Haunting Places to See the Dead

Best places to see skulls, skeletons and mummies.
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You don’t have to have a sixth sense to see real dead people on your next jaunt -- but you may need a little bit of courage. Head to these haunting destinations where actual human remains are among the most popular attractions.
ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Caves
Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves

Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves

Photo by: side78, Flickr

side78, Flickr

This underwater cave system in Belize is a true Indiana Jones-style adventure. First, visitors must cross 3 rivers to arrive at the ATM caves. Then, with headlamps, travelers plunge into the water, which leads you through a labyrinth of passageways to climb rocks and navigate through several narrow entry points through the water. Finally, 2 hours later, you arrive at an ancient sacrificial chamber that contains 1,000-year-old skeletal remains (Mayan human sacrifices), one still fully intact from head to toe. It's a thrilling excursion not for the faint of heart!

Stay: Ka'ana Belize Resort may be a 2-hour drive away but it's one of the closest (and most comfortable) hotels for the day trip.
Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

Photo by: Thinkstock


Egypt’s history of mummification dates back to 3500 B.C. Visitors make a beeline to Luxor along the Nile River Valley where King Tut, the granddaddy and most famous of all mummies, was discovered in 1922 almost completely intact, more than 3,000 years after being entombed. A giant statue of Ramses the Great at Luxor Temple is also an impressive sight. Valley of the Kings is where the pharaohs were buried to meet their gods in the afterlife; today, the valley is known to contain more than 60 tombs and chambers.

Stay: Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa can arrange visits with experienced local guides, and the hotel’s pool offers unobstructed views of the Nile and Valley of the Kings.
Skull Caves
Skull Caves

Skull Caves

Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

Skull caves are a mostly forgotten reminder of Papua New Guinea's once unusual history. The main skull cave is located on the north coast, underground, and reached by a wooden stairway constructed by local villagers (don't be surprised to find them waiting to sell you handicrafts on your way out). Inside the cave, visitors will find hundreds of cranial remains. There are 2 main theories as to why the skulls are here: headhunting and cannibalism (pre-missionary days) or a burial cave containing skulls from Papua New Guinea's most respected people. You decide!

Stay: Tawali is a rustic villa resort that offers guided hikes to the caves.
St. Michan's Church
St. Michan's Church

St. Michan's Church

Photo by: foxhunter22, Wikimedia Commons

foxhunter22, Wikimedia Commons

Unarguably one of Dublin’s most unusual attractions is at St. Michan’s Church, made famous by its crypt. Underneath the church are 5 burial vaults comprising well-preserved mummified remains of some of Dublin's most influential residents of yore, including the legendary Sheares brothers, Irish revolutionaries who were hanged by the British. One body's legs were cut off at the knees (legend has it that was the only way his 6-foot-6-inch body could fit in the coffin). Today, the guides may just encourage you to touch his finger for good luck. After all, it is the luck of the Irish.

Stay: The Merrion hotel is one of Dublin's oldest, and arranges walking tours to the church.
Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Photo by: Michael Grijters, Wikimedia Commons

Michael Grijters, Wikimedia Commons

Cambodia's dark past is preserved to remind visitors what the country endured under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. At the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, visitors can visit the actual prison camp where locals were tortured and killed, and where skulls rest today in display cases. Well over 1 million citizens were killed and buried at the Killing Fields -- various sites in Cambodia where the genocide occurred. Today, the best known monument to the Killing Fields is at a massive gravesite just outside of Phnom Penh.

Stay: Raffles Hotel Le Royal is a popular stay for American visitors, and can provide guided tours and drivers to both sites.
Lenin's Mausoleum
Lenin's Mausoleum

Lenin's Mausoleum

Photo by: longmandancer@btopenworld.com, Flickr

longmandancer@btopenworld.com, Flickr

One of the most famous dead men on public display is Vladimir Lenin near the Moscow Kremlin. The body of the Russian communist revolutionary was perfectly preserved and exhibited for all visitors to see shortly after his death in 1924 (even today, be ready to wait in line!). But this unusual spectacle may not last much longer. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a great debate has ensued about whether the body should be buried (most recently, the United Russia party created a website where visitors can vote on whether Lenin’s remains should be taken 6 feet under). Even more reason to book a trip to Russia now!

Stay: Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow arranges tours to all the top sites in Moscow, including Lenin’s Mausoleum.

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