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18 Scary Travel Stories From Haunted Hotels To Creepy Cabins

Love scary travel stories?

From haunted hotels to unexplainable sounds to creepy sightings, the following true travel stories all have one thing in common:

They’ll make your hair stand on end — and will have you packing a nightlight next time you’re off on a trip.

On that note, go grab a snack and a beverage and settle in to read some truly creepy travel stories!

Inspired Storyteller Printable Travel Journal (Free Gift!)

Now, before we dive into these scary vacation stories

I want to invite you to grab my free printable travel journal!

The journal comes complete with 56 prompts to help you relive your favorite trips and get creative with your writing.

Grabbed the journal?

Then let’s dive into the scary short travel stories.

1. Scary Travel Stories From A Haunted Cabin

When it comes to creepy road trip stories and travel horror stories, this is by far my most terrifying.

When I was growing up my family owned a cabin in Hancock, New York, in the Catskills. It was mainly used for hunting, but we’d also drive up there to hike, ride quads, make campfire s’mores, and just be in nature.

This cabin was small — it was actually a trailer that was afixed into the ground and then added onto slightly. Because of this, my cousin and I would share a big bed in the main part of the trailer and my dad would sleep on the couch, but we were all virtually in the same room.

One night when I was about 10 I woke up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and saw a man standing at the end of the bed staring at me. I knew instantly he was a ghost, as he was translucent and was dressed like he was from the mid-1800s.

Quickly, I threw the cover over my head and squeezed next to my cousin, terrified.

I must have passed out, because the next thing I knew I was on the floor of the trailer, next to the couch. I could hear my dad snoring loudly, but every time I tried to reach out to wake him up something would grab my hand and pull it back.

The next morning, I woke up on the floor of the trailer with my hands over my head.

I woke up in an even weirder position the following night, when my cousin and I awoke with the bed covered in vomit. It was from me, but I had no recollection of throwing up — and I’d never thrown up in my sleep before.

But, wait, didn’t you say in the title that there were multiple scary travel stories?

Yes — and that’s where things get even more creepy.

The next two times that I went to the cabin I ended up waking up covered in my own vomit, with barely any recollection of throwing up.

This is something that had never happened to me before, but yet it was happening constantly at the cabin.

Eventually we sold the cabin, though years later I was told that a family member once claimed to see a UFO landing in the yard when he got up to use the toilet at 3am.

Even now, over 20 years after the incident, I still remember it vividly and I firmly believe that that cabin is possessed by something inhuman.

Many people imagine injuries and lost passports when thinking about travel horror stories, but for me, it’s definitely this.

Many travel horror stories take place in Edinburgh
Rose was followed by a ghost in Edinburgh. Photo by Rose from Where Goes Rose?

2. The Edinburgh Vaults – Tall Tales For Tourists, Or Something Sinister?

The air that hung around me was cool but by no means fresh. It clung to me in the dark, thick with stories — none of which ended happily, I was told.

A friend and I were taking a ghost tour of Edinburgh’s underground vaults below South Bridge.

These ancient rooms had been used by tradesmen for storage, but all manner of creepy stories surround them. Some say serial killers used them to hide bodies; others say plague victims were left here to meet their bitter end.

Much of the tour was designed for tourists, including a member of staff jumping out to scare us.

Our guide also told us that many guests have odd experiences in the days following the tour. He told us that car radios start out of the blue, and household items mysteriously move around. 

I passed this off as just another tall tale for tourists, although not for long…

My friend and I returned to her apartment and went to bed. Something must have disturbed me because I found myself awake in the middle of the night.

I was groggy but something wasn’t right: the door was moving. It swung from fully open to closed, creaking as it did so.

I was no longer groggy.

There was a reasonable explanation, I knew — if I could just think of it fast enough.

Ahh, yes. My friend had probably gone to the bathroom and pulled the door closed behind her. I mustered up the courage to roll over, praying to see an empty side to the bed.

No. She was fast asleep beside me.

DAMN IT.

I lay there shivering, aware there was no explanation for what I just experienced.

The next morning, I felt unsettled and flicked through my photos from the tour.

I stopped on one that I had taken in almost complete darkness down in the vaults:

Two bright neon lights, scratches like fingernails, ran across the screen, despite the fact that there had been no lights in the room where it was taken.

