Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, America is filled with spine-chilling tales of ghostly encounters that have been passed down for generations. Maybe that low whisper you heard was just the wind, but maybe it was something a little more frightening. From coast to coast, the country is littered with homes and buildings where the undead are still said to roam freely. Many of these haunted places are open to visitors so you can experience the eeriness for yourself—if you’re brave enough. Some of these stories and locations are not for the faint of heart, but if you’re looking for a spooky road trip then these places should definitely be at the top of your list.
Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora opened The Stanley Hotel in 1909 – and reportedly never left. In its glory days, it was a grand hotel for wealthy urbanites and stood proud against the Colorado wilderness. In 1977 the hotel served as the inspiration for the fictional hotel in Stephen King’s best-selling novel (and then horror film), The Shining. Today the hotel is dramatically expanded and refurbished. But many reserve rooms in the hopes of a experiencing the much famed paranormal.
According to hotel staff, Mr. Stanley has appeared behind them at the front desk, and shown up in many a photograph. Mrs. Stanley can be heard by guests hauntingly playing her piano in the music room. There also have been multiple reports of lights flickering, faint children’s laughter, and bags being unpacked by no one. Paranormal experts have trolled the halls seeking out ghosts and have hailed it as one of the most active sights in America.
333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
For more than a century, the LaLaurie Mansion has been considered the most haunted place in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and a popular spot for those seeking paranormal activity. Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine moved into this lavish three-story Creole mansion in 1832 and were renowned for their wealth and decadent social affairs. Madame LaLaurie became one of the most influential women in the city by handling the family’s business affairs and doing so with style and grace. However, beneath her refined exterior, lurked a cold and blood-thirsty woman who was cruelly abusing the slaves that she kept behind closed doors.
In 1834, a fire broke out in the kitchen – the rumor being that a slave woman chained to the stove set the house ablaze because she could no longer endure LaLaurie’s torture. When the blaze was finally extinguished, it brought to light the horrible truth that a number of slaves were starved, tortured and chained behind a barred door in the attic. LaLaurie fled the city, and just about as soon as her carriage left city limits, stories of paranormal activity started popping up. People still claim to hear screams coming from the house in the dead of night. While the home is now privately owned, many walking ghost tours include a stop outside for those who want a glimpse of the home and a chance to hear the sounds of the tortured.
1140 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
As one of the most well-known addresses in America, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House is also regarded as one of the nation’s most haunted houses. Past presidents, first ladies, family, and staff alike have all spoken of strange noises, eerie presences, and full apparitions.
While many of the famous home’s past residents have been spotted, the most famous and frequent visitor is said to be our 16 th president, Abraham Lincoln. Calvin Coolidge’s wife, Grace, was the first to report seeing him staring out the window of the Oval Office, and over the years many have claimed similar sightings. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands heard a knock on her door during a visit and upon seeing Lincoln’s ghost when she opened it, fainted on the spot. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who visited during World War II, famously was emerging from his evening bath fully nude while smoking a cigar, and was reportedly startled to find Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in his quarters.
It is rumored that Lincoln appears during times of crisis to help out, and to also complete the work that he was unable to finish due to his untimely death.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500
Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened its doors in July of 1910, and was the final destination for thousands of patients suffering from tuberculosis. It was up and running for 50 years until a cure was finally found for the disease, and the hospital closed its doors. The estimated death toll was around 6,000 and patients suffered from treatments that today would be considered inhumane – such as electroshock therapy, purposefully collapsing lungs, and placing heavy weights on chests. In recent years the sanatorium has become a famous Kentucky tourist attraction, offering tours and overnight visits (if you dare).
Moans of the sick and dying are regularly reported, as well as voices, and shadowy figures. A popular visitor of the hospital is the ghost of a child named Timmy, and it is reported that if you bring a ball for him to play with, it will move on its own. Room 502 is another paranormal hotspot, where a young pregnant nurse hung herself after, supposedly, the doctor who impregnated her wanted nothing to do with her or the baby. Another popular spot is “the death tunnel”, an underground tunnel which was used to transport the dead without upsetting the other patients. People claim to hear voices and footsteps in the tunnel on a regular basis.
Waverly now caters to ghost hunters and tourists looking for a hair-raising experience.
4400 Paralee Ln, Louisville, KY 40272
Back when Eastern State Penitentiary was first built, it was the most famous and expensive prison in the world. The gothic structure had towering walls and was the first prison to practice the controversial tactic of solitary confinement, believing it would lead to penitence. During its operating years from 1829-1971, many inmates were driven insane by the solitude, torture, and disease. Even when prisoners were allowed their few hours of exercise a day, they were forced to wear sacks over their head to continue to block them from any human interaction.
