Cristina is a Florida native and Realtor by trade. She enjoys writing about travel, real estate, and any other topics she finds interesting.
We love to be thoroughly frightened by haunted houses and ghost stories, don't we? Especially around Halloween. Every year we seek out the most haunted places near us or Google things like "most haunted attractions near me," all in the hopes of giving ourselves a good scare. The truth is, I love a good ghost story. I'm guilty of watching all those shows about haunted places around the world. One of my biggest bucket list items is to stay in some of the most haunted hotels in America. Half of me thinks it's just all in our heads. The other half thinks I'm just crazy for wanting to sleep with ghosts! Whatever your guilty haunted pleasure is, the following list gives you the most haunted places in the USA. They can be found all over the country and most have really creepy stories. Which one do you want to visit first?
#13: Alcatraz – San Francisco, CA
Best known as one of the country's harshest prisons from 1933 to 1962, Alcatraz has a long history prior to its use as a prison. Fortifications began on the island in 1853 and were completed in 1858 when 200 soldiers were stationed there, known then as Camp Alcatraz. It was later known as Fort Alcatraz. The island became the site of the first operational lighthouse on the West coast, and as early as 1861 also housed Civil War prisoners. Alcatraz was officially designated a detention facility for military prisoners in 1868. During its time as a military prison, it housed Confederate sympathizers, Hopi Native Americans, and sympathizers of the Spanish-American War.
Prisoners, guards, and park rangers have all reported supernatural activity on the island. Much of the ghostly activity is supposed to be the ghosts of Native American and Civil War prisoners. Haunted activity includes whispers in the middle of the night, clanging chains, cold spots, moaning, floating blue spots, and figures. One inmate reportedly saw red eyes and screamed for hours. He was found dead the following morning, his face purple, strange strangulation marks on his neck.
Park rangers have reported hearing banjo sounds in the shower room where Al Capone used to practice. Other reported sightings include George "Machine Gun" Kelly in the prison church, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis in the prison bakery and kitchen, and canaries have been heard singing the cell that belonged to Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz.
#12: Waverly Hills Sanatorium – Louisville, KY
Waverly Hills began as a rather benign property. The original land was the home of Major Thomas Hays and his family. The Major built a school on the property for his daughters and neighboring children. The name Waverly Hills stuck because the school teacher was so fond of Walter Scott's Waverly novels. In the early 1900s, however, the property became a hospital for tuberculosis patients after a particularly aggressive outbreak in 1910. It has widely been considered one of the most haunted hospitals in the United States thanks to the large number of patients who succumbed to tuberculosis while housed at the hospital.
Visitors to Waverly Hills report ghost sightings on the fourth and fifth floors, particularly Room 502 where two nurses committed suicide. Spirits also haunt the death tunnel, aka body chute. Though originally built to transport supplies from the train tracks to the hospital, when the outbreak occurred, it was used to dispose of the many dead bodies so that live patients would not know how many people died each day from tuberculosis. Waverly Hills closed in 1961 after antibiotics were developed for the disease. Since then the property has changed hands many times. It is currently the site of a haunted house in October as well as guided tours.
#11: Bachelor Grove Cemetery – Bremen Township, IL
Not surprising, we have two cemeteries on the list of the scariest haunted places in the US. The first is Bachelor's Grove Cemetery which has been abandoned for quite a while but originally served the early populations in this area near Chicago. The cemetery contained 82 plots though many are believed to have never been sold or used.
The most commonly seen apparitions include the white madonna, a lady who walks the grounds during the full moon, often holding a baby. A phantom farmhouse shimmers and then vanishes on the land. Some people say it becomes smaller as they approach. Others have seen a black dog or a woman sitting on a grove. Many others report seeing a farmer who died in the nearby slough. He and his plowhorse were victims of a plowing accident and still haunt the grounds.
#10: Villisca Ax Murder House – Villisca, IA
On the night/morning of June 9th to 10th in 1912, six members of the Moore family and their two houseguests met with a heinous end. The eight people were found bludgeoned to death by an ax and included the Moore's four children and the two houseguests, sisters from a neighboring family. The murder has never been solved despite a multitude of theories and suspects surfacing over the past 105 years.
The murder house reminds one of an older white, clapboard home with a front porch. No one lives here, evidenced by dark windows night after night. The house does host guided tours and overnights, the most popular on June 9th and 10th. Those two nights are so popular for spending the night that a drawing is held each year to determine who will spend those two nights at the murder house. If you are lucky enough to spend the night in this house, you will likely experience the most activity in the Blue Room, where the houseguests were murdered, or in an upstairs bedroom, where the Moore children were killed. Visitors report seeing lights, experiencing cold spots, and having flashlight turn on and off on their own.
#9: Myrtles Plantation – St. Francisville, LA
An historic home, Myrtles Plantation (originally called Laurel Grove) was built in 1796 by General David Bradford. The property has changed hands many times since then. Many of the early owners experienced hardships and deaths in the home, most notably Sarah Mathilda Woodruff, Bradford's daughter, and two of her children who died of yellow fever; Elizabeth Bradford, Sarah's mother, and Bradford's wife; Ruffin Gray Stirling, who purchased the property from the Woodruffs; Kate Winter, Stirling's granddaughter who died of Typhoid fever; William Winter, Kate's father who was murdered on the front porch of the home after the Civil War. It was not unusual at the time for family members to die at home rather than in a hospital or other care facility so its no wonder that ghosts abound at Myrtles; however, it was in 1970 that Francis Kermeen wrote a book about Myrtles Plantation and called it the most haunted house in America. The reputation stuck.
Today, the home is run as a bed and breakfast and hosts ghost tours. It is rumored that the land beneath the home is an ancient Tunica Indian burial ground, and a young Native American man has been sighted on the grounds. There are a reported 12 different ghosts which haunt the home in various forms. William Winters' dying footsteps can be heard on the staircase. A slave girl named Chloe appears around the General Store. Sarah Woodruff and her two children who died of yellow fever can be seen in mirrors in the house. Others have seen a young girl dressed in antebellum clothing in the room in which she died.
#8: St. Augustine Lighthouse – St. Augustine, FL
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is the second lighthouse built in St. Augustine, the first lost to beach erosion in the 1800s. The current light was built in 1874. Shortly after its construction, a Victorian duplex was built to house the lightkeeper and family. The lighthouse still functions today and is open as a museum with full access to the public to the lighthouse, lightkeeper's house (1876), two summer kitchens (1886), a garage that was a Jeep repair facility during WWII (1936), and Coast Guard barracks (1941).
The museum hosts "Dark of the Moon" ghost tours. People who experience paranormal events report footsteps in the lighthouse, disembodied voices, and strange shadows. Hauntings may come from any number of tragic events that occurred on the property. Three children reportedly died in 1873 during the construction of the current tower. They were trapped in a supply cart while playing in it. Another death occurred when one of the lightkeepers fell 60 feet to his death while painting the tower. I've only been on the grounds during the day, but it certainly does feel very creepy in some places, such as a couple of rooms of the house, in the tower, and especially out on the nature trail.
#7: Gettysburg Battlefield – Gettysburg, PA
The Gettysburg Battlefield is an area in and around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where the Battle of Gettysburg was waged from June 1 to 3 in 1863. It is widely considered the turning point of the Civil War and had the most casualties of any battle during the war. An estimated 50,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured, with casualties fairly equal between the Union and Confederate armies. Not surprising, hauntings and ghost stories abound on and around the battlefield.
Because the skirmishes happened throughout the town and surrounding countryside, many businesses report paranormal activities; however, there are a few places where those hauntings are truly spectacular. The only ghost tour in Gettysburg, the Ghost Train travels across the battlefield, and passengers have witnessed apparitions and smelled cigar smoke. On the Daniel Lady Farm, the location of the Confederate's field hospital, General Isaac Ewell, and 10,000 of his soldiers haunt the farm. Visitors can still see damage on the buildings from artillery fire and bloody fingertips on walls inside. The Baladerry Inn, on the other hand, served as the Union field hospital on day two of the battle. Guests have encountered apparitions and photographed ghostly figures and orbs. It's said that the inn is also haunted by Confederate soldiers buried under a nearby tennis court.
#6: Winchester House – San Jose, CA
The Winchester House started life as a farmhouse. It was unfinished when Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Winchester, purchased it in 1884. Stories vary about why she moved from Connecticut to California after her husband's death. Some say she needed a change of scenery. Others say a psychic, while channeling her late husband, told her to move west and build a home for him and the souls of all the people killed by a Winchester. Whatever the reason, Sarah had a huge fortune and used it to build the seven-story Winchester House. Construction reportedly continued for 38 years straight, day and night, until her death in 1922. A biographer, however, claims that Sarah dismissed workers routinely to have rest and quiet.
Some of the creepiest things in Winchester House are the weird architectural details. Stairs lead to nowhere. A doorway opens to a two-story drop. The number 13 and spider webs feature prominently throughout the house. Though many visitors come to the Winchester House for these curiosities, many also report sightings such as orbs in photographs and videos. Several tours are offered, including the Halloween Candlelight Tour, the Explore More Tour, and the Mansion Tour.
Winchester Mystery House: Secrets of the Mansion
#5: Saint Louis Cemetery – New Orleans, LA
Saint Louis Cemetery is the collective name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans. No.1 was opened in 1789, No. 2 in 1823, and No. 3 in 1854. A number of famous residents, musicians, politicians, and soldiers are buried in all three. In 2015, the Roman Catholic Diocese of New Orleans closed No. 1 to the general public; however, the diocese later partially reversed its decision and now charges tour companies an annual fee for access to the cemetery.
No. 1 is just one square block and holds over 700 tombs with 100,000 dead. Mark Twain called the cemetery "Cities of the Dead". Though the cemetery is not open at night, it's eerie appearance is enough to spook anyone. Some of the purported ghosts in No. 1 included voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, who has been seen wandering the French Quarter and cemetery; Henry Vignes, who has been spotted trying to find his final resting place (a boarding house proprietress sold his tomb); and The Ghostly Alphonse, who picks up flowers from other graves and places them on his own.
#4: Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast – Fall River, MA
In 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their home, Andrew in the front parlor on the first floor and Abby in a guest room on the second floor. Lizzy Borden, though acquitted, was (and often still is) the number one suspect of the murders. To add to the home's mystery, a previous owner, Eliza Darling Borden who sold the home to Andrew Borden, is said to have murdered two of her children by dropping them down a well before killing herself.
Those who have attempted to spend the night the Lizzie Borden House have reported a number of different experiences. Abby Borden likes to pull the covers off of anyone sleeping in the guest room where she was killed. The two children who were reportedly killed by their mother have been heard playing in the third-floor attic rooms. Items are moved from room to room. The entire house feels to many as if the air is heavy and gloomy.
#3: Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, PA
Eastern State Pen was once one of the most famous prisons in the world, the expensive building built in the US at the time, and a pioneer in the revolutionary "separate incarceration" system which influenced the design of 300 other prisons. Opened in 1829, Eastern State operated until 1971 when it was closed and essentially abandoned for good. Ongoing tours bring visitors into some of the most haunted rooms and hallways in America and include hands-on history, Bastille Day tour, Terror Behind the Walls, and audio tours of famous rooms such as Capone's cell and the Chaplain's office.
Among Eastern Pen's inmates through its 140 years in operation, the most famous was likely Al Capone who spent time at the prison in 1929. The other most infamous inmates were "Slick Willie" Sutton, a bank robber and fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted, and Pep "The Cat-Murdering Dog" who was sentenced to life in prison by the governor in 1924 for killing his wife's favorite cat. The prison was known for its brutal punishments and is said to have driven many inmates insane. Punishments included The Mad Chair, The Water Bath, the Iron Gag, and The Hole beneath Block #14.
