America's Famous Haunted Houses and Hotels
Hauntings and haunted dwellings have been a spooky part of American history and culture since the founding of the country itself. Homes, hotels, and even famous structures and ships have played host to ghost stories and paranormal phenomena. Despite the fact that poltergeists, apparitions, and evil spirits are frightening for many, people flock to these haunted places in the hopes of having a supernatural encounter of their own. On Halloween, costumes of ghosts and the undead can even heighten people's enjoyment when visiting haunted places or haunted houses. Quite often, however, reporters and ghost-hunters have made a living off of entertaining people with movies and television shows about ghost sightings and other paranormal events at locations around the country. In a way, scary costumes, ghost stories, and spooky home decor can connect Americans with the distant past and their culture as well.
Bell Witch Cave
The Bell Witch Cave is located in Adams, Tennessee, and is named after a witch named Kate who supposedly attacked the Bell family in 1817. She was allegedly a poltergeist who ruthlessly harassed the family, but her attacks largely ceased after John Bell Sr. died in 1820 and his daughter, Betsy Bell, decided in 1821 not to marry her fiancé, Joshua Gardner. According to legends, the Bell Witch spoke to people, sent strange-looking animals to dwell on the property, and even poisoned John Bell Sr. to death.
In Decatur, Illinois, a theater caught fire and burned to the ground in 1915, after which the Lincoln Theater was built in its place. According to legend, a stagehand died in an accident there and came back as a ghost named One-Armed Red who haunted the theater with strange footsteps and a disembodied voice. Apparitions have also been heard and seen climbing one of the theater's metal staircases.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built in 1910 in Louisville, Kentucky, as a hospital for patients suffering from tuberculosis. Visitors to the facility would later report the smell of baked bread, ghostly voices telling people to leave, and doors being slammed. Most of this has been reported on the hospital's fifth floor, where people were said to have jumped to their deaths.
Moore Home/Ax Murder House
In Villisca, Iowa, eight people were killed at the Moore residence by an ax-wielding murderer in 1912. The murder is still unsolved, and the spirits of the victims are thought to still dwell there. Investigators have heard children laughing as well as strange banging noises, and psychics have even claimed to speak with the dead. These hauntings only started to happen after renovations to the building in 1994.
The Lemp Mansion stands in St. Louis, Missouri, and was built in 1868, then occupied in 1876 by the Lemp family. A series of mysterious deaths plagued the family until its last occupant committed suicide in 1949 and the home was abandoned. Upon its renovation in 1975, the new owners, the Pointer family, reported feelings of ghosts watching them, doors locking and unlocking, strange sounds, beverage glasses flying around the bar, apparition sightings, and the bar's piano playing on its own.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery
Located in Cook County, Illinois, the Bachelor's Grove Cemetery was founded in the 1840s. In the 1960s, the cemetery fell prey to vandals and grave-robbers as well as ritual animal slaughters and other occult-related activities. A number of ghost sightings have been reported since then, including the ghost of a horse and plow crossing a road, phantom cars and ghost car collisions, and even a farmhouse that appears out of nowhere.
The Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania occurred in 1863 and was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Bodies of soldiers killed during the battle were left for long periods of time, leading to tales of ghosts lingering on the battlefield. Stories of hauntings in the area include the ever-lingering smell of peppermint and vanilla, which women put on veils over their faces to combat the stench of rotting bodies. Among the many cases of ghost sightings in the area, visions of pacing soldiers have been reported at Gettysburg College, and the ghost of Confederate Gen. William Barksdale has been supposedly heard calling out for water. Apparition sightings, glowing lights, and the sounds of ghostly footsteps have also been reported, along with the howl of Barksdale's faithful dog at night on every July 2.
Alcatraz opened in 1934 as a federal prison and operated until 1963 off the coast of California in San Francisco. It has been the final resting place for countless prisoners, including those who were executed on the premises, and was the site of a violent prison riot in 1946 that prompted the intervention of the military. Alcatraz has had a number of haunting incidents, including sightings of the ghosts of prisoners, unusually cold and hot spots, and the infamous incident in Cell 14D, where a prisoner was allegedly killed by a ghost after screaming about seeing glowing eyes in his cell.
Located on in San Jose, California, the Winchester Mansion, also called the Winchester Mystery House, was the home of Sarah Winchester, the widow of weapons tycoon William Winchester. According to legend, while living in New Haven, Connecticut, she was cursed by the spirits of all of those who were killed by Winchester guns, and she moved to California, where she was told by a psychic that she must never stop building her home, lest she die. She built the house in a way that was incomprehensible to people but was designed to confuse the spirits that haunted her. The ghost of Sarah Winchester herself has been sighted in this seven-story home, and psychics have also claimed to see the spirits of the dead that she was hoping to ward off.
The Myrtles Plantation was built in 1796 in St. Francisville, Louisiana, and housed African slaves during the 1800s. The most famous legend of the Myrtles Plantation is that of a slave named Chloe who allegedly used poison to murder plantation manager Clark Woodruff's wife and two daughters. The Myrtles Plantation is now a tourist attraction, and they sell postcards featuring what is said to be a picture of Chloe's ghost caught on camera. A total of a dozen ghosts have reportedly been seen around the property. Myrtles Plantation has also been host to reports of mysterious cold spots, ghostly voices, and haunted footsteps.
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Bobby Mackey's Music World
The spot where Bobby Mackey's Music World now stands was originally a slaughterhouse and then a nightclub, illegal saloon, and gambling den. Built in the 1850s, it closed down in the 1890s, after which its basement became the home of occultists and satanic rituals. It was also the scene of a botched abortion that led to an infamous murder trial and ended with the hangings of two men. The hauntings began with ghost sightings and strange noises being reported by an employee, along with the jukebox turning on by itself. Since then, other similar events have plagued the establishment.