When it finally closed, it is believe that the ghosts “took back the prison.” Visitors claim to see full apparitions of inmates with sacks still over their heads, and whispers in abandoned cells. The prison offers year round day-time tours, and during the fall it transforms into “Terror Behind the Walls” – an infamous haunted house open to the public.
2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Decades before it became known as the Nederlander Theater, the same location had once been the site of a tragic accident, the Iriquois Theater fire. In December of 1903, mere weeks after opening, the worst theater fire, and worst single-building fire, in American history swept through the structure killing more than 600 people. When an overhead light caught fire, theatergoers rushed to the exits, but half of the exits were barred to prevent non-ticketholders from entering.
Many poor souls were burned alive, while a number of others attempted to jump from the back fire escape to get away from the blaze only to fall to their deaths. It is now a site of unexplained shadowy activity and many visitors claim to feel uneasy in the back alley in which so many perished. Many Chicago ghost tours and hunters visit this spot for a glimpse of the paranormal.
24 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
The retired ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, sailed the Atlantic from 1936 to 1967. During her first few years at sea she was a luxurious cruise ship that carried some of America’s most elite Hollywood stars and dignitaries on her decks. During World War II she was stripped of her finest amenities, painted grey, and used as a ship to transport soldiers to the front lines. Once the war was over, she was restored to her former glory and continued to sail the seas, until she was finally docked in Long Beach, California and opened as a floating hotel.
But, before you book a room – be warned that the ship has a recorded 49 deaths aboard, many of whose spirits still reportedly call the Queen Mary home. Some notable ghosts include a young sailor who was crushed by a door in the engine room, two women who haunt the pool where they drowned, and a crew member who was murdered in cabin B340 which most crew members now refuse to enter.
1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90802
Tourists making the trek through the Wrangell Mountains – near McCarthy, Alaska – often find themselves visiting the ghost town of Kennecott, a once booming copper mining community. The copper mine functioned from 1911 to 1938 when copper prices dwindled. Once home to about 200 miners and their families, the Kennecott encampment was quite the feat to live in. The actual mines – Bonanza, Jumbo, Motherload, and Erie — were located four to six miles up the mountain, and workers were forced to take a multi-day train ride through snowdrifts just to reach them. Due to the unfavorable conditions, many lost their lives before the mining community shut down permanently.
Today, tourists and the dozen or so townspeople living near McCarthy, Alaska claim to have encountered spirits. Such encounters include hearing whispers and wails from disembodied voices, the disappearance of personal belongings only to reappear in places they had yet to set foot in, tombstones that disappear as you approach them, and glimpses of phantom shapes. Some suspect the hauntings are caused by those who have suffered an unresolved fate at the mines of Kennecott.
The end of McCarthy Rd. McCarthy, Alaska, 99566
For Sarah Winchester, the lavish life of a millionaire widow could never fill the void from losing her daughter and husband to illness. Shortly after losing her husband – William Wirt Winchester, the firearms magnate — Sarah Winchester, a spiritualist, found a medium to communicate with her dearly departed loved ones. The medium instructed Winchester that her husband was urging from beyond the grave that she move across the country and build a home for the ghosts of people killed by what created their fortune: Winchester rifles. Soon after receiving the warning, Winchester packed up her things and headed to San Jose, California, where she purchased the “Llanada Villa” farmhouse. She hired workers to build additions onto the home that were intended for spirits to wander, which is what is known today as the Winchester Mystery House.
Winchester’s feelings of obligation to house these spirits did not mean she was not afraid of them. Due to her belief, she was being pursued by the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles, she slept in a different one of the 40 Winchester Mansion bedrooms each night. She continued construction on the house in attempts to both appease and hide from the spirits up until her death 38 years later.
Today, the Winchester Mansion stands as a museum offering a variety of guided tours. Visitors will not only get to watch out for ghosts but will also experience 20th century luxury home amenities. Winchester made sure the mansion included modern technologies like elevators, steam and forced air heating, indoor plumbing, and a shower, as well as personal adaptations for her arthritis, like her “easy rider” stairways. The final version of the labyrinth like interior of the four-story home consists of 160 different rooms, stairs that lead to nowhere, dead- end hallways, fake bathrooms, a door that opens to a multi-story drop to the ground, and a two-level basement. Throughout these tours, individuals have said to experience haunting sightings of ghost workers doing construction, the feeling of someone tugging at their clothes, men in civil war uniforms, and a woman in black assumed to be Sarah.
525 S Winchester Blvd San Jose, California, 95128