I decided to email it to the tour company to see what they would say. The cheery manager replied: they saw many unexplained photos like this, and did I mind if they kept it for their database?

I didn’t mind, I told him. But secretly, my mind was running into overdrive. What on earth had I witnessed in Edinburgh?

– Rose from Where Goes Rose?

3. An Evil Presence In A Hotel

Love scary hotel stories?

Many years ago, I stayed at the Stoneleigh Hotel while attending a convention in Dallas. It has a penthouse suite that has hosted Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and many other famous guests.

At the time I stayed there, the penthouse stood empty because it was undergoing renovations. Late one night, I befriended a security guard who invited me — along with one of my coworkers — to tour the penthouse.

We immediately took him up on the offer!

He explained that one of the rooms contained a hidden door that led to an elevator. Apparently one of the previous owners had installed it so he could easily access a room on a different floor where his mistresses stayed.

The guard informed us that one of the ladies had fallen to her death in that elevator shaft. He said employees could sometimes still hear the creaking sounds of the elevator, even though it was no longer in use.

My friend and I separated as we meandered through all of the rooms on the penthouse level.

Even under its state of construction, the beauty of the space was clearly evident! We both had cameras with us and took lots of photos.

At one point I wandered down a narrow hallway that appeared to be a servant’s prep area of some sort, which led to the kitchen. The lights weren’t functioning at the time, and it was after midnight, so it was difficult to make out all of the details.

Once I was a few steps into the space, I immediately felt cold and my instincts told me to turn around…so I did.

I continued exploring the rest of the space and eventually met up with my friend on one of the balconies. We chatted with the security guard for a few moments, thanked him, and then left.

It wasn’t until the next day when we were driving home from the convention that we started discussing the details of the penthouse. I asked if she’d noticed the dark hallway that led to the kitchen, and she said yes.

I told her I’d started to walk down the hallway but stopped myself because it felt cold and creepy…even evil.

She was nodding her head in agreement and started excitedly telling me how she’d started walking into the same space and had been overcome with a feeling of pure evil. She described it as a very tangible, physical sensation, and said she immediately turned around and left the space.

We were both fascinated that we’d felt almost the exact same feelings, in the exact same area, yet neither of us mentioned it to the other until almost a full day later. It’s still one of the craziest experiences I’ve had in a hotel!

Interestingly, I found out that the hotel is known to be haunted when I did some digging on Google. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has had a creepy experience here.

– Erin from Savannah First-Timer

This beautiful Dominican Republic view is also the site of some creepy and horrible travel stories
The panoramic view from the creepy abandoned restaurant that Chris camped at. Photo by Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog.

4. Camping At An Abandoned Restaurant In The Dominican Republic

Every now and then we love heading out on a hiking and camping trip to the beautiful Dominican mountains to enjoy the pristine tropical nature and to escape from daily life.

This time we headed from Punta Cana to Loma Linda, a mountain with a gorgeous panorama view — and an abandoned restaurant.

When pitching our tent, we put it on the old restaurant structures to protect us from the rain. When going to sleep, we left our tent door half-open to benefit from some additional ventilation.

During the night, we heard many strange sounds as if someone was stepping on the rickety timber planks outside. Of course, there was no one, except a big frog with disproportional big red eyes, looking in the direction of our tent.

To complete the spooky atmosphere, an old light bulb outside of the restaurant was randomly turning on and off — even though there was actually no electricity.

To feel a bit safer and to protect us from the strong winds, I asked my girlfriend if we should close our tent door. She said yes, and just seconds later, the tent door was blown up by the wind and literally closed itself.

We had a fitful sleep out there, to say the least.

The next morning, when we were packing up our stuff, an old man came up the mountain on his horse and asked if we had a good night. Sure, except for those noises, animals, steps and the creepy wind, everything was fine.

At least the view from Loma Linda was worth it. So if you’d like to explore this beautiful place during your holiday in the Dominican Republic, maybe you should come during the day.

– Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog

5. Pursued By Malevolent Spirits In Chiapas, Mexico

After spending an afternoon exploring a cemetery in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, I woke up in the middle of the night in the throes of a terrible nightmare.

In my dream I was strapped to the spokes of a burning wheel as it rolled down a field of dry corn stalks. Just as my hair burst into flames, I sat up and saw my clock flashing 666.

