If you watch scary movies through your fingers and prefer to peek around dark corners before stepping in, I have a Halloween suggestion for you. You can visit some of the creepiest places in the world virtually, and do it all through Google Maps Street View.
It turns out that our friends at Google are not just sending their Street View teams and image-capturing cars along the world's highways and byways. This intrepid crew is visiting mausoleums, bizarre hotels, and other global oddities, and often capturing them with 360-degree cameras.
This means we get the creep factor without the worry that anything is actually close enough to reach out and grab us. We can feel the chill of thousands of dead corpses without worrying that their ghosts are nearby (or even in the same country).
I've collected some of my favorites, which you can see in some of the screen captures below. To virtually visit any of them, you just have to click the link and, to walk about, you can click the large arrow that appears on the screen. To start with the Maps view and dig in yourself, you grab the little, yellow, person icon on Google Maps and drag it to the pinned destination. Usually, you pop up right inside a 360-degree view, often looking at some truly bizarre and scary stuff.
It's all creepy, weird, and a little scary. Happy Halloween.
Imagine a scarecrow. Now imagine a city filled with life-sized scarecrows. Now try to envision them at bus stops, on porches, holding child-sized scarecrows.
Yes, I know, terrifying, but such a city exists in Nagoro, Japan. It has a rather robust life-sized doll population (so not, "officially" scarecrows), all created by an artist who wanted to commemorate neighbors who either moved away or, yes, died.
If reading that description makes your skin crawl, you probably won't want to travel to Japan to see "Scarecrow Village," in person, but from the shield of your computer screen, you should be just fine, right?
Google Maps Street View has pretty well documented the bizarre scene and, because some of the scarecrows look a little too lifelike, Google Maps has even blurred out some of their faces.
Do you know what's creepier than hand-stitched people/scarecrows? Dolls. Hundreds of them hanging from trees in Xochimilco, Mexico.
The appropriately named Island of Dolls is a small bit of land filled with decrepit dolls hanging from trees like so much rotten fruit.
The only thing worse than seeing them is learning about the history of the island. The sprawling effigy was built by local Don Julian Santana Barrera who, after discovering the body of a downed child on the island's shore, started hanging the dolls to, according to reports, ward off evil spirits.
I personally would never want to visit such a cursed place but am happy to see it up close through Google Maps Street View. It's weird how even a screen can't shield you from the absolute horror of confronting so many disfigured and dirty dolls.
I have a message for my family: when I die, do not hang my coffin from a hilltop. I know, who would ever think to...
Oh, right, there were some people in Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, who thought it was a good idea to hang multiple coffins on a mountainside.
If you visit the Hanging Coffins of Sagada through Google Maps Street View, you can see a half dozen or so of the hundreds that exist there. "Why?" you ask.
The coffins were hung from high because locals believed that the higher your coffin, the better the chance of your spirit reaching heaven. Hanging these final resting places is not the only interesting thing about the Hanging Coffins of Sagada. It turns out that you had to build your own coffin before you died. As a result, these coffins look nothing like the models you get from a local mortician and that makes them even more fascinating and, obviously, creepy.
There are some studies that say we may eventually run out of places to bury our dead. But that problem is not necessarily new.
Hundreds of years ago, monks at the Capuchin monastery in Italy ran out of space at their small cemetery. So they excavated the catacombs below and began, well, not exactly buying the dead there, but lining them up like unused store mannequins.
I don't entirely understand why they didn't dig graves below ground, but virtually all of the 8,000 bodies are on view and you can see an unhealthy sampling on Google Maps Street View. Spend a little time on these macabre pages and you may start to think you can smell the mold and decay.
Know thyself. That's probably the most valuable piece of advice anyone can give you and one artist in Finland sought to find himself through sculpture, over and over again. The result, Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden, in Finland, is probably not as illuminating as Veijo Rönkkönen hoped.
The 200 sculptures by this reclusive artist dot this property and I challenge you to find one that looks human. What Rönkkönen did achieve is a glimpse into a somewhat dark and maybe a little twisted mind. The more you look at this stuff through Google Maps Street View, the weirder it looks. Also, that Google captured it all at dusk makes it all the more creepy.
I have a bonus for you because, IMHO, there's nothing creepier than a clown. Google Maps Street View managed to capture just one oddly somber image of The Clown Motel in Nevada, a place where I will never, ever stay. You can see but not get too close, which is just the way I like it.