10 places scarier than Dracula’s Castle

By Zahra Pettican
October 15, 2018, 3:38:21 PM EDT

Bran Castle is marketed as Dracula’s home and attracts tourists in their droves. In reality, neither Bram Stoker nor his possible inspiration, Vlad the Impaler, had any particular connection to it. While Bran Castle looks the part with its high walls and Gothic turrets, it is distinctly lacking the fear factor. If you really want to experience the heebie-jeebies in Romania, seek out Transylvania’s spooky forests, haunted medieval buildings, and mystical mountains. With barely a vampire in sight, these 10 paranormal hotspots more than deliver.

1. The Bucegi Mountains



The dramatic Bucegi Mountains are the gateway to Transylvania for visitors arriving from Bucharest, but are they also the gateway to other realms? Some people swear they are, while others claim they are the headquarters of an alien race. The mountains are home to the “Romanian Sphinx,” a natural rock formation that resembles the Egyptian Sphinx of Giza. Every November 28, pilgrims gather to enjoy an “energetic pyramid”—whatever that may be—of healing energy around the megalith. For every tale of aliens, portals, and phantom paths, there are accounts of good vibes and positive energy. Rumors of a subterranean network of tunnels have inspired a whole rabbit hole of Illuminati conspiracy theories that you don’t even want to go down.

INSIDER TIP: Take the cable car up the mountain from Busteni for stunning views of the Prahova Valley and great hiking. Tin foil hat optional.

2. Hoia Baciu Forest


(Photo: Daniel Mirlea/Shutterstock)

This forest on the outskirts of Cluj-Napocais so packed with creepy weirdness that even Dracula himself would probably give it a miss. Hoia Baciu is known as “Europe’s Bermuda Triangle” due to stories of people disappearing among its unnatural, twisted trees. In fact, Hoia Baciu is named after a shepherd who went into the forest with 200 sheep and never came out again.

Most of the alleged activity is focused on Poiana Rotunda, a clearing where electromagnetic activity is off the charts, and apparitions and disembodied voices are happy to keep you company. UFOs, lights, and orbs are regularly spotted, and people claim to suffer from unusual physical symptoms such as scratches and nausea. The teams from television shows Ghost Adventuresand Destination Truthhave already gotten hysterical here in the middle of the night…because who walks in a forest by day?

INSIDER TIP: The Hoia Baciu Project gives guided tours through the forest by day or night.

3. Rasnov Fortress

forest 2

(Photo:Balate Dorin/Shutterstock)

Rasnov Fortress has earned the moniker the “Fortress of Fear” because of its infamous well and the discovery of human bones. It was built by Teutonic Knights on a hilltop on the route of invading armies. It offered refuge to citizens for long periods of time so Saxons extended the citadel into a small fortified village, which heroically resisted siege after siege. According to legend, in 1623 two Turkish prisoners were forced to dig a well through solid rock in the center of the citadel with the promise of freedom upon its completion. The 470-foot-deep well took 17 years to build, but the soldiers were promptly killed for their efforts. Rightfully miffed by this betrayal, they apparently still haunt the well. Elsewhere in the fortress, people have seen dark moving shadows and entities, felt cold spots, and heard unexplained noises.

INSIDER TIP: Rasnov is on the road to Bran Castle and accessible by regular buses from Brasov, so combine the two attractions for a culture-filled day trip.

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