After washing my face in the washroom I looked in the mirror and saw black wings fluttering behind my head almost like bats. I felt a presence in the room yet when I turned around nothing was there.

I stayed awake all night unable to sleep. 

At daylight, I left the hotel to get a coffee. If this wasn’t one of the craziest travel stories you ever heard yet, as soon as I stepped onto the street a black bird fell dead from the sky at my feet.

Then a man was hit by a car directly in front of me.

And then the young stray dog I’d been feeding for close to a month was lying dead by the side of the church.

I felt as though I was a veritable walking plague of bad luck.

Not knowing what to do, I continued with my plan to visit the Museo de la Medicina Maya. It’s dedicated to the preservation of natural medicine, therapeutic treatments, and traditional practices of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal peoples of Chiapas.

In addition to the herbal garden and displays, there was a community space where it was possible to have a consultation with a local shaman.

With the assistance of a translator, I was told I had committed a transgression and was being pursued by malevolent spirits or energies attempting to attach themselves to me.

He wrote out a prescription for the materials for a spiritual cleansing and I got it filled by a woman tending one of the stalls in the market.

I returned to the Mayan centre with a variety of products including eggs, basil, and fragrant herbs in a basket. After a rigorous process that involved chanting, copal, smoke, and herbs, he declared I was cleansed of the spirits.

He suggested that in the future I protect myself spiritually before wandering around in areas where lost spirits or negative energies may be residing or searching, such as cemeteries.

I left the clinic very grateful to be free of the negative energies — and to have learned a lesson.

I now try to remember not to frequent potentially dark places unless I protect myself according to the shaman’s instructions.

– Michele from A Taste for Travel

The site of a remote hostel in Peru has also been home to some creepy travel stories
Have you ever had a scary dream within a scary dream? This happened to Josh while staying at a remote hostel in Peru. Photo by Josh from Veggie Vagabonds.

6. A Dream Within A Dream

I’d just arrived at a tiny hostel a short journey from Huaraz, after a few days of hiking and camping in the mountains of Peru.

It was the only accommodation for miles, was completely empty, and the place was run by a very old but welcoming Peruvian couple. The owners happily greeted us but also seemed surprised that we’d found them. 

Later in the evening, I was chatting with one of the owners while cooking some dinner. My Spanish wasn’t great but I recall him saying the words miedo and fantasma, which I knew meant fear and ghost.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand enough to know exactly what he was saying and didn’t think much of it.

After days of heavy hiking and a bit of altitude sickness, I crashed early, looking forward to the first night in a bed for a while.

That’s when this officially turned into a scary trip story.

I conked out immediately but then became slightly conscious after hearing noises from outside the room.

I remember having a very uneasy feeling and it being cold. I kept on looking up towards the door and noticed it was slightly ajar.

Slowly, I saw a small figure-like shape sitting by the top of the door with an ominous face looking down on me. I felt rigid, just staring at this figure above the door.

By this point, I was feeling truly scared.

All of a sudden I shot up in my bed, dripping with sweat, and realized that it was just a dream. I felt a strange feeling of half-awake relief and then looked back up towards the door to see this dark figure was still perched up there looking at me. 

The feeling of panic that followed was indescribable. I completely froze in terror for what seemed like ages, just staring at this figure. I then woke up, again, just like I had, but with much more sensation and a gasp of breath.

The first time waking up was part of the dream. I’d never experienced anything similar before, or again after that night.

I spent the rest of the night too damn terrified to fall asleep and trying my hardest not to look at the door. 

The next morning I spoke to the other owner, who spoke clearer English and told me that people had said the room was haunted by a ghost.

I struggled to sleep in hostels for a long time afterwards.

– Josh and Sarah from Veggie Vagabonds

7. Mayhem At The Maritime

Ramping up for some video production work in NYC — I’m Michigan-based — our producer sent an email:

How did we like the Maritime Hotel in the Meatpacking District? 

It looked a little goofy, maybe, with its round porthole windows and old-timey wood-paneled lobby. But why not?

Before I could write back, an email from a coworker arrived. 

Is there any way we could not stay here? I have a thing about nautical stuff. Also clowns. And dolls.

Cue my eye roll. And urge to buy a clown doll in a sailor suit. 

Our producer, unswayed by phobias, booked the rooms.