Most hauntings steer towards the eerie sound variety. Many staff, visitors, and paranormal researchers have reported hearing strange sounds throughout the prison. The most bizarre experience, however, happened to a locksmith while he was attempting to remove a 140-year-old lock on a door. He reported a presence overtaking him so that he couldn't move. He also described an out of body experience, hundreds of anguished faces on the cell's walls, and ghostly forms throughout the cell. Some people believe, in removing the lock, the locksmith opened a paranormal portal and released hundreds or even thousands of spirits into the prison, spirits which now haunt the abandoned rooms and hallways of the prison and let their presence be known through eerie sounds.
Terror Behind the Walls
#2: The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO
In 1973, Stephen King and wife, Tabitha, spent one night in the Stanley Hotel, then a rundown shadow of its former self. They were, fortunately, the only guests that night and from King's experiences was born his bestselling, third novel, The Shining, as well as new life for The Stanley Hotel.
Built in 1909 by east-coasters, FO and Flora Stanley, the hotel was constructed so that the Stanleys could spend time each year in Estes Park. The couple was accustomed to the finer things found in their native Massachusetts and endeavored to bring that same style to their western retreat. Guests to the 140 room hotel were awed by the electric lights, telephones, en-suite bathrooms, uniformed servants, and fleet of automobiles for guest use. Estes Park and The Stanley Hotel soon became a desirable western retreat.
Hauntings reportedly started in 1911 when a housekeeper was electrocuted (though not killed). Nearly every room in the hotel experiences some sort of paranormal activity, usually clothes unpacking themselves or objects being moved. A large number of people have seen and photographed apparitions. The fourth floor is often filled with the giggling of ghostly children, and room 217 is the most requested as it's the most haunted. The Stanleys also supposedly never left, even in death. Mr. Stanley has been felt and seen at the reception desk and Mrs. Stanley throughout the hotel.
Stephen King, during his one night stay, reportedly witnessed the laughing children, a full-blown party in one of the meeting rooms, and a number of other bizarre phenomena, all of which inspired his novel. Today, The Stanley Hotel has been restored to its former glory and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered one of the most haunted places in America and a terrifying place to spend the night.
#1: Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Weston, WV
Another great landmark and historic marker of mental asylums, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) earns the top spot as the most haunted place in America, thanks to its eerie history and unusual phenomena throughout the property. The asylum was originally known as the Weston State Hospital and served the mentally ill starting in the mid-1800s. TALA is a remarkable piece of architecture, as many state hospitals were at the time. It is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in the US and the second-largest in the world. It was designed to bring lots of sunlight and fresh air inside its walls for the 250 patients it was to house. By the 1950s, however, the asylum held as many as 2400 patients at a time in deplorable, overcrowded conditions. It was closed permanently in 1994 and now hosts ghost and historic tours.
With hundreds of death within its walls, it's no wonder there is a plethora of paranormal activity at Trans-Allegheny. The asylum has been visited and recorded by most haunted TV shows and paranormal investigators. Those who are not too scared to visit the asylum report hearing voices, seeing apparitions, and hearing unexplained sounds. Unlike other places, there don't appear to be specific people who haunt this place. Rather, from the many deaths and hundreds of lobotomies performed here through 100+ years of operation, hundreds or maybe thousands of ghosts reside within the halls and rooms at TALA. The most common activity is unexplained noises though some have also reported seeing things move and, well, just seeing things.
If you're brave enough, you can take a daytime ghost or history tour. Or take a nighttime tour that starts at 11 p.m. and allows you to explore on your own. The asylum also hosts a haunted house around Halloween.
© 2017 Cristina Vanthul
Cristina Vanthul (author) from Florida on October 24, 2017:
Thank you, John. So happy to hear you enjoyed it!
John Coviello from New Jersey on October 24, 2017:
Great Hub! Very interesting! I've heard of many of these haunted places, but not all of them. Learned something new about many of the ones I knew about.
Cristina Vanthul (author) from Florida on October 23, 2017:
What a wonderful idea! Myrtles is a great place to start. I hope you enjoy them all as much as I did writing about them.
FlourishAnyway from USA on October 23, 2017:
I have bookmarked this because now I have a bucket list of several awesome places I want to visit in the next year. I think the first on my list will be the plantation in Louisiana. Loved this!