1. Red tide

Twitter via @NOAAResearch

No, not the Crimson Tide from that university in Alabama. This red tide, if you can believe it, is far spookier. In fact, when you see this tide, you run and hide immediately. The contents of its spooky color are definitely something that you should fear. OK, in reality it isn’t all that bad. However, it is something that should be a concern.  

Red tides occur when certain algal populations explode. In effect, they have flourished so well that we can see their microscopic little bodies in aggregate from great distances. Unfortunately, these red tides are responsible for a great accumulation of toxins in the areas in which they thrive. We’d like to say that in many respects this is “spooky.”

2. Murmurations

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Many natural phenomena will have names and be familiar to those in the know. A murder of crows, say, or a pod of dolphins. Others, however, will remain little-known. One of these — arguably one of the most bizarre — is the murmuration. Murmurations are gatherings of many hundreds of birds. This should induce fear. 

Like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, these murmations can instill fear in more than just those who are scared of birds. The scene is something reminiscent of an ancient and foreboding pestilence. If you have crops, you should definitely be afraid. The gatherings are said to be formed to eat insects. But we know the true reason is far more sinister …

3. Zebra-bergs

This photo was taken in Iceland.
Laura Donohue/iStock via Getty Images

OK, zebra-bergs aren’t a thing. But you know what is? Striped icebergs. And this perplexing — some might say terrifying — natural phenomenon is often seen in places like Antarctica. The appearance of these stripes is not to disorient or otherwise confuse the predators of the great northern latitudes; rather, it occurs because of a mixing of waters. 

As you might expect from the collision of seawater and fresh water, something odd happens in the mix. Ultimately, the seawater carries with it an abundance of sediments that will reflect different shades when exposed to light. The bands of seawater that are frozen into the otherwise pristine freshwater glacier, then, reflect this striped pattern when brought to the light. 

4. Too many spiderwebs

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If you’re anything like most humans (with the exception of the odd arachnologist), you’ll dislike — maybe even despise — spiders. So when you hear about this natural phenomenon, you might want to find yourself a tall bridge from which to hurl yourself. OK, maybe not. However, it is a phenomenon that will help you to eliminate possible spots for future vacations.

To keep yourself aware, these web constellations normally follow after large storms (they’ve been seen in Australia). The abundance of water induces the spiders to try and find dry land up high. And so, they float their silky webs that can carry them higher. The result, as you might have guessed, is the terrible monstrosity you see pictured — too many webs from far too many spiders. 

5. Fire rainbow

Rainbow colour over raincloud in the sky
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Much contra to what the name might suggest, the fire rainbow is not something crafted from fire. So no, you can put down your blowtorch and kindling. Please don’t set your home ablaze. Rather than come from fires, these interesting natural phenomena come from the sun shining through a certain cloud formation — the cirrus cloud. 

These clouds are thin and spaghetti-like. When they twist in the air at the right time of day, the sun can shine through the moisture-filled bodies to yield the fire rainbow. And you needn’t worry: The things are not actually on fire. And, even if they were, they are so high up in the air that you really couldn’t reach up and touch one if you wanted. You can breathe easy. 

6. Blood Falls, Antarctica 

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Antarctica is one of the places of great wonder. Considering that very few people on the planet have actually traveled to the place, its mystery is something to ponder. If you wanted to shell out the something like $8,000 to $10,000 investment to travel to the island continent, we might suggest you do. You might want to bring a coat. 

Anyway, beyond Antarctica’s general coolness, there is also some terrifying stuff there. By far the most frightening is Blood Falls, which lurks in the McMurdo (appropriately named, we know) Dry Valleys. Here, you’ll find some ice hunks leaking what appears to be blood. Fortunately for everyone on the planet, the blood-looking substance is actually just water with high levels of iron. Whew, we know. 

7. Skeleton flowers

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If something has “skeleton” in its name, you should definitely beware. Confusingly, anything with “flower” in it should inspire the opposite reaction. So what do we do when these two nouns are combined? Well, rather than lose our minds and start flinging excrement at the walls, we suggest a saner alternative. 

This alternative would simply be to observe the beautiful flowers. Fortunately for us, they are actually beautiful. The flowers, given their name because of the translucent quality of their petals, appear skeleton-like. Created by the wet weather, these flowers turn haunting and spooky once they absorb some water. Pretty cool. 

8. The Eye of the Sahara

Instagram via @youtravelbook

The Sahara Desert is home to some of the spookiest things imaginable. High on this list would likely be the near-endless expanse of desert that would take an intrepid (and well-prepared) soul to travel. But other than that, the place offers a few other gems that are almost as terrifying as they are neat. The best of these is the so-called “Eye of Africa.” 

Named because it looks like an eye (in some weirdo’s mind), this structure can only really be seen from above. While some have claimed the place contains the remnants of the lost city of Atlantis, we know better. Rather, geologists suspect the thing is in reality just the eroded vestige of a large and ancient rock-dome — kind of like a half-dome with an extra dose of terror. 

9. Spider towers

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Most things involving spiders are terrifying. They have a terrifying number of legs. They have terrifying mandibles that can bite and inject venom. But they also sometimes have terrifying webs that will induce horror in even the most courageous soul. They will, in other words, turn us all to cravens. And that is what we have here in the Amazon. 

These weird web towers were discovered by a few people wandering the forest performing scientific research. Those that lived to tell the tale of these extraordinarily bizarre creations soon found that the inside of the tower contained an egg. While at first shocked into a comatose state at the sight of the egg, the witnesses saw that the egg soon hatched to reveal a spider. Thank goodness it wasn’t anything worse. 

10. Death lakes

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OK, death lakes is not really what these creepy-colored lakes are called. Rather, at least in this case, the lake is called Lake Retba in Senegal. While there are several lakes with this bizarre pink color, the reasons behind each lake’s color are not necessarily the same. Here, the extraordinary color is caused by something that isn’t all that extraordinary. 

The color here is created by the high amount of saline in the water. This high concentration of saline enables a certain type of bacteria — the Dunaliella salina — to survive and thrive. And these bacteria, in turn, produce a pink pigment that reflects this strange yet beautiful color. So no, it is not the result of thousands upon thousands of victims having been consumed by piranhas. 

11. Sailing stones

The Racetrack Playa, or The Racetrack, is a scenic dry lake feature with "sailing stones" that inscribe linear "racetrack" imprints. It is located above the northwestern side of Death Valley, in Death Valley National Park, Inyo County, California, U.S.
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Everybody knows that stones don’t sail. You can’t just put one starboard to a nice little galleon and expect it to pull its weight. Rather, you would expect it to do exactly what it was born to do: sit there like a stupid rock. Here, however, in the spooky confines of one of America’s most terrifying parks, the case is exactly the opposite. 

In California’s Death Valley National Park, the sailing stones move with an astonishing perplexity. While nobody is quite sure how the rocks do their moving, they definitely do move. You can see, for instance, the trails indicative of movement trailing the rock closely. This perplexing feat is one of the most terrifying things we have ever seen. Ever. 

12. Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

Famous Moeraki Boulders at sunrise, Koekohe beach,Otago, South Island, New Zealand
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Sometimes you encounter a geologic feature so strange you can’t help but to stare and waste away hours trying to comprehend it. Sometimes, however, the hours spent in deep contemplation amount to nothing but an insurmountable fear from which you shall never recover. That is the sort of feeling that comes to accompany these Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand. 

On New Zealand’s Bowling Ball Beach, there exist large boulders that appear to have been cut very cleanly into bowling bowls. Now, to be clear, these aren’t bowling balls that you can pick up and throw. They are far too heavy for that. Rather, they are large bowling balls about the size of a small car. You could try to bowl one, but the result likely wouldn’t be favorable. 

13. Caño Cristales River, Colombia

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In Colombia, you will find several terrifying things. But our aim here is not to focus on the drug lords and other malfeasants. Instead, it’s to focus on the natural phenomena that terrify us into a sort of uncomfortable stupor. The Caño Cristales River is one such location. A few glances at this sordid destination and the hairs on your neck will stand so erect that they will never calm back down. 

What makes the Caño Cristales so interesting is its beautiful color. This color is derived from multiple things. The first of these is the algae that exist in the water, enabling strange and terrifying colors (i.e., blood red) to grow and flourish. To see this river in its full glory, however, you have to wait for the right time of year. You need the perfect mixture of sun and rain. 

14. The Stone Forest, China

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Some places are scary merely because they offer a contradiction in terms. OK, not really. For something to be scary it literally needs to be able to induce you into a fight-or-flight type of paralysis. The contradiction would merely be icing on the cake. The Stone Forest in China is perhaps the best articulation of both these feats. 

The Stone Forest was once a bed of limestone at the bottom of a great, big, terrifying sea. But, after 270 million years of tectonic uplift and changing climates, the limestone was left to erode along with the elements. The result has been the creation of a stone forest — pillar upon pillar of limestone sliced by time and weathering. If you don’t find the limestone scary, you likely don’t feel emotions. 