Our first night, I experienced nothing remotely ghost-y. But sure enough, that co-worker arrived on set looking traumatized. “I heard kids whispering in my room last night.”

“You’re at the Maritime?” piped up a crew person. “WHOA. That place IS haunted.”

The frequent reports of hauntings at the Maritime are most often attributed to a period in the 80s, when, as Covenant House, it hosted wayward teens who were not particularly well-treated.

In 2011, the time of our stay, the hotel kept a big file of reports from guests, including one woman who ran out of her room shrieking, wrapped in a towel. A ghost had interrupted her shower.

Next breakfast, Sailor-Phobia waved her phone triumphantly in the air. 
“Look, look!”

She’d taken a picture: Her, facing the bathroom mirror, surrounded by steam. Everyone crowded around.

“I can see a face!” 

“A little girl, right?” 

“So creepy!”

I couldn’t make out a damn thing. 

And I definitely wasn’t going to report that I’d woken up in the middle of the night, having a hard time breathing. Something seemed to be sitting on my chest. 

A very weird and long minute later, a giant black cat jumped off me.

I heard my door open, and a guy in the hallway — somehow I knew it was the janitor — started waving a child out of my room. I could feel the air as it ran past. 

Look, I’m sure it was just an oddly-specific dream, fueled by too much wine and everybody’s stories.

And the Maritime is still there. When I search for it, it says, “Save Big!!”

Um. Hard no. 

– Nan from Head Roam

True scary road trip stories have occurred at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Photo by Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes.

8. Walking Into The Shining

Sometimes, what you see in scary movies can resemble true horror travel stories — which is exactly what happened to me.

When traveling to Banff to see the Canadian Rockies, my sister and I decided to stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

The historic and famous luxury hotel opened in 1888 and looks like a beautiful haunted castle.

I did some research online and learned that it indeed had a creepy haunted past. Some say that ghosts roam the halls, like a 1920s bride who tripped and fell down the stairs to her death.

The biggest mystery is of the missing room 873.

Every floor except floor eight has a room ending with the number 73. Rumor has it that a man went crazy and murdered his wife and kids in this room.

Apparently, the hotel boarded up the room since there were complaints from guests and staff of weird events occurring, like reappearing bloody handprints and violent screams in the middle of the night.

However, today they say they combined it with room 875 to make it larger.

As a lover of horror movies, I convinced my sister to go ghost hunting in the hotel. At night, we explored the different wings of the hotel and walked as far as we could up the stairs to the towers.

When close to the very top, we found a small door underneath the stairs. We opened it and a dark storage closet appeared in front of us with tons of old floor lamps.

We daringly decided to walk inside the room and used the flashlight of our phones to see if we could find anything else. As we walked in farther, we saw RED RUM and GET OUT written in large letters across the back wall.

We screamed and ran as fast as we could out of there!

When back in our hotel room, we tried doing some research to see if there were any tied meanings to floor lamps and came across the term ghost light. A ghost light’s practical use is to light up the dark stage of a theater when unoccupied.

What freaked us out is that there are superstitions that ghost lights were placed to either appease or scare ghosts away.

Needless to say, we didn’t sleep very well that night.

– Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes

9. A Date With The Headless Drummer

A few years ago, I was on a study abroad term which was held in a 15th century medieval castle — Herstmonceux Castle — located in the south of England.

Early on in our orientation, we got to learn all about the long history of the castle and grounds… including a few creepy details about beings you might encounter wandering about.

The “Headless Drummer” — a former military man with a drum — was one of them.

One night, a buddy and I were walking through a dark corridor of the castle from the library to the pub to meet our friends. Funny enough, the castle pub was named The Headless Drummer!

As we walked the long, dimly lit corridor, we both froze at the same time. We thought we could hear something.

Drumming. Snare drumming. Faintly tapping… but definitely, unmistakably drumming sounds.

We looked at one another with wide eyes: half smiling in disbelief because there was absolutely no way we were both actually experiencing this at the same time, half panicked because we were both hearing what we were thinking we were hearing.

I said to my friend, “Tell me you’re hearing that, too.”

My buddy looked right back at me and said without a pause, “I swear I am hearing that, too.”

Our amused disbelief turned to sheer panic and we sprinted out of that corridor.

