With Halloween fast approaching, one man is in his element. Fred Batt is the resident expert in all things dark and sinister on the long-running paranormal show 'Most Haunted'.
As we get closer to Halloween, the Veil between the two worlds is said to get thinner. This means that some of the most sinister places on Earth have the potential to become truly evil and Fred warns about the dangers of these locations at this time of year.
The Veil is said to be an energetic barrier that separates the physical world we live in from the plane of existence that ghosts and demons inhabit - the spirit world. In Celtic mythology the Veil was depicted as walls of mist that acted as a dividing point between the known and the unknown.
The ancient Celts believed that on October 31st the barrier was at its thinnest and they called upon the demon Samhain, who was able to summon spirits from the other side into our realm. The Pagans were aware of this too, in fact it is how Halloween costumes originated. By dressing as ghosts, monsters and demons, it was believed that they would blend in with any spirits coming through the Veil on All Hallows Eve.
Fred says that this concept has lived on in many different cultures and warns that practices like using Ouija boards, contacting the dead, and of course attempting to summon demons could be much more dangerous to the uninitiated over this period.
The demonologist also advices to avoid certain dark and sinister locations while the Veil is at its thinnest, as paranormal activity could be at its highest, especially when it comes to dark and malevolent entities. Below are the six most evil places around the world that should be avoided at all cost this Halloween.
6. Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe, UK
In a network of caves in leafy Buckinghamshire a gang of Britain's most wealthy and noble men met in secret, and thanks to their sinister past and dark myths, the caves are a terrifying place to visit today. So it's no surprise that Fred has been interested in the location for many years, "I've been going here since I was 14. There's just something about that place, I can't stay away from it."
The man-made chalk caves near the village of West Wycombe were once the home of the notorious Hellfire Club. The group was formed by Sir Francis Dashwood, an English rake, politician and one-time Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hidden in the privacy of the caves, the members were said to hire prostitutes to dress up as nuns and conducted mock-religious - and some say Satanic - rituals over the bodies of naked aristocratic ladies.
The caves, which stretch for over a mile into the hillside, can be found in what was Dashwood's estate, Fred tells us how they came into being, "it was to build the main road that goes through there, they dug out all the chalk to make the road and they left the cave behind."
Strange carvings of screaming faces are etched upon the walls, and at the bottom of the caves runs an underground river named The Styx, after the river in Greek mythology that forms the boundary between Earth and the underworld. It was said that souls must cross this mythical river to enter Hell.
As paranormal activity is said to be rife in the caves at the best of times, could this river really be a link to the other side like its mythical namesake? With the Veil becoming weaker over Halloween, demonic and evil entities may take this opportunity to cross over into our realm.
5. Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy
Even Fred might think twice about what he attempts to summon up on this small Italian island. It has witnessed more death, misery and suffering than just about anywhere else on Earth - of course all that negativity is said to have left its mark on the island.
The eerie and allegedly very haunted island is located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon. The Romans started a trend of sending plague victims to the island to live out their final days. Each time an epidemic broke out more of the region's dead and dying were shipped to the island, where they left them to die or buried them.
If this weren't enough, in the 1920s a mental hospital was built on the island, and it was at this time that patients and staff started reporting ghostly goings on. There's the story of a twisted and evil doctor the conducted illicit experiments on the hospital's patients. It's said that those who were killed in his experiments came back for revenge. This drove the doctor to the top of the bell tower in fear where he jumped, but survived the fall. It's claimed that a black mist surrounded him and finished him off as he lay injured on the ground below.
4. The Door To Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
Hell, the underworld into which sinners' souls descend, where they suffer the punishments in an "eternal fire". The Bible tells us that after a millennium the wicked will be destroyed in a lake of fire, which is called "the second death". If you believe in Hell then no place on Earth could fit that description better than the Darvaza gas crater.
It's also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell due to its constant flames and boiling mud. It hasn't been burning for an eternity yet, but the threatening hole in the ground has been flaming since 1971 and shows no sign of stopping. The crater is 69 metres in diameter and is the result of a natural gas field collapsing into an underground cavern. The fire was started by geologists who set the crater alight to prevent the spread of methane gas.
