A Very Haunted Road Trip Across America
Just in time for Halloween, we invite the Discovery audience to explore some famous haunted sites across America. Here are some of the most popular and unique haunted sites and destinations in the U.S., presenting our audience a spine-tingling haunted inspired road trip adventure.
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A Very Haunted Road Trip Across America Map
As we embark on some of the most famously haunted sights in the United States, here's a map to take along for the ride!
Joshua Ward House in Salem, Massachusetts
Salem needs no introduction, as the epicenter of colonial witchcraft in the US. This destination is guaranteed to send the shivers down your spine.
There’s more to the Joshua Ward house than meets the eye in haunted Salem. This house was built upon land that once belonged to a ruthless Sheriff called George “The Strangler” Corwin, who was known as one of the most infamous witch hunters in American history.
The historic Federal style brick house that now occupies this site was built in 1784, one of the first brick houses to be erected in Salem. George Washington is reported to have asked to stay in this house while visiting Salem in 1789.
There have been reports of three spirits who are said to haunt the Joshua Ward House.
One of these ghosts is known as “the strangler”, by whose invisible hands certain visitors have reportedly been choked. Another spirit is believed to have been Giles Corey, a man who was tortured and killed by Corwin, after he was falsely accused of being a warlock. But the most famous ghost which haunts the home is that of an innocent woman, who was killed after she was accused of being a witch. Her spectral image has even been captured in photographs, it is said.
Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts
The Lizzie Borden Home, in Fall River, Massachusetts, is the site of one of the most famous murders in American history. It riveted the country at the time that it occurred, the 1890’s.
The case was never conclusively resolved, as the prime suspect, Lizzie Borden, the daughter of one of the victims, Lizzie’s father, was acquitted at the end of her trial. The other victim of these gruesome axe murders was Lizzie’s stepmother, with whom she reportedly had a strained relationship.
Today the home is preserved the way it was in the 1890’s. Certain furniture has been replaced, but with identical facsimiles, so the place is as it appeared back at that time. Certain relics and exhibits of the brutal murder have been added, though.
It is also now a bed and breakfast, so you can even spend the night if you have the nerve. Be forewarned that certain people have reported weird experiences, including touches by unseen hands, tugs at clothing and whisperings by unseen presences.
Washington Irving Grave in Sleepy Hollow, New York
If you were ever thrilled by the eerie "Legend of Sleepy Hollow", by its memorable characters and incidents, you will want to visit the old Sleepy Hollow cemetery and the gravesite of its author Washington Irving.
It is also the site where the infamous 'Headless Horseman' of this legend is said to be buried. The classic atmosphere of the old Dutch New York region - the setting of so many of Washington Irving's tales of magic and enchantment - still lingers powerfully in this place, from the old Dutch Church to the Headless Horseman Bridge to the Philipsburg Manor, as it is the very place that helped give rise to these timeless tales of spooky lore. Washington Irving merely helped compile them for posterity.
You will find a visit well worth making to this venerable, striking, historic graveyard. It is bound to raise the gooseflesh if you do!
The Amityville Horror House in Amityville, Long Island, New York
The Amityville Horror house’s rich history and beauty are overshadowed by the story of George and Kathy Lutz, the previous residents of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, in New York. The Lutzes claimed that shortly after moving into the house they fled in terror, driven out by paranormal activity.
The best selling novel and popular movie have marked the town as the site of arguably the most famous haunted house in US history, yet many are unaware that the true history of this house is even darker than "The Amityville Horror's" icy drafts and bleeding walls. Six members of the DeFeo family were murdered at 112 Ocean Avenue one year before the Lutz family moved in. Their tragedy haunts the citizens of Amityville to this day.
The Devil's Tree in Somerset County, New Jersey
The Devil’s Tree is a solitary oak tree growing in a field on Mountain Road in the Martinsville section of Bernards Township in Somerset County, New Jersey. Various legends surround the tree and its history. Other stories surround the tree - one claiming that visitors getting too close to it will get chased by a black Ford pick-up truck.
Many unto the present day still believe the tree is cursed, and that anyone who damages or desecrates the tree (such as by urinating on it, or making disparaging remarks about it while nearby) will be haunted by bad luck afterwards and come to some sort of harm, which might take the form of a car accident or breakdown when they leave.
Sounds like something out of Stephen King - only this time (maybe) for real? Make sure to use the restroom before you visit, in all events!
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the most expensive prisons in the world when it was opened in 1829, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, although today it stands in ruin. The cell blocks are crumbling and the guard towers sit empty. It once held some of America’s most notorious criminals, which included “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone. When it was abandoned in 1971, the souls of certain former residents were said to still be lingering in the hallways. Maybe they never found their way out of prison, or had a traumatic departure from life while in its precincts.
Employees of the prison have claimed to see odd things and hear strange voices, especially while on a late shift. The sounds of laughter, weeping and pacing have been reported. Cell block 12 is reportedly haunted by an especially malevolent spirit. Witnesses often feel physically ill after experiencing an encounter with this presence.
The Penitentiary is open to the public to this day.
Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania
The site of the bloodiest battle ever fought on US soil, in the summer of 1863, needs no introduction. Actions such as those at Pickett's Charge, Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Peach Orchard and others still resonate powerfully in American history.
The tens of thousands of dead on both the Union and Confederate sides still seem to linger on the battlefield more than a century and a half later, as many visitors can attest. Numerous encounters and eerie sightings of strange figures dressed in Civil War attire have been reported down the years.
Even during the filming of the motion picture "Gettysburg" in the early nineteen nineties, strange incidents were said to have happened, according to several of the Civil War re-enactors who helped re-stage the famous battle. Sightings or sounds of "phantom units" or spectral figures of the period were experienced more than once. Other visitors have had numerous encounters of a like nature in the decades that followed the battle up to the present. Many of these accounts are easily accessed on the web.
So if you visit this solemn, consecrated ground (where Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address months after the battle), do not be surprised should you hear the Confederate battle cry, the rattle of musketry, the thunder of artillery and voices from a distant epic day on these rolling Pennsylvania hills and fields and forests. It will be a moving experience, no matter what you may encounter.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, for a time known as the Weston State Hospital, was a psychiatric hospital that was in operation from 1864 until 1994 in the city of Weston, West Virginia. It’s one of the largest hand-built stone masonry buildings in the U.S. (and the second largest such building in the world).
It is important to know its history to understand the anguished spirits that now seem to still inhabit it. The building was the brainchild of Thomas Story Kirkbirde, a doctor and crusader for the mentally ill. Kirdbidge founded what would in time become the American Psychiatric Association. He emphasized the importance of light, fresh air and freedom, suggesting that asylums should be built as spacious long halls with 12-foot ceilings.
However what were Kirdbirde’s good intentions would soon turn into a different, much more harsh reality. The Weston State Hospital's name was changed back to its original (commissioned but unused) one, The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, as Kirkbirde's good intentions fell by the wayside.
It was originally designed to hold 250 people, but became overcrowded in the 1950s with some 2400 patients! The hospital could not keep up with and was unable to satisfy vastly increased demand.
Many patients began to suffer from malnutrition, that only worsened their mental pathologies. Occupancy was six times over capacity. The