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The 20 Most Haunted Places in America to Visit … If You Dare

Are you a believer? You just might be after you read about these creepy encounters at the most haunted places in America.

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The creepiest haunted places near you

At sunset, I stood at the edge of the cemetery near Troy, in upstate New York, hands stuffed deep into my pockets, trying to control my shivering. As a travel writer, I’ve been to dozens of spots with checkered histories, from battlefields to abandoned places, and heard all manner of real ghost stories—and probably a good number of fake ones too. None had prepared me for this cemetery, or the hair-on-end feeling I got when I sensed I wasn’t alone. This graveyard, reputed to be one of the most haunted places in America, was different. I tread carefully, willing my heartbeat to slow and my breath to remain even as I walked toward the headless statue of an angel.

If you love that rush you get from scaring yourself silly, you’re in the right place—and not just for Halloween. The destinations on this list boast some of the scariest close encounters both regular people and paranormal experts have reported year-round. I can vouch for the unsettling feeling that’s come over me at several of them, as well as some unexplained ghostly phenomena. Whether you want to check out these sights in person or read about these urban legends from the safety of your home, settle in for some seriously spooky stories and a whole other side of American history.

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Lizzie Borden House
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The Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts

If you can complete the rhyme that begins “Lizzie Borden had an ax,” you’ll want to put the alleged murderer’s childhood home on the top of your haunted places list, especially if you live on the East Coast. Before she became fodder for scary sleepover stories, Borden was accused of killing her father, Andrew, and stepmother, Abby, in the house in broad daylight in 1892. (She was later acquitted for lack of evidence.)

The angular Greek Revival home is now run as the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum, where you can learn about the case and sleep on the premises, including in the room where Abby Borden met her untimely demise. During my visit, I spied a door that opened seemingly on its own and could swear I heard disembodied whispers. Others have reported seeing ghostly images reflected in the glass of family photos.

Haunted Forest Park
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Forest Park Cemetery in Brunswick, New York

This is the graveyard that turned skeptical me into a could-be believer. Established in the 1850s, Forest Park (colloquially known as Pinewoods) was abandoned around 2005 and soon after became known as one of the most haunted places in America. One story surrounds a visitor who died of a self-inflicted gunshot in the cemetery. Some swear his spiritual presence evokes a warm sensation as he strolls between gravestones at night. Another story revolves around the entrance to the cemetery, which is supposedly the gateway to hell. And that decapitated angel I mentioned earlier? It’s been said to weep blood. I didn’t witness that, but walking around the mausoleum, which was used to store bodies during the winter until the ground had thawed enough to inter them, gave me a serious case of the goose bumps.

Hotel San Carlos
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Hotel San Carlos in Phoenix, Arizona

Built in 1928, the seven-story, Italian Renaissance–style Hotel San Carlos is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the early part of the 20th century, it was frequented by Hollywood A-listers including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Gene Autry. But the hotel has had a volatile history. Just a few weeks after its opening, 22-year-old Leone Jensen checked into room 720, then promptly hurled herself off the hotel roof. For decades since, guests have experienced a variety of spooky occurrences. Some have seen a woman in a white dress standing at the foot of their bed. Others have spotted a little girl crying in one of the rooms. And guests and workers often report hearing children’s voices in the hallways and basement … when there are no children in sight.

Batcheller Mansion Inn
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Batcheller Mansion Inn in Saratoga Springs, New York

Behind the stunning Gilded Age facade of Batcheller Mansion Inn, built in 1873 by Civil War general George Batcheller, lies a hotbed of paranormal activity—so much so that the Albany Paranormal Research Society has conducted multiple investigations of the property. Far from being just a bunch of scary Halloween stories, Batcheller grounds staff have reported ghosts watching them from the windows. House employees have heard unexplained knocking, watched cabinet doors open of their own volition, and walked in on ghostly conversations. Meanwhile, visitors have reported seeing spectral orbs materializing out of thin air, as well as objects that move without assistance. The Kate Batcheller room, in particular, is known for its spectral spectacles.