A few twists and turns later we saw the lights of the pub and stumbled inside, half panting and half in shock.

When we saw our friends sitting at a table, they said, “Whoa, you look like you’ve seen a ghost” to which we replied “No, but we heard the Drummer!”

We needed a few pints to calm our nerves that night and walked home with the large group just in case.

– Eric from Recipes from Europe

Scary vacation stories in a campervan where a ghost knocked on the door
A night in a campervan turned scary when a ghost came knocking on the door. Photo by Antoine and Marielle from Offbeat Escapades.

10. When A Night In The Campervan Turns Eerie

We go on a lot of adventures with our campervan, and most of the time, we’ll park in places in the middle of nowhere. Usually, our nights are peaceful, cozy, and all fine. 

However, one night in a little village in Northern France, just off the city of Nancy, we found a place near the start of a forest trail to sleep for the night.

When we were half asleep, we heard weird thumping sounds outside, like there was somebody knocking. 

We thought maybe it was a robber, but we took a look through our window and there was no one in sight.

At that point, we were a little scared but we brushed it off, thinking maybe it was just the wind howling on our campervan. After all, it’s not the first time we’ve heard bizarre sounds outside when sleeping in random places in the wilderness.

We decided to go back to sleep but the pounding sounds started again. Completely freaked out at this point, we chose to just leave and head to the secure service parking nearby.

The next morning, as we were buying bread in town for breakfast, we told the story to the baker and he told us there have been many creepy stories of spirits making themselves feel known in the forest. He suspected it was related to previous hiking accidents where hikers got lost or fell from the trail, only to be found weeks later.

Hearing that, we were a bit relieved that we left and that nothing else happened.

One thing’s for sure:

We will never return to that spot again after the experience, nor will we be hiking through those forest trails.

– Antoine and Marielle from Offbeat Escapades

11. The Woman With Blood On Her Hands

In November of 2019, I was enjoying dinner at K-Paul’s restaurant in New Orleans.

Before diving into my dinner, I decided to use the restroom and felt lucky that it was so close to our table, as that meant that I could get back to my dinner quicker. Our family of five was seated on the second floor of the two-story building. 

As I sat in the restroom, I remember vividly that there was a wide enough gap beneath my stall that I would be able to notice, and definitely hear, the main door to the small restroom opening.

I didn’t see it swing open, nor did I hear anyone exit the two stalls next to me.

However, I did hear the sink begin blasting at full pressure. That sound caught my attention because I could have absolutely sworn that I was alone in that compact restroom. 

I walked out of my stall and went over to the double sink to wash my hands. A young woman with jet black hair and alluring makeup scrubbed her hands in a manic fashion next to me as I lathered my own.

Every once in a while she would look over at me and grin in a way that made me uncomfortable.

I’m a New Yorker. We mind our own business. It seemed odd that she would stare at me so intimately, but I tried to ignore her and not return the glance.

My curiosity eventually got the best of me as I wondered why she was still washing her hands. When I looked over into her ceramic basin, I noticed a large gash on her palm that was bleeding profusely, turning the sink water ruby red as it ran off of her hand.

The sight was so bloody that my breath froze in my throat.

“My boyfriend is scared of me now, you know. I broke a glass and he’s scared of me now.” She laughed as she said this, and continued giving me that odd grin.

Her behavior was so unusual that I presumed she must have been very drunk and as a result was not really doing much of anything to actually help her wound.

“You should really put pressure on that,” I said nonchalantly. 

She continued to stare at me with a joker-sized smile and repeated her original sentiments, “My boyfriend is scared of me. I broke the glass on accident.”

I nodded politely and left the restroom abruptly, feeling dizzy and now very disturbed. I relayed the story to my family at our dinner table, and we waited for the bizarre young woman to walk out of the door.

None of us ever saw the restroom door open. I looked around the dining room throughout the course of our meal and never saw her face at any of the tables.

There was a first floor dining room, but she would have had to take an elevator and walk pretty far to use the restroom near us. This wouldn’t have made much sense considering there were first floor restrooms. 

I visited the bathroom once more before we left after dinner, but there was nobody in there.

– Stephanie from Wandering Why Traveler

12. The Disappearing Painting

In 2019, I was living by myself in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I was 22 at the time and being alone in a foreign city as a young woman was scary by itself, however, the things I experienced during my time there were truly unexpected.

