. As the ocean rose the cave gradually flooded but its interior structures remained intact, meaning stalagmites and stalagtites now protrude from its walls into the water’s inky black depths. It’s these formations that make this one of the most coveted diving spots in the world, so coveted it’s known as the “Bucket List Dive.”

However, diving here is reserved for the highly experienced. In order to see the rock formations you have to submerge to 132 feet, which is the absolute maximum depth at which a human can survive. At that level, a condition called Nitrogen Narcosis, or “rapture of the deep,” often occurs because of a buildup of nitrogen in your blood, making you feel almost intoxicated. As long as you don’t have to do anything but breath, you’ll be fine, but if something goes wrong and you have to act quickly you’ll find your reaction time, brain processing, and motor skills hopelessly impaired.

Which sounds like a Monday morning to us, only with more water.

The Island Of The Dolls

Photo courtesy of Esparta Palma.

In Xochimilco, Mexico City, this artificial island is hidden among the local canals, famed because its trees and bushes are peppered with thousands of antique dolls and broken, rusting doll parts.

Legend has it the original owner of the land, Santana Barrera, strung the dolls all over his property to ward off the bad spirit of a dead girl whose body he once discovered there. The town-folk say he was a bit of a loner (we’re shocked), and though he died mysteriously in 2001, tourists can still visit the island.

The Door To Hell

In The Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan (that’s a country in central Asia, don’t feel bad we had to look it up, too) sits a 230-foot crater perpetually on fire. Locals gave it the ominous nickname, but its ceaseless burning is not due to demons or evil spirits; it’s the result of the actions of a group of scientists.

We now know that the desert is one of the largest gas reserves in the world, but when Soviet explorers first discovered it they thought it was a substantial oil site. After drilling into the ground they found methane, not oil, and fearing for the safety of nearby villagers thought it best to light the whole thing on fire, predicting it would burn off in a few weeks.

That was four decades ago.

Snake Island

Definitely not where Indiana Jones would want to find himself, this island is 90 miles off the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is not only terrifying but one of the most dangerous places in the world.

As the name implies, there’s an abnormally large population of snakes that live on the island–some studies estimate one to five per square meter–but that’s not the scary part. These snakes aren’t your garden variety: they are hypo-evolved golden lance-head vipers and they will immediately kill you.

Why does this terrifying species exist?

Well, long ago when rising sea levels separated the island from the Brazilian mainland there were so many snakes that they quickly ate all of the food sources on the ground. Instead of dying out, they adapted the ability to hunt for birds from the trees and thus became super strong and super fast.

Then, because their normal venom didn’t kill the birds quickly enough to guarantee them a meal once the bird was bitten, they evolved venom that is five times the potency of their ancestors–it will literally melt the skin right off of you.

There is no antidote because no one who has been bitten has lived long enough to get to a doctor–and no one that has tried to get close to these snakes hasn’t been bitten. In the words of two VICE reporters that visited the island for a documentary, “[the] place is fucked. Don’t ever go.”

Thankfully the Brazilian government doesn’t allow visitors except in very rare cases.

Gruinard Island, Scotland

Photo courtesy of Kevin Walsh.

Another island to chill you, though this one is much less well-known. It sits off the coast of Scotland and was used in World War II as an anthrax development and testing grounds.

The story goes that British developers wanted to know how anthrax spores might be used in battle. So they sent a bunch of sheep to Gruinard Island, bombed it with anthrax, and stepped back to examine their work.

Guess what? All the sheep died.

They learned, though, that using anthrax bombs would contaminate cities for decades to come and in a moment of rare foresight and good wartime judgement decided not to use them. The island was left to recover on its own, until the late 20th century when a group of anonymous political radicals threatened Scotland’s governing branch with the chemical unless they saw fit to clean the island up.

In 1986 their demand was met and formaldehyde was dropped onto Gruinard to kill the spores. It was declared anthrax free as of October 2007, and while there have been no instances of anthrax in the new sheep that live there you should probably avoid eating them. Or, like, licking the ground.

Feature photo courtesy of Brandon.