There are plenty of great ways to get excited for Halloween. You can decorate your home with
creepy props, start working on your costume, or stuff your face with the best spooky-themed candy. All of those options are a lot of fun, but perhaps the scariest way to get into the Halloween spirit is to visit the spirits themselves.
could spend the entire month of October traveling around to see all the most haunted sites in America (and we'd be totally on board because that sounds like the ultimate Halloween adventure). But, since there are haunted attractions all over the country, you could also just hit up a few spots close to home. Ahead, you'll find a list of the most haunted spots in America — and details about each location's twisted past and frightening present.
Many of the locations on the list currently function as museums or hold tours that allow you to experience the ghost stories firsthand. For others, you can visit on your own...if you dare. Either way, it's the perfect time to start planning your terrifying travels, and we're here to help.
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Whaley House, San Diego, CA In 2005, Life Magazine named the Whaley House the most haunted house in America, which makes sense because this place is believed to have several ghosts wandering around inside. Way back in 1852, the property was the site of San Diego's public gallows. There, a man named James "Yankee Jim" Robinson was hung for attempted grand larceny. Thomas Whaley, a local businessman, attended the hanging. Whaley must have been a bit eccentric, because despite having seen a man killed there, he bought the property a few years later, and built a Greek-revival-style family home on it. Soon after moving in, Whaley reported hearing heavy footsteps throughout the house, which he came to believe belonged to the ghost of Yankee Jim. While living there, the Whaleys experienced a lot of death, including the suicide of their daughter Violet in 1885. Many believe that the spirits of Thomas Whaley and his wife Anna have been trapped inside the home ever since. Visitors have reported strange smells, loud noises, and some even claimed to have seen apparitions. Today, the Whaley House operates as a museum.
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Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA Considered the first penitentiary in history, Eastern State was opened in 1829. It was designed to rehabilitate rather than punish, and was built to resemble a church. The hellish activities that went on behind those 30-foot stone walls for over 142 years reportedly made the penitentiary into one of the most haunted sites in America. According to a 2013 report from NPR, the Eastern State Penitentiary, or ESP, utilized torturous methods on the prisoners. In the winter, inmates who misbehaved were dunked into water and hung on a wall until they froze. There was also a chair where prisoners would be bound until their circulation was cut off — to the point that many required amputation. The prison was also overcrowded, which led to a riot in 1933. Despite all of that, ESP remained open until 1971. Stories of spooky, supernatural occurrences in the prison have circulated since the 1940s, and today paranormal researchers and tourists alike visit Eastern State Penitentiary to experience the hauntings firsthand. According to NPR, many report hearing voices and cackling in cell block 12 and seeing figures and faces in cell blocks 6 and 4. In the early '90s, a maintenance worker at ESP named Gary Johnson (no relation to the presidential candidate) claimed to have been gripped by an invisible force. Unable to move, he saw "tormented faces" on the cell walls. You might experience the same thing on your visit.
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Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO As the inspiration for one of the most famous horror novels and films of all time, of course the Stanley Hotel made our list. In 1974, Stephen King and his wife Tabitha spent one night at the Stanley. As it was one of the very last days before the hotel shut its doors for the winter, the Kings were the only two guests and the giant, deserted hotel felt very eerie. The couple stayed in Room 217, and during the night, King had an alarming dream that his son was being chased throughout the hotel's corridors. He woke up in a sweat with the idea for The Shining. Since its opening in 1909, the large hotel is believed to have collected a variety of spirits. Even before King's stay, the hotel had a reputation for being haunted. Visitors have experienced strange occurrences such as having their suitcases mysteriously unpacked and lights flickering; some say they've even heard children laughing and music from the empty ballroom. According to the Stanley's website, hotel founder Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora are two of the main spirits that reside there. It claims, "Flora’s antique Steinway can be heard playing in the dead of night, and Mr. Stanley has been captured in photographs surveying the goings-on in the Billiards Room, once his favorite place." Today, the Stanley capitalizes on its haunted reputation by offering haunted tours that draw in paranormal junkies and Stephen King fans from all over the world.
