As a country steeped in history, it’s no surprise that almost every state in America can claim to have one of the most haunted buildings around. Venture into any old tavern or hotel and you’re bound to hear a story or two that will send chills up your spine. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, when it comes to haunting, sometimes the evidence is too hard to ignore. From theater fires killing hundreds, to a converted restaurant visited by unrequited lovers, these are the most haunted buildings in America.
The Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina
Mention a haunted house and a luxury mansion in scenic North Carolina may not be the first image that comes to mind. But the Biltmore Estate is exactly that. Built as a vacation home by railroad heir George Vanderbilt, this stunning home is considered to be actively haunted by its former owners. Witnesses of the supernatural events have claimed to hear splashing in the empty pool, clinking of glasses, and the whisper of Edith Vanderbilt summoning George from the library. As if all that isn’t spooky enough, many claim to have seen a headless cat wandering the grounds. When you see the estate, it’s hard to blame them for wanting to stick around.
Captain Tony’s Saloon
Ask a local and they’ll likely tell you ghosts outnumber residents in Key West, Florida by a ratio of 4:1. Legend has it ghosts can’t cross water, which is why many believe the historic island to be doomed. Indeed, the people of Key West are so superstitious that homes and businesses throughout have painted their porch ceilings blue to mimic water and keep ghosts out — or in. With a reputation like that, it’s no surprise that most buildings on this Florida island claim to have a haunting or two. One noteworthy spot for eery experiences is Captain Tony’s Saloon. What was once a city morgue, this building is no stranger to death. During the bar’s renovation, builders uncovered skeletal remains of several bodies, including Elvira and her infant, who is believed to haunt the women’s restroom. If you visit Tony’s today, you’ll also see a large tree that used for town hangings. Many claim a woman hanged for murdering her children and husband can be seen around the pub from time to time.
The Cecil Hotel
What set out to be a luxurious hotel in booming Los Angeles has now become a notoriously haunted building on Skid Row. After the hotel hit hard times during the Great Depression, it became a congregation point for all the dark figures of the city. Some of the hotel’s most infamous residents include The Black Dahlia, a woman murdered shortly after staying at the hotel; and serial killer Richard Ramirez, a.k.a The Night Stalker. Over the years, the hotel has been the scene of 16 separate murders, including the death of Elisa Lam in 2013. Security footage of Lam entering an elevator looking frightened and talking to what many believe to be an entity went viral after her body was discovered in the hotel’s water tower five days after she went missing. The Cecil Hotel has since changed its name but the history of the hotel can’t be changed as easily.
The Cuban Club
Deemed “Club Dead,” the Cuban Club in Tampa, Florida has a ghostly reputation. There are at least two famous ghosts haunting the former community center: a woman who is recognized by her red heels and white dress, and a young boy who is believed to have drowned in the Cuban Club’s pool. Other deaths that have occurred on the premises include an onstage suicide by an actor, and the murder of a disagreeing board member. Many visitors of the club have a story to support the paranormal theory, including one woman who was choked by invisible hands while getting ready in a bathroom, and another who witnessed a ghostly figure coming out of a mirror. Others swear they’ve heard screams in the hallways and pianos being played by themselves.
Earnestine & Hazel’s Bar
Down in Memphis, Tennessee there’s a bar that the guests just can’t seem to get enough of. Before Earnestine & Hazel’s became a bar in the 1950s, it was a church, pharmacy, jazz club, and brothel. Legend has it that prostitutes that worked in the brothel were murdered upstairs. Whether that is true or not is up for debate, but workers and visitors of Earnestine & Hazel’s certainly believe something happened up there. Some say it constantly sounds as if there is still a party going on. It is not uncommon to hear voices, footsteps from above, or even the old piano being played. The activity is not limited to upstairs though. One of the bartenders claims she and customers will be having a normal conversation and out of the blue the jukebox will begin playing a song that fits what they’re discussing. Money bags have gone missing, lights will flicker, and photographs will display faces in walls and orbs of light. Those who have been with the bar for years say that the ghosts are not out to harm anyone though, and even feel as if the spirits are looking out for them. Who wouldn’t want to stay at their favorite bar eternally?