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The Old Slave House
Crenshaw House, also known as the Old Slave House, was the residence of an illegal slave-trader named John Crenshaw and his family in Gallatin County, Illinois, in the 1830s. Crenshaw ran a secret business involving kidnapping black Americans as well as escaped slaves, forcing them to work in salt mines or selling them to slave owners in the South, and imprisoning many on the third floor of what was known then as Hickory Hill. The slaves are thought to haunt the Old Slave House, and visitors have reported the sounds of rattling chains and cries, disembodied voices, unusual cold spots, and physical contact with unseen ghosts.
Also called "the House the Devil Built," Congelier Mansion was built in the 1860s by Charles Wright Congelier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His wife Lyda allegedly discovered he was cheating with the maid, and according to legend, she stabbed and beheaded her. The home has subsequently been the subject of numerous paranormal events, including reports of a woman screaming, earthquakes, explosive flashes, and six beheaded women's bodies found by authorities in the upstairs bedroom and the basement. Even Thomas Edison was said to have visited the place in order to try to talk to the dead.
Aquia Church was built in Stafford, Virginia, in the 1750s and fell into disrepair after the Revolutionary War. During the reopening of the church years later, a woman's body was found, and ghost stories soon circulated around town concerning her mysterious death. In the 1920s, a woman reported being slapped by an unseen hand in the church, and soldiers who broke into the church reported someone whistling music and claimed to have seen the ghosts of the Union Army marching at them. The ghost of the murdered woman supposedly haunts the belfry of the church, where she was found dead.
Built in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1894, Belcourt Castle is a summer cottage that features 60 rooms. Apparently, the cottage was built to display the antiques, particularly suits of armor, collected by Oliver Belmont. According to legend, the antiques in the home are haunted, including the chairs, which may throw people off who try to sit in them, and a suit of armor in the ballroom that screams.
The Devil's Tree
The Devil's Tree is an oak tree standing by itself in a grassy field in Somerset County, New Jersey. Among the many legends surrounding the tree, stories claim that it was used to hang slaves during colonial times and for lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan and that a farmer killed his family and hanged himself there. According to the stories, the tree has proven impossible to bring down, and people approaching the tree have been chased for a distance by a ghostly pickup truck. The tree is supposedly warm to the touch, no snow ever falls near it, and people who touch or disturb the tree tend to have bad things happen to them.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary is a prison that was built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was in use from 1829 until 1971. The prison was infamous for torturing inmates as well as suicides and murders. People have claimed to hear wailing, strange footsteps, laughing, and ghostly voices, and there have been sightings of apparitions and ghostly faces dating back to the 1940s.
New York City is the home of a haunted hotel, Hotel Chelsea, that first opened in 1884. Famous people who died there are said to have come back to haunt the establishment include Dylan Thomas, Sid Vicious, and Nancy Spungen. People have reported the appearance of ghosts as well as ghostly screams and sinks and lights that keep turning on and off by themselves. A photograph of Room 124 supposedly shows a skeleton that the photographers say they did not see when they took the photo.
Lizzie Borden House
The home of Lizzie Borden, located in Fall River, Massachusetts, became the scene of a murder in 1892 in which her father and stepmother were killed by someone using an ax. Lizzie Borden was acquitted in the resulting trial, and the crime remains unsolved to this day. Visitors to the home, now a bed-and-breakfast, report strange creaking noises consistent with people walking overhead, imprints in beds where ghosts allegedly slept, and lights going out for no apparent reason.
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Montgomery House Bed and Breakfast
The Montgomery House was a single-family home built in Kalama, Washington, on Cowlitz tribal land in 1908. The Native Americans who lived there previously had died due to diseases brought by European settlers, and their deaths are said to be the cause of the hauntings at the home. Visitors have claimed to encounter strange voices, and ghost sightings have also been reported.
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The Mount Washington Hotel
Built in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1900-02, the Mount Washington Hotel is a national historic landmark that took 250 artisans to construct. The owner, Joseph Stickney, died a year after it opened, and his wife Carolyn remained there until she died. According to legend, Carolyn never really left the hotel and still haunts the resort to this day, particularly Room 314.
Old Louisville Neighborhood
The area known as the Old Louisville neighborhood was built from the 1850s to the 1920s in Louisville, Kentucky. Tuberculosis struck the area, killing many and forcing entire families to relocate into treatment facilities. Reported paranormal incidents in the area include unusual cold spots, apparition sightings, strange ghostly noises such as whistling and piano music, mysteriously breaking glass, and various unexplained lingering smells. The widespread nature of these encounters has earned Old Louisville the title of the most haunted neighborhood in America.
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RMS Queen Mary
The ocean liner known as the RMS Queen Mary sailed from 1936 to 1967 and also served as a troop transport ship during World War II. Before it was decommissioned as a floating hotel and docked at its final resting place in Long Beach, California, there were nearly 50 reported deaths of passengers and crew on the ship. Visitors have reported seeing numerous ghosts on the ship, possibly of those who died there.
The Stickney House
Sometime in the 1800s, George and Sylvia Stickney built a home in McHenry County, Illinois, and designed it based on their Spiritualistic beliefs. They built the home without 90-degree corners, except in one spot, and when George Stickney discovered this, he reportedly died of heart failure. After devil-worshipers supposedly occupied the place in the 1960s, a multitude of ghost sightings were reported, along with mysterious voices, the sounds of toilets flushing, and objects moving on their own. The property is now occupied by a police department.
The White House
The White House was completed in 1800 in Washington, DC. It has been the home of every president since, and some of their souls are thought to have remained there after they died. Abraham Lincoln is the most commonly reported ghost seen in the White House, but some have also reported seeing the spirits of Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman.