Discover the haunting stories of these ghost-ridden homes and abandoned asylums.
The spring of 1692 saw a wave of hysteria descend upon Salem, Massachusetts. It spread like a virus through the town. A group of young girls claimed to have been possessed by Satan and sent several people to the gallows over several months in the most notorious witch hunt in history.
Many of these troubled spirits are still roaming Salem today, including Giles Corey (an 80-year-old farmer who was accused of witchcraft but killed after questioning the motives of the girls). Howard Street Cemetery is where Corey is buried. It is one of many places in the United States that is believed to be home to the paranormal.
What is it that draws us to the supernatural, though? Margee Kerr is a sociologist and author of Scream. Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear. She says that feeling fear when we feel safe can lead to a special type of euphoria or confidence. Some people believe ghosts and spirits are proof that the soul can live after death. Christopher French, a psychologist, explains this in The Atlantic.
These seven haunting destinations, regardless of whether you believe in ghosts or not, prove that haunting legends are often rooted deep in traumatizing and very real histories.
The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana
Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, a Louisiana socialite, was well-known for hosting lavish soirees at her French Quarter home in New Orleans in the early 19th Century. The grisly scenes unfolding two stories above were not known to guests, who indulged in fine food and champagne.
Local police were called to investigate a fire in a kitchen in 1834. They found the bodies of many mutilated and enslaved people hidden in the attic. A mob stormed LaLaurie’s house after learning of her grotesque secret. She fled to France. People claimed that they heard the phantom screams from her victims coming from the most extreme haunted houses in Ohio shortly after LaLaurie vanished from New Orleans.
Spooky F: In 2014 the infamous murderess was brought back to life by Kathy Bates on the television series American Horror Story – Coven.
How To Visit: Although the replica of LaLaurie Mansion is no longer available for tours (the original was destroyed in a fire), several city tour operators such as Free Tours By Foot or Ghost City Tours include a visit to the Royal Street mansion on their itineraries.
The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, Oregon
Portland was one of the most hazardous ports in the U.S. early 19th century. It was also the center of an illegal maritime practice called shanghaiing. This is a form of human trafficking.
Local legend says that swindlers targeted unsuspecting men at local saloons. These were often equipped with trapdoors that dropped the victims into underground tunnels. The men were then taken into captivity, drugged, and finally transported to the waterfront where they were unpaid laborers. Some worked for many years before returning home. According to legend, the tunnels are haunted by the aggrieved spirits from the prisoners who were found in the dark recesses below the city.
Unusual Fact: This practice of kidnapping people to work on ships was called shanghaiing, as the ships to which they were sold were often headed to East Asia.
How To Visit: Portland Walking Tours and the Cascade Geographic Society offer guided tours through the Portland tunnels. Visitors get a dark history lesson. You don’t have to worry about it: They provide flashlights.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia
The Gothic-style prison was built in Philadelphia and opened in 1829. It was the first U.S. prison to use solitary confinement. The cells were made of stone and prisoners were isolated from the outside world. Prisoners were protected by hoods that were worn over their heads whenever they moved. This system was believed to lead to solitude, which in turn would result in penitence and rehabilitation. Critics believed that it caused emotional anguish similar to physical torture. The “Pennsylvania” system was also replicated in other countries and Europe.
After the prison closed in 1971, it is believed that the ghosts of inmates retook the prison. Visitors claim they can see ghosts of inmates walking the corridors, and hear their mischievous whispers from abandoned cells.
Unusual Fact: In the mid-1800s thousands of tourists visited the prison. Charles Dickens wrote that “The system was rigid, strict, and hopeless solitary confinement and I believe it to be cruel and unfair …”
Where to Go: Eastern State Penitentiary provides daytime tours all year round, as well as special events. Terror Behind the Walls is no longer a haunted house. This has been made possible by COVID-19. If you feel brave this fall, visit the decommissioned prison and Alphonse Scarface Capone’s cell under the moonlight with Eastern State Penitentiary’s recently launched night tours.
R.M.S. Queen Mary, Long Beach (California)
From 1936 to 1967, this retired ocean liner traveled the Atlantic Ocean. The Queen Mary was a retired ocean liner that carried celebrities and dignitaries during its three-year tenure at sea. However, its days as a luxury vessel were short-lived. In 1939, it was stripped of all its amenities and renamed the “Grey Ghost”, a World War II troopship. It was returned to its former glory at the end of the war and traversed nearly the Atlantic for almost two decades more.
The Queen Mary left on Halloween 1967 for its final cruise. It eventually docked in Long Beach, California where it will rest. According to some reports, the ship is haunted by ghosts of the victims. This includes the young sailor who was crushed to death in the engine room and the crew member who was murdered in cabin B340.
Unusual Fact: Winston Churchill was the one who signed the D–Day Declaration on board the Queen Mary in World War II.
How to visit The Queen Mary has ceased sailing the Atlantic but continues to operate as a floating restaurant and hotel on California’s Pacific Coast. Follow the footsteps of its passengers and book your room for 2021. Next year, join the ghosts, spirits, and undead on board the Queen Mary as it transforms into the terrifying Halloween attraction, Dark Harbor.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Fall River, Massachusetts
Abby Borden and Andrew Borden were found dead in their home on August 4, 1892. Their youngest daughter Lizzie is the prime suspect.
The Borden case was the first American crime to be brought under the spotlight. Despite public scrutiny and accusations that Lizzie had financial motives for the crime, she was eventually acquitted because there was no physical evidence. No one was ever arrested for the murders. Since then, the Borden house has been transformed into a museum and bed and breakfast. Guests can view gruesome photos from the crime scene and stay in one of its haunted rooms.
Spooky F fact: In 2014, the 19th-century murder became a hot topic again after it was given a Hollywood makeover with the movie Lizzie Borden Took An Ax starring Christina Ricci.
How To Visit: Stay in the same rooms where the Bordens died at the Lizzie Borden B&B. A museum that offers tours daily and a gift shop selling spooky souvenirs such as an ax-wielding Lizzie Borden doll is available.
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado
Stephen King’s horror film, The Shining was inspired by a night spent in this hotel in the Colorado mountain wilderness. In 1909, Massachusetts couple F.O. Flora Stanley and her husband opened the resort, which reportedly was never abandoned.
Staff claim that Mrs. Stanley can sometimes be heard playing her Steinway piano at night in the music room. Mr. Stanley may also occasionally appear in photos. Reports have also indicated that bags were being left unpacked and lights turned off, as well as echoes of children’s laughter echoing through the corridors. The Stanley Hotel is regarded by paranormal experts as one of the most active ghost sites in the country.
Spooky: Guest rooms have a TV that shows The Shining 24 hours a day.
How To Visit Book a Room at The Stanley and Spend a Night with the Hotel’s Permanent Guests. Are you too scared to go out at night? Book a day trip or a night tour.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Weston, West Virginia
The foreboding asylum was built in 1858, and it opened its doors to patients in 1864. Richard Andrews, an architect-designed the massive structure to maximize sunlight and freshness. It was thought that the building would be a healing environment.
The facility, which was originally designed for 250 people, housed 2,400 patients in cramped conditions. Patients suffered from everything from epilepsy to alcoholism. The facility was physically restrictive and patients were often subject to inhumane treatment, including electroshock therapy or lobotomies. The facility closed in 1994 after more than 100 years of operation due to improvements in mental health care and the building’s deterioration.
Hundreds of patients were killed during the tenure of the asylum, and many ghost hunters and guests claimed to have seen their shadowy characters roaming Trans-Allegheny’s crumbling halls.