12 of the Most Haunted Places in America, According to Paranormal Experts
Paranormal investigators, tour guides, and travel agents share their favorite stories from some of the spookiest sites open to the public.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: A haunting history lesson
The three-day Battle of Gettysburg claimed the lives of more than 50,000 men from both the Confederate and Union armies, making it the deadliest battle of the Civil War. “It’s only natural there is some residual energy here,” says Joe Svelha, manager of Ghostly Images of Gettysburg Ghost Tours. “I’d say it’s the most haunted small town in America.” The story: A few years back, Svelha was leading a group of schoolchildren on a history tour of the Jennie Wade House, the site where Jennie Wade—the only civilian remembered to have died in the Civil War—was killed by a stray bullet. The group was walking down the stairs from the second floor, when Svelha and the children noticed a young boy in Civil War-era attire standing on the landing. A moment later, the boy vanished. So did the students, who dashed back up the stairs in fear. After the sighting, the group didn’t stick around to finish their tour. “They went straight back to their bus and left,” he says. Other sites in Gettysburg: Along with the Jennie Wade House at 528 Baltimore Street, Svelha recommends visiting the Gettysburg Orphanage (located nearby at 777 Baltimore Street), and the Sachs Covered Bridge spanning Marsh Creek, on the banks of which the Confederate army set up an ill-fated field hospital. Read up on 10 more true ghost stories from the most haunted places in the world.
Savannah, Georgia: Spooky southern charm
It would be hard to conceive of a city more conducive to ghost stories than the perfectly historic Savannah, Georgia. For Kelly Hudler, a travel agent based in Jacksonville, North Carolina, it’s one of her favorite spooky spots in the South. The story: While Savannah is brimming with haunted hotels, taverns, and town squares, Hudler says the home at 432 Abercorn Street on Calhoun Square is perhaps one of the eeriest places she’s ever visited. “The house gives you a bad feeling,” she says. Longtime residents also say that the home—which was originally completed in 1868 for Civil War General Benjamin J. Wilson—emits a negative energy. Adding to the mystery is the fact that the house has been abandoned for years. Other sites in Savannah: Hudler recommends visiting the frequently investigated Sorrel Weed House, where the opening scene of the film Forrest Gump was shot. If you’re looking to stay the night, try the Kehoe House or the Foley House Inn, both of which are said to have haunted histories. Traveling elsewhere? Check out where to book your stay from this list of the most haunted hotels in America.
New Orleans, Louisiana: The city of the dead
Chalk it up to cursed land, yellow-fever outbreaks, or the fact that half the city has burnt to the ground twice. Many locals will say that they cross paths with New Orleans’ “past residents” all the time. “If paranormal activity occurs when there is a death associated with heavy emotions,” says Sidney Smith, owner of New Orleans Haunted History Tours, “then New Orleans is unparalleled.” The story: One of the most infamous landmarks in the French Quarter is the LaLaurie mansion at 1140 Royal Street. The home was built in 1832 for New Orleans socialite Delphine LaLaurie, who lived there just two years when a fire broke out. When officials responded to the blaze, they discovered LaLaurie’s tortured and mutilated household slaves, according to a report published in the New Orleans Bee the following day. The townspeople found out as well and attacked the residence in retaliation, destroying much of it. Tour the outside if you dare. “We’ve had maybe 100 people faint in the exact same spot over the past 20 years,” says Smith. “We don’t talk about it before the tour, either. It’s just always the exact same spot.” Other sites in New Orleans: Smith recommends visitors check out the Sultan’s Palace (716 Dauphine Street), the Place d’Arms, the Hotel Provincial (building five is the site of many of this hotel’s hauntings), and the Andrew Jackson Hotel. Feeling spooked? Kick back with a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith’s Bar (many female guests say the women’s bathroom is particularly eerie). The local hot spot might be the oldest structure continuously used as a bar in the United States. Be sure to check out Airbnb, too.