St. Paul, Minnesota
One of the many haunted restaurants on our list is Forepaugh’s Restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota. This Victorian mansion turned French restaurant is infamous among locals and tourists as one of the most haunted buildings in the state. It began with the the Forepaugh family and their maid, Molly. The story goes that after discovering Molly and Mr. Joseph Forepaugh were having an affair, the Forepaugh family moved out of the mansion. Unfortunately, Molly was carrying Joseph Forepaugh’s child, and became so distraught over the situation she hanged herself out of a second story window. Many years later, Joseph Forepaugh returned home to Minnesota and built a new mansion overlooking the former. Unable to live with his guilt (or so they say) over his deceased mistress, Mr. Forepaugh shot himself. The pair are now permanent residents of the Forepaugh Restaurant, and staff say they make an appearance almost daily. Molly is notorious for crashing weddings, and guests and workers alike have witnessed Joseph in his traditional clothing entering the basement. One particular anecdote that will send chills up your spine is the story of the police entering the restaurant after suspicious activity was reported upstairs. The police dogs refused to ascend to the second level to investigate the noise. When the officers finally coerced the dogs up the stairs, there was no (living) person to be found.
Delaware City, Delaware
During the Civil War, Fort Delaware was a military fortress used to imprison Confederate soldiers. Living conditions in the fort were notoriously bad with very little food, no beds for the prisoners, and drinking water that was hardly up to par. By the end of the war, it was tallied that over 33,000 prisoners called Fort Delaware home and at least 2,400 had passed on the grounds. With those types of numbers, it’s no surprise that there is still a spirit or two lurking the infamous fort. Visitors of this spooky Delaware landmark have experienced some pretty frightening paranormal activity, such as seeing shadows of apparitions, hearing the sound of chains clanking in the dungeons, and even so much as being tugged or touched. One of the most talked about ghosts of the fort is that of a former cook in the kitchen. Staff and guests have noticed kitchen utensils being moved and cold spots throughout the kitchen. Fort Delaware is fully aware of its haunted reputation, and hosts an extremely Paranormal Investigation once a year.
People looking for a good haunt head straight for George’s Island in Boston Harbor. Fort Warren on George’s Island has been home to the infamous spirit of the Lady in Black since the Civil War. The legend is that Mrs. Melanie Lanier snuck into Fort Warren disguised as a man in order to break her husband, a Confederate soldier, out of prison. Unfortunately, Mrs. Lanier was discovered by a Union soldier before she could complete her plan. While she struggled with the soldier, her husband was inadvertently shot and killed. Mrs. Lanier was hanged for her crimes and buried in the black robes she is recognized by today. After her death, soldiers of Fort Warren claimed to witness her apparition throughout the grounds, including hearing her voice and seeing her footprints in the snow. Some soldiers even claimed to have been chased by her apparition. The jury is still out on whether the legend of the Lady in Black is true or not, but regardless, plenty of visitors of the Fort these days claim to have come into the contact with her ghost.
The Haunted LaLaurie House
A town full of rich history, New Orleans is chock-full of haunted buildings. Among said buildings is the notorious LaLaurie Mansion located at 1140 Royal Street in the heart of the city. The home’s haunted beginnings came from a fire in 1834 that revealed Madame LaLaurie’s mistreated, starved, and bound slaves. Legend has it that once the townsfolk witnessed the tortured condition of the slaves, they looted LaLaurie’s Mansion and chased the French woman out of New Orleans. Since then, the home has been transformed into several things. At one point, the building was an all girls school, but students complained of being attacked by a woman believed to be LaLaurie’s ghost. While the infamous house was an apartment complex, it was reported to be possessed by a demon who drove a tenant to death. The actor Nicolas Cage even owned it for a short period of time. Whether or not the stories of the LaLaurie Mansion are true, it continues to be one of the largest draws in New Orleans.
