We all know that horror movies are fiction, but that doesn't stop us from checking under the bed after every episode of Scooby-Doo. Fear tends to turn off the rational part of our brains, which is why even the most reasonable human beings occasionally find themselves sprinting away from little girls with wet hair hanging over their faces. But then there are some places you can take one look at and be certain -- just from a process of pure and logical deduction -- that they're home to terrible monsters. Surely, if the right combination of dopey, well-meaning everymen, sassy heroines, sex-crazy teens and arrogant jock types went to any one of these places with a few helmet cams and an ample supply of tube tops, we could all see what happens when horror stops being polite, and starts being real.
#8. The Literal Mayan Hell
Archaeologists in the Yucatan have found something interesting: the literal entrance to hell.
Well, at least as far as the Mayans were concerned. The site archaeologists uncovered back in 2008 was a vast network of underground and underwater caves, crisscrossed with concrete roads, ominous columns and ruined temples. A group of hapless grad students stumbling upon an ancient, mysterious, buried city is more than enough to kick start the Lovecraft engine all on its own, but this story goes straight up horror cliche right abooouuuut now:
All that time spent playing "the floor is lava" would come in handy.
The Mayans believed that hell was a very specific place located in a network of underground caves beneath the jungles of the Yucatan. More specifically, they believed that the souls of the recently deceased started their journey into the afterlife being led through a pitch black, watery, subterranean maze by a mystical dog that could see perfectly in the dark. The deceased were plagued on every side by unseen creatures, harried and tortured until the death-pooch eventually brought them before a giant column, which sat on the lip of a deep pool that led to Xibalba -- their word for hell.
And that's exactly what the researchers found: an ornate system of caves, full of ancient temples and crumbling pathways that eventually led to a giant column on the edge of a deep, dark pool. Littered all throughout the site, they've found the expected remnants -- statues of priests, ceramics, human remains ...
Hey, this was the Mayans, after all: It just ain't a party until somebody stabs a virgin.
While some of the researchers believed that they'd found the inspiration behind the myth, others think that the belief predates the caves -- that the Mayans found a place that looked a lot like hell, so they just up and built themselves a hell down there. Hired some contractors, released a couple of bats, fed a bunch of carrots to a dog, and Bob's your uncle -- you got yourself a damnation. Either way, just imagine being that first Mayan expert, stumbling down a hole in the jungle and uncovering an elaborate set of ruins. As you trod down the broken concrete road, a sense of deja vu overtakes you. Haven't you heard of something like this before? Something in your studies? Folklore, maybe? When you finally come across the huge column with the human remains and black pool at its base, it clicks: This is hell. This is exactly like the hell the Mayans were talking about in their sacred book.
We don't care how rational you are, if a dog panted right then, you would pee. You would pee forever.
#7. Scott's Hut
Antarctica is a vast and frozen continent. It's so cold and merciless that it is a natural setting for horror. At the Mountains of Madness, The Thing, Alien vs. Predator -- even the sun doesn't want to stick around that place when winter sets in, leaving it in perpetual darkness for six months out of the year. Intrepid explorers usually come armed to the teeth with GPS systems, high-tech arctic clothing and enough advanced survival gear to bring Bear Grylls to a shuddering climax. It's plenty terrifying enough, and that's before the angry ghosts show up to take their homes back. Hold up, let us explain:
Back in the olden days, a lot of people were incredibly excited at the prospect of finding the South Pole, despite explorers having a nasty habit of dying horribly in the lethal conditions down there. One such explorer was Robert Falcon Scott, a man with the kind of heroic name and tasseled shoulder pads that secured him a place in history.
A dark, cold, bitter place.
"And this medal is for heroically leading others to their death."
In the winter of 1911, Robert Scott and his men left the relative safety of their base camp, a 50-foot-by-25-foot timber and seaweed hut, and set out on a mission to reach the South Pole. Scott and four companions managed to attain the pole in January 1912, but were historically cockblocked when they discovered that another team had already beat them to it by more than a month. Scott's party dejectedly began the 800-mile journey back, but before reaching the safety of their hut, the entire group perished in the ice.
In retrospect, betting all their supplies that they'd make it there first was a poor choice.
Their tent and frozen remains were not discovered until the next winter, along with Scott's diary with the final, shakily written entry reading: "It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott. For God's sake look after our people."
Holy shit, those are some ominous last words. They totally belong in a horror movie trailer; they sound like they should be frantically whispered over a montage of people running.
The hut that Scott was so desperately trying to reach was abandoned after, y'know, everybody living there died, and it was completely forgotten ... for about 40 years, until a U.S. expedition dug it back out of the snow. The building was found perfectly preserved by the cold, right down to the tomato ketchup and delicious cans of ox tongue, as though still awaiting the return of its hungry, forsaken owners. It looks like this:
"This Spam still hasn't reached its expiration date."
So if you ever happen to be stuck in the howling icy wastes at the bottom of the world, with the sun about to vanish for six months and the temperature dropping rapidly, go ahead and seek shelter here. It looks like a pretty comfortable place, actually, even if there are restless dead with famously unfinished business whose last wish on earth was just to come home to it. But yeah, you settle on in. Help yourself to some uncannily preserved century-old ox tongue. Just, uh ... don't answer the door if somebody comes knocking.
#6. This Abandoned Russian Laboratory
A group of Russian "urban explorers" were out doing their thing -- drinking "cologne" out of a giant novelty bottle and foolishly discussing the merits of single-stripe track pants over the clearly superior two-stripe variety -- when they discovered something weird: a sealed building full of disused lab equipment and strange little glass jars. When they wiped the dust off, this is what they saw:
The Soviet ending of Red Alert 2?
Yep. Brains. Pickled brains in jars, sealed up in an abandoned laboratory beneath Moscow. It was a long-forgotten relic of the Cold War, a secret Soviet installation that had been hastily abandoned for no apparent reason. There's no specific date listed, but one of their finds was a weathered image of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev gathering dust beneath a preserved, disembodied brain in a jar.
Budget cuts required improvised paperweights.
How long had it sat abandoned? Twenty, thirty years? More? There's no way to say, as the urban explorers website was pulled and deleted soon after they cataloged their find. That could mean that it's a hoax, or it could mean that the Russian police just don't appreciate people breaking into sealed government facilities ... or it could mean that they woke something terrible in the abandoned laboratory and have paid a terrible price for their hubris. Hey, we're in no position to say, so we'll just show you a few more of the pictures and let you work it out on your own.
Disembodied cat organs, or the newest adorable Disney character?
OK, that's a bit disturbing, but that's clearly just a cat brain. It's not like they were crudely butchering animals on site and-
Well, all right. This is starting to look like Leatherface's high school biology class. But there's nothing -- absolutely nothing -- that implies that this laboratory was manufacturing tiny animal-hybrid cannibals that they would set loose upon society, tearing flesh and devouring all they fi-
Clearly the work of pirahana-fleas.
#5. Lome's Voodoo Market
Pop culture tends to treat Voodoo like "crude, evil magic," so it's easy to forget that Voodoo is an actual, legitimate religion that many people still practice seriously. It's especially popular in Western African countries like Togo, and its capital, Lome, is home to one of the largest markets of Voodoo paraphernalia in the world ...
... which, unfortunately for Voodoo's image, is just another way of saying heaps of terrifying animal skulls.
Most religions just stick to stuff like bread, but this is fine, too.
In Western African Voodoo, it's believed that animal remains hold magical powers that can be used to protect oneself from evil and diseases. However, modern, on-the-go Voodoo-ites (Voodoodes?) might not have the time to ensnare and butcher a bunch of tiny critters to grind up and rub into their wounds. That's where the Lome Market comes in: Among its many stands and stalls, you can find an impressive assortment of talismans, fetishes and oh, so many skulls: crocodiles, cats, monkeys, vultures, owls, snakes -- it's a creepy skull buffet, and everybody's invited!
While it's certainly unsettling to look at, and there is literally no amount of money that you could pay us to walk through that place while high, none of the animals were actually killed in the market. So when you get down to it, the Lome bazaar is really just like your friendly neighborhood Walgreens, only with high-octane nightmare fuel where the aspirin should be.