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Take a trip to the underworld this Halloween

Why did the skeleton turn down an invite to the party? Because he had no body to go with . . .

Bad jokes aside, let’s make no bones about it – Halloween is about ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and spirits. From skulls to mummies, we are fascinated by those who have gone before us. Just last week, the discovery of a skull that is nearly two million years old in the Georgian town of Dmansi in the foothills of the Caucuses caused much excitement in the press. Meanwhile, druids are up in arms at English Heritage plans to put human bones on display at Stonehenge.

The fact is, there are a surprising number of places that have human bones and mummified bodies on display around the world and as attractions, they prove to be enduringly popular. So, in the spirit of Halloween, we look at a few holiday locations where you can get up close and personal to the bones of the departed, though do be warned that none of these are for the squeamish!

Capela dos Ossos, Évora, Portugal

Capela dos Ossos

Évora is one of Portugal’s most fascinating cities. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, one of its most famous highlight is the Capela dos Ossos, or the Chapel of Bones. Situated within the Church of St Francis, you enter beneath a sign that ominously reads “Our bones that are here wait for yours”. Inside, the walls are completely covered by the bones of around 5,000 skeletons, including human skulls. There are also two full skeletons on the wall. It’s creepy, that’s for sure – not one for the faint hearted!

The Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

The Sedlec Ossuary

Five thousand skeletons not enough for you? How about more than forty thousand? The Sedlec Ossuary, situated in the small town of Sedlec, is an hour east of Prague in the Czech Republic. Back in the 13th century, a local abbot came back from Jerusalem with some holy soil and word spread quickly. Soon, everyone wanted to be buried at Sedlec but space quickly ran out. Bones were then stored in a basement before a woodcarver in 1870 produced the world’s most shocking chandelier – consisting entirely of human bones. There is also a huge family crest on the wall which is also made up of skeletal remains.

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

If you prefer your dead more fully-formed, in Italy, the island of Sicily to be precise, you’ll find the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo. Here, the mummified remains of around 8,000 people are on rather ghoulish display, dating from the 16th century through to the 1920s. Some remain remarkably intact and many of the bodies have been placed in poses. One of the Catacombs’ most impressive “attractions” is the remarkably preserved body of two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo who died in the 1920s.

Mummies of Guanajuato

Mummies of Guanajuato

Mummies are not the sole preserve of the Ancient Egyptians (or the Sicilians for that matter), and nowhere is that more evident than in Guanajuato, Mexico, four hours north of Mexico City. In the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato, you’ll find more than 100 mummies that were exhumed between 1865 and 1989. Remarkably, these bodies were not embalmed in the traditional sense but were kept in good condition due to the soil they were originally buried in. Substantially renovated in 2007, the museum features thematic displays telling haunting stories of a strange past in the country that brought us ‘Dia de los Muertos’ (day of the dead)

How do you feel about having the dead on display? Have you been to any of these attractions or anything similar? Let us know!

Images by Ryan Opazmilan.boersdede85s and benjamonio used under creative commons licence

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