The Creepiest Tales Of Island Ghosts

The only thing worse than seeing a ghost might be knowing that you're trapped with a malevolent spirit on an island and there's no escape. (What's more: he ruined your vacation!) So if you're thinking of a tropical island getaway for your next family trip, you might want to reconsider these islands that have some of the creepiest ghost stories in their haunted past. Or, if you're into that kind of spooky thing, give your local travel agent a call.

We'll start close to home: Key West, Florida. According to, locals and tourists alike seem to make fun of "some pretty macabre stuff." For example, you can go have a piña colada at Captain Tony's Saloon, which was discovered to have been a morgue in a previous life, as the skeletons found below the floorboards during a recent renovation can attest to. The ghost of a woman hung from a tree outside is said to make a spooky appearance every now and then, as well. There's also Robert, a 40-inch-tall doll made around the turn of the 20th century that may or may not have gotten mixed up with some voodoo now on display at a local museum. Oh, and it's also believed that the ghosts of Ernest Hemingway and his second wife Pauline still hang around the iconic American novelist's Key West property and the adjacent graveyard.

Europe's creepiest island ghosts

Moving across the pond, you'll find some supposedly haunted islands that have both repelled scaredy-cats and attracted curious ones (of whose fate we're all well aware) for centuries. Take Poveglia, in Venice, Italy's South Lagoon. The Travel Channel says it has been "a refuge, stronghold, place of exile and a dumping ground for the diseased, dying and deceased" for hundreds of years. Its first inhabitants arrived in 421, but not on vacation. They were escaping invaders on the mainland. The islanders and their descendants enjoyed a peaceful lifestyle until the 14th century, when the Black Death scythed through Europe's population by the millions. The ghastly gentrification of Poveglia continued in the 1800s, when the citizens of Venice figured it was a great place for an asylum for the city's mentally ill. The island is "abandoned" today.

A visit to Scotland's Isle of Skye is incomplete without a thorough investigation into the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, a piece of woven silk that most likely dates back to 4th century Rhodes or Syria, according to the Dunvegan Castle website. There are several creepy tales to explain its purported supernatural powers (the word fairy in Scotland denotes something more akin to what Americans call ghosts, rather than the cute, winged things the word conjures up on this side of the Atlantic), but the Fairy Flag has been credited with protecting the Dunvegan clan from invaders and other threats, as well as spontaneously bursting into song, for centuries.

Asia's creepiest tales of island ghosts

Who knows how many ghosts haunt Gunkanjima Island, off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan? According to Atlas Obscura, the tiny island — less than a square kilometer in area — was the most densely populated place on the face of the earth back when the Mitsubishi Corporation stacked a bunch of high-rise buildings on it and filled them with "forced laborers" (ahem — slaves) from Korea to mine the ridiculous amounts of coal beneath it at the turn of the 20th century. By the 1950s nearly 6,000 people lived on the minuscule plot of land in the middle of the sea, but when the coal ran out, so did Mitsubishi's need to force people to live on Gunkanjima. It has been devoid of flesh-and-bone people for the last 40 years, but you can now visit the creepy ghost island on cruises that leave from Nagasaki.

The island of Koh Kham Noi in the Gulf of Thailand housed American soldiers during World War II, but it wasn't a human enemy that brought about their demise. According to Culture Trip, malaria wiped out tons of the GIs, and the locals aren't sure they left for good. Creepy tales of ghosts of all types of various ethnic groups and religions abound on the island today. Still, most visitors just come for the snorkeling, or stay on the mainland in Pattaya doing things that would make even the evilest of spirits blush.