Hotel Monte Vista
Built in the 1920s, the Hotel Monte Vista is one of the oldest hotels in Flagstaff, Arizona — and hands-down the most haunted. The hotel is haunted by a variety ghosts including an elderly woman who waits in a rocking chair by the window, a menacing shadow-man who stands six feet tall, and a murdered prostitute with a penchant for choking men while they sleep. One of the most eerie paranormal experiences hotel staff have encountered is an infant crying in the basement. Nobody has an explanation or a story for the wailing child, which makes it even more frightening. Staff constantly find unscrewed light bulbs and televisions turned on in empty rooms. Two hotel spirits who take their jobs very seriously include a bellhop who checks in on guests, and an elevator attendant who wants to make sure you end up on the correct floor.
Chicago experienced one of the deadliest accidents in history at the Iroquois Theater in 1903. On December 30th, the theater that claimed to be fireproof trapped an audience full of women and children after a fire broke out in the second act of a play. The show’s cast and crew managed to escape out of the back door, but 600 others were not as lucky. A building over maximum capacity with doors that had been locked, a faulty fire curtain, and gated stairways were to blame for the tragedy that ensued that day. Audience members stuck on the balcony of the theater became so desperate they began to jump from windows into the alley below while many on the first floor were simply trampled to death. The Iroquois Theater has been replaced several times over but the spirit of the chilling event still remains. Visitors deem the location one of the most actively haunted spots in Chicago. The alley behind that theater where the jumping bodies began to pile up has since earned the nickname The Alley of Death, and is said to carry an immense feeling of despair by those who pass through it. Rumor has it that children can be heard crying, as well as bodiless footsteps and occasional screams. A few have claimed to have seen the shadow of trapeze artist Nelly Reed, the only cast member who didn’t survive the Iroquois Theater fire.
Created as a military arsenal on the coast of Maine in 1812, this notoriously haunted building has a hauntingly interesting past. After the Kennebec Arsenal closed its doors in 1901, it was reopened as a mental health institution for both children and adults. The Augusta Mental Health Institute (AMHI) was in business for nearly 100 years. In that time racked up over 11,000 deaths on the premises. Many believe that a majority of those bodies are buried in unmarked graves along the coastline. The AMHI was believed to use unorthodox practices on its patients including bleeding, electro-shock, and medicinal opium. Rumor has it the moans and screams of patients can still be heard on the grounds today. Since it was closed in 2004, the old institute has forbidden public access — but that hasn’t stopped troublemakers from sneaking into the building’s underground tunnel system. Here’s hoping a security guard is the only soul they run into down there.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Sure, prisons, hotels, and old taverns are expected to be haunted, but have you heard of a haunted zoo? Of the many ‘spirited’ buildings in Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo is considered one of the most haunted places in the Windy City. The zoo itself is built on an old cemetery that was the home to fallen Civil War soldiers and victims of cholera. Though many bodies were moved when the park was sold, it is believed there are still at least 10,000 bodies lying under Lincoln Park and the zoo. When visiting Lincoln Park, you may notice a now famous bridge overlooking the scenery. It has affectionately been coined “Suicide Bridge” and has been the jumping point of over 100 people. With such an ominous history, it’s no wonder that the Lincoln Park Zoo is rumored to be haunted. Many visitors to the zoo have witnessed spirits dressed in Victorian garb, wandering around as if enjoying a nice day in the park. One of these ghosts has been recognized often in the Lion House as well as the bathroom, where you may just catch a glimpse of her reflection standing behind you. Guests who take pictures at the zoo should not be surprised to see strange orbs or streaks of light in their photos, as this is a common occurrence. Slamming doors, disembodied footsteps, and mysterious voices also occur with no explanation.
