We know the United States as the land of spacious skies and amber waves of grain, but it also happens to be the land of a million ghost stories.
Take a coast-to-coast tour of the most haunted places in the U.S., where lingering spirits roam through the halls of hotels, abandoned insane asylums, Broadway theaters, and even a city zoo. And if ghosts aren’t your go-to travel companions, fear not—these sites offer enough culture, history, and beautiful scenery and architecture to keep you firmly planted in this realm.
Once home to 10,000 people, Bodie boomed in the 1870s and ’80s, when gold was found in the hills surrounding Mono Lake. It’s now a State Historic Park, with some parts of the town preserved in a state of “arrested decay”—tables with place settings, and shops eerily stocked with supplies. It’s not surprising that there are many reports of supernatural activity here, including ghost sightings and music playing from shuttered bars. There is also a legend that any visitor who takes anything—even a rock—from Bodie will be cursed with bad luck and health problems upon leaving.
Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia
Those of you who remember the ’90s will recognize this cemetery as the one featured in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Like the book, the Savannah cemetery itself has a Southern Gothic atmosphere, with Spanish moss giving shade to time-worn Victorian monuments. There are many notable figures buried here, like singer Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken, but it’s Gracie Watson who most deserves a visit. Having died at just six years old, her grave is marked by a life-size marble statue with her hand resting on a tree stump, symbolizing her life cut short.
Many visitors place toys at her grave when they visit, and some have reported seeing the ghost of Gracie near the site. Other spooky accounts of the Bonaventure include inexplicable sounds, like crying babies and barking dogs, and statues suddenly smiling as people approach them.
Alabama’s first capital and famous ghost town takes its name from the state’s longest river, situated at the confluence of the Cahaba and the Alabama. It was abandoned after the Civil War, and its empty buildings, slave burial ground, and eerie cemeteries are now popular settings for ghost tours and stories of paranormal activity. The most famous tale is that of a luminous floating orb appearing in the former garden maze of Colonel C.C. Pegues’s house, shortly after the colonel had been killed in battle. The phenomenon became known as “Pegues’s Ghost,” and still attracts curious visitors to the site today.
Calcasieu Courthouse, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Toni Jo Henry was a former sex worker who reached national levels of infamy when she killed a man in cold blood in 1940. It took three trials for a jury to convict the “charming” Toni Jo, but she eventually became the first (and only) woman in Louisiana to be executed in the electric chair. However, her spirit is said to have remained in the courthouse, where workers can feel her presence and even smell her burning hair. Many claim she meddles with everyday life at the courthouse to make life more difficult for the employees, locking doors and fiddling with office equipment.
Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Since its construction in 1886, the Crescent Hotel has served several purposes: luxury resort, conservatory for young women, junior college. But the strangest mark on its history came in 1937 when it got a new owner, Norman G. Baker. Baker was a millionaire inventor who decided to pose as a doctor (despite having no medical training) and turn the hotel into a hospital that could “cure” cancer. He was eventually found out and run out of town, although reports say that his spirit found its way back to the site—and found some otherworldly company, too. The now-operating Crescent Hotel is said to be haunted by at least eight ghosts, ranging from a five-year-old girl to a bearded man wearing Victorian clothing.
Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, South Carolina
One of the oldest theaters in America, this site in downtown Charleston has racked up a lot of tumult and history over the years. After a fire burned down the original theater, the Planters Inn was built on the spot; it was converted back to a theater in the 1930s. The most flamboyant ghost here is Nettie Dickerson, who, legend has it, was struck by lightning while standing on the balcony of the hotel. Her shadow has been reported gliding along the second floor of the theater, dressed in a red gown. Also in otherworldly attendance: Junius Brutus Booth, a renowned 19th-century actor (and the father of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes) who used to frequent the inn. —Jenna Scherer
The Driskill, Austin, Texas
The Driskill is a majestic Romanesque hotel with modern rooms and an iconic brick facade, drawing Europeans tourists and wedding parties since 1886. It’s a true Austin landmark—and according to some, a true hot-spot for ghosts. Travelers have noted eerily abnormal sounds through its ornate corridors, as well as phantom sightings of the hotel’s namesake, Jesse Driskill, whose portrait still hangs in the lobby. They say Driskill never recovered from the heartbreak of losing his hotel in a high-stakes poker game, and honestly, we get it: This hotel is a hard one to say goodbye to.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary took solitary confinement to new levels when it was built in 1829. Prisoners lived alone, exercised alone, and ate alone; when an inmate left his cell, a guard would cover his head with a hood so he couldn’t see or be seen. The prison had to abandon its solitary system due to overcrowding from 1913 until it closed in 1970, although the forms of punishment did not get any less severe (chaining an inmate’s tongue to his wrists is one example). The site—one of the most haunted places in America—now welcomes thousands of visitors every year, both for its museum and annual “Terror Behind the Walls” celebration, which features 15 haunted attractions within the prison walls for Halloween. Reported paranormal happenings have included disembodied laughter, shadowy figures, and pacing footsteps.
