Happy August! Now that summer is winding down, we’re thinking about back-to-school—and specifically, to college. This month, we’re talking about a new trend we’ve been seeing lately: Families taking special trips with their college-bound kids. And speaking of bonding travel, we’re also highlighting our recent retreat in Puerto Rico—including our top hosting tips. And finally, rounding out this edition is a great Q&A with Qatar Airways, which was recently honored with the distinction of “World’s Best Airline.” We hope the rest of your summer is fun and relaxing!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Creepy. Scary. Supernatural. These are all words that we associate with Halloween—and with October 31 right around the corner, what better time than now to explore some of the mysterious sights around the world that embody these very feelings. Here, we’ve rounded up a few places to check out when you’re ready to get your scare on.
Japan might be known for its many horror films, but one of its real-life sites has its own cryptic reputation: Nicknamed the “suicide forest,” Aokigahara Forest is a thick forest near Mount Fuji that’s ranked as one of the most common places in the world for suicide. Hundreds of people have taken their own lives in the forest—the last time data was released, it topped out at 105. Often, because of the trees and nature of the forest itself, their bodies cannot be found—and may only be discovered much later. Not unsurprisingly, it’s said that the forest has “paranormal activity.”
Originally built in the late 1700’s, these underground vaults were where you’d find trade workers, taverns and the like in the flourishing Edinburgh—that is, until the area fell into despair. The vaults became synonymous with the city’s underbelly, with crime and murder, and, some say, even stolen corpses hidden there. Now, largely unused—they were buried and not dug up until the 1990’s—visitors can go on walking tours to discover even more of its sinister past.
Catacombes de Paris
Descend some 65 feet below the streets of Paris and you’ll find something wholly unexpected: about six million bones from throughout the 18th century. Created from old quarries (the limestone was used to build some of the city’s most famous places, like Notre Dame), many of the bodies from the city’s cemeteries were brought to this underground ossuary. That included those killed by guillotine during the French Revolution and, likely, many famous Parisians of the day as well. Now part of the Carnavalet Museum, tours of the catacombs are available six days a week.
Island of the Dolls
South of Mexico City, Mexico
Creepy only begins to describe Isla de las Muñecas—Island of the Dolls. But with hundreds of decaying and abandoned dolls, many hanging from trees, it’s easy to see why. According to the tale, the island, which sits around 17 miles from Mexico City, had a caretaker who discovered a young girl who had drowned, and, in homage, hung up what he presumed to be her doll. But, it’s said, the girl haunted him and he spent half-a-century amassing dolls to appease her spirit. Rumors abound about the dolls, including that their eyes open and that they talk to each other. If you want to check it out, the island is among the Xochimilco canals can be reached by boat.
Salem Haunted Happenings
While still spooky, the town of Salem, the site of the historic Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century, does offer some family-friendly alternatives, with a host of things to do in the town, particularly during the lead-up to Halloween. You can go on tours, find out more about ancient witches, visit the Salem Wax Museum, or head to a haunted house, like Frankenstein’s Castle, and lots more. There are also shops, fairs and even psychics and séances to check out.