When it comes to stories and movies we are always hearing about places that were lost, may exist or are just plain fiction. We hear stories of places that aren’t real like El Dorado-who knows if this is actually real. Some say they are real some say it’s a myth. Atlantis is also a place. It might exist. It might not. How about Agard? That one is a clear Mythology and most people know it because of Thor and Loki. The Garden of Eden, The City Of The Dead etc are all just places in your fairy tale. Keeping that aside, many have heard of vampires and werewolves. Of witches and ghosts. Of monsters and gods. Well, let me tell you that some of the places that their legends come from are real. Real places that inspired mythical legends. Places that would make your heart jump and make you want to visit them.

  1. Dracula’s Castle, Romania

Bran Castle, or more commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, is a real fortress that resides in Romania. It is situated in Bran between Transylvania and Walachia. The famous monument appeared in the ever famous Bram Stoker book- Dracula in 1897. In the book, the character Johnathan Harker was held like a prisoner in Dracula’s Castle. The castle was described to be old, a haunted looking mansion that had the smell of death all over it. Although in reality it’s a bit different from that.

Bran’s Castle is the home of Vlad Tepes (1431- 1477) also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula. He was the second son of Vlad Dracul and prince of Wallachia. He was known for being a blood-thirsty ruthless despot; killing his enemies and impaling them. He is linked to Stoker’s famous vampire prince, Dracula.

In 1438-1442, the castle was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire. Although it is said that Vlad never owned it, he did visit it from time to time. The interesting part is that no evidence confirms that Stoker knew about Bran Castle when he wrote about it in his book. It is based on his imagination but the description of the surrounding landscape and the fact that the castle is perched on a lonely hill is eerily accurate.

The castle is not dark, rotting and covered in cobwebs and dusts. Although the exterior of the castle shows that time has passed quite a while since it was built the interior is well taken care of with the gothic style furniture and beautiful interior arrangement. That said it still gives you the chills at night. Dran Castle celebrates Halloween every year. On October, it hosted its first spooky over-night stay for customers since 1948. Guests were asked to sleep the night in a coffin and would be served the exact same meal that was served to Jonathan Harker in the book. Surrounded by darkness, wolves and creaking noises of the house Bran Castle is a must visit for fans of Dracula who is looking for hair rising chills and an experience of their favorite vampire villain.

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2. Valley Of The Kings, Egypt

Egypt is known for its famous pyramids, the Sphinx, The Book of the Dead, the mummies and of course for the ever famous movie The Mummy and its sequel. Egypt had the first proper civilization of mankind with its strict laws and principles but it didn’t lack in its myths and legends. With gods like Anubis, Horus, Set, Osiris and the lot, Egypt is abundant in its stories and magic. One of the most significant places that are repeatedly engraved in hieroglyphics in the pharaohs tombs and old Papyrus is the Valley of the Kings. According to Ancient Egypt and Hieroglyphics this place belongs to the goddess ‘Meretseger’.

Meretseger was a cobra-goddess and was the patron deity of the workers who built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. She was the goddess of punishment and sinners but helped those who repented. Her name means ‘she who loves silence’. She was the chief deity of the Valley of the Kings and resided there. Although Meretseger is a mythical being, the place she guarded, “Valley of the Kings” is quite real.

While the legend was for the goddess, the real Valley of the Kings is home to the tombs of many pharaohs such as Thutmose I, Amenhotep I, Seti I, Ramses II and the very famous Tutankhamun. The tombs were prepared with furniture’s, gold, money, clothes etc, believing that the pharaohs and priests would need them in the afterlife. The Valley of the Kings was laid to rest with the last king Ramses X and was forgotten for three thousand years.

The Valley stands between the west bank of the Nile opposite Thebes and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Egypt today. Even though most of the tombs were found from this valley secrets still remains. Egyptologists are still trying to find the tombs of Nefertiti and Ramses VIII and believes that they are buried somewhere beneath the mysterious sands of the valley. Only time will tell.

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     3. Sleepy Hollow, New York

Now this name would strike interest in many hearts and make you go “Ah!” and for good reasons too. Sleepy Hollow is known for the TV series and the film with the same name starring Johnny Depp.

The real story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” came from the pen of the famous author Washington Irving. Just like how Bram Stoker created Dracula, Irving created the “Headless Horseman”. A gruesome ghost of a Hessian soldier that haunts the night and chops of the head of innocent bypassers. The story takes place in the fictional place called“Sleepy Hollow” except the place is not fictional anymore.

Some scholar argue that Irving created the legend based on true events surrounding Tarrytown village in New York near Hudson River.  Folktales about a Hessian soldier that died by losing his head surrounded the town. This inspired Irving to create the Headless Horseman and a fictional village called Sleepy Hollow based on Tarrytown. The story was so much taken in by the folks of North Tarrytown village that, in 1996, they officially changed the name of the village to “Sleepy Hollow”. Irving’s body rests in the cemetery of Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow is now a famous tourist attraction for eerie chills and Halloween thrills. By day Sleepy Hollow is a picture perfect place of scenery with beautiful landscapes and a gentle breeze. By night the sunlight’s turn into dark, looming shades with Halloween vibes. Tours are taken through the Horseman’s stomping grounds and Irving’s final resting place and a costumed Headless Horseman roams the area to scare the oncoming tourists.

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    4. Ama-no-Iwato, Japan

Japan is famous for its folktales and mythology. Some of the scariest horror movies you’ve seen, for example The Grudge, The Ring, are all made from Japanese tales. But it’s not only the scary part that makes Japan’s mythology interesting. They have stories related to gods and goddesses and one of them takes place in the Ama-no-Iwato.