Emily’s Bridge, Stowe, Vermont
New England is known for its lovely covered bridges, but some are more likely to elicit dread rather than delight. Take Emily’s Bridge in Stowe, for example, a 50-foot-long bridge that is said to be the site of a young woman’s suicide in the mid-1800s. According to legend, the woman (Emily) was supposed to meet her lover at the bridge to elope, but ended up hanging herself from the rafters when he never showed up. Today, Emily’s ghost is said to maliciously haunt the site, clawing at passing cars and even scratching the backs of pedestrians until they bleed. There are slightly less menacing spooks as well, like images of a white apparition and strange voices and footsteps coming from the tunnel.
Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in American history, with somewhere around 50,000 young men dying in the three-day conflict. Many of the soldiers never received a proper burial after their untimely deaths, and many believe the souls of these men now wander the field to look for their weapons and comrades.
Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii
If flight delays and $13 sandwiches aren’t enough to make you fear airports, Honolulu‘s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (also known as Honolulu International Airport) has an extra feature to strike fear in even the most intrepid of travelers: a resident ghost. Dubbed “the Lady in Waiting,” the apparition is a blonde woman in a white dress who shows up in off-limits areas of the airport. According to legend, the woman fell in love with a man who promised to marry her (while she was still alive, of course), but then he hopped on an international flight and abandoned her at the gate—her ghost is still waiting for him to return. People have reported other strange occurrences as well, like toilet paper rolls that unravel on their own and toilets that flush by themselves. Although when it comes to airport bathrooms, we’ve seen a lot scarier.
Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff’s Hotel Monte Vista has its fair share of paranormal guests who have truly overstayed their welcome, including a long-term boarder who had a habit of hanging raw meat from the chandelier in Room 210; and two women who were thrown from the third floor and now attempt to asphyxiate male guests in their sleep. There’s also reportedly an infant whose disturbing cries have sent staff members running upstairs from the basement. (Actor John Wayne even once had a paranormal encounter here.)
House of the Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts
No, this house did not steal its name from the classic novel—in fact, it inspired the novel itself. Aside from being the site of those famous witch trials, Salem also happens to be the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who used this 17th-century house as inspiration for his famous 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables. Aside from its beautiful-yet-spooky facade, the house is surrounded by tales of paranormal activity and ghost sightings (all based on personal experiences of staff). Every October, the house offers spooky tours as well as weekly performances of two plays, The Legacy of the Hanging Judge and Spirits of The Gables.
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
Lions, and tigers, and… ghosts? As it turns out, one of Chicago’s most popular attractions is also one of its most haunted, with much more than just chimpanzees roaming the grounds. From the 1840s to ’50s, the heart of Lincoln Park served as the city cemetery, housing some 35,000 bodies. The cemetery was eventually moved due to its proximity to the city’s water supply, and most of the bodies—but not all of them—were moved along with it. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you know that messing with burial grounds is the easiest way to get haunted, and the Lincoln Park Zoo is no exception. As if walking above several thousand corpses isn’t creepy enough, famed parapsychologist Ursula Bielski once called the area (in its current state) “without a doubt the most active site I’ve investigated”; and people have reported seeing ghosts there since it opened in 150 years ago. We are sad to report, however, that no animal ghosts have been spotted as of yet.
Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, Fall River, Massachusetts
Without a doubt, the most famous haunted bed and breakfast in New England is the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River. For those unfamiliar with the story (or the macabre jump-rope rhyme), police accused Borden of brutally killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet in 1892; she was acquitted of the murders later that year. At the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum, visitors can tour the house or spend the night, even staying in the room where Abby Borden was killed. Guests and employees have reported all kinds of strange activity in the house, including weeping and footstep sounds, an apparition in Victorian-era clothing wandering the halls, doors opening and closing, and muffled conversations coming from vacant rooms. —Randy Kalp
The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut
Mark Twain lived in this Hartford house from 1874 to 1891, during which time he wrote both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The landmark now serves as a museum that showcases the iconic author’s life and work. It’s also an excellent place to experience the paranormal, apparently, as visitors have reported things like odd noises and a woman in white (isn’t it always?). The billiard room is considered the most haunted spot in the house—it is where Twain used to sit ands smoke cigars, and some claim they can smell smoke wafting through the air as they pass through.
