For many global citizens, the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was a simultaneous introduction to not only the meaning of the word quarantine — but also how it actually feels to experience one.
While many people followed their country’s COVID-19 lockdown orders in their residential homes, some had more unique circumstances — and a handful of individuals found themselves trapped in truly bizarre situations.
From contestants on the quarantine-like reality TV show “Big Brother,” who unintentionally quarantined by nature of the show — only to emerge in April to a world transformed — to the ill-fated cruise ship passengers whose pleasure trips turned into horror films when they became trapped aboard the ships, to those lucky enough to be assigned a luxury hotel in Singapore’s mandatory quarantine lottery, there are endless stories of eccentric isolation experiences. Here are 10 which are arguably the most wild.
A haunted German castle surrounded by wolves
Over 20 members of a Bolivian pan flute orchestra became stuck in quarantine on the grounds of a grand 15th-century palace outside of Berlin for more than two months. The group arrived in Germany on March 10 but after Bolivia closed its borders, the orchestra was stranded at the 600-acre estate — which is surrounded by 23 packs of wolves and is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Frederick the Great. To pass the time, the musicians told the BBC in May that they practiced, played soccer, and took walks — during which they were careful to avoid the wolves.
They weren’t the only ones to spend lockdown in an ancient castle.
A holiday paradise full of fluffy, selfie-loving marsupials
Australians who found themselves arriving on cruise ships at the port of Fremantle in March were made to spend 14 days in quarantine on Rottnest Island, a holiday hotspot known for its stunningly clear waters, white sand beaches and selfie-loving marsupials called quokkas. Passengers were made to stay at the island’s accommodations, including hostels, bungalows, cabins and dormitories, ABC reported in March.
An abandoned Vietnamese hospital
After flying to Hanoi on the same plane as a passenger found to have the coronavirus, three young women from London were traced to their hostel and made to quarantine in an abandoned hospital in north Vietnam for 12 days. The former asylum got “pretty scary at night,” one of the women told the BBC, and the women had to rely on “a WhatsApp chat with government officials to help them translate things.”
The Chelsea Hotel
At Manhattan’s fabled Chelsea Hotel, the few remaining residents raged alongside the ghosts in the walls during the early days of lockdown, holding seances with the hotel’s former residents, dressing in wild costumes, processing undeveloped large format film and becoming nocturnal. “I never want to leave,” one resident told The Post in April.
A Soviet-era guided missile submarine
After Russian Navy officials learned a civilian contractor who had visited the guided-missile submarine Orel had been in contact with a COVID-positive individual, the entire crew of the nuclear-powered sub went into quarantine. Orel is one of only eight remaining Soviet-era submarines of its class which are still in service of the Russian Navy, the Drive reported.
A shuttered Disney World island
Disney’s 11-acre Discovery Island has been closed to the public since 1999, but 42-year-old Richard McGuire ignored the “no trespassing,” signs in May and camped there anyway. His quarantine on the former zoological park — which he described as a “tropical paradise” — was brief, however: After a few days living there, authorities found and arrested him on trespassing charges, The Post reported at the time.
A struggling English zoo
Following the March closure of the Paradise Park wildlife sanctuary in the UK, staff decided to self-isolate with the animals, so they could ensure their continued safety. “With it being Easter, we are at our lowest point in terms of money and feeding animals costs ridiculous amounts,” one of the four keepers, Izzy Saralis-Wheatly, told the BBC of their decision. “This is usually a really important time of year with lots of visitors.”
A ghost town with a gruesome past
When 32-year-old marketer Brent Underwood bought the former silver mining town of Cerro Gordo in 2018, he didn’t anticipate being trapped there in self-isolation for an extended period. But that’s what happened in April when it snowed five feet, and he became stuck in the 22-building California town, trying to enjoy its beauty while also keenly aware of its morbid history.
Underwood told The Post he was aware of the town’s violent reputation when he bought it for $1.4 million, adding that it once had one murder per week. A TV show called “Ghost Adventures” once investigated the town and found that it was haunted by the ghosts of two children who died after being trapped in a closet.
“I stay in the room with the child ghosts,” Underwood said, “but I have yet to see them.”
In June, tragedy struck his historic town again, when three of its buildings burned to the ground: an icehouse, a residence and the hotel, Underwood told the Los Angeles Times. “The American Hotel opened on June 15, 1871, and it burned to the ground 149 years to the day later on June 15, 2020.”
A research vessel frozen in the Arctic
The German research vessel Polarstern has been intentionally frozen in Arctic sea ice since October 2019, but its team’s scientific project was imperiled in March after a member tested positive for the coronavirus, Nature reported. The member was not yet aboard the vessel, but their diagnosis delayed the expedition nonetheless.
Elsewhere in the Arctic, two women found themselves trapped quarantining in a tiny cabin, avoiding polar bears and freezing temperatures.
A remote, desert archipelago off the Horn of Africa
Travel vlogger Eva zu Beck arrived on Yemen’s island of Socotra, located 60 miles east of the Horn of Africa, on a commercial flight in early March, but found herself stuck on the desert paradise after the novel virus swept the globe. While she received some critique for continuing to document her situation, zu Beck defended her choices.
“My intention was never to encourage active travel to remote places during a pandemic. Rather, I wanted to share the beauty of a place I was already in, a place that’s little-known and needs to be protected,” she wrote in an Instagram post.