Oregon City, Oregon: Traveling homes and disrupted spirits
With a tiresome history bound to the Oregon Trail, England’s Hudson Bay Company, and historical churches, cemeteries, and homes (along with their owners’ graves) being picked up and moved from one part of the city to another, it’s only natural that parts of Oregon are never truly at rest. The story: Paranormal activity at the Ermatinger House—the third oldest home in the state of Oregon and the oldest in Oregon City—is what first got Rocky Smith, owner of Northwest Ghost Tours and founder of the Oregon Ghost Conference, interested in leading tours. In the mid-1800s, when the home was first built, it was frequently used for town meetings and city decisions. One guest, who many believe was a steamboat captain who frequently boarded at the Ermatinger house, still has a presence today; in particular, at his favorite seat at the head of the dining room table. “My first experience in the house was when I was locking up one night and walked behind the chair,” says Smith, noting that the way the table is oriented the chair would have had to have been pushed in in order for him to walk by. “And when I came back inside the chair had moved out about two feet. It would have been in my way if it had been pulled out when I left the room.” Smith says the chair often pulls out about 20 times a day. “You will leave the room and come back and it will be pulled out.” Other sites in Oregon: The McLoughlin House, the Bridge Tender Tavern, and Kenton Station all attract paranormal enthusiasts. Plus, Oregon boasts one of the 14 most haunted bodies of water.
New York, New York: The city that never sleeps
Combine a chaotic founding with a history of power struggles, racial tensions, and unchecked egos, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for paranormal activity. The story: Douglas McMillan, founder of the Bronx Paranormal Society, doesn’t take the term “haunted” lightly. “When I do an investigation it is with the intention of disproving the haunting, not proving it,” he says. That said, there are a few local spots he has investigated and proven to have paranormal activity. The first is an apartment on Colonnade Row, a swath of apartments on Lafayette Street in Manhattan, where McMillan hosts paranormal lectures and investigations. “One night I was doing an investigation there with three other people, and a minute after we turned the lights off we had an experience—all three of us,” he says. “Essentially, a shadow manifested and made a circle of the room.” Other sites in New York: Governor’s Island (McMillan hasn’t investigated this one himself, but it’s the one place he’d most like to conduct an investigation), the Merchant’s House Museum, Green-Wood Cemetery, and the Amityville Horror House in Long Island, New York. Nest, check out the strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.
Boston: Revolutionary ghosts
Founded in 1630, Boston was one of the first American colonies and later, one of the first great American cities. Because it is so old and has such a history, there are haunted places to be found pretty much everywhere. The story: The Boston Common is like the Central Park of Boston. It is located directly in front of Emerson College and is only a few paces away from other haunted Boston locations, including The Omni Parker Hotel and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. The Boston Globe reports that approximately 175 years, the Common was the place for public executions. It would surprise no one to come across a ghost or two when strolling the park at night—well, it probably would. Other sites: Salem, Massachusetts (which is infamous for its Witch Trials and is still super creepy today) and the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River (where it is thought that the young girl axed her parents). Fenway Park is also said to be one of the American cursed sites.
Los Angeles: Celebrity spooks
One of the biggest and most famous cities in the United States, Los Angeles has been the setting for many films—and the scene of many tragedies and hauntings. One of the most infamous unsolved crimes in America’s history, the Black Dahlia murder, took place here. But the really spooky thing about Los Angeles is its many haunted hotels, like the Chateau Marmont. The story: Sometimes laughter isn’t so fun—at least, not when it involves someone who is already dead. Chateau Marmont, one of the luxury hotels, which has been a temporary home to many Hollywood celebrities, was the place where comedian and actor John Belushi overdosed in 1982. After his death, there was a family that temporarily moved into his same bungalow. While there, their toddler would always be laughing by himself. When his parents asked why, he said it was because of “The Funny Man,” aka the deceased Belushi. Other sites: TimeOut.com names the Hollywood Roosevelt and the Cecil Hotel as two other famous haunted hotels in L.A. Nearby there is also the haunted U.S.S. Queen Mary in Long Beach.
