From classic horror films to paranormal television programs, Americans have long been fascinated with haunted places and the afterlife. While the existence of ghosts has largely been debunked, a large percentage of Americans continue to believe that earthly spirits may exist. Part of this rational can be attributed to many of the world’s cultures and religions, whose seminal teachings include life after death or out of death experiences. But reports of supernatural events are not always associated with a religious or cultural experience or a belief in the occult. Indeed, some documented events in history like the Taos Hum in New Mexico and the Wow! signal from outer space have remained unexplained and unsolved. With Halloween just around the corner, here are just five of the most haunted places in America to visit.
Charter Street Cemetery
Salem, MA 01970
Also known as the Old Burying Point, Charter Street Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, founded in 1637. One of many spots in Salem known to be haunted, Old Burying Point is best known as the final resting places for some notable Americans. This includes Richard More, the only passenger on the Mayflower ship with a documented gravesite and John Hathorne, one of the judges presiding over the infamous Salem Witch Trials. However, none of the falsely accused “witches” were buried here as they were not allowed to have a Christian burial. Currently, the historic cemetery is closed for improvements through November 3, which may have been planned to prevent Halloween visitors from walking past the fragile gravestones. However, Salem has a number of other locations that known to be haunted, such as the Salem Jail, Salem Witch Trials Memorial and Proctor’s Ledge, recently confirmed as the site of the Salem Witch Trial hangings. Additional attractions include Gallows Hill, Salem Witch Museum, the House of the Seven Gables and the Salem Psychic Fair and Witches Market.
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Eastern State Penitentiary
2207 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Once the world’s largest and most expensive prison, Eastern State Penitentiary is also considered one of the world’s most haunted places. Located just minutes from the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art, the enormous fortress-like structure operated as a prison between 1829 and 1971 and originally held all of its prisoners in solitary confinement. Since the 1940s, there are been several reports of paranormal activity, perhaps from the ghosts of its famous prisoners like Al “Scarface” Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton. In more recent years, the historic prison has been the focus of reality television programs like the “Scariest Places on Earth” and “Ghost Adventures” and has appeared in feature films like Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys” and Steve Buscemi’s “Animal Factory”. Today, Eastern State Penitentiary is open to public tours and also currently hosts “Terror Behind the Walls”, a described as “one of America’s scariest Halloween attractions” by the Travel Channel.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
Another city well known for multiple haunted places is New Orleans, particularly its historic cemeteries. The oldest still in existence and reportedly the most haunted is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Also known as the “City of the Dead”, St. Louis Cemetery holds more than 100,000 above-ground tombs and, unlike other local cemeteries, visitors must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide. Among the notable people buried here are Jean Étienne de Boré, first mayor of New Orleans and Ernest “Dutch” Morial, the first African-American mayor of New Orleans. However, the places that draw the most attention, particularly during the Halloween season, are the tombs of Marie Laveau, the New Orleans Voodoo Queen and Madame LaLaurie, murderous owner of the infamous LaLaurie Mansion in the French Quarter. Another tomb to visit this October is the Pyramid Tomb, which will be the final resting place when actor Nicolas Cage passes away. Other haunted places in New Orleans to visit include the St. Louis Cathedral, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and LaLaurie Mansion, where Madame LaLaurie tortured and murdered many of her slaves. Additional suggested NOLA Halloween attractions include The Mortuary, New Orleans Nightmare and Scout Island Scream Park.
The Stanley Hotel
333 E. Wonderview Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517
Best known as one of the inspirations for Stephen King’s bestselling book “The Shining” and its subsequent film, the Stanley Hotel has long been known to be haunted. Located in Estes Park, one of the gateways to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Stanley Hotel is a magnificent Colonial Revival hotel first opened on July 4, 1909. Well before its gained further notoriety with “The Shining”, the landmark hotel was known to have paranormal activity, even from its founder Freelan Oscar Stanley, who suffered from tuberculosis. The founder of his namesake Motor Carriage Company, F.O. and his wife Flora Stanley both were said to have experienced paranormal sensations, as did guests and employees. Today, several of the guest rooms have been described as haunted. This includes room 217, where Stephen King stayed with his wife and was first inspired to write his horror novel and room 401, where members of the SyFy series “Ghost Hunters” conducted paranormal investigations and where a “ghost thief” reportedly resides. Even more rooms are known to be haunted with numerous reports of ghostly activity, including rooms 302, 413, 418 and 428, as well as the concert hall, the grand staircase, creepy underground tunnels and an area called “the Vortex”. Clearly one of the most haunted places in America, the Stanley Hotel offers a variety of hotel tours and special events, including the popular Historic Stanley Nights Tour and for Halloween, the Shining Ball October 19 and Masquerade Ball on October 26.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
71 Asylum Dr.
Weston, WV 26452
Formerly known as the Weston State Hospital, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was infamous for its severe overcrowding of its psychiatric patients. First opened in 1864, the massive stone structure was originally intended to hold 250 patients but at its peak in the 1950s, held 2,400 patients amid the resulting overcrowding and deterioration of mental health treatment. Years after its eventual closing in 1994, the facility was renamed as Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and operates as a both a National Historic Landmark and a popular, year-round tourist attraction. The ghosts of the patients are known to roam the main building and their presence has been the topic of many paranormal television programs, including the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” and “Ghost Stories” and SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters”. Several tours are currently being offered, such as Heritage & History Tours, daytime and evening paranormal tours and ghost hunts, including private tours. Additionally for the Halloween season is the Asylum Ball October 19, Zombie Paint Ball and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House through November 2.
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About the Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, in California.