San Antonio, Texas
The historic Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas is no stranger to despair. Built on an Alamo battle site, the elegant hotel opened in 1859 and was an instant hit. During the Civil War the hotel was used as a makeshift hospital, where it experienced death and likely picked up a few of its current residents. Rumor has it that there are over 32 different spirits currently haunting the Menger Hotel! Hotel guests have experienced levitating beds, unexplainable noises, and apparitions of those who have passed away in the hotel. Murdered chambermaids, sickly guests who’ve commited suicide, a Texas tycoon with an honorary suite, and even Teddy Roosevelt are just a few of the ghosts walking the halls of the Menger. Those looking for a spook will not be disappointed with a stay at the famous hotel, as it’s considered one of the most actively haunted buildings in Texas. And if there aren’t any ghosts during your stay, you can take solace in the fact that it is also considered one of the best hotels in Texas.
St. Francisville, Louisiana
Myrtles Plantation, in St. Francisville Louisiana, is a beautiful Antebellum home with an eery history. While experts and historians claim most of the stories surrounding the plantation are rumors, there is no doubt that this Southern home has experienced tragedy. Of the first owners, the Woodruffs, two members of the family passed in the home after contracting Yellow Fever. Tragedy didn’t stop there. The next family to move in was the Stirlings, and of nine children, five lost their lives in the home. Ruffin Gray Stirling, the man responsible for naming Myrtles Plantation, died from tuberculosis while living in the home, leaving his wife responsible for the land. One of the more famous rumors surrounding Myrtles is the story of the slave Chloe. Legend has it that Chloe, a slave, poisoned the Woodruff family via a birthday cake before being hanged from a tree in the yard. Many claim to have seen the spirit of Chloe wandering around the plantation wearing a green turban. While there are no records of a ‘Chloe’ ever existing on the farm, there is a lot of evidence surrounding the mysterious ghost that is recognized so often. Even the folks at National Geographic became believers after inadvertently catching the ghost on film. The plantation has since been transformed into a haunted bed and breakfast, so you can decide for yourself whether the ghostly legends are true.
New Amsterdam Theater
New York, New York
While most of our haunted buildings have been haunted by multiple spirits, the New Amsterdam Theater in New York is only haunted by one very friendly ghost. Olive Thomas was a chorus girl who gained fame in the theater’s Ziegfeld Follies. After Thomas’s husband told her he had syphilis, Olive Thomas committed suicide in 1920 out of fear that she too had contracted the disease. Not long after, workers and actors at the New Amsterdam Theater began to recognize Olive around. Her spirit has continued to wander the grounds, and has become such a staple in the theater that her photo hangs in several areas of the New Amsterdam so that she can be greeted by workers and guests. There have been reports of unexplainable touching, moving furniture and items, and even mysterious tap dancing. The theater staff claims they enjoy having Olive around, as she is always playful and never violent. One time, she even brought a booster seat to an audience member! The famous New Amsterdam ghost has gained such a following that some guests will hide in the theater after a show to try and catch a glimpse of Olive.
Ohio State Reformatory
The Ohio State Reformatory opened its doors in 1890 as a prison for violent offenders. In the prison’s 94 years, over 150,000 prisoners spent time at the Reformatory, and it is believed many never left. The Ohio State Reformatory offers daily tours of the notoriously haunted prison where guests have experienced being pushed down stairs, being forcefully led by non-existent prison guards, and even punched by paranormal forces. Some of the most active spots in the prison include the showers, where more than a few prisoners committed suicide, and ‘The Hole,’ the solitary confinement block under the prison where many have felt breathing on their necks and the inescapable feeling of being watched. Besides the stories of violence that one would expect from a prison, the Ohio State Reformatory has a history of wardens with bad luck. One warden’s family was kidnapped and murdered, while another’s wife accidentally shot herself when a gun fell from a closet shelf. If the prison looks familiar, it was used as the setting for the film The Shawshank Redemption.
The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee recently gained notoriety when a group of Major League Baseball players came out with their haunted tales of the historic hotel. While some of the players’ encounters with the spirits are humorous, other stories are down-right spooky. Many claim they’ve heard footsteps in their rooms, pounding on walls, and even disembodied voices. Electronics that turn on and off also seem to be a common occurrence among guests. One player was so spooked after seeing what he believed to be a ghost, he had to visit the team’s chaplain the following day. The 100-year-old hotel is believed to be haunted by the former owner, Charles Pfister, a friendly spirit who has often been seen overlooking his grand lobby. Pfister and his father built the hotel in downtown Milwaukee with the dream of it being a world-class destination. The good news for the Pfister family? The hotel is considered to be as opulent as it is haunted, which is probably why Major League teams keep booking their players there.
Pink House Restaurant
In Savannah, Georgia, the list of buildings that aren’t haunted seems to be shorter than the ones that are. Hotels, homes, cemeteries, and whole town squares have their fair share of spirited stories, but it is a particular haunted bar that’s the most frightening. The Pink House Restaurant is not only a great place to eat while in the haunted city, it’s also a great place to be spooked by a spirit or two. Visitors and employees of the famous restaurant have had several ghostly experiences with the Pink House’s previous residents. The home was built in the 1700s by James Habersham Jr., who has been seen from time to time cheers-ing patrons at the bar, straightening up tables in the restaurant, and lighting candles on the guests’ tables. Other spirits that have been frequently seen (or heard) include a woman who cries on the second floor, and the children who enjoy playing pranks on guests. For how active this notorious Savannah restaurant is, it’s a good thing these ghosts are friendly.
Built in 1914 to overlook the city of Portland, Oregon, the Pittock Mansion was a vacation home for Henry and Georgina Pittock. Unfortunately, the couple died shortly after the home was built and never got to fully enjoy their estate. Many believe this is the reason that Henry and Georgina’s spirits are still felt in the home today. Kept within the Pittock family until the 1950s, the home was then acquired by the state of Oregon and repurposed as a museum. Visitors and staff of the Pittock Mansion say it is not uncommon to feel the presence of either Henry or Georgina while touring the mansion, as they are proud homeowners who enjoy showing it off. Footsteps and the opening and closing of doors are also commonly reported. The spirit of Georgina is especially fond of moving a boyhood photo of Henry around the mansion, an act that nobody can explain. It is believed the Pittock’s groundskeeper has also stuck around, as there have been several sightings of a ghostly gardener roaming the grounds.
Queen Anne Hotel
San Francisco, California
If you’re curious about which location has the friendliest ghost in the U.S., experts say the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco takes that title. The building gained fame as a prestigious boarding school for girls, run by Mary Lake in the 1890s. Unfortunately, in 1896 the economy took a turn for the worse. When the school became too expensive to maintain, Lake closed it down and moved back to the East Coast. Mary Lake passed away from unknown causes at the age of 55, and it is rumored she returned to the place she loved, The Queen Anne in San Francisco. After its stint as a preparatory school, the building was used as a club and a brothel before it became the hotel it is known as today. Visitors of the Queen Anne Hotel claim the ghost who haunts the hotel is well-mannered and extremely friendly. She has been known to make the bed, unpack guests’ suitcases, and even sing them to sleep! Many have also seen reflections in hotel mirrors and experienced cold spots throughout the rooms and lobby. Room 410, Mary Lake’s former office, is notorious for being the most active room in the hotel.
The Queen Mary
Long Beach, California
Currently docked in Long Beach, California, The RMS Queen Mary consistently ranks as one of the most haunted places in America. With such a long and varied history, it is easy to see why the notorious ship has gained such a reputation. This 1,000-foot vessel made her maiden voyage in 1936 and retired to her home at the Beach in 1967, after making more than a thousand transatlantic voyages. Though she was originally used as a luxury cruise liner, WWII required transformation of the Queen Mary into a transportation vessel for troops, prisoners of war, the families of soldiers, and even Winston Churchill. Today, the famous ship works as a hotel and museum, but it’s the lore of ghostly haunts that keep tourists aboard. Some of the most haunted spots upon the Queen Mary are the poolroom, where many claim to have seen the ghost of a child; the Queen’s Salon, home to the dancing woman in white; and the infamous Stateroom B340, whose paranormal activities can be experienced firsthand by guests brave enough to spend the night in it. Visitors of the Queen Mary can participate in several haunted tours, including the nighttime ‘Paranormal Investigations’ and ‘Dining with the Spirits’.
