Whether it's seeing dead people or a mild case of the willies down in the basement, ghosts and spirits are serious topics for some people. For others, it's just a good time, with a few shrieks thrown in. The following are some of the most famous haunted structures in the U.S.
t , Fall River, Mass.
OK, this one may be riding more on sheer reputation instead of the degree of hauntingness, but the former home of Lizzie Borden, now a restored B&B, deserves a spot on any paranormal list for form's sake. Borden famously was accused of murdering her sleeping father and stepmother with an ax in 1892 and people believe the spirits of the victims and Lizzie herself still haunt the house. The current owners aren't shying away from the notoriety, holding regular séances in an attempt to communicate with the former residents. They also stage ghost hunts and serve the same breakfast Andrew and Abby Borden customarily ate in an effort to attract paranormal visits, which have included disembodied footfalls and unnatural gusts of wind.
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo.
Stephen King was inspired to write "The Shining" after a stay at the Stanley in 1973. If that isn't proof enough that this 105-year-old hotel is creepy, I don't know what is. Guests have reported odd experiences all over the hotel, including items being moved, lights turning on and off, piano music, the sounds of children running and laughing in the halls, and guests waking up tucked firmly into their beds, as nannies would do for young children. Room 217, where King stayed, is said to be haunted by a former chief housekeeper who still tends to the room, unpacking and putting away guests' belongings among other things. Wholly embracing their legacy, the hotel shows the uncut, R-rated version of "The Shining" on a continuous loop on Channel 42 and leads a variety of ghost and paranormal tours.
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pa.
No list of freaky, haunted places would be complete without a former prison, and the nearly 200-year-old Eastern State Penitentiary does this list proud, as it's one of the most carefully studied paranormal buildings in the USA. Eeriness and unexplainable visions were being reported by officers and inmates as early as the 1940s. Some 60 paranormal investigation teams explore the site every year, trying to record or video the antics of the numerous ghosts that populate the corridors and cells. Teams from SyFy's "Ghost Hunters" and the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," "Paranormal Challenge," and "Most Haunted Live" have tried to capture evidence of these ghosts. The site has also been featured on Fox's "World's Scariest Places," TLC's "America's Ghost Hunters," and MTV's "FEAR." The prison is now a museum, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, La.
Thirty minutes north of Baton Rouge in the town of St. Francisville sits what's said to be one of the most haunted structures in America: the Myrtles Plantation. Built in 1796, historic tours are offered, detailing the property's history and ghostly accounts. Legend has it that (roughly) 11 people have been killed on the premises, sometimes in gruesome fashion, including a mom and her two children (poison) – the culprit, a servant, was hanged in the yard and her body was dumped in the Mississippi River; a man stabbed after a poker dispute; a tutor killed while protecting the family during a Union troop invasion during the Civil War; and a man shot on the porch by an unknown horseman. Visitors have reported hearing footsteps on the stairs at odd hours, rattling doorknobs and locks, unusual smells, rapidly changing room temperatures, moved furniture and objects simply disappearing. The Myrtles has appeared on "Unsolved Mysteries" and "Ghost Hunters," as well as being featured on The History Channel, The Travel Channel, The Learning Channel, A&E, National Geographic Explorer and Good Morning America as well as several print publications. There's an on-site bed and breakfast and restaurant, with the option of sleeping in the mansion itself, though superstitious people can opt for one of the nearby cottages.
The Marshall House, Savannah, Ga.
Dating from 1851, the Marshall House has made repeated appearances on the Travel Channel both for being a great hotel and for its storied history of things bumping in the night that is so dense they have actually started to keep a journal to document all the incidents. Both staff and guests routinely see men wearing Civil War uniforms (the building was used as a Union hospital in the Civil War), including a man holding his own severed arm, seeking help to reattach it. Guests have awoken with an arm outstretched as if a nurse was taking their pulse. Water faucets turn on, doorknobs wobble and unseen children are often heard playing in the hallways.