15. Cave of Crystals, Mexico

Penn State

The Cave of Crystals is one of those places you have to see to believe. Unfortunately for the great majority of us, to see it entails a whole litany of scary and too-bothersome tasks to attempt to resolve. And because of this, most of us will inevitably find the place too shocking to be real. OK, maybe not. But you can find the place shocking nonetheless. 

The Cave of Crystals holds some of the largest crystals on the planet (most of which are several times the size of your average human). The cave is buried deep within the Earth and hosts inhospitable temperatures the likes of which humans cannot really survive. And because of this, it has landed itself a spot among our list of the most terrifying places possible. 

16. Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Glowworm Cathedral at the end of Waipu Cave in New Zealand
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New Zealand is home to some of the scariest natural phenomena that could possibly exist. One of these happens to be a cave full of horrendously scary aerial bacteria that glow in the dark. Yikes! While the bacteria don’t pose any real (or perceived, for that matter) threat to humans, the things can be extraordinarily cool. 

The biofluorescent glowworms exist in these beautiful colors so that they can attract stupid bugs into their sticky grasp. Once there, the bacteria can absorb and digest the bugs. If bug-digesting biofluorescent bacteria doesn’t scare you, you likely don’t experience the emotion of fear. If you did, you’d probably be shrinking in your seat right now from sheer horror. 

17. Spotted Lake, Canada

The Spotted Lake near Osoyoos Canada is a saline alkali lake that creates the circles when it dries out in the summer.
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Canada isn’t one of those places that you would expect to see that many weird natural wonders. While there is an abundance of naturally beautiful places, “strange” isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind. But let’s take a step back and realize that there is often more to a beautiful place than what you hear about from friends or see while scrolling through Instagram. 

And here, we will remind you of a lesser-known oddity in the Canadian wilderness: the so-called “spotted lake.” This lake, bespeckled with holes of gross-looking liquid, is a bizarre natural wonder that many of us have never seen. When we see these things, we can’t really help but balk in fear. Fortunately, we don’t have to swim in the holes. Thank goodness. 

18. Ice towers, Antarctica

Smoldering Mt Erebus, the worlds most southern active volcano, with its plume being carried away in the winds. Castle Rock in the foreground is an old volcano plug.
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We all know the saying: “One ice tower to rule them all … ” This gem from J.R.R. Tolkien was clearly meant to describe the beautiful and jarring ice towers of Antarctica’s Mount Erebus. OK, no. Tolkien likely never went to Antarctica and certainly never thought to include these towers that he’s never heard of in such a pivotal part of his masterful work, The Lord of the Rings

These ice towers, however, despite their lack of mention in LoR, are beautiful and bizarre. Stretching from the icy earth and eructing the noxious fumes from the volcano beneath, these ice towers are found nowhere else on Earth. And the fact that they are burping out toxic volcano fumes makes them exceptionally terrifying — that is, if you have lungs.

19. Underground river, Philippines

Unique inside view of Puerto Princesa subterranean underground river - Adventurous trip excursion in exclusive Philippines destination - Adventure travel concept to one new seven wonders of nature
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There are few places scarier than a river that is underground. And why, exactly, is this? Well, because the farther beneath the ground you go, the farther away from society. Scary! OK, not really. However, this underground river in the Philippines does offer some things that many — nay, all — might find scary. 

This river in particular extends about 5 miles under the depths of an eroded sea cave. It is, in fact, the world’s largest underwater sea cave. What might make the place even cooler is if you could explore it on your own. Unfortunately, the tourist industry is not that cool, and will most assuredly turn such a cool place into an unfortunate tourist trap. And so the scary world goes …

20. Socotra Archipelago, Yemen

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Yemen holds some of the lesser-known terrors of this planet. While many of these are discreet and difficult to find, others are right out in the open for all to see. The most salient of these is the bleeding trees. Rather than sit there and take it if you try to cut them, these bad boys of Mother Nature will show you some blood. 

And, if you’re anything like the rest of us, the sight of this almost-blood will surely induce you to stop whatever you’re doing and apologize to the beautiful trees. It will also instill you with such an insurmountable feeling of fear that you will likely never return to the little island chain. Or, if you do, it will be an attempt to overcome the fear that the trees had instilled. 

21. Desert roses

A close up of beautiful desert roses in Tinisia
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If you’ve never heard Seal’s song “Kiss from a Rose,” we recommend you go and listen to it now. The song provides crucial context clues to understanding the key pieces of truth we are about to give to you. OK, not really. However, the song is running through our heads as we contemplate these beautiful desert creations. 