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The Amityville House, Amityville, NY Another haunted location made famous by Hollywood is the Amityville House, where the 1974 murders of the DeFeo family occurred. Six members of the family were shot and killed by the DeFeo's oldest boy, Ronald. Just one year later, another family, the Lutzes, moved into the home on Ocean Avenue. That's when even more tragedy occurred. The story goes that upon finding out the house had been the scene of a mass murdering, the Lutz family had a priest come bless the property. While the priest was sprinkling holy water and performing the prayer, he heard a deep voice say, "get out." After living in the home just 28 days, the Lutzes moved out and left all of their possessions behind. The whole family claimed to have experienced a series of disturbing paranormal events, which inspired the book, The Amityville Horror, and its later film version. A few of the frightening occurrences include horrible odors and mysterious cold drafts, seeing demonic images and slime oozing from the walls, and having vivid nightmares. The Lutz family's personal experiences led them to believe that Ronald DeFeo had been driven mad by living in the house, which led him to murder his entire family. There is some debate over whether the stories are really true, but either way, we'd rather play it safe and not move in anytime soon. That said, the home is a beautiful Dutch Colonial, and it's for sale.
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Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, LA Built in 1796, the Myrtles Plantation has had a long and dicey history. Some say it was built on an Indian burial ground, and as a result, the ghost of a Native American woman haunts the property. Others claim three people were killed inside the home by Union Soldiers during the Civil War, and a bloodstain mysteriously remains in the doorway. The most infamous rumor, though, pertains to the existence of Chloe. In 1817, Clark Woodruff and his family moved into the mansion on the plantation. The Woodruffs supposedly owned several slaves, including a young woman named Chloe. The details of the story tend to vary, but the basic premise is that Chloe was once caught eavesdropping on the family through keyholes. As punishment, Woodruff cut one of her ears off. After that, Chloe always wore a green turban to cover her missing ear. It is also believed that as revenge, Chloe baked a poisonous birthday cake that killed two of the Woodruff children. Fearing that they would be blamed for the incident, the other slaves supposedly hanged Chloe from a tree in the front yard. Multiple sightings of Chloe's ghost have been reported over the years, and one very convincing photo has been captured. Today, the plantation is run as a bed-and-breakfast, so you can visit anytime and try to spot Chloe wandering around the grounds.
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Sultan’s Palace, New Orleans, LA New Orleans is home to many allegedly haunted sites, particularly in the French Quarter. Case in point: Sultan’s Palace on 716 Dauphine Street. Legend has it that a sultan from the Middle East began renting the large home in the late 1800s. There, he threw opulent parties, where opium was used and orgies unfolded. One stormy night, a local man walked past the home to find blood dripping down stairs from the front door. When the police arrived at the scene, they discovered mutilated bodies laying throughout the house. After making their way through the home, the police came to the backyard to find the sultan himself buried alive. Though it was never discovered who committed the murders, people came to assume it was the sultan’s brother, who was driven by greed for their family’s inheritance. There is actually very little historical evidence that the horrific event even occurred. However, many recent residents of the home, which is now an apartment building, have reported missing possessions and even frequent visits from dark figures. Thus, it is believed by some that the property is haunted by spirits trapped there since the gruesome murder.
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Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, IA In 1912, all six members of the Moore family and two young houseguests were found brutally murdered inside their home in Villisca, IA. The Moore parents and a total of six children were discovered after a neighbor became concerned when they weren't seen outside doing their morning chores. When the neighbor tried to enter the Moore's home, she discovered it was locked. She alerted a family member of Mr. Moore who also lived nearby and had a spare key to the house. Upon entering the home, they found the eight victims bludgeoned to death in their beds. The murder weapon, which was found in the guest bedroom, was an axe. Investigators found two cigarettes butts in the Moore's attic, which led them to believe that the murderer was hiding there until the family and their guests were asleep. Six main suspects were investigated, including Iowa's state senator, Frank F. Jones. Despite many trials, the perpetrator was never found and the Moore murders remain unsolved to this day. In recent years, the Villisca Axe Murder House has become a tourist attraction, and you can even spend the night in the home, if you dare. Visitors report feeling unexplainable cold spots throughout the house and experiencing incidents like their flashlights being mysteriously shut off. Even members of the International Ghost Research Society say they have recorded audio and visual evidence that the spirits of the Moore family remain in the home.