The Historic Onaledge Bed and Breakfast, Manitou Springs, Colo.
Just outside Colorado Springs, the 100-year-old Onaledge hosts a small cabaret of harmless oddities, including floating orbs and energy strings, flashlights turning on and off, and doors opening and closing. Occasionally regular characters appear to guests, like a little boy in a blue suit, a lady in a pastel Victorian dress, an older gentlemen whose pipe tobacco can sometimes be detected, and a young couple dressed in Victorian attire, flirting in the gazebo on the terrace. Unlike most haunted properties, the Onaledge doesn't actively promote its unusual happenings, though they're perfectly happy to discuss them with curious guests.
The Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
Built in 1886, The Driskill is one of the oldest operating hotels in Texas and has allegedly accumulated all manner of spirits and hauntings in its 128 years of operation. Among the stories are four regular characters: Colonel Jesse Driskill, the namesake of the hotel; Mrs. Bridges, an employee of the hotel; Peter J. Lawless, a former resident of the hotel; and the hotel's most famous spirit Samantha Houston, the four-year-old daughter of a Texas Senator who died from a fall down the grand staircase in 1887 while playing with her ball. A portrait of Samantha was hung above the stairs in 1888, later moved to the fifth floor, and reports of odd incidents have been regularly reported ever since, including a disappearing ball, a child's laughter and the vandalism and disappearance of portraits of Samantha's parents that were acquired years later. Staff swear if a person gazes into Samantha's eyes for a few minutes, she will eventually grin. The band Spoon recently stayed here and sent the hotel an iPhone photo of who they believed to be Samantha. Guests have also reported hearing big band music, lights turning off, and rearranging of things in guestrooms. Singer Annie Lennox once received fashion assistance from a spirit. After laying out two dresses on her bed, she showered and returned to find one dress hung carefully in the closet while the other remained on the bed.
Villisca Ax Murder House, Villisca, Iowa
On June 10, 1912, one or more persons slaughtered the Josiah Moore family (the two parents and their four children) as well as two overnight guests (also children). Though the weapon – an axe belonging to Josiah Moore – was found, the investigative limitations of the time (fingerprinting was still nascent, having been introduced to the U.S. in 1906, and DNA testing was decades away) and the crime scene being disturbed by as many as 100 gawkers before authorities secured the scene, made solving the crime impossible. Since then, visitors to the Moore Home have reported strange occurrences. Paranormal investigators, such as the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," have studied the house and it's said that tours have included spontaneous events like children's voices, falling lamps, moving ladders and flying objects. A documentary, "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" and a book, "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" have been made detailing the events. Daytime tours and overnight stays are offered at the home, if you dare.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, W.V.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (formerly known as the Weston State Hospital) is one of the best places to get uncomfortably close to the supernatural, given the hundreds of patients that died here while it was in operation between 1864 and 1994. The building and grounds are said to be haunted by spirits from as far back as the Civil War, when the asylum's grounds served as a military post. Happily showcasing its 150-year history of trepidation and death, the site now hosts regular two hour tours, which visit the asylum's four main paranormal hot spots. Those who want to court pure terror can opt for the hair-raising Ghost Hunt, an eight hour overnight paranormal escapade led by experienced ghost-hunting guides.
Linda Vista Hospital, Los Angeles, Calif.
Built in 1904, then razed and rebuilt in 1924 the former Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital (renamed the Linda Vista Community Hospital in 1989) was built for railroad employees. The hospital (and the neighborhood) declined in the late 1980's, finally closing in 1991. It's said that the spirits of patients and staff roam the corridors and has since become famous for paranormal activities and investigations by paranormal groups, including an overnight visit by the crew of the TV show "Ghost Adventures." The hospital is also a popular shoot location, including the films "Day of the Dead," "End of Days," and "Insidious" and TV shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dexter" and "True Blood." The hospital was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, then renovated and turned into a home for fixed-income seniors.
Contributed by Leif Pettersen, www.usatoday.com
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