San Fernando Cathedral
San Antonio, Texas
Duped by the King of Spain, 56 Canary Islanders sailed across the Atlantic for the promise of land and riches in what is now San Antonio, Texas. Unfortunately for the Islenos, there was nothing waiting for them in San Antonio except empty land and an angry Apache tribe. Despite the hardships the immigrants faced, including a Smallpox outbreak and several battles (ahem, The Alamo), they managed to complete the San Fernando Cathedral, a mission they came all the way from Spain to fulfill. The San Fernando Cathedral was the first cathedral in Texas, and was even visited by Pope John Paul the II in the ‘80s. With such a rich history, it’s no surprise that the famous Cathedral has a few spirits lurking the grounds. Believed to be the ghost of an Apache peace offering, many have witnessed a white stallion roaming around the Cathedral. Visitors have also seen faces appearing in walls, orbs of light, and hooded apparitions that many think are the former monks of San Fernando.
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
While it seems most haunted locales are home to friendly ghosts who want to make your bed or play a song on the piano for you, the Sloss Furnaces in Alabama are a far different story. For over 100 years, Sloss Furnaces produced steel for locations all over the country. Workers of the furnaces worked day and night in inhumane conditions to keep the furnace alive and producing. The story behind the hauntings falls onto James ‘Slag’ Wormwood, the night shift foreman. Wormwood was known for being especially brutal, and it is rumored that during his shift close to 50 men lost their lives. James himself died in the furnaces after he “slipped” into the furnace and was burned alive. Since Wormwood’s death, strange and violent events have occurred in the Sloss Furnaces. During the 1940s, three workers were discovered tied up in the boiler room without any clue as to how they had ended up there. In the 70s, a security guard was pummeled by a burned man who looked demon-like and yelled at the security guard to “get back to work”. Many have reported that they’ve been pushed aggressively and even shouted at by an unseen presence. In 2003, one man at Sloss mysteriously caught on fire. Several paranormal teams have studied the furnaces and they all seem to agree that the furnaces are one of the most actively haunted places they have ever encountered. They have even captured their paranormal evidence on film. It is said that the graveyard hours, Wormwood’s shift, are the most active of all.
The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colorado
Easily one of the most notorious haunted buildings to ever exist is the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Built in 1903, this colonial hotel was the inspiration for Stephen Kings’ The Shining. It is said to be as haunted as it is beautiful. Visitors of the hotel have experienced everything from flickering lights to self-playing pianos, and if you’re lucky (or unlucky), you may even witness a ghost or two. A few noteworthy spots worth checking out are the concert hall, where you may meet the apparition of a homeless woman named Lucy; “the Vortex,” the staircase that is considered the ghost transit system in the hotel; and the fourth floor where you may meet a pair of twins at the end of the hall. Just kidding about that last one, but the floor is reported to be the home of giggling children, haunted closets, and a cowboy who spies on you in bed. For a unique experience of the spirited hotel, attend the Stanley’s annual Halloween Masquerade Ball.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Weston, West Virginia
Operating as a mental hospital from 1864 into the 1990s, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia is one of the most famously haunted buildings in the country. As is the case with many asylums of its time, the Trans-Allegheny was overcrowded and patients were treated inhumanely, often becoming “guinea pigs” for medical experiments. It didn’t take much to be admitted into Trans-Allegheny. Men could admit their wives with a simple signature, while others were let in for reasons as silly as being “kicked in the head by a horse”. With so many patients confined to the hospital, it’s no surprise that suicides and violence became a norm for the asylum. Visitors and workers of the former asylum experienced everything from objects being thrown at them to hearing voices. The sound of squeaky wheels is commonly heard throughout the hallways, as well as hysterical laughter in the some of the rooms. There are several well-known spirits who still haunt the premises. One is said to be a nine-year old girl, Lilly, who was born in the asylum. It is rumored she still plays in one of the rooms and is even known to have a conversation with visitors. After Trans-Allegheny closed for good in 1994, it reopened as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. Tours of the grounds are available throughout the day, and for those who are especially brave, overnight tours are also offered.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Used as a Tuberculosis Clinic from the 1920s through the 1960s, Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky is a building with a rich (and haunted) past. The severity of TB at that time meant seclusion for those who had it, as well as for the doctors and nurses who treated them. This meant that Waverly Hills Sanatorium became its own community with food sources, a post office, and residences on site. As can be expected, death also became a part of everyday life in this medical community. It is rumored that a body chute was used to transport the deceased so that the living patients would not realize how many residents were dying. Recent visitors to this Kentucky landmark believe some of those residents never left. Ghost stories of Waverly Hills involve nurses who committed suicide on the 5th floor, voices warning visitors to leave, and smells of freshly baked bread coming from the now destroyed kitchen. Public tours of the haunted sanatorium are available year round and if you dare, reservations to stay on the premises are also available.