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The Joshua Ward House, Salem, MA In the late 1600s, Sheriff George Corwin lived in a home that doubled as the location where suspected witches and warlocks were jailed during the Salem witch trials. Because of his harsh interrogation tactics, Corwin was nicknamed "The Strangler." One sadistic method he used was tying a suspect's neck to their ankles, which eventually caused blood to come out of their nose. Ultimately, he was responsible for the execution of over 19 people. When Sheriff Corwin died of a sudden heart attack in 1697, his body was kept in the basement of his home for some time because the winter ground was too frozen for burial. As he was so despised by many in the community, his family feared that his body would be mutilated if it were taken outside. In the mid-1780s, a retired merchant named Joshua Ward moved to Salem and built a federal-style mansion on the property where Corwin's jail once stood. These days, a few spirits are thought to live in the home. Two of Corwin's victims, one man and one woman, and Sheriff Corwin himself supposedly haunt the halls. Most terrifyingly, there have been reports of an old man spirit, whom people claim is the ghost of Corwin, attempting to strangle visitors. Now, the building houses a private business. We wouldn't want to work there.
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Griggs Mansion, St. Paul, MN Chauncey Griggs, a wealthy businessman, built himself a mansion in St. Paul in 1883. After living there just four years, Griggs relocated to the West Coast, but the mansion has continued to bear his name for over a century. Despite its beautiful Victorian design, spacious rooms, and high ceilings, the house has become known for something a little less appealing: its ghosts. The Griggs mansion is believed to be haunted by six or seven different spirits, including a gardener, a child, a teenage girl named Amy, and a man wearing a black suit. There aren't really specific explanations for the existence of these four apparitions, but two others have a clear reason for sticking around: A medium named Roma Harris once visited the house and reported seeing a Civil War general that she believed was Chauncey Griggs. She claimed that he had come to check up on his home. The second of these ghosts is a young maid who worked in the Griggs mansion in the early 1900s. Suffering from depression following an ended love affair, the maid hung herself from the fourth-floor landing. She has supposedly appeared to many visitors over the years, and even those who don't see her report feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness in a certain part of the home, which is attributed to her. The house has since been split into three separate units. Each comes fully furnished — with ghosts.
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Hart Island, New York, NY Perhaps one of the most disturbing sites on this list, Hart Island has served many horrendous purposes since it was purchased by New York City in 1868. During the Civil War, 3,413 captured Confederate soldiers were imprisoned there. Over 235 of those soldiers died while being kept on the island. During the 1870s Yellow Fever outbreak, the island was used as a quarantine area for those afflicted with the disease. In the late 1800s, it was home to an insane asylum and a jail. After the turn of the century, the island held a tuberculosis hospital and a boys' reformatory. Most notably, though, Hart Island is the location of 101-acre Potter's Field, a grave site where unknown people are buried. More than a million bodies are buried on the island, many in mass graves. Today, the burials are carried out by prisoners from Rikers Island jail. With such a sad past and present, it's no wonder Hart Island is believed to be haunted by a massive collection of restless spirits. Today, the island can only be accessed by a ferry from Fordham Street pier, and the only people encouraged to visit are relatives of those buried on the island and their guests. These visitations only occur one weekend a month. Members of the public may visit the island only if they make an appointment with the Office of Constituent Services. You can, however, get a pretty spooky look at the island from a boat on the Long Island Sound. It might be best to keep your distance, anyway.
The Logan Inn, New Hope, PA Dating back to 1727, this is the fifth oldest inn in the country. The accommodation and restaurant have gone through several renovations in the past, but Room 6 have remained mostly untouched through the years. Apparently, the owner doesn't want to disturb “Emily”, the ghost in residence. The room has been preserved exactly as it is to keep her happy. Multiple people have witnessed mysterious things like a white misty shape moving, the scent of lavender, and the feeling of being pressed on the chest in the middle of the night.
Hotel Galvez, Galveston, TX The hotel’s rich history is laden with mystery with several sightings of uninvited guests most notably, the Love Lorn Lady that haunts the fifth floor. Legend has it that bride-to-be Audra committed suicide in room 501 after her fiance perished at sea, only for him to show up at the hotel alive and well days later. There have been reports of cold breezes, doors slamming, and flickering lights.