Masonic Temple, Detroit, Michigan
With its 16 floors, 1,000+ rooms, and Gothic facade, the Masonic Temple is one of the most imposing additions to Detroit‘s skyline. According to rumors, there’s also more to it than meets the eye, like hidden passageways and staircases. The most famous urban myth associated with the Temple, however, is that of its architect, George D. Mason: Legend has it that Mason went bankrupt funding the construction and then leapt to his death from the roof. You’ll be hard-pressed to find facts to back up this tale, but it certainly does help explain reports of a ghost climbing the steps to the roof of the building.
Mizpah Hotel, Tonopah, Nevada
Mizpah Hotel opened in 1907 as one of Nevada’s first luxury hotels, complete with solid granite walls and Victorian-era decor, and it was fully restored in 2011. But the swanky hotel has a history as blood-red as its scarlet furnishings—one it proudly embraces. Legend has it that a woman died on the fifth floor, and her soul never left the building. The “Lady in Red” now reportedly makes her presence known by whispering in men’s ears and leaving pearls from her broken necklace on guests’ pillows. The Mizpah honors (or capitalizes on) her reputation by letting visitors stay in the Lady in Red suite and serving the Red Lady Bloody Mary at the hotel restaurant.
Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana
Built in 1796 by General David Bradford, Myrtles Plantation is considered to be one of America’s most haunted sites. The house is rumored to be on top of an Indian burial ground and is home to at least 12 different ghosts. Legends and ghost stories abound, including the tale of a former slave named Chloe, who had her ear chopped off after she was reportedly caught eavesdropping. She got her revenge by poisoning a birthday cake and killing two of the plantation owner’s daughters, but was then hung by her fellow slaves. Chloe now reportedly wanders around the plantation, wearing a turban to conceal her severed ear.
Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio
Opened in 1896, the Ohio State Reformatory is famous for its Gothic facade and ominous six-story cell block. But its greatest claim to fame is when it served as the filming location for The Shawshank Redemption, though the prison was shrouded in terror long before Red and Andy holed up there. The reformatory closed in 1990 due to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, but not before more than 200 people (including two guards) died in the building. Legend says that the ghosts of several former inmates still roam the halls, as well as an old guard who jabs people with his nightstick. There are various ways for visitors to experience the hauntings first-hand, from two-hour guided tours to private paranormal investigations.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea, New York City
Often considered one of the world’s most romantic restaurants, One if by Land, Two if by Sea has all the makings of a perfect evening: gold chandeliers, fireside tables, upper-crust cuisine…and about 20 ghosts. The spirits are reportedly more playful than malicious—paranormal activities are classic phantom pranks like flickering lights, tilting picture frames, and moving plates. Some of the most famous apparitions include a woman dressed in black who walks down the staircase and a Ziegfeld follies girl. Other people claim that Aaron Burr haunts the restaurant—it was his carriage house back in the day, after all. Sadly, there are no reports of him performing any songs from the Hamilton soundtrack.
Pine Barrens, New Jersey
The heavily forested Pine Barrens spans over 1 million acres and seven counties in New Jersey. The area thrived during the Colonial period, host to sawmills, paper mills, and other industries. People eventually abandoned the mills and surrounding villages when coal was discovered to the west in Pennsylvania, leaving behind ghost towns—and, some say, a few supernatural wanderers. The most popular Pine Barrens resident is without a doubt the Jersey Devil. According to legend, the creature was born in 1735 to Deborah Leeds (her 13th child) with leathery wings, a goat’s head, and hooves. It flew up the Leeds’ chimney and into the Barrens, where it has reportedly been killing livestock—and creeping out South Jersey residents—ever since.
Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon
Oregonian pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock decided to build their dream house when they reached their golden years, in 1909, spurring the innovative design and construction of the Pittock Mansion. Unfortunately, the couple only got to enjoy their home for a few years before passing away—Georgiana in 1918 and Henry in 1919. The building is now a public landmark where some strange occurrences have been reported, such as the smell of roses (Georgiana’s favorite bloom) filling a room with no flowers in it, and a childhood painting of Henry moving, on its own, from spot to spot within the house. Clearly, death was not enough of a reason for the Pittocks to vacate their beloved home.
Red Onion Saloon, Skagway, Alaska
Established in 1898 as a brothel for miners during the Klondike Gold Rush, Alaska’s Red Onion Saloon had a feature that set it apart from other bordellos: It used dolls to help run its business. (Always a good sign.) Every day, 10 dolls would be placed on the bar downstairs, each one representing one of the ladies working in the upstairs rooms. A customer would choose one of the dolls, at which point it was laid down on the bar to indicate that particular worker was occupied. When the customer came back downstairs, the doll would be returned to her sitting position to let other potential clients know she was available. Fast-forward to 2019, when the Red Onion Saloon still operates as a bar and restaurant (yep, the dolls are still on display), and offers tours of the upstairs rooms, which are preserved as a sort of makeshift brothel museum. As if licentious dolls weren’t creepy enough, there are reports of Lydia—a former madam of the brothel—haunting the site, complete with cold spots and lingering smells of perfume wafting through the halls.
RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California
Aside from a brief stint as a war ship in World War II, the RMS Queen Mary served as a luxury ocean liner from 1936 to 1967. During that time, it was the site of at least one murder, a sailor being crushed to death by a door in the engine room, and children drowning in the pool. The city of Long Beach purchased the ship in 1967 and turned it into a hotel, and it still serves that purpose today—although the reported ghosts of the deceased passengers get to stay for free. (For an extra dose of spine-tingling experiences, see if you can visit the ship’s engine room, which is considered by many to be a “hotbed” of paranormal activity.)
San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas
The oldest church in Texas holds El Mariachi Mass on Sunday, and is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. But come nightfall, you’d have to be something of a daredevil to enter its myth-ridden grounds. When construction workers started renovating the church in 1936, they unearthed bones, nails, and tattered military uniforms near the altar, which some believe belonged to three soldiers of the Alamo. Since the disturbing incident, visitors have reported shadowy figures and orbs in their photographs, as well as ghosts in the back of the church itself. Such otherworldly inhabitants include a man dressed in black and figures in hooded, monk-like clothing.
Sheffield Island Lighthouse, Norwalk, Connecticut
Built in 1868 to help ships reach Connecticut’s Sheffield Island (a 45-minute ferry ride from South Norwalk), this 10-room, Victorian-style lighthouse has a bit of a troubled past. In 1972, the lighthouse’s original keeper died suddenly while watching passing ships with a spyglass; his death was never fully explained. Then, in 1991, an archaeologist working on historic site preservation reported several mysterious happenings, including mystical music coming from the shores, distant cries for help, and the sound of a foghorn—despite there being no foghorn on the island. Many believe the sounds were the work of the ghost of Captain Robert Sheffield, who originally purchased the islands in the early 1800s (and apparently had a knack for weird musical instruments). Today, Sheffield Island Lighthouse offers guided group tours from May through September.
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel‘s stately Georgian architecture and world-renowned whiskey bar have lured travelers to Estes Park since the hotel opened in 1909. But the Stanley reached new levels of fame after inspiring Stephen King’s fictional Overlook Hotel from The Shining. That eerie association aside, many other ghost sightings and mysterious piano music have been connected to the hotel. The Stanley Hotel leans into its reputation quite cleverly, offering nightly ghost tours and psychic consultations from the in-house Madame Vera.
St. Augustine Lighthouse, Florida
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is visited by nearly 225,000 people annually, but it is just as well-known for its otherworldly visitors. Several tragic events occurred at the now-historic site that have contributed to the alleged paranormal activity. One of the first was when the lighthouse keeper fell to his death while painting the tower; his ghost has since been spotted watching over the grounds. Another event was the horrific death of three young girls, who drowned when the cart they were playing in broke and fell into the ocean. Today, visitors claim to hear the sounds of children playing in and around the lighthouse.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum opened its doors to patients in 1864, and in the 1950s, the West Virginia facility reached its peak, housing more than 2,400 patients—even though it was designed to hold only 250. The severe overcrowding led to inhumane conditions (like lack of heat and convalescents kept in cages), and patients started acting increasingly violent, from starting fires to attacking staff members. The asylum finally closed in 1994, but the souls of some patients are said to linger. Ghost tours are available for those wishing to see how some patients lived—and died—within the cramped halls.
Whaley House, San Diego, California
Thomas Whaley built this family estate in 1857 in San Diego, on the former site of the city’s first public gallows. Shortly after he moved in, he reported hearing the heavy footsteps of “Yankee” Jim Robinson, a drifter and thief who was hanged on the site four years before the house was built. Whaley’s family history ended up being filled with tragic deaths and suicides, many of which occurred inside the home itself. Some of the family members reportedly still haunt the landmark, often accompanied by cigar smoke and the smell of heavy perfume.
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House might be one the most disturbing construction projects in history. Following the death of her husband and child, Sarah Winchester (the wife of a rifle-maker’s son) was informed by a seer that her family was killed by the ghosts of gunshot victims. To keep away the vengeful spirits, she commissioned the Victorian fun house-turned-macabre dwelling that you see today. Some of the creepier features include staircases that lead directly into the ceiling, doors that open onto brick walls, and windows that can take you to secret passages.