Pirate’s Alley is one of many places in New Orleans where the ghosts of restless souls have been spotted. (Photo: Bob Krist/Corbis)
Who doesn’t need a little more magic in his or her life? The mysterious world of magic and the occult has captivated inquisitive minds since the beginning of time. Today, with the success of huge movie franchises like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it is clear that our fascination with witches and wizards knows no bounds.
When we think about witches, we typically think about Halloween. But who says magic, spooks, and sorcery are only for October?
We searched far and wide for seven travel destinations, both in the U.S. and abroad, for the traveler seeking something mystical, magical, or maybe just a little bit spooky throughout the year.
1. Rose Hall, Jamaica, Home of the Great White Witch
The eternally eerie Rose Hall mansion, where the ghost of Annee Palmer is said to still roam. (Photo: Matt Propert/National Geographic Creative/Corbis)
Annee Palmer’s bedroom at Rose Hall. (Photo: Jan Butchofsky/Alamy)
Deemed one of the scariest places on earth, Rose Hall is a grand Georgian mansion built in the 1770s on a plantation close to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Legend states that the grounds are haunted by the spirit of Annee Palmer, an English orphan who was taught voodoo and witchcraft by a nanny after both of her parents succumbed to yellow fever.
Annee moved into Rose Hall after marrying its owner, John Palmer, whom she purportedly murdered using black magic, along with two subsequent husbands and several plantation slaves.
A candlelit evening tour of the home explores the fascinating legend of “The White Witch of Rose Hall,” promising goose bumps from the eerie tales of the various ghost sightings on the mysterious property.
Tours cost $20 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. Advance tickets are available for purchase online at a discount.
2. Salem, Mass.
The Jonathan Corwin House — aka the Witch House — in Salem. Corwin was a judge during the witch trials and ultimately sent 19 “witches” to the gallows. (Photo: Steven Milne/Alamy)
Salem, Mass., also known as the Witch’s City, is likely to be the world’s most famous witchcraft-related locale in America. The town played host to the infamous Salem witch trials in the spring of 1692 which began after a group of girls, claiming to have been possessed my the devil, accused several local women of practicing witchcraft.
Mass hysteria ensued and a special court found 24 people guilty of witchcraft over the next several months, sentencing them all to death by hanging. More than 100 others were imprisoned.
The town has been a monument to the witch trials ever since and attracts over a million visitors a year to its witchcraft-themed attractions, the most popular of which is the Bewitched After Dark Walking Tour.
The two-hour historical tour is led by a Salem native who claims to practice modern witchcraft, and explores many of the points of interest from sites of reported ghost sightings, historical colonial architecture, and the iconic witch trial locations.
Make sure to stop by the Salem Witch Museum, Burying Point Cemetery and the Corwin House — the only structure still standing with ties to the trials, built in the 17th century.
3. Witches Brew Tour, New Orleans, La.
One of the spooky New Orleans cemeteries where the graves are all aboveground. (Photo: Buddy Mays/Corbis)
Voodoo dolls and other talismans sold in one of the many voodoo shops in New Orleans. (Photo: Jason Langley/Alamy)
Witches Brew provides New Orleans visitors with several enthralling expeditions around the city. The spookiest of the bunch is the Witchpack Tour.
This four-hour tour, which can be split into two parts, is described as “the ultimate walking tour experience” and takes brave guests on a comprehensive journey through the city’s rich history of witches, voodoo, vampires, and ghosts.
Incorporating architecture, food, music, and movies — the tour includes cemeteries, churches, the voodoo museum, haunted houses, and other French Quarter gems.
Tickets cost $35. The tour is recommended only for those 13 years old and over due to the creepy content. Tours take place every day of the year except Mardi Gras, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
4. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, Fla.
The magnificence of Hogwarts Castle takes shape above Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Photo: Universal Studios Orlando)
On Flight of the Hippogriff at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, guests climb into a wicker Hippogriff to go on a training flight and ride on a family friendly, whimsical roller coaster. (Photo: Universal Studios Orlando)
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a veritable paradise for any witchcraft aficionado.
At the park’s center is a re-creation of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which starts visitors on a journey through Harry Potter’s world. Features include the roller coaster Dragon’s Challenge, a 3D simulator ride Escape from Gringotts, the Hogwarts Express train and gift stores and restaurants.
Visitors require a two-park pass to experience all of the attractions, costing $147 for an adult pass or $142 for a child’s pass, which includes rides on the Hogwarts Express and access to the rest of the Universal Resort.
5. “Noche de Brujas,” or the Night of the Witches, Catemaco, Mexico
A “brujo” performs a spiritual cleansing in front of a burning star in Catemaco, Mexico. (Photo: Gregory Bull/AP)
Referred to as the spiritual home of witches and wizards, Catemaco is a small, quaint town on the shores of Laguna Catemaco, a lake in the Veracruz region of central Mexico.
With ancient witchcraft traditions that go back centuries and include West African voodoo, medieval tradition, and indigenous beliefs, a local shaman (brujo) or male witch chose to create an event where brujos and healers from all over Mexico could take part in a mass cleansing ceremony to rid them of negative spirits or energy.
The annual tradition is now called the Noche de Brujas: Night of the Witches.
Much like Mardi Gras, the modern-day festival, which takes place in March, involves more of a party atmosphere where visitors flock to the area to indulge in food, drink, and dance. Stage performances involving music and dance take precedence over the ceremony, and hundreds of stalls are sell trinkets and souvenirs. For a fee, you can even get a consultation with various shamans who claim to be able to cure ills and predict the future.
If making the trip down for the festival, visitors should also take in the region’s ancient Olmec civilization sites or take a trip to Monkey Island in the middle of Lake Catemaco, where thousands of wild monkeys reside.
6. Witchfest International, Croydon, England
Croydon, England, home to the world’s largest witchcraft convention. (Photo: Darren Lehane/Alamy)
Witchfest takes place each November in Croydon, just outside London, and is thought to be the largest witchcraft convention on earth.
With hundreds of talks, workshops, and demonstrations by the most famous witchcraft and Wiccan authors and experts, the festival continues over two full days and attracts thousands of visitors every year who travel from all different parts of the globe.
Other features of the event include live music, an esoteric market, dancers, and even a witch-only dating service.
Tickets can be bought in advance and cost just $25.
7. Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, England — Home of Merlin
Explore the ruins of Tintagel Castle, a site full of mystical history. (Photo: Neil Howard/Flickr)
The legend of Merlin goes back to the days of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, and the iconic character is arguably the world’s most famous wizard.
Said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall was built in the 13th century by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, into a cliff side on the rugged northern Cornish coastline.
Beneath the castle ruin there is a cave caused by sea erosion — 100 meters long — that passes completely underneath the headland on which the castle is built and is accessible only when the tide is low.
The myth states that it was inside this cave that the great wizard Merlin hid King Arthur following his birth to protect him from enemies of the crown. The castle site is a mystical and historic Dark Age ruin steeped in mystery and offers visitors spectacular views of the British coastline.
And just a few miles down the road in Boscastle is the Museum of Witchcraft, which houses the world’s largest collection of witchcraft-related artifacts and regalia.
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”