When a ghost sighting is on your bucket list, frequenting places with heightened paranormal activity is the best way to fulfill your dream. Not all places promoting hauntings are legitimate, but there are many locations with well-documented narratives and eyewitness reports chronicling bonafide otherworldly manifestations.
Instead of shooting in the dark and hoping for a glimpse of a spectral apparition, icy touch, or mournful wail, consider visiting one of these ten sites that have had more than their fair share of supernatural episodes. These aren't just places with spooky stories; this list contains battlefields, graveyards, hotels, and other historic locations known for their legitimate hauntings. Each is open for visitation, and several offer opportunities to stay the night if your spirit so desires.
One of the most important historic sites in the United States is also one of its most haunted locations. The battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the site of nearly 10,000 brutal deaths, and three times that many injuries, over three horrific days of slaughter in 1863. By the time the Confederate forces retreated, the streets of the city were lined with rotting bodies, and the fields were covered with the dead. To this day, the sounds of cannons and screaming soldiers can be heard from the battlefield all the way to the nearby Gettysburg College. Wandering tourists have been known to
encounter groups of civil war soldiers, only to later find out that there were no re-enactors or other such individuals on the battlefield that day.
With the smell of death in the air, it is said that the women of the town could only walk about with scented handkerchiefs to mask the scent of bodies decomposing in the summer heat. Today, there are phantom smells of vanilla and peppermint that waft through the city streets with no earthly origin.
Pennsylvania Hall, on the campus of Gettysburg College, not only served as Robert E. Lee's headquarters during the war, but a field hospital was located there, as well. Phantom sentries have been seen patrolling the Hall, and supernatural experiences with wounded soldiers and doctors, and even blood-splattered walls have been experienced.
Of all the famous areas on the battlefield, the area known as the Devil's Den is perhaps the most well-known historically for its supernatural activity. From ghost soldiers and riders to the sounds of battle, and even the failure of electronic devices and cameras, the area is sure to excite the paranormal enthusiast.
Convicted felons in West Virginia got a new home in 1867. For nearly 130 years, this was not only the home to some of the nation's most hardened criminals, but it became the final resting place for over 1,000 of them. The West Virginia penitentiary at Moundsville became known as one of the bloodiest and most dangerous prisons in America, even being ranked on the Department of Justice's top ten Most Violent Facilities list.
From hangings, riot murderers, and the electric chair, to tortures and suicide, the spirits of the dead have reason to remain and haunt this notorious site. Thanks to the extreme cruelty and massive amounts of violence and death, paranormal activity is extensive to this day, as the howls of pain and the spirits of the dead have been seen and heard by individuals and tour groups. Many of the tales can be read about in Arcadia Publishing's book "West Virginia Penitentiary."
Waverly Hills Sanatorium,
Waverly Hills Sanatorium is one of the most frightening places on the planet. Designed as a place of hope for those with tuberculosis prior to the discovery of penicillin, the sanatorium became a place of agonizing death and suffering for tens of thousands who eventually succumbed to the disease that tore apart their bodies, infected their brains, and caused many of the patients to go literally mad. Experimental procedures akin to torture maimed and killed even more. Most of the dead finally departed through the "death tunnel" body chute.
Today, phantom footsteps, eerie voices, mournful wailing, mysterious shadows, and bizarre energy are found throughout the now-abandoned grounds. The most famous phantasm is known as "The Creeper”—an entity that goes beyond the realm of the shadow people who roam the halls and grounds. The Creeper is an otherworldly being whose very presence brings feelings of dread and doom.
Even if you don't cross the malevolent aura of the creeper as it stalks those who disrupts its sanctuary, its spider-like limbs giving it supernatural speed, many shadow people have been photographed, and you are likely to sight and photograph orbs.
Why does the Waverly Hills Sanatorium feature such intense paranormal activity? Could it be the degree of torment and suffering that took place at this location? Is it a gateway to the underworld and the demonic realms? Whatever it may be, crossing that which lurks on these grounds and within these walls is sure to fill your need for supernatural encounters.