The desert rose, which actually bears no thorns, is something out of a creepy storybook. They also look nothing like a rose. We can presume, then, that whichever botanist decided to name the things is blind. Very unfortunate. Anyway, the interesting “roses” are created by aggregated gypsum of borate minerals. It takes something over 10,000 years to form them. Pretty cool. 

22. Multicolored lakes

Crater lakes of various colors of the stunning Kelimutu volcanoe in Flores in Indonesia
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In Indonesia, you will find an abundance of both terrifying and beautiful natural creations. One of the more salient of these is the tricolored lakes of Mount Kelimutu. While the name might also terrify you, it isn’t really anything to fear. Just think of it as the name of a terrifying volcano with three equally terrifying lakes. They’re also different colors. Spooky. 

The different colors of the lakes are due to the different chemical compositions of the water, which differ in each of the different craters. Because of these different compositions, the water in each undergoes different chemical reactions that induce them to reflect a different light when we look at them. If that doesn’t terrify you, the fact that they’re located in a volcano should. 

23. Foxfire

glow in the dark fungi
YouTube

Foxfire, not to be confused with the search engine many of us use while perusing the internet, is something that occurs naturally in the fungus-ridden forests of the planet. This is the bioluminescence caused by different species of fungi. In other words, it’s what enables the fungus to glow green when in the dark. The trait can actually be found in a number of fungi, which makes the finding even more terrifying. 

To see the stuff, you do have to exist within the hours of the night, however. This should scare you. If the night doesn’t scare you, you might just be one of those people with a defunct amygdala who enjoys their time doing insane things like free-climbing buildings or squirrel-suiting. Let’s just hope you’re not one of these people. If you are, you’ll have a whole other suite of problems. 

24. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

TOPSHOT - Men observe the Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, in the Altiplano in southwestern Bolivia, on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Aizar RALDES / AFP) (Photo credit should read AIZAR RALDES/AFP via Getty Images)
Aizar Raldes/AFP via Getty Images

Bolivia is home to many natural spots of beauty. There are geysers emerging from the cracked soil, odd pinnacle-like structures that might remind you of a Gothic cathedral, and a litany of other natural wonders that will both shock and inspire you. None, however, compare in scope and magnificence to the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. 

Once a lake bed around 30,000 years ago, this formerly impressive body of water has dried with the warming climate. The result is this highly saline plot of land left behind. But what makes this plot so weird is its practically endless expanse of nothingness. If you’re not looking for something that would scare you with the unknown, perhaps don’t go here. 

25. Rolling clouds? 

A mean looking huge storm cloud hovering over the ocean.
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When we look to the sky, we often see things that puzzle us. Sometimes, however, we are struck with such bizarre-looking features that we can’t help but go a little insane. Here, we have exactly that. When looking into the clouds, these unsuspecting photographers saw something that nearly had them running back to their car in sheer terror. 

What they saw on this historic day was an odd and unnatural (some might even say unholy) constellation of clouds. While three of the people who saw these clouds went insane from the perplexity, one survived to tell the tale. OK, it wasn’t that bad. Clouds do, however, offer many of the weirder things that we can see on this planet. So it’s nice to look up sometimes. 

26. Volcano lightning

A view of thunderbolt as Mount Sinabung eruption spew ash volcanic in North Sumatra, Indonesia
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When you combine two things that are, on their own, terrifying, the results can be unfortuitous. For one, the first thing will scare you. And secondly, the second thing will compound and worsen the first thing. The result here is a concoction that will likely scare you into a youthful state of dysphoria wherein you’re screaming for you parents to take you home. This happens almost any time someone sees volcano lightning.

Volcano lightning is one of those things that happens regularly around volcanic eruptions. The results of such storms are a mixture of lava and shock that would subdue almost any normal human with an unrelenting stream of tears. No fun. But other than the sheer terror that this natural phenomenon produces, the scene is actually quite glorious. So if you can get past the existential terror, we recommend you stand by and watch.

27. Fire tornadoes

Instagram via #firetornado

Like with lightning and volcanoes, heat can combine with other natural phenomena to yield things that are spooky beyond belief. The fire tornado is one such thing. These tornadoes are whipped into existence by a combination of factors. First off, the winds blow what was already an existing fire into something that is now spinning and spreading flames like your uncle Jimmy after Thanksgiving dinner.

With fire tornadoes, however, the situation is much worse. These tornadoes can reach several dozen feet tall, torching anything that gets in their way. This disturbing feature of a disturbing natural phenomenon should induce most people to fret and flee. Fortunately, for most this is exactly what happens. If you’re a firefighter, however, you’ll have to brave something like this. Good luck.