West Virginia Penitentiary
Moundsville, West Virginia
Built to resemble a gothic castle, the West Virginia Penitentiary is a prison that many believe has housed inmates long after it closed its doors. Commonly referred to as Moundsville, after the city in which you can find it, this prison is well known for its dark and violent past. In the late 1800s, guards of the prison were accused of using torture devices on prisoners, and the conditions of the state prison were considered inhumane. Public executions were a norm for the West Virginia Penitentiary until 1931, when an accidental decapitation occurred and put an end to letting an audience be present. This was just one of the 85 hangings that occurred on the grounds until they began utilizing death by electrocution in 1951. After the eventual shut down of Moundsville, former guards were hired as tour guides of the looming penitentiary, which still offers tours of the grounds during the summer months. Brave visitors even have the option of staying the night in the haunted penitentiary, or trying their hand at “Escaping the Pen”, a very realistic onsite escape room.
San Diego, California
Considered the most haunted house in America, the Whaley House is an historical landmark in San Diego, California that has been experiencing tragedy since 1852. After building their house on a site formerly used for town hangings, the Whaley family often complained of loud footsteps and slamming windows, and were convinced their home had become the resting place to Yankee Jim, an infamous criminal who had been sentenced to death a few years earlier. It wasn’t long before members of the Whaley family joined Yankee Jim as spirits haunting the home. Shortly after Thomas Whaley and his wife lost their 18-month old son to Scarlet Fever, their daughter, Violet, committed suicide in the home. Visitors have witnessed unexplained noises coming from the piano, chairs rocking without being touched, and have even experienced smells such as tobacco smoke baking bread. Even the Whaley’s dog has made an appearance at the old home. In recent years, the Whaley Home has been turned into a museum which is open to the public for tours. Although you cannot stay in the house overnight, after-dark tours are available.
The Winchester House
San Jose, California
Most are familiar with the legend of the labyrinthian Winchester House in California, but few know why the homeowner began the process in the first place. Sarah Winchester was the widow to the heir of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After losing both her infant daughter and her husband, Sarah’s mental health began to spiral — so much so that Sarah was convinced by a medium that the Winchester family was cursed from the death and destruction caused by the family’s rifle. The medium told Sarah the only way to put an end to the curse was to move to California and build a never-ending home to appease the spirit world. Sarah took the advice seriously and in 1884 began construction on the infamous Winchester home. While the home has not been “proven” to be overtly haunted, the spirit of the home is one of the most eery in the country. The maze-like structure of the home is no accident. Sarah purposely constructed stairways with no destinations and hallways leading nowhere in an effort to confuse and trap the spirits in the home. There are also over 60 fireplaces in the building because Sarah believed that is how ghosts preferred to travel. When Sarah passed in 1922, the home was purchased and opened to the public. Tours of the spooky, architectural love-letter to the spirits are available everyday.