The Lincoln Theater, Decatur,
Known as "Hell's Half Acre," Decatur, Illinois was one of the most corrupt cities in America during the first part of the 20th century. In 1916, the Lincoln Theater was opened against the backdrop of a city known for its bootlegging, prostitution, and crooked politicians. Making matters worse, it was built upon the ashes of a burned-down hotel that cost two people their lives. Worse, the hotel had been built upon ancient burial grounds and experienced strange phenomena for the 55 years it had been in existence.
In the book “Wicked Decatur," author Troy Taylor notes that the occurrences of paranormal activity have grown since the 1930s, when a stagehand named Red died there in 1927. Since then, the theater, which hosted such famous entertainers as Bob Hope, Harry Blackstone Jr., and even the great Harry Houdini, has become home to Red's spirit and others who find the location a perfect "haunt." From apparitions and supernatural movements to chills and voices, the theater offers a chance to see a show that is truly out of this world.
Eastern State Penitentiary,
One of the most written about and studied paranormal sites of the 20th century, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a real-life haunted house. The prison was built in 1829 to shape the minds and souls of its residents through the rigorous and strict rules of Quaker beliefs. Cells represented personal chapels, with skylights to represent the light of God. It was the only light they saw, since they had their heads bagged whenever they left their cells. The prison did not live up to its purpose, although it did house two of the most notorious men in U.S. prison history: Al Capone, and the one-time most wanted man in America, bank robber Willie Sutton.
Those who caused problems at Eastern State Penitentiary were subject to brutal torture. According to a National Public Radio documentary published October 24, 2013, punishments included "… the water bath, in which inmates were dunked then hung out on a wall in winter until ice formed on the skin. The mad chair, which bound an inmate so tightly that circulation was cut off, later necessitating amputations. The iron gag, in which an inmate's hands were tied behind the back and strapped to an iron collar in the mouth, so that any movement caused the tongue to tear and bleed profusely, and "The Hole," a dank underground cell where unfortunate souls had no light, no human contact, no exercise, no toilet and little food and air."
The prison did not have the effect of spiritual reformation, and, after numerous riots and escapes, the prison was closed in 1971, although it appears some of its residents never left. From echoing voices and insane laughter, to shadow figures, wailing, and dreadfully negative energy, there is a reason that the paranormal activity at the Eastern State Penitentiary is so highly studied.
RMS "Queen Mary," Long
Currently moored in Long Beach, the RMS "Queen Mary" was once a luxury liner serving the world's A-list personalities in the North Atlantic. During World War II, she was commissioned to help the Allied war effort and even participated in the invasion at Normandy. In 1967, the luxury-liner was changed into a stately hotel.
Besides having transported over 800,000 troops and serving in many military campaigns, the ship has been the site of many dozens of deaths. There are plenty of reasons the spirits might seek residence there, and seek residence they have. The Queen Mary is known around the world as one of the most haunted locations on the planet, with over 150 specific spirits known to haunt the many decks.
Many specifics about the hauntings are detailed in the book "Ghosts of the Queen Mary," and they include the notorious "Door 13," two swimming pools, the 1st-class lounge, and what is widely touted as the "most haunted" room on the ship: room B340 (a room that is no longer rented out to hotel guests due to the number of paranormal events that have occurred there).
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park,
Stephen King writes about fictional paranormal activity for a living. Even an author with the depth of information and knowledge about the "other side" as King can be inspired by the real thing, however. When it happens, you end up with a story like "The Shining." In fact, it was a stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado that inspired King to write his demented tale.
From children of the undead playing all night outside of room 418 to objects moving without being touched, the hotel has seen its share of otherworldly experiences. The show Ghost Hunters filmed there with the Atlantic Paranormal Society—successfully.
