Footsteps on creaky staircases in the dead of night. Doors that open and close by themselves. Doll eyes that watch your every move. Everyone – well, most everyone – loves to scream at horror movies and scary TV shows. It only makes sense to take this love of the paranormal on the road and discover the top haunted cities in America. With garlic necklaces, ghost repellent in hand, discover ‘haunts’ that are scarier than Salem and more heart-pounding than Amityville. Here are some ghoulishly good suggestions for your next ghost-hunting adventure.
Philadelphia, PA: Eastern State Penitentiary
The City of Brotherly Love has a scary backstory. This penitentiary may be the creepiest place in all of Philadelphia. This former prison was the first of its kind and was the most famous and expensive in the world. Strict rules were enforced due to Quaker beliefs and included isolation and punishment. The only natural light source was a skylight, which was believed to bring prisoners illumination ‘from above.’ As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences. Long-gone spirits, like the infamous, master of disguise bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton, have been seen on the grounds. No wonder this penitentiary is a sought-after destination for more than sixty paranormal teams in a typical year. Dinner packages, a private lounge and After Dark VIP Tours are available. Too afraid of what lurks in the dark? Try the day tour.
Fall River, MA: Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
You’ve likely heard the children’s rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an ax / Gave her mother 40 whacks / When she saw what she had done / She gave her father 41.” Sounds like a perfect invitation to visit and sleep in Lizzie’s stepmother Abigail’s room. You can even eat their last meal (Johnnycakes and eggs) for breakfast. The owners went to great lengths to restore this 175 year-old house to look exactly as it did way back when. The B&B can host up to 20 overnight guests, and a Ouija board is always available to contact Lizzie and her friends. Again, maybe opt for the daytime tour.
Villisca, IA: Villisca Axe Murder House
The history of this town and the house was too tempting: in 1912, six Moore family members and two guests did not survive the night. Many suspects were brought and tried in court – one even twice – but to this day, the Moore mystery hasn’t been solved. Tours and overnight stays are available, but here’s a hint: don’t take the attic room. Legend has it a few uninvited guests stayed there and haven’t been seen since. Here, day tours are available as well.
New Orleans, LA – The Sultan’s Palace
The French Quarter is known for supernatural activity (not to mention its frighteningly addicting food and drink). Not all is what it seems in Cajun country: The Sultan’s Palace house looks innocent enough with its classic, wrought-iron balconies and large courtyard. But in the 1800s, the Sultan lived way beyond his means with multiple wives, children and a harem – all held against their will. He loved parties, opium and other devious activities. Payback doesn’t play nice in the spirit world: The Sultan was buried alive in the courtyard. Today, unusual noises, loud music and strong incense still emanate from the Sultan’s home. The mystery of his strange death remains unsolved.
Great Plains: Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
How could we go to Colorado and NOT see the hauntingly beautiful Stanley Hotel? It’s been around since 1909, but everyone knows it as where Stephen King’s “The Shining” was filmed. The movie scared many half to death (and still does), but hundreds still visit it in all its glory. Wide hallways, no Big Wheels. Rumors tell about haunted rooms and sightings of long-dead employees who still wander the grounds. Those who are not “mountain people” may have their judgement affected due to the extreme altitude (and other causes), with interpretations of what is real and what isn’t. Seems the creepier the place, the more people want to make reservations. Night tours are available, as are consultations from an in-house psychic.
West Coast: Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA
This historical landmark has been described as one of the longest, most disturbing construction projects in history – from 1886 to 1922. Following the death of her husband and daughter, Sarah Winchester (yes, she was related to the famous rifle maker) was informed by a “seer” that her family was killed by the ghosts of those who died from her family’s guns. To keep away the vengeful spirits, Sarah commissioned the now 24,000 square-foot Victorian into a bizarre layout. We learned about creepier features like staircases that lead directly into the ceiling, doors that open onto brick walls and windows that can take you to secret passages. It’s been reported that paranormal activity still exists within the walls.
If you’re still up to it, here are three things to know before you go:
- If you prefer visiting but not staying in haunted hotels, opt for creature-free Shop Your Way hotels. 400,000 hotels globally and an average of $50 CASHBACK in points per stay. Search by rating and reviews, distance from your destination, by rates, and even by CASHBACK in points to be earned.
- Find the best gas prices — and be rewarded for that daring drive – by using GasBuddy.
- Hotel and ghost tour bookings tend to increase throughout October, and especially around Halloween, which is on a Wednesday this year. Plan accordingly – either the weekend before or after will give you plenty of time to fear and frolic among the unknown.
Now it’s your turn to scare share: have you been to a super-spooky spot? Comment and tell all about it – everyone is “dying” to know!