I was working full-time and living in a hotel in the city center.

The room had a small kitchen and felt more like a small apartment than a hotel room. Most of the other guests there only stayed for a few nights and as far as I could tell I was the only long-term guest.

Everything was going smoothly for a few weeks until I began to notice some odd things.

When I came back from work in the early evening some things about my room would be different. Clothes I had left on the chair would suddenly be on the bed or my shampoo bottle would no longer be in the shower but mysteriously moved to the kitchen counter.

At first, I attributed it to housekeeping; however, I always placed the do-not-disturb sign on my door when I left and only had them clean about once per week.

Then one day I noticed something even stranger:

The large painting that had always been hung above my bed had suddenly disappeared. In its place was just an empty wall.

The hotel was quite new so there was no reason to replace the painting. It was in perfect condition.

Two days later the painting had returned. It was the exact same as before.

Unfortunately, I never got an explanation for what had happened. When I called the front desk to ask about the painting they had no idea what I was talking about.

– Victoria from Guide Your Travel

13. The Gentle Ghost At The Inn

Love true scary road trip stories?

Here you go:

We were on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and had a long drive ahead of us to Santa Barbara.

The coastal views from the Pacific Highway were beautiful. As the sun began to set, we arrived at our destination and I couldn’t imagine a more lovely bed and breakfast than the Simpson House Inn.

However, I was not prepared for what would be the creepiest night of my life. 

I was booked in the Catherine McCormick room which was richly decorated in burgundy, gold, blues, and green tones. I immediately recognized the Bradbury wallpaper. The bed was draped with crochet and lace linen.

Like most Victorian homes in that era, the rooms were not en suite. My bathroom was located in the hall and had period features like a pull-chain, wooden toilet, and stained-glass window.

We relaxed on the veranda and soaked in the expansive green lawns with carefully manicured landscaping. Gail, the Innkeeper, served wine and hors d’oeuvres and explained the history of the house. 

We turned in for the night around 10pm but I had trouble sleeping. I woke intermittently throughout the night and wondered about the time. It felt as if hours had passed.

Exhausted and in a drowsy state of consciousness, I saw a very thin woman walk into my room.

She looked so petite and frail. Her presence felt threatening and as she sat on the bed beside me, she barely made a dent on the mattress.

I was overcome with fear and panic. “Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?” I was completely aware, but my body was frozen.

As I laid on my back with arms at my sides and unable to defend myself, I waited for something dreadful to happen.

In the most gentle and caring way, she pulled the crocheted throw blanket up and around my shoulders, and carefully tucked the linens around me. Her touch was so light.

Within moments, peace swelled over me and the fear faded. I began to realize that she came to comfort me and make me feel at home. Then, I slipped into a state of unconsciousness.

That morning when I awoke, my body was in the same position as when the woman visited. A chill ran through my body, but I felt refreshed and completely rested as if I had a full night of sleep.

At breakfast, I described the experience to my friends and the Innkeeper.

My friends didn’t believe me and thought I had a dream until Gail responded, “Oh, that was Emily.”

“Who?” My friends grew silent.

“Emily, she used to live here.”

It was so eerie that an unwelcome ghost came to welcome me!

– Tanya from Travels and Treasures

Leap Castle in Ireland is the site of many scary travel stories
Leap Castle, the most haunted castle in Ireland. Photo by John from Carpe Diem Eire.

14. Voices From The Dark At Leap Castle

Deep in the Offaly countryside of Ireland is a rather innocuous looking castle known as Leap Castle.

However this castle carries a rather unwelcome tag:

It’s Ireland’s most haunted castle, and ranks as one of the world’s most haunted too.

It doesn’t appear like a tourist attraction, and even as I approached it, I imagined it wasn’t.

A caretaker-like character invited me in to visit. This was no caretaker though, it’s Sean Ryan — the man who calls this place home.

Along with 50 ghosts, apparently.

Sean was deeply knowledgeable on the castle, and after a riveting introduction, told me about the bloody chapel on the top floor.

He then invited me to tour the upper levels of the castle. Alone! 

Armed with a torch, I climbed the dark spiral stairs to the room. It was here that brother slew brother many moons ago.

The room was a shell, and open to the elements. It would come as no surprise to anyone that this was a place where something terrible had happened. It was tangible in the air. 