Haunted Octagon Farm
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Octagon Farm in Walton, New York

A retired dairy that dates back to the 1850s, Octagon Farm was the site of a terrible tragedy. In the 19th century, a young bride, clad in her wedding gown, mounted a white horse to head to her nuptials. The horse got spooked and threw the woman to her death. To this day, locals claim to see the disturbing scene repeated each night in ghostly form.

Octagon Farm is located in the Hudson Valley, which has topped many lists for the best places to travel. While the octagon-shaped house at the farm was a bed-and-breakfast for a while, it has since been closed. Thrill-seekers can now stay across the street at the Octagon Motor Lodge Inn, where they might catch a glimpse of the restless wife-to-be.

Black Swan Inn
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Victoria’s Black Swan Inn in San Antonio, Texas

Military combat, sickness, suicide—there’s little Victoria’s Black Swan Inn hasn’t seen. This San Antonio landmark was built on ancient Native American land, which might have included a burial ground, and was the site of an epic Texas-Mexico clash in 1842. It was later purchased by a German farmer, whose beloved wife took ill and died. The farmer followed her to the grave just two years later. In 1959, the home’s new owner passed away at a young age from cancer. Her husband hanged himself a few years later.

Today, guests sometimes catch apparitions seated in the upstairs bedrooms, experience sudden drops in temperature and observe lights that turn themselves on and off. Take a youngster with you, and you might encounter the spirit of a little boy, who pulls pranks and throws tantrums only in the presence of living children.

Martha Washington Inn And Spa
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The Martha Washington Inn & Spa in Abingdon, Virginia

Originally a retirement home for a decorated war general, The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, or The Martha, has harbored ghosts since the Civil War, when it was used as a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. According to legend, a dying GI asked a young nurse to play the violin during his final moments. The nurse died, heartbroken, a few weeks later. Today, some guests report hearing the faint strains of her violin.

The home was later turned into a hotel, hosting luminaries including Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Elizabeth Taylor. Since then, staff and guests have reported a number of paranormal phenomena. A spectral horse awaits his rider at the foot of the front steps or roams the grounds. In the underground tunnel that once connected the inn to the Barter Theatre, people have reported run-ins with an evil spirit. And a bloodstain on the floor, where a soldier was shot, keeps reappearing, despite cleaning and refinishing.

Stuffed rabbit hanging from old wooden swing
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Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park in Mercer County, West Virginia

It’s unclear whether the Clay family knew they were building on top of a Native American burial ground (predominantly for children) when they created a farm on an 800-acre patch of land in the late 1700s. But tensions grew, until a group of Native Americans killed three of the Clay children in 1783. In retaliation, the Clay family and other settlers tracked down and murdered several tribe members. More than a century later, the property was turned into the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park … and accidental deaths began to pile up. The park was abandoned in 1966 and eventually earmarked for residential development. But when construction crews began unearthing bones and Native American artifacts, the work was halted. It’s now one of the world’s most chilling abandoned amusement parks.

Go around Halloween and take part in the creepy Dark Carnival, which offers an overnight stay. Or book a by-appointment tour or nighttime investigation. You might hear chants, the laughter of children and footsteps, or watch swings rock on their own. One unlucky visitor got locked in a ticket booth—even though the door didn’t have a lock.

St. Augustine Light house
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St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum in St. Augustine, Florida

In 1873, while the St. Augustine Lighthouse was under construction, the three Pittee sisters (Mary, 15; Eliza, 14; and Carrie, 4), plus an unnamed African American friend, climbed into the hopper car that carried supplies from the water to the site. They released the brake, sending the car tumbling down the narrow-gauge rail and directly into the water, where it flipped over. By the time a nearby worker lifted the heavy cart off the girls, only Carrie was still alive.

Paranormal investigation show Ghost Hunters filmed a 2019 episode at the lighthouse, which they called the “Mona Lisa of paranormal sites.” Visitors have spotted the girls, dressed in 19th-century garb, playing in the woods and have heard their laughter along the nature trail. Three sets of wet footprints sometimes materialize inside the Keeper’s House.

