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The 13 Most Haunted Places in the World: No. 2, Chernobyl-Pripyat, Ukraine, Russia

Updated on May 12, 2013

A disaster site standing testament to the folly of arrogance, a radioactive ghost town frozen in time, the ghosts of first responders killed in the meltdown, an

This is the twelfth in my series of The 13 Most Haunted Places in the World, a virtual tour of some of the creepiest and most haunted places across the globe.

Be sure to read all the entries on my unusual list, and watch this space for Number One, coming soon!!

A Level 7 Nuclear Event

On the morning of April 26, 1986, reactor number four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union overheated, exploded, and vaporized in the first Level 7 Nuclear Event ever recorded. Chernobyl held this dubious distinction until the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima plant following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami scenario of March 11, 2011. Level 7 denotes a “Major Accident,” the most serious rating possible, on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

400 Times the Fallout of Hiroshima

At Chernobyl the result was nuclear fallout 400 times that of the Hiroshima bomb and a massive cloud of radioactive dust, steam, and oily black rain that combined with a major storm system and spread out over an extensive geographic area. Within 48 hours of the Chernobyl disaster Scandinavia and parts of Western Europe were reporting elevated readings of nuclear fallout in the atmosphere.

"Oppenheimer's Deadly Toy" - "Russians" by Sting

Before the Reagan-and-Gorbachev warm-up of Cold War relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Sting released a timely commentary on the danger of angst-ridden rhetoric and political posturing on the world stage. The two great superpowers (at that time the Soviet Union was still considered a superpower) had been engaged in various levels of acrimonious taunting since the end of World War II, with the danger of nuclear war a constant specter in the background. Sting's poignant observations were focused on conflict resulting in nuclear attack, but a nuclear reactor doesn't heed anger so much as human error, like the human mistakes that brought on the cataclysm of Chernobyl.

Frustration Across Europe

Despite the gravity and scope of the disaster, the Soviets reacted typically: reporting only what was absolutely necessary and stonewalling release of any other information, including any death tolls. What reports did leak to the West were either exaggerated or seriously under-estimated, and the governments of nearby countries repeatedly expressed frustration and confusion over what contingency plans, if any, should be initiated to protect their populations.

But with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the thawing of the Cold War, more and more information about the Chernobyl disaster began to trickle out. None of the news was really good; in fact, much of the information and statistics were worse than had ever been imagined.

. . . much of the information and statistics were worse than had ever been imagined.

On the morning of the disaster, Pripyat was a city of 50,000. By nightfall it had a population of zero.

On the morning of the disaster, Pripyat was a city of 50,000. By nightfall it had a population of zero.
On the morning of the disaster, Pripyat was a city of 50,000. By nightfall it had a population of zero.

The Soviet Response Was Swift and Thorough

According to Russian sources, within three months of the tragedy 31 people died from acute radiation sickness; among these were the Soviet first-responders, fire, police, and medical personnel who rushed to the scene. The firefighters, in particular, had the bad end of the deal, knowingly advancing into a hopeless situation to extinguish and contain massive fires and keep them from endangering the other nearby reactors. Very much like first responders everywhere – the FDNY rushing into the Twin Towers on 9/11 and the Japanese first responders and civilian workers who paid the ultimate price in stabilizing Fukushima – those first on the scene at Chernobyl knew that if they survived that day, it would only be a matter of months before they would die of radiation sickness. Soviet efforts to contain the disaster area were apparently swift: an enormous concrete containment shell was rapidly constructed over the explosion site to prevent any future fallout emissions. And by all accounts the very first priority of Soviet officials was to evacuate the city nearest to the nuclear site: Pripyat.

Nobody Expected the "Unexpected" To Happen

Built to house workers and their families, and other personnel of the Chernobyl site, Pripyat was the ninth “Nuclear City” of the old Soviet Union. Pripyat was founded in 1970 and grew quickly. It was officially incorporated as a city in 1979, and is estimated to have had a population of at least 50,000 at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. Tragically, the fate of Pripyat and its residents was from the outset irrevocably linked to the activities of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Although the unexpected was always a possibility, nobody expected “the unexpected” to happen – least of all the residents of Pripyat.

. . . an entire population bound for another place, for an anyplace other than irradiated Pripyat.

Chernobyl Diaries - An Essay in Terror

"Chernobyl Diaries" is a 2012 "sleeper" film from the production team that brought us the "Paranormal Activity" franchise. But don't let that turn you off! This is a fast-paced little thriller filmed in "found footage" style, but helped enormously by that one thing most needed to create an interesting movie: a scripted story!

A group of hipster travelers hook up with an ex-Soviet Army officer for some "adventure tourism" while on a visit to Russia. What starts out as a unique opportunity to see up-close the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history quickly goes bad when the group is stranded at the abandoned site and discover they're not alone . . .

"Chernobyl Diaries" was filmed on location in Bosnia and Serbia - which, unfortunately, does much to reinforce the perception of Eastern Europe as impoverished and woefully depressing. But the war-torn locations provide almost carbon copies of the abandoned Pripyat.

In the end, "Chernobyl Diaries" is a thought-provoking film about the horrors we know, and those we can't imagine.

A Gem for Paranormal Researchers

. . . but a country that knows how to keep its secrets . . .

Pripyat and the nuclear site of Chernobyl have long ranked high on the “wish lists” of paranormal researchers; this makes sense from an occult perspective, too. There can be no doubt that the broad spectrum of emotions experienced by Pripyat’s population as they were forced to flee literally for their lives – terror, fear, grief, heartbreak, anger – quite definitely have left a residual imprint on the place. The bonds of memory in the scattered survivors, and those experiencing the horrific after-effects of the nuclear fallout, are enough to keep alive a powerful psychic link to the place left behind. Death, too, looms as a specter over the tragedy of Chernobyl and Pripyat – deaths that may have occurred at the time of the meltdown, deaths that took place afterward as a result of radiation sickness, deaths we may never learn about because of the traditionally reticent nature of a country that knows how to keep its business to itself.