Yet that wasn’t what lingers in the mind from my visit.

As I returned downstairs, Sean and I struck up another conversation. Mid-sentence, a noise from the dark — like a voice — interrupted us.

We both glanced in its direction, but there was nothing, and I turned nervously back to my host.

Instead of giving an explanation, he continued with his story, without even a mention of what happened, as a man who was used to strange sounds in the dark would.

I never asked what it was. But I often do wonder, what was that noise I heard in the shadows of Ireland’s infamous castle?

Alas, I’ll never know. 

– John from Carpe Diem Eire

15. A Scary Night Housesitting In The Mountains Of Colorado

I was housesitting in the mountains of Colorado by myself when I was awoken at 1am by the sound of someone — or something — walking loudly outside and dragging something that sounded like a chain.

As time went on, it got louder and more frequent — and then I heard whatever this thing was starting to run!

I rang 911 but I was way out in the mountains. It took 45 minutes for them to arrive, and during that time, whatever was making the noises outside was getting louder and closer.

The cops finally arrived and did a parameter inspection. They found something unusual outside and called me out to take a look at it:

A long drag mark in the gravel that they couldn’t explain.

They also heard something moving away from them in the forest when they did a second walk around outside.

They told me that it was probably a mountain lion but that didn’t explain the chain, or the fact that it sounded exactly like a human walking and running.

Maybe mountain lions sound like that but I wasn’t convinced. 

The cops left around 4am and I didn’t get any sleep until it started getting light out. I had trouble sleeping by myself for months after my experience, and I will never do such a secluded housesit by myself ever again.

It’s been four years but I still remember the absolute fear I felt and I’m afraid that one day I will hear the footsteps and dragging again — and then I would know for sure that it wasn’t a mountain lion or a human, but something unexplained.

That is my greatest fear of all.

– Katie from The World on my Necklace

Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast is the stie of many creepy travel stories
Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. Photo by Emily from The Mandagies.

16. We Accidentally Encountered A Burial Site On The Oregon Coast

One day, my husband and I were hiking to an abandoned lighthouse on the Oregon Coast.

The dedicated viewpoint was too far away — and we didn’t bring a telephoto lens — so we decided to follow a lightly used path up the cliffside for a closer view.

Almost immediately, both of us felt like ghosts were following us.

We were hiking in mid-day but the trail had lots of sections that were enclosed in tunnels of bushes and trees, making it feel much darker than it actually was.

Both of us felt pretty relieved when we came closer to the lighthouse. Here, there was a clearing where foundations of old buildings used to be.

We got as close to the lighthouse as we could. Cape Arago Lighthouse is on an island just offshore called Chief Island, and the footbridge had been taken out, leaving no current access to the base of the building.

After a short stint of photographing the lighthouse, we wanted to turn around and get out of the area ASAP.

We both got weird chills and feelings that we were being followed, so we were surprised to discover an old man on the trail right behind us. He made a bit of small talk and talked about how much he loved the area.

He then turned around to say goodbye, and walked straight into the forest and disappeared. Berty and I were sure we would run into him on the way back to our car, but we never spotted him again.

After this creepy outing, we learned that this dangerous section of the coast had seen many deaths and shipwrecks.

The area was also the site of an old Native American village, where many members of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Native Americans were buried among the trees and their ashes scattered.

Our uneasy feelings were justified because it seems as if we were trespassing on sacred burial land!

For us, this was a good reminder to learn about the history of the land we recreate on, and always respect the history of its people and culture when visiting.

– Emily from The Mandagies

17. Ghost On A Cruise Ship

When I first started working on cruise ships, I was warned that some vessels were more haunted than others. It was speculated that this was due to former guests or crew members who passed away while onboard.

In any case, one of the larger ships I worked on had two decks dedicated to the kids’ club, which was where I worked.

As children would start getting picked up by their families, we would begin to close different sections and fewer staff members would be required to stay behind.

On the night that I was scheduled to leave last, I was working on the lower deck of the children’s area.

All the kids in the upstairs section had been picked up, so my co-worker closed all the rooms, locked the main entrance doors, and turned off all the lights before leaving for the night.

However, about 30 minutes later, I heard footsteps coming from above. The only thing above me was the kids’ facilities, which had already been closed.

