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Women on the Road

Ghost Tourism - Be Scared, Be Very Scared
Paranormal tourism and abandoned towns - increasingly popular

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If the names Lizzie Borden or Count Dracula give your spine a few pleasant tingles, ghost tourism may be beckoning. 

Also called ghost travel or paranormal tourism, this type of travel takes you to places that are in some way seen as... haunted.

Some people - like Lizzie or the Count - need little introduction. Others may be less famous, but their homes, towns or resting places are magnets for thousands of visitors.

  • A fan of the vampire author Anne Rice? New Orleans awaits.
  • 17th century witchcraft trials? Salem, Massachusetts, of course.
  • Some streets of London are said to still be haunted by Jack the Ripper.
  • The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast? This is where she axe-murdered her parents and you can sleep in the room where it happened.

And then there's Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania, home of the vampires, and supposedly the inspiration for Count Dracula.

Bran Castle, TransylvaniaBran Castle: Dracula's inspiration?

Interest in the supernatural has become more widespread and as a result ghost or paranormal tourism has skyrocketed - and few cities are without their own ghost tourism attraction.

No one quite knows why - although the increasing number of horror movies and ghost literature might be partly to blame - all the way back to such antiques as Ghostbusters, the Amityville Horror or The Exorcist.

Others believe the popularity of ghost travel may be due to interest in matters spiritual.

Many cities have ghost tours led by so-called ghost hunters, who know the local folklore and are steeped in the secrets of the paranormal - like the tour of Haunted Dublin I took not so long ago. They'll tell you that ghosts can be taped and seen or heard, or will show you how to photograph them so their 'orbs' appear in the shot.

Some even lead courses, filled with history and know-how about ghost hunting and with such arcane sciences as dowsing or electronic voice detection (or EVP). In addition to guided tours, haunted tourism may involve investigation - an opportunity to investigate or experience a paranormal event, perhaps in a location known for apparitions or other similar events.

ghost tourism Pripyat ChernobylPripyat: near Ground Zero for Chernobyl

A hugely popular form of ghost tourism is visiting abandoned towns. Not only are large groups of empty buildings eerie but people have often reported feeling the presence of long-gone souls, many years after they were gone. Here are just a few examples:

  • Pripyat in Ukraine, site of the Chernobyl power plant disaster.
  • Centralia, in Pennsylvania, emptied by an underground fire.
  • Not too far from where I live in France is Ourador-sur-Glane, whose 642 inhabitants were massacred by the Germans in 1944.
  • At a completely different level if you've ever visited Pompei in Italy you'll understand that feeling of being surrounded by people who disappeared nearly 20 centuries ago when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

You may not see an orb or an aura when you take a tour and you might not sense the departed souls of abandoned cities but I doubt you'll leave these sites utterly untouched. 

Believer or not, these unusual experiences make for fascinating travel.

After all, even a scientist like Thomas Edison thought there might be life after death and that you could communicate with the spirits.

If you like unusual destinations with a macabre side, you might also be interested in dark tourism. To explore a 'spooky destination' in depth, read about the most mysterious places in the Philippine Islands.

Have you ever visited a haunted place? Give us a shiver and tell us about it in the comments below!