It’s almost time for that creepiest of creepy holidays, Halloween! We’ve put together a list of weird and unsettling places to visit all around the U.S.!
San Francisco, California
Top of the list for us has to be The Museum at Alcatraz Island (formerly the Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary). The former prison offers tours daily and is a wonderful attraction to take in when visiting San Francisco. Bring your cold weather duds and experience the night tour, for a ghostly trek back into history.
The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colorado
This hotel in Colorado’s mountain wilderness inspired Stephen King’s best-selling novel, The Shining. A married couple opened the property in 1909, naming it after themselves—and apparently their spirits are still hanging around. According to staff, Mrs. Stanley can be heard playing her Steinway piano in the music room at night, and Mr. Stanley occasionally shows up in photographs. Classic ghost antics like lights turning off and on, and unseen children laughing in in the hallways are also the norm. Yikes.
Jerome is a fun kind of spooky – it’s a former copper-mining town with a rip roaring, rollicking paranormal reputation dating back to the Wild West. The picturesque and quaint little hill town with a tiny population of 400 is haunted by feisty ghosts – most legendary is Sammie Dean, a “working girl,” strangled by a customer back in the town’s heyday when there were more than 15,000 miners and prospectors residing. It’s said that she stomps around the streets of Jerome looking for her killer who was never found.
Salem was home to some of the most infamous trials in U.S. history – the witch trials that eventually led to the deaths of 27 innocent men and women—19 were hanged, one was crushed to death with stones piled on his chest, and seven others died in prison. The entire month of October is a popular time to visit, with special family-friendly events like face painting, costume balls and tours of historical sites, all culminating in “America’s Biggest Halloween Party.” You might not see any ladies flying around on broomsticks, but you’ll learn all about a dark chapter in our nation’s history.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary is always at the top of the list of haunted places for paranormal experts – but you might not have heard of it. Built in 1829, the prison was a true nightmare. Prisoners lived in single cells, exercised solo, 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. If he stepped out of line, one standard punishment was chaining an inmate’s tongue to his wrists. Overcrowding led to revisions in this system of solitary confinement in 1913. Thousands of visitors now come to Eastern State Penitentiary and take part in ghost tours. Trust us: it’s terrifying.
Pine Barrens, New Jersey
The Barrens covers over a million acres and at one time was home to a thriving colonial business – sawmills, paper mills, and other industries. People eventually abandoned the mills and surrounding villages when coal became an industry, and the entire area became a landscape of ghost towns inhabited by spirits (or so they say). Kids from the area around heavily forested Pine Barrens grew up with the legend of the Jersey Devil (it’s a thing, ya’ll), a nightmare “child” born in 1735 to a colonial woman. The devil was her 13thbirth, born with leathery wings like a bat, a goat’s head and hooves (shudder). After the devil was born, it flew up the woman’s chimney and out into the Barrens where it kills livestock and terrorizes locals (especially children) to this very day
Long Beach, California
Though the Queen Mary has a storied history as a luxury ocean liner and has been a museum and event space off and on in Long Beach Harbor where she’s been parked for over 50 years, the boat has a rather unseemly past. During her heyday, the Queen Mary 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 ship’s engine room is supposed to be the epicenter of paranormal activity, so try to check that out if you’re visiting. Dark Harbor is the ship’s annual horror event, and it kicks off at the end of September with 7 mazes and ghoulish passengers to freak you out. Warning: leave the kids at home.
Winchester Mystery House
San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House may just be the most legitimately disturbing haunted houses in history. Legend has it that following the untimely deaths of both her husband and child, Sarah Winchester (wife of the rifle-maker’s son) was feeling cursed and sought out the advice of a fortuneteller. She was told that the ghosts of those who died from her family’s guns killed her family. To keep away the vengeful spirits, she commissioned a nonsensical, over the top mansion with staircases that lead directly into the ceiling, doors that open onto brick walls, and windows that lead to secret passages.
Lizzie Borden’s Bed & Breakfast
Fall River, Massachusetts
In 1892, police accused Lizzie Borden of killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet. Though she was eventually acquitted, the lore around this disturbing tale has spawned a children’s rhyme and countless campfire ghost stories. It might be a strange segue, but the Borden House (where the murders took place) is now the most infamous Bed & Breakfast in New England. You can even sleep in the room where Mama Borden was killed (ick). If you’d rather not sleep under that creepy roof, daily tours of the museum happen at 3pm, 365 days a year.
If these destinations don’t sufficiently freak you out, perhaps a visit to these other macabre international destinations will be more up your alley. Happy travels! We hope you;ll have a ghoulishly good time!