With its long history of pirates, shipwrecks, slavery, and even blood sacrifices, the Caribbean is rife with ghost stories and haunted history. If you're visiting the Caribbean around Halloween or just need a little scare any time of year, you're bound to encounter more than your share of zombies, jumbies and other astral fellow travelers in this exotic locations.
The is a Hell on Earth, and it's in Grand Cayman, where visitors delight in sending postcards from Hell to their families back home as well as viewing the creepy, million-year-old limestone formations that give the town its name. If you want a taste of some real fire and brimstone, head to Montserrat, where Madame Soufriere (a.k.a. the Soufriere Hills Volcano) frequently shows her wrath by spewing steam, lava and ash and sending fiery boulders tumbling down her shoulders. For a road trip from hell, visit the Sulphur Springs National Park in St. Lucia, billed as the world's only "drive-through volcano."
Enter the Bermuda Triangle
Growing up in the 1970s, the Bermuda Triangle ranked right up there with the Amityville Horror house among Places You Don't Want to Be. Lately, people seem to have forgotten about the Bermuda Triangle -- a region also known as the "Devil's Triangle" whose geography encompasses a rough triangle between Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda. But take it from Caribbean sailors and pilots -- this boat-swallowing, compass-confusing, aircraft-snatching vortex is still out there. The region is the graveyard to a disturbing number of shipwrecks, and the disappearance of an entire squadron of Navy planes in 1945 -- along with a rescue plane sent to find them -- and stories of UFO sightings have added to the Bermuda Triangle legend.
Zombies -- those shuffling staples of B movies from Night of the Living Dead to Zombieland -- can be traced in legend to the voodoo (also vodou or voudun) religion, most famously (and popularly) practiced in Haiti. In fact, the word "zombie" apparently is derived from the Haitian Creole word "zombi," a term for a person who has been brought back to life but is unable to speak and is controlled by a voodoo sorcerer. Some researchers have claimed that voodoo practitioners may be able to exert control by giving a mix of drugs to their victims. Voodoo adherents in Haiti strongly object to such stories -- they consider themselves Roman Catholics -- but the religion's rituals do include communicating with the spirits of the dead through trances.
See the Sites of Human Sacrifices
Anyone who read the book (or saw the movie) "The Ruins" will likely never take a cruise-ship shore excursion to the Mayan ruins of Mexico again without thinking twice. The Maya who built the temples at Tulum and Chichen Itza in the Mexican Caribbean frequently practiced human sacrifice, including at the Cenote Sagrado, or sacred sinkhole, of Chichen Itza, where archaeologists have found the skeletal remains of more than 40 men and boys -- apparent sacrificial victims. Mexico also is a great place to visit around Halloween since it corresponds with Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations (Dia de los Muertos).
Beware the White Witch of Rose Hall
If you're visiting the Rose Hall area of Jamaica (near Montego Bay) be sure to pay a visit to the Rose Hall plantation for a spooky tour that features the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall, Annie Palmer. The wife of a 19th-century plantation owner, Palmer went through a disturbing number of husbands and was believed to be a voodoo mistress. She also was cruel to the slaves who worked on the plantation, including ordering public whippings and torture in a basement dungeon. Palmer's ghost is said to haunt the plantation house, which now is home to a bar and restaurant. The nearby White Witch Golf Course, part of the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall resort, is named in her dubious honor.
Seek the Lost City of Atlantis
Some might say that it's easy to find Atlantis in the Caribbean -- just go to Nassau and cross the bridge to Paradise Island. But did you know that investigators into the legend of the Lost City of Atlantis say the doomed city may have been located off the coast of Cuba or near Bermuda or the Bahamas? Legendary prognosticator Edgar Cayce claimed that the ruins of Atlantis would be found in the South Atlantic, and the discovery of underwater stones cut into geometric shapes off the island of Bimini seemed to support the theory. In 2001, however, underwater explorers discovered stones laid out in a geometric pattern in 2,100-foot-deep waters off Cuba, led to speculation that the sunken remnants of Atlantis had at last been found.
Set Sail for Ghost Ships and Shipwrecks
The Black Pearl of the Pirates of the Caribbean films is far from the only ghost ship to roam the waters of the Caribbean. In 2006, a yacht was found off the island of Barbados crewed by the petrified corpses of 11 men -- would-be immigrants bound for the Canary Islands who wound up adrift and helpless in the Atlantic. The Caribbean Sea also is littered with 400 years worth of shipwrecks, from Spanish galleons sunk in hurricanes with all hands to German U-boats sunk in World War II -- some still home to the remains of their doomed crews. Some of these wrecks are now popular destinations for divers, who may feel an icy chill as they explore these underwater graveyards.
Visit the Cursed Eden Browne Estate in Nevis
Nobody has lived at the Eden Browne estate on Nevis for more than 150 years, and for good reason: the property is said to be haunted by the ghosts of a groom and his best man who killed each other during a wedding in 1822. In fact, the dispute that led to a fatal duel -- and a life of heartbreak for the would-be bride -- took place on the same day that the property was to be christened as the Garden of Eden at Browne's Estate. The arranged marriage of Caroline James Beard and John Higgins was intended to bring together two prosperous families, but its bloody conclusion resulted in a curse that persists until this very day.
Port Royal, Jamaica, the island of Tortuga (near Haiti) and the port of New Providence (Nassau) in the Bahamas were some of the most infamous pirate towns of the Caribbean, and the region abounds with tales of bloody pirate attacks, hidden pirate loot, and the all-too-real public executions of those convicted of piracy on the high seas. The ghost of the infamous pirate Blackbeard is said to haunt several places in the Caribbean, including the British Colonial Hilton, which sits on the former site of Old Fort Nassau. The pirate Calico Jack was just one of the buccaneers hung at Gallows Point in Port Royal, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1692 -- an event that some saw as divine retribution for the town's wicked ways.
Be a Sucker for Vampire Bats and Spooky Caves
Bats are abundant in the Caribbean, and Trinidad is home to one of the few species of vampire bats in the world. Tourists can easily encounter bats by visiting the ruins of old plantation homes and mills -- such as those in the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John -- or in their natural habitat, like the caves at Rio Camuy Cave Park in Puerto Rico.
Explore Some Caribbean Cemeteries
AddressRue Alerte, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Every Caribbean island is dotted with cemeteries, but perhaps none has the reputation for paranormal activity as the Port au Prince cemetery in Haiti, which is said to have a healthy population of ghosts. In Christchurch, Barbados, the crypt belonging to the Chase family earned a spooky reputation when the coffins of Colonel Thomas Chase and his two daughters were found to have moved around -- after the crypt had been sealed shut.