Fred says that any underground location brings you closer to the dark energy of the other realm, and with so much raw energy pumping out of this vast burning chasm, who knows what else it could be spitting out into our world - especially at Halloween.
3. St. Botolph's Church, Skidbrooke, UK
A little closer to home is a church with links to sinister black magic acts, which have lead to it being nicknamed "The Demon Church". St. Botolph's Church in Lincolnshire was abandoned in 1973, but in the decades that followed became an unofficial meeting place for satanists, who are said to have performed animal sacrifices as well as other dark rituals in the church.
Fred says that those performing these sort of rituals in such a location in the 1970s and 80s probably didn't know how dangerous it could be. He said, "everyone tried doing these sorts of things and they didn't know what they were doing, they didn't have a clue". This means they risked summoning something into our realm that they couldn't deal with or send back.
They may have also inadvertently opened portal to the other realm, and Fred warns us the with the Veil at its weakest, it's much easier for unwanted entities to slip through this portals and pester the living.
2. Aokigahara Forest, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
If there's anywhere on Earth that is truly evil, then it's this forest on the northwestern flank of Japan's Mount Fuji, which for generations has had a reputation as being a home to the ghosts of the dead. Recently it has attracted worldwide attention being dubbed "the suicide forest."
Sadly, hundreds of bodies have been recovered from the forest in the last few decades, which has resulted in signs being placed at the entrance to the forest urging suicidal visitors to seek help and not take their own lives, but the forest has been associated with death for much longer than this. It's believed that in the 19th century the forest was used as a place to perform ubasute, the grim practice of senicide, that involved leaving an infirm or elderly relative in the forest to die.
Quite why the forest draws in so much death and evil is unclear, perhaps the forest hides a vortex or portal - a paranormal gateway to another plane of existence that links the physical world with the spirit realm. Fred has already warned us what might happened around a portal throughout the dark season.
1. Castle Houska, Prague, Czech Republic
Fred had no difficulty in naming the location that should be top of the list, "it's the only place in the world where Satan is said to have appeared from a whole in the ground." He's talking about the sinister Castle Houska. Fred has first-hand experience with the evil that lurks here, he said "you could cut the evil with a knife, the feeling in there was just horrible, really horrible."
There's one very strong legend associated with the castle. Tales of demons, monsters and even the Devil himself. Legend has it that the castle is built on the gateway to Hell. It is widely believed that the entrance to Satan's lair cracked open here in 878 AD and bizarre half-human beasts and flying creatures spewed from within.
Houska was built by Cistercian monks with the sole purpose of covering this terrifying gateway. Fred says, "it was built for a specific purpose, it wasn't built to live in. It was a hole in the ground that winged creatures were seen coming out of and people thought the Devil was down there."
A chapel was constructed directly over a huge hole in the ground and then the fortification built round that in a bid to seal it for all eternity. Fred adds, "it wasn't built to keep people out, it was built to keep something in".
In the castle a fresco depicts a unique devilish creature, a creature like this cannot be seen anywhere else, although there is a similar figure drawn in the 'Codex Gigas', the Devil's Bible. The artwork in the castle shows the Archangel Michael, the leader of the heavenly army, battling with the demons.
Fred visited the castle with the 'Most Haunted' team during a live show in 2010, where he had a brush with the Devil. He explained, "they locked me in the chapel and I was calling out to Satan in Latin and my briefcase went over on its side and all the papers were being pulled out individually."
The terrifying moment was caught on camera, but despite the activity around him, Fred continued with his incantations because he felt he was close to coming face to face with Satan. "I thought, 'he's here, I've got him'."
But moments later the show's production team came to get him, calling an end to the vigil. Fred says, "that's the closest I've got to him really."
It is unsurprising that Castle Houska is alleged to have been under German occupation during World War II, as most of the Czech Republic felt the unforgiving wrath of the Nazis during this period. Adolf Hitler is said to have assigned his third in command General Reinhard Heydrich to the castle.
The Nazis had a fascination with the occult and black magic, and Fred thinks that the German's motive for occupying the castle may not have just been for the tactical advantage it gave them, but also because of what lies beneath it.