I thought it was odd, but figured maybe a staff member had returned to get something.

As the last kid in my care was picked up, I kept hearing footsteps coming from upstairs. I went up to check but there was no one there. Every room was still locked and all the lights were off.

I told some friends later on and they said multiple staff members had similar encounters in the same area. At that point, it was just known among everyone that there was a ghost who had made its home in that room.

The creepiest occurrence was when the ship’s security team called a staff member in the kids’ center to ask why there was a child left unattended late one night, as they saw a kid on the live security footage alone without supervision.

The entire area had already been closed for the night but was checked again due to the phone call, and it was the same scene: all the lights off, every door locked, and no children to be found.

– Michelle from Wander Eat Write

Isabella Shaw’s room in the haunted tower of the creepy BallyGally Castle
Isabella Shaw’s room in the tower of BallyGally Castle. Photo by Olivia from Girl With Blue Sails.

18. The Howling Ghost On The Antrim Coast

Along the rough coastal waters of the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland sits the sleepy town of Ballygally, where James and Isabella Shaw built a castle overlooking the sea in 1625.

Their dreamy lives took a turn, however, when James locked Isabella away in a tower. Distraught and unhinged, Isabella threw herself from the window, plummeting to her death.

Today the castle has been turned into a hotel, and her room sits empty to this day.

Or does it? 

Recently, during a night at Ballygally Castle, I got curious and decided to climb the spiral staircase to Isabella’s room. I was alone and the silence was eerie.

I was immediately drawn to one of the windows. While looking out into the night, goosebumps crept across my back.

Suddenly, I felt bad for being drawn to this place for such a morbid reason. I hurried back down the staircase, eager to get far away. 

Returning to my room, I locked the door and went to sit by my own window. It was pitch black outside, but the sounds of the waves could be heard crashing against the shore as rain began to fall. It was almost peaceful as I laid down for bed. 

Next was a sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard in my life. It sounded like a train whistle combined with an air siren.

I jumped out of the bed, terrified.

Was it coming from the window?

I walked over in the dark and looked out. The icy ocean breeze was seeping through the windowpane, sending chills across my body. 

The rain started pounding the window, followed again by that awful howl. Some papers blew off my desk, making me jump. I stuffed a towel in the window to stop the noise, but no matter what I did, it persisted.

Isabella had arrived.

I could see the faint outline of the whitecaps of the waves outside violently crashing against the sand. Turning on the lights, I spent the rest of the night away from that window. 

The next morning, I told my story to a friend who was staying in a room near mine. She had been too scared to go to Isabella’s room and turned in early.

I complained about the wild night and the noise, and she thought I was making it up.

To my surprise, she said she hadn’t heard a thing.

– Olivia from Girl With Blue Sails

My Creepiest Couchsurfing Experience (Video)

If you’re looking for true scary road trip stories specifically…

In the video above, I share one of my craziest travel stories about a time I did Couchsurfing in Iowa…

And I definitely think it was haunted!

In the end, it went from being a travel horror story to more a of an inspiring travel story about the kindness of strangers, but I still felt pretty terrified during my stay.

I’m curious to know, too, what you would have done in this situation. Would you have stayed the night — or ran for a hotel?

Bonus Short Travel Stories

Looking for more interesting travel stories? Don’t miss:

25 Crazy Travel Stories You Need To Read To Believe

23 Inspiring Travel Stories Sharing The Kindness Of Strangers

38 Inspiring Travel Love Stories From The Road

Sexual Assault Stories From The Road (& What I’ve Learned)

8 Crazy NYC Subway Stories That Will Make You Hail A Cab

A Host’s Perspective: My Worst Airbnb Horror Stories

11 Epic Travel Fail Stories From The Road

16 Short Funny Travel Stories That’ll Make You Laugh Out Loud

What scary travel stories would you add to this list?

Enjoyed these creepy travel stories? Pin the post for later!

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Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I'm a conscious solo traveler on a mission to take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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2 Comments

  1. Akshay on March 31, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Hi Jessie,
    I was searching for a scary travel story and then I found this post after reading this scary traveling blog I just get goosebump and It was just like real horror stories. one of the scariest scenes was isabella’s shaw room. Thank you!

  2. Yogesh on April 20, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Great article, one of the best posts I read recently, great work

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