By Randy Yagi
From classic literature and religious documentation to classic horror films and reality television, Americans long been fascinated with the supernatural and life after death. While most people scoff at the existence of ghosts and goblins, recent studies suggests about a third of all Americans actually believe ghosts do exist and that they lurk among the living. Whether it’s fact or fiction, many locations across the country are known to be haunted by members of the spirit world, with reports of ghostly apparitions and voices heard when nobody is there. With Halloween just around the corner, here are five of America’s most haunted places to celebrate this festive occasion marked with folklore and superstition.
Eastern State Penitentiary
2207 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Once the world’s most famous and most expensive prison, the Eastern State Penitentiary has long been a source of paranormal activities. Located on the site of one of Philadelphia’s first city jails, this massive facility was first opened in 1829 with the intent of reforming its prisoners, which included Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton through the use of solitary confinement. Accounts of ghost sightings and other supernatural activities have been reported since the 1940s and has been one of the most extensively investigated structures in the country, with prominent coverage from such paranormal reality television shows as SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” and the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures”. Closed as a fortress-like prison in 1971, the penitentiary is now a National Historic Landmark and open to the public through daytime tours, site rentals and special events like the upcoming Terror Behind the Walls, a Halloween-themed experience recently described as the “#1 Haunted Attraction in the U.S.”
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7 Pope St.
Salem, MA 01970
This historic place might not be immediately recognized, but Proctor’s Ledge was recently determined to be the exact location of the Salem Witch Trial Hangings. Originally thought to be at another spot known as Gallows Hill, it was at Proctor’s Ledge in 1692 where 19 innocent people accused of witchcraft were executed by hanging. Over the years, many accounts of paranormal activity have been documented in and around Proctor’s Ledge and earlier this year, on the 325th anniversary of the hangings, the site was dedicated with a memorial dedicated to the victims. Never really able to escape its notorious past, Salem is known for hosting several other haunted places, including the mythical House of the Seven Gables and the Old Burying Point cemetery, the final resting place of Justice John Hathorne, one of the presiding judges of the Salem Witch Trials in addition to family-friendly attractions like the Salem Witch Museum and Gallows Hill Museum Theatre.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin St.
New Orleans, LA
Often called America’s most haunted city, New Orleans is filled with places believed to be the source of unexplained supernatural events. Of the many haunted places in the Big Easy, which includes the spooky LaLaurie Mansion and the historic Hotel Monteleone, possibly the most intriguing spot to visit is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Located between the Iberville neighborhood and the French Quarter, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 first opened in 1789 and is the oldest extant cemetery in New Orleans and is world renowned for its above ground graves, monuments and altar tombs, constructed because the city resides a few feet below sea level. The most famous of the cemeteries nicknamed the Cities of the Dead, there have been numerous reports of ghost sightings in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, including the ghost of the legendary Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Because of a recent policy change enacted by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, all visitors can only enter this cemetery with a licensed tour guide.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
71 Asylum Drive
Weston, WV 26452
Opened to patients in 1864 until its closing 130 years later, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is reportedly the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. Yet despite its massive size, this psychiatric hospital was only intended to house 250 patients, a figure much lower than its peak of 2,400 during the 1950s. Once home to the infamous serial killer Charles Mansion, there have been numerous sightings of the ghosts of some former patients who allegedly still roam the sullen facilities, including a young girl named Lily, whose room is now filled with toys. Covering more than 25 acres, the most haunted section is believed to be the medical center, where lobotomies were reportedly performing using such crude devices as an ice pick and also the location for the autopsy room and the morgue. Featured in television shows like the Travel Channels “Ghost Stories” and “Ghost Adventures”, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a National Historic Landmark and open to heritage tours, ghost tours, flashlight tours and special events like the upcoming Asylum Ball.
Winchester Mystery House
525 S. Winchester Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95128
Haunted by the perceived presence of ghosts who were killed by the Winchester rifle, the widow of the heir to the Winchester fortune did her best to appease them by continuously adding rooms to her home. By the time Sarah Winchester died in 1922, the Winchester House featured 160 rooms including a séance room, multiple staircases, fireplaces, kitchens and bathrooms and oddities like a doorway to nowhere and a staircase to the ceiling. Opened to the public just months after her passing, the massive Victorian home is widely considered to be one of the world’s most haunted places, with numerous reports from visitors, staff members or professional ghost hunters of real or imagined paranormal activity. The subject of an upcoming feature length movie by CBS Films, the Winchester Mystery House is open for a handful of tours, such as the Mansion Tour, Friday the 13th Flashlight Tour and the upcoming Hallowe’en Candlelight Tour.
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