Shadow Entities and Residual Hauntings

Practically speaking, intolerably high amounts of radiation that persist even at this remove of years make any in-depth paranormal investigation of the site untenable. Even now, 27 years later, visitors to the site have to move in and get out very quickly – not an ideal condition for extensive paranormal research, though it has been tried. Josh Gates, star of the “paranormal reality” program “Destination Truth” brought a crew to Chernobyl and attempted an investigation, but whenever apparently paranormal events began to occur, radiation monitors would trigger and the team would have to move on. However, Gates and his team claim to have detected the presence of apparitions, thought to be the ghosts of first responders killed during the event; they also reported seeing shadow entities, and this should come as no surprise in a place so full of negative emotions.

Radiation and Paranormal Activity

One thing Gates and his team were attempting to corroborate is the theory of links between the high levels of radiation and paranormal or more accurately preternatural occurrences. Some researchers suggest that certain types of entities might benefit from the high concentration of radiation found at Chernobyl-Pripyat, and that it might enhance the ability of these entities to manifest in, and otherwise affect the physical world. The question persists and unfortunately will not be proven any time soon - at least not at this location.

. . . the occultist readily accepts the "reality of the impossible" . . .

Very Definite Proof

The occultist, who has an understanding of the laws governing the various levels of spiritual reality, will easily be rewarded just by the atmosphere of Chernobyl-Pripyat; able to sense the raw emotion, still palpable in the air, and to absorb the melancholy sadness that has silted up in the empty, abandoned buildings would be enough to satisfy almost any student of the occult. After all, the occultist readily accepts the "reality of the impossible." The avid paranormalist who wants to linger, or the skeptic who needs convincing, might not be fully satisfied to simply "feel" Chernobyl-Pripyat and agree that it is haunted. Luckily, for this latter group, Chernobyl-Pripyat has manifested some very definite proof of its haunted nature.


(n.) (Latin). That which is shown forth or revealed.

Monsters of the Deadly Disaster

This proof is told in the survivors and the generations that experienced Chernobyl-Pripyat firsthand. Ruthless cancers, tormenting mental defects, and horrific deformities are the very real ghosts, indeed the monsters of the deadly disaster that took place that April day twenty-seven years ago. It's wrong, you say, to use the word monster to refer to the pitiful products molded from radiation exposure unrelenting in a generation of human beings? In Latin, the word is "monstrum" and it means "that which is shown forth or revealed," specifically to reveal that which is hidden. So I would suggest that, regardless of whether we are afforded an opportunity to study the hauntings of Chernobyl-Pripyat, we nonetheless can see firsthand the monstrous, almost supernatural effect it rendered when given humans to consume. What happened at Chernobyl and Pripyat is nothing if not a cautionary tale, a warning to human nature about the dangers of hubris in the creature of man; and the results stand as riveting testament, accusing, reminding. If the sum of all of this does not haunt you, indeed scare you, then surely nothing will.

CHERNOBYL LEGACY - By Paul Fusco (MediaStorm)

Pictures, they say, "are worth a thousand words." If that is true, the images in this short video are worth trillions. When I speak of "monsters" it is not to insult or degrade the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. On the contrary, it is to draw attention to the fact that they are living examples of the true meaning of the word: in their suffering they reveal, in their mute perseverance they hold us all accountable, and force us to face one of our deepest collective fears.

Occultists and to a great extent experts in the field of paranormal research are used to dealing with fear, are used to - again - dealing with "the reality of the impossible." We know that deep within us we can only function in our day-by-day reality because we convince ourselves we are to some degree in control of what happens to us. We can choose to avoid this or that, for better or worse. We can choose not to feel this or that emotion. We can choose.

One of the most frightening "monsters" of the Chernobyl disaster, and of other disasters like Fukushima and Hurricane Katrina, for instance, is the revelation they provide, the illumination of that deeply-buried, primordial fear that maybe, just maybe we might not be in control after all.

Filmmaker Paul Fusco visited survivors of the Chernobyl aftermath and met them with empathy and understanding. You can choose to look. Or you can choose not to look. It doesn't make the reality of the monster any less real.

If You Go . . .

Over the 27 years since the Chernobyl disasters radiation levels have fallen, but they are nowhere near tolerable to endure for any length of time. If you add Chernobyl-Pripyat to your “bucket list” of haunted places, and are afforded the opportunity to visit, there are currently guided tours being offered of the area outside the permanent exclusion zone. You can learn more about these tours at the following sites.

Remember . . .

Your enthusiasm for the supernatural and the paranormal should always take a backseat to respect and caution. Chernobyl-Pripyat is a testament to a man-made disaster, just as the concentration camps listed in this series are testaments to man's cruelty to his fellow man. Though there was no government pogrom in force at Chernobyl-Pripyat, the atmosphere of loss and grief can be overwhelming, and the visitor should be ever-mindful of the fact that many alive today are still living with their own ghosts of this event, and the horror it manifested in their lives. Caution, as always, for yourself and for those with you.

Although the events dramatized in the movie "Chernobyl Diaries" are fictional, there is still nothing glamorous or spooky-in-a-good-way about being out at an abandoned, poisoned nuclear facility. I strongly suggest you make sure you stick with your tour guide and group, and make sure you and yours are on that bus at the end of the day.


Videos are copyright and the property of their respective owners. Photos accessed in the Public Domain. All photos believed to be in the Public Domain.

Do you like this haunting series? - Read MORE from Author, Occultist, and Paranormalist Alyne Pustanio in These Excellent Collections!

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