South Pittsburg Hospital
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Old South Pittsburg Hospital in South Pittsburg, Tennessee

Supernatural aficionados flock to the former Old South Pittsburg Hospital (OSPH) to experience shadowy figures and belligerent ghosts roaming the halls, doors slamming, inexplicable noises and voices, and even the occasional tap on the shoulder. The hospital was built in 1959 and closed down in 1988, and the spirits who haunt it are thought to be of those who died there. The building may also have been constructed over an underground spring that was once used by indigenous tribes, as well as on land that served as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War. Fittingly, the hospital is now a paranormal research center.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Foggy October Morning
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Boston, Ohio (aka Hell Town)

Ghosts, cults and even a serial killer have been said to populate the grounds of Boston, Ohio, about 23 miles southeast of Cleveland. Founded in 1806, Boston flourished as a mill town in the 1820s and for several decades after. In 1974, legislation meant to preserve forests gave the National Park Service the ability to purchase land—and buy homes out from under their owners. In Boston, these houses were abandoned, boarded up and sometimes burned down. For a time, writes blogger James Willis in Weird U.S., “to a passing motorist, it seemed as if an entire town had mysteriously disappeared into thin air.”

Although the town’s remaining buildings were demolished in 2016, it still ranks among the creepiest abandoned cities. It was dubbed Hell Town after visitors reported finding mysterious figures dressed in black peering through their car windows, seeing a ghost sitting on a bench, hearing strange growls in Boston Cemetery and becoming covered in goose bumps while walking its paths. The land is now part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia

Once a treatment facility for the mentally ill, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a singularly unsettling stop among the most haunted places in America. It was built in the mid-1800s to house about 250 patients, but in the 1950s, it held 2,400 in deplorable conditions. It closed in 1994, but some say the souls of those who died here have never left its Gothic halls. Paranormal researchers have documented figures lurking in the shadows, voices and other unexplained sounds, and the bloodcurdling screams of those committed against their will. You can take a tour to learn more about its haunting history, or attend an overnight Ghost Hunt.

Bell Witch Cave
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Bell Witch Cave in Adams, Tennessee

On 320 acres of rolling farmland along the Red River in Tennessee, the Bell family was terrorized by an unseen force. First came eerie sounds inside their cabin and unusual animals prowling outside. Then, a voice began speaking to them, and something began physically hurting the youngest child, Betsy. They swore the Bell Witch—as locals called the entity—killed their patriarch, John, and tormented the family for years. Not exactly the stuff of cute witch movies!

According to local lore, Andrew Jackson, en route to Bell Farm from his own property on the Red River, met the witch when his wagon got stuck. After a disembodied voice said it would allow him to pass, the wagon moved again … and Adams hightailed it back home!

At the Bell Witch Cave, a cavern on the property, researchers have documented disembodied voices, energy fields and spectral orbs. You can participate in an overnight investigation in the cave, the replica cabin and a Native American burial hill.

Mcraven House
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McRaven House in Vicksburg, Mississippi

This unique home, dating to 1797, has seen its fair share of tragedy, which led to it becoming one of the most haunted places in the U.S. Original owner Andrew Glass, a highwayman who made a career of robbing travelers on the Natchez Trace, mysteriously died. Subsequent owners of the McRaven House also expired here, including a woman who died in childbirth and a man who was murdered by Union soldiers when he permitted the home to be used as a field hospital during the Civil War.

Guests at McRaven House have seen apparitions, heard voices and witnessed objects move of their own accord. Lights also reportedly turn on by themselves, and doors slam even when there’s no wind.

Brennans New Orleans
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Brennan’s in New Orleans

New Orleans is home to two historic French Quarter buildings, both now restaurants—and the un-resting place of spirits. The first is the distinctive pink building on Royal Street now known as Brennan’s, which was originally the home of M. LeFleur in the 1700s. After gambling away his fortune, he calmly arranged three funerals before returning home to kill his wife, son and himself. Visitors have reported seeing his lifeless figure swinging from the club-room ceiling.

Two centuries later, after the building had been transformed into a restaurant, chef Paul Blangé (who was laid to rest in his chef’s whites with a menu and a crossed knife and fork over his heart) was reluctant to vacate. He’s said to clang pots and pans after dawn to signal the start of morning service. Staff report that his colleague, the late sommelier Herman Funk, clinks bottles when they’re in the cellar to indicate favorable choices.