Ama-no-Iwato means “The cave of the sun goddess”. The legend says that the  bad behavior of Susanoo, the god of storms, drove his sister, the sun goddess, Amaterasu into the Ama-no-Iwato-cave which caused the light in the land to disappear and turn into total darkness. In order to get Amaterasu out of the cave the other gods and the goddess Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto performed a funny dance, eliciting much laughter. Amaterasu grew curious about the joyous sounds and peeked out of the cave entrance. This caused the light to fall back onto the land. A holy seal was then placed onto the cave so she wouldn’t be able to go back.

The whole story of the light and darkness is actually an interpretation of a solar eclipse by Ancient Japanese.

The cave that Amaterasu rested in is the object of worship in festivals and tourists are restricted in that area. Ten kilometers outside of Central Takachiho, Amano Shinto Shrine was built near the Ama-no-Iwato cave. The beauty of the nearby river and the entire surrounding of nature has called forth a lot of tourists for sight-seeing.

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      5.  Hell house of College St Mary’s, Maryland

Hell House is the nickname given to St Mary’s College that was in Maryland. The name itself gives the listener imaginations and thoughts about ghosts, demons and all sorts of evil spirits. The stories are haunted and the ruins of what’s left of the College looks even more eerie and creepy. It gives the perfect setting for the rumors and myths that surrounds the place.

St Mary’s College was a catholic school that was recorded to have 29 people including three priests and 19 students when it first started out in 1866. Over the years the number of students attending the school increased until at one point it had over 150 students attending the school at a time. The number of students however gradually dropped and the school had to shut down in 1972. It ran till the first half of the 20th century.

The rumors that fly about the school being shut down have a lot of variations. During the 1980’s one of the famous rumors that spread was that one of the priests had raped nuns and when the priest was caught he managed to escape while the nuns became possessed by demonic forces and murdered everyone in college. There are a lot of variations to this story. Another reason was that  the nuns were found hanged, with a pentagram drawn in blood on the floor below, and the priest was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There is of course, no evidence to back these rumors up. All the more because the college was a men’s college and not a nunnery.

Even though this is the rumour the real reason was that part of the school burned down in  1968. Because the school was ruins fewer students started enrolling there and in 1972 it had to shut down because only 10 students enrolled.

In 1982 Micheal Nibali, a developer, purchased 33 acres of the site for $250,000 including the college, with the intent of converting the building into 96 apartments. Nibali won a controversial bid from executive J. Hugh Nichols to convert the recently burnt Ellicott City Elementary school to apartments. After approval failed, the building was abandoned and allowed to be vandalized. It was during this time when the rumors started flying and the media nicknamed the college as “Hell House”.

Today, much of the college is in ruins with most of the remaining structure was burned by arsonists in 1997 and the rest of the building demolished in 2006. The only features that remain in its abandoned and creepy demeanor are the foundations, concrete staircases, and an altar beneath a colonnaded pavilion.

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     6. Town of Tono, Japan

Ever heard of the green turtle like demons that live underwater and on land? A couple of mysterious creatures? They can walk like humans and might even have resemblances to us. And no, they are not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These are demons that come straight from Japanese folklore called Kappa.

The Kappa is one of the most known creatures from Japanese mythology. They are said to reside in the waters of Tono in Iwate prefecture. According to the folklore they have powers in which there is water filling the bowl-like depression at the top of its head.

In 1912 Kunio Yanagita, one of Japan’s most prominent folklorists, collected the oral traditions of Tono and released them as Tales of Tono. The town has a reputation of being called Japan’s “City of Folklore” as all sorts of myths and legends can be read in the anthology.

Apart from the legends, Tono’s beauty attracts visitors at all times. It even hosts exciting festivals like the Kagura festival (Sacred ancient Japanese music). Structures of Kappa can be seen all throughout Tono with the entire beauty of the land complementing these statues wonderfully.

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       7. Fountain of Youth, Florida

What is the ritual again? Water from the fountain and a mermaid’s tear?”

“And two silver chalices. One cup with a tear, one without. The person who drinks the water with the tear, gets all the years of life from the other.”

“How many years?”

“All the years they have lived and could have lived if faith had been kinder”

We’ve all heard that line before. An explanation to how to drink the water from the fountain of youth so not to age. They were dialogues shared by Captain Jack Sparrow and Angelica in Pirates of The Caribbean: On stranger tides. The story is fiction and the myth surrounding the fountain is also not real. And yet the fountain and Ponce de leon is very much real. Except that no one gets younger from drinking from the fountain.

Juan Ponce de León was a Spanish explorer and the first Governor of Puerto Rico. According to an apocryphal combination of New World and Eurasian elements, Ponce de León travelled to what is now Florida in 1915 and found the Fountain of Youth. A drink from the well is supposed to bring the person back into being an eighteen year old and stay forever young. Of course the story about Ponce de Leon coming to Florida and the fountain is just a myth.

The real water rests in the The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park in St.Augustine. A marking above the well says that it was discovered in 1513 and was recorded a landmark in Spanish crant. Of course this water does not give back the vigor of youth. It’s a normal well with brassy, metallic tasted water.

The park also has a statue of Ponce de Leon but there is no evidence that proves he came to this land. Some scholars argue that he was in fact searching for a fountain of youth in a mystical land called Bimini as told to him by Native Americans and never came to Florida. Even if the records and history never mentions or proves the fountain of youth exists it doesn’t stop people from wanting to believe in it. Such are the stories of our world.

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