Austin, Texas: A hotel for ghosts
There is something about hotels that make them some of the most haunted places in the country. Perhaps it is because so many people come and go; perhaps it is the amount of stories each person in transit can tell. When it comes to Austin, Texas, The Driskill hotel might be the creepiest. The story: The Driskill has made many lists of top haunted hotels on websites like Mashable and Conde Nast Traveler. The huge, stately, and very old hotel was named after the man who built it, Jesse Lincoln Driskill, who ultimately lost the family fortune shortly after its opening. It is said that his miserable spirit still haunts the hotel grounds. He’s not the only spirit there: he’s joined by a woman who allegedly committed suicide and the young daughter of a Texas senator. Other sites: the Texas State Capitol and the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
Charleston, South Carolina: Haunting messages
Old prisons and jailhouses tend to be, for obvious reasons, paranormal magnets. The souls of those who were imprisoned there, suffered, or even faced the gallows are often thought to linger there. This is why the Old City Jail of Charleston is the most haunted place in the city. The story: Old City Jail was built in 1803 and housed convicted pirates, thieves, slaves, and Civil War prisoners. The institution reportedly also kept Lavinia and John Fisher, thought to be serial killers, behind bars and eventually executed them in 1860. (Although, one law enforcement officer turned writer tells Post and Courier they may have been innocent.) Supposedly, Lavinia’s last words before being hanged were: “If anyone has a message for Hell, give it to me—I’ll deliver it.” To this day, people think she still haunts the jail. Other sites: Old Exchange Building (which kept criminals like the infamous pirate Blackbeard) and Dock Street Theatre (which is said to be haunted by Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s father). If you want even more unsolved mysteries, get a look at the strangest in every state.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Otherworldy thespian
Sometimes the past gets a facelift. That is what is happening to the Carolina Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina; Originally opened in 1927, the once-renowned and now decrepit theatre that is being renovated for the new millennium. But will the new construction be able to rid the building of its ghostly past? The story: The ghost of the Carolina theatre isn’t necessarily bad, but let’s just say he can be mischievous. According to a tour guide interviewed by The Charlotte Observer, the theatre’s caretaker would often find stage props in disarray after he had carefully organized them. He would also find brand new lights that he had just installed to be inexplicably broken. The caretaker said that it was the ghost of a man known only as Fred that appeared to him several times over the course of his work there. Apparently, though, as long as Fred is shown respect, he won’t cause trouble. Other sites: Ri Ra Irish Pub (where ghosts have triggered security alarms and knocked things off tables) and Old Fire Station Number Four (where deceased firefighter Pruett Black still smokes his cigar).
Chicago: Notorious paranormal activity
There is a lot of violent history in Chicago, thanks to notorious characters such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and the first documented American serial killer H.H. Holmes. In the midst of it all is the towering Congress Plaza hotel. There have been so many paranormal experiences reported within these walls that it even reading about it sends a chill up the spine. The story: Well actually, it’s not just one story, but many. Some people believe they have seen the ghost of Al Capone himself walking the halls. Others have made mention of a ghostly hand reaching out from behind a wall where one of the hotel’s construction workers supposedly got crushed. Room 411 is particularly scary, as visitors have called emergency services to that room more times than any other. It is also the room upon which Stephen King’s horror story 1408 is based. The 12th floor is perhaps the most mysterious, as there is a room there whose door has been permanently sealed off with no handle. Other sites: H.H. Holmes Murder Castle (the building no longer exists, but the area is still haunted) and the Historic Chicago Water Tower (where one brave firefighter stayed until the very end to put out the blaze of 1871).
Washington, D.C.: Political poltergeists
Our capital’s history is filled with intrigue, from assassinations and scandals to full-blown wars. One building you may not have heard about, however, is the Octagon House, which Thrillist deems to be one of the most haunted places in the city. The story: For a period of time, the Octagon House was almost as important as The White House. After the war of 1812 left The White House in shambles, President Madison and his family occupied the Octagon, which belonged to a wealthy Virginia man named Colonel John Tayloe. It is said that two of the colonel’s daughters died, one after the other, upon trying to elope with men their father had forbidden them to marry. Curiously, they both died of a fall from the stairs. The house has since become a museum, but staff and visitors sometimes hear shrieking at night and some claim to have seen apparitions of a female body at the bottom of the stairs. Other sites: Wok and Roll Restaurant (the former boarding house of Mary Surratt, where conspirators planned to assassinate President Lincoln) and the Exorcist Steps (where a famous scene in the horror classic The Exorcist was shot). These are more haunted house mysteries that never got solved.