San Francisco Ghosts and goblins will roam the streets and haunt your doorstep in the hope of some treats next week on Halloween.
In honour of the ghoulish festival whose origins are said to stretch back to ancient harvest festivals online travel adviser Hotwire.com (www.hotwire.com) has compiled a list of its Top 10 spookiest destinations. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
The city of Hollywood is so glamorous that even spirits have a hard time leaving it behind. In fact, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift are just two of the many ghosts rumoured to dwell in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Meanwhile, B- and C-list celebri-ghouls are believed to haunt some of Tinsel Town's other famous landmarks including Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood sign. If you're in the mood for some guided fright-seeing, the Dearly Departed Tour will steer you through 50 years of Hollywood murders including those of Sharon Tate, Janis Joplin and the infamous Black Dhalia.
2. SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS
Though tragedy struck Salem, Massachusetts over 400 years ago, the essence of the "witch hysteria" still lingers over this small town. The Witch Trials of 1692 accused more than 150 people of witchcraft and condemned 19 to the death. Visitors can check out the full story behind "Witch City, USA" at the Salem Witch Museum and then venture onto the haunted grounds themselves. And because of its history, Salem has also become a world-renowned meeting place for enthusiast of the dark and creepy, which has helped create a whole new generation of spookiness.
3. NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Put down your Mardi Gras beads and prepare yourself for ghosts, voodoo and vampires. Commonly referred to as "the most haunted city in the United States," New Orleans definitely lives up to its frightening reputation, with voodoo shops, museums and wickedly cryptic tales of Marie Laveau, the "Queen of Voodoo." But the spooky adventures don't end there. Come face to face with the paranormal on one of the many ghost and cemetery tours, or step into Anne Rice's world of vampires and demons in the French Quarter.
4. SLEEPY HOLLOW, NEW YORK
It may not be the most terrifying place on this list, but one short story about a headless horseman has made the tiny suburb of Sleepy Hollow a well-known horror hot spot. There are tours year-round, but the scariest time to venture into this village is in October when the Halloween theme is in full effect. From ghostly hay rides to cemetery tours to the annual Horseman's Hollow haunted house, visitors are definitely in for some scares that might leave them speechless...or even headless.
5. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
If you think you've got the guts to face anything, head to Edinburgh, Scotland. A history of gruesome military attacks, tortures and executions have given the infamous Edinburgh Castle its reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the country, and the city itself has been called the spookiest place in Europe. Take a stroll down "The Royal Mile" and meander on your own through the eerie narrow lanes that lead off the main street, or join one of several guided tours through Greyfriars cemetery or the Edinburgh Vaults beneath the city streets for a frightful, yet historical, experience.
6. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
This "Magical Capital" has a sinister past, which some believe has made it an ideal place to find plenty of hauntings. Prague has something for every supernatural enthusiast, like ill-willed ghosts seeking revenge, a legendary golem protecting the city's famous Jewish Quarter, the trotting sound of a headless Templar Knight's horse on the cobblestone streets and eerie crypts in the dark dungeons of Prague Castle. With more horrifying happenings than you can imagine, Prague will definitely send chills down your spine.
7. BERMUDA TRIANGLE
Simply saying the name "Bermuda Triangle" can raise the hair of travellers around the globe. Still one of the world's biggest mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle (or Devil's Triangle, as it's sometimes called) is tied to the complete disappearance of over 50 ships and 20 aircraft. Willing to take the risk? Visitors can use their own vessel to sail through the unnerving triad or take a cruise to the Caribbean from an east coast port so you can face the unexplained phenomena from the lap of luxury.
8. PARIS, FRANCE
To many, Paris is the city for lovers, but it's also the home to some chilling ghost stories. There are tours that take you to some of the more haunted locations, like the Père Lachaise Cemetery or The Catacombs of Paris, but visitors need only walk around the best parts of the city at night to experience a ghostly encounter. It's said that the spirit of translator Gérard de Nerval haunts the Théâtre de la Ville, and if you're at the Pont Marie at night, you might catch a glimpse of the Frenchwoman who froze to death while waiting for her husband to arrive on that very bridge.
9. TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA
You might not need garlic and wooden stakes when visiting Brand Castle in Transylvania, Romania, but the terrifying truth of the infamous Prince Vlad will definitely make you watch your neck when roaming this castle. This legendary torturer's reputation for being sadistic is well-known throughout Europe, and even though he wasn't believed to be a vampire, his inhumane thirst for blood was the impetus behind Bram Stoker's Dracula. Prince Vlad's remains disappeared mysteriously from the castle, leaving many questions unanswered, but visitors can tour this landmark to feel the remnants of Dracula's wrath.
10. MOSCOW, RUSSIA
The ancient city of Moscow lends itself to sombre legends and centuries-old spirits. Here, visitors can walk with "Diggers" down into the cryptic Underground Planet, the seemingly endless underground network of tunnels, and witness a dreary torture chamber and a pond that was once the site of a mass suicide. These esoteric experiences aren't just reserved for the subterranean; visitors who walk down Tverskaya Street might spot the famous and ghostly black cat at midnight. Meanwhile, Myasnitskaya Street is the home of the ghastly patriarch of the once-wealthy Kysovnikovys family who lost it all during a robbery and roams around muttering, "Oh, my money, my money...", and then those who were hit hard on one of Kuznetsky Most Street's gambling houses might also enjoy getting picked up by a grey coach that will take them "wherever their soul wishes".
(Editing by Paul Casciato)