View of the Napoleon House in New Orleans, circa 1935. (Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)
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Napoleon House in New Orleans

A half mile away from Brennan’s on Chartres Street, Napoleon House is one of the 10 original French Quarter buildings. It once offered lodging to sailors and soldiers in the rooms around the cupola. One withered old sailor has been loath to depart, soiling highball glasses and leaving behind the smell of whiskey from late-night tippling. On the second-floor balcony, an old woman has been observed sweeping in the early morning. Meanwhile, a lady in an elegant headdress is frequently spotted in the window of the cupola.

Amityville Horror House
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Amityville Horror House in Long Island, New York

The story of the Amityville Horror has been told many times over, in books, magazines and more than a dozen scary movies. In 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his parents, two brothers and two sisters in the Dutch Colonial home. A year later, it was purchased by the Lutzes. After seeing bleeding walls and glowing eyes in the dark, as well as hearing disembodied voices, they fled the house—just one month after moving in.

Since then, the home has been sold a number of times, most recently in 2017; it’s still under private ownership. Although the house’s original address was 112 Ocean Avenue, it has been changed to 108, partly to escape bad luck and partly to deter visitors. Some reports have deemed the Lutzes frauds, but the family maintains that its encounters with malevolent spirits were real.

Los Angeles Exteriors And Landmarks - 2016
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Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is no stranger to misfortunes, from the Black Dahlia murder to the disappearance of the Salomon family, and it has a number of haunted hotels. But the Chateau Marmont, long a home away from home for Hollywood elite, has a uniquely checkered history. In 1982, comedian John Belushi overdosed in his hotel bungalow. Shortly after, a family moved into the bungalow and reported finding their toddler laughing in a room by himself, entertained by an unseen “funny man.” Actor-turned-politician Al Franken also believes he saw his late friend standing over his bed during a stay at the hotel.

Additionally, guests have reported seeing a man who looks like the late fashion photographer Helmut Newton—who died in 2004 after crashing his Cadillac into Chateau Marmont’s driveway wall—wandering between the bungalows.

Cemetery in Tonopah, Nevada. USA
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Old Tonopah Cemetery in Tonopah, Nevada

Although it was established in 1901, the Old Tonopah Cemetery began to fill up by 1911, during the Wild West town’s silver-mining boom years. It’s the resting place of about 300 people, many of whom met their untimely ends in the mines or during the “Tonopah Plague” (rapid-spreading infectious pneumonia) of 1905. When the lot ran out of vacancy, municipal administrators had to find other places to bury the dead. Today, Old Tonopah Cemetery has an unsettling aura, even during the day. Visitors say they’ve seen numerous ghosts in the boneyard, including grizzled old miners and young maidens wandering between the headstones at night.

Stanley Hotel with blue sky in Estes Park, Colorado
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The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

One visit to The Stanley, and you’ll know why Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining. This Rocky Mountains hotel regularly makes it onto lists of the most haunted places in America.

In 1911, the Estes Valley was flooded, knocking out power to the hotel. Original owner Owen Stanley installed a gas lantern in each guest room to provide light. In room 217, a leak caused a buildup of gas, and when the chambermaid entered with a lit candle, a massive explosion occurred. Although the maid survived, about 10% of the hotel was destroyed. Her spirit is said to still inhabit the room, where she’s known to tidy up guests’ clothing and organize their luggage. Room 217 is also the room King stayed in when he had the nightmare that led to writing his famous novel. Visitors also claim to hear Stanley’s wife, Flora, playing the piano in the evening.

Robin Catalano
Robin Catalano is an experienced travel, culture and food journalist and editor based in the upper Hudson Valley, New York. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, TIME, Smithsonian, Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR, Hemispheres, Robb Report, Bon Appétit, Fodor's, Insider, Boston Globe, Albany Times Union and a variety of other regional publications. A member of SATW and the IFJ, she was selected as the summer 2020 Writer-in-Residence at Herman Melville's Arrowhead and was a finalist for the 2022 IFTWA Excellence in Journalism award.