The hotel was opened in 1909 by Mr. and Mrs. Stanley. They are said to still live there today, along with their housekeeper, Ms. Elizabeth Wilson, who was electrocuted during a lightning storm in room 217. She lived, but the room has had excessive paranormal activity ever since. Today, every room in the hotel is listed as having at least one supernatural event. The most common are suitcases unpacking themselves, people waking up with the blankets folded neatly at the foot of their beds, lights turning themselves on and off, objects moving on their own, and the giggling of children.
Whether too much work will make you a dull boy, or not, remains to be seen, but King wrote about a sentient hotel that was rooted in evil and sought the life force of those who stayed there. If his inspiration came from the Stanley Hotel, are you willing to put your "Shining" on the line?
Saint Augustine Lighthouse, St.
What greater setting for a haunting than a lonely stretch of land with a single, isolated tower and the power of life and death constantly at hand? Add in fog, the sea, and fatalities during construction of the tower, and you have the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum.
During the construction of the lighthouse in 1874, the builder's three daughters were killed. It is said that they were knocked into the water by a runaway rail supply car, and drowned. While their bodies may have left the premises, their spirits never did.
In "Haunted St. Augustine and St. Johns County," you are given a first-hand look at one of the oldest inhabited regions of America and the terrifying tales of supernatural horror that have made their mark upon the region. Be sure to bring your camera; orbs and apparitions are common, and that hand on your shoulder … well, there's probably nobody there.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum,
Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum sits on 666 acres of land in Weston, West Virginia. Next to the Kremlin, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in the world, and the largest in the United States. Construction started in 1858 and was completed in 1881. Doors were opened for "treatment" in 1864. It was finally closed in 1994. During the facility’s 130 years of service, thousands of patients went in. Many never came back out. Some are still there to this day. In its heyday there were nearly 2,400 patients crammed into a facility designed for a mere sixth to a quarter of that many people.
The Asylum was known for its barbaric treatment of the "patients," including crude shock treatments, lobotomies, and chemical "therapy." Because of the gross overcrowding, insane patients would kill other patients, workers would be injured or killed, and the rape of patients and staff was all too common. The story is told of one nurse who went missing, only to be found months later decomposing at the bottom of an out-of-the-way stairwell.
Paranormal activity started early on in one of the most haunted areas of the asylum known as the Civil War wing. From moans and cackling laughter to sounds of gurneys, the noises were frequent. Sightings became more frequent, as well, with ghosts of workers, doctors, orderlies, janitors, and patients all appearing repeatedly.
Even the show Ghost Hunters found paranormal activity that they could not understand or explain. Perhaps the most terrifying location is on the 4th floor. If you're looking for ghosts, this is the place to go. From thumping and banging noises to rustling sounds, whispering voices, and ghost sightings, the fourth floor is not for the faint of heart.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery,
Are hauntings due to the disturbance of an eternal resting place? Are they related to black magic and the occult? Are they the result of a violent death? If any of these are true, then this might explain the supernatural forces at work in Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.
First set aside for burials in the early 1800s, the small cemetery currently sits on the outskirts of the Windy City near the suburb of Midlothian. The cemetery has been the site of numerous glowing orbs seen floating over the grave markers, phantom vehicles patrolling the nearby roadways, and the "white lady" carrying a child through the tombstones during the full moon. Other occurrences have included a horse rising out of the enclosed pond pulling a farmer and his plow, and a ghostly woman sitting on a tombstone. The latter was captured in a photograph that famously was printed in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The hauntings were not common until the graveyard fell into disrepair in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was then frequented by vandals who destroyed the gravestones, unearthed the caskets, and even violated the bodies. Police reports show evidence of the black arts, as locations used for sacrifice and occult symbolism were found during patrols. Research into the area unearthed the story of a farmer being pulled into the pond by his startled horse and drowned in the 1870s.
With hundreds of sightings, this cemetery is a great addition to your paranormal bucket list.
What happens after death? Why do some spirits seem to linger on earth instead of moving on? Why do some spirits appear friendly, while others chill your being and elicit feelings of dread? The answers are out there for those brave enough to find them, and these ten places will give you a very good start to your journey.