The Real Destinations Behind Your Favourite Horror Fiction

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At the end of October, the days grow shorter and Halloween blurs the so-called veil between the living world and the afterlife. It’s a spooky month, so it’s no wonder that many horror films and pieces of literature are released around this time. What’s perhaps even more chilling is that many of these stories are based upon myths and legends that surround real destinations. Here are some locations around the world that have either inspired great horror or have been used as filming locations for the most frightening tales.

1. Burkittsville, Maryland – Blair Witch Project

In the dense, dark forests near Burkittsville, Maryland, a group of children disappeared in the 40s. Ever since, people have avoided venturing too far into these fabled woods, which are said to be inhabited by evil spirits… that’s according to the groundbreaking marketing campaign invented by the producers of the Blair Witch Project anyway. Using the found footage plot device as a way of portraying the horrific events that took place in the forests, the pseudo-documentary propelled the Blair Witch myth into infamy.

2. Eel Marsh House – Woman in Black

This Gothic style novella was hugely popular – it prompted two film adaptations and one West End theatre adaptation. The 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe was filmed in Cotterstock Hall, a real 17th-century mansion in Northamptonshire that was transformed into the fictional Eel Marsh House from the novella. This is where it gets a bit complicated: the land that Eel Marsh House supposedly sits upon is reachable via the fictional Nine Lives Causeway, which is based on a real island called Osea Island, which is only about 100 miles away from the Cotterstock Hall. None of it would have been possible without special effects!
Image from canburak via Flickr

3. The Stanley Hotel, Colorado – The Shining

This hotel is well known for reports of otherworldly spirits that supposedly roam its corridors. And then there’s the fact that the main setting for Stephen King’s most famous horror novel, The Shining, was inspired by his stay in room 217 in 1974. The hotel has played host to various notable guests since its opening in 1909, and pays homage to Kubrick’s highly-acclaimed film adaptation by screening the film on loop on channel 42.
Image from Robert Kelsey

4. Barrow, Alaska – 30 Days of Night

At the end of November every year, darkness descends upon this polar town in the northernmost section of Alaska, and no, this is no exaggeration. The sun won’t officially rise again for about two months. With this in mind, the popular movie titled 30 Days of Night quite succinctly set the tone for the horrific events that ensued during the film with just its title. Although in reality, the period of darkness can range from 51-67 days rather than 30… maybe ‘Between 51-67 Days of Night’ just didn’t have the same ring to it.
Image from Adam Lederer via Flickr

5. Amityville, New York – Amityville Horror

The novel, The Amityville Horror was turned into a horror movie franchise in the 80s. It was based on a series of murders that occurred in Long Island, New York and, more specifically, in Amityville. A family moved into the house afterwards, but soon left after experiencing paranormal occurrences there. Before and during filming in the area, the film crew and actors reported experiencing chilling incidents – a dead body washing up on the shore near the house and a general feeling that there was something intangibly sinister at work.
Image from Doug Kerr via Flickr

6. Transylvania – Dracula

Stories of bloodthirsty creatures have emerged in literature throughout the ages, but none of them struck a nerve in the human psyche like Bram Stoker’s gothic tale of Count Dracula. Though the exact location that inspired Dracula’s castle is under speculation, Bran Castle in Transylvania is the only castle in the region that fits Stoker’s description and, as a result, is extremely popular with fans of the novel.

7. Palazzo Vecchio, Florence – Hannibal

The town hall of Florence served as the location of one of the most iconic murder scenes in recent film history. It’s the one where Hannibal asks his victim whether he would prefer “bowels in or bowels out?” before he hangs him from the building in a gory execution. This is just one of the set locations in Florence that you can visit, and you can purchase a guide that tells you about the others.

8. Wolfe Creek Crater National Park, Australia – Wolf Creek

Somewhere in the vast outback of Australia lies a crater formed by a meteorite 300,000 years ago. This provided the location for a film based on several murders that actually happened a further 2,000 miles from the park. Despite the distance between it and the actual murder site, its strange appearance and remote location make a visit there an unnerving prospect, especially come nightfall.

9. Izu, Japan – The Ring

Izu is a peninsula located around 60 miles south of Tokyo. In The Ring‘s climactic scene we see Sadako emerging from the well and eventually from the TV screen – and this was set somewhere within Izu’s mountainous landscape. Aside from its eerie connotations, Izu is a popular weekend getaway destination for Tokyo residents given its proximity to the capital, so if you chicken out of looking for the well, you can get involved with some less spooky leisurely activities.

10. The Excelsior Hotel, Newquay – The Witches

Much of the action in The Witches, primarily a novel and subsequently adapted for the big screen, took place in The Excelsior Hotel. The real setting is actually called The Headland Hall Hotel and it’s in Newquay. Chilling tales have been reported here of a woman who passes through walls wearing a ‘long dark coat without arms’. These spine tingling accounts were the basis for one of Roald Dahl’s most loved fantasy novels – the remake of which, featuring Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, is set to be released this month.
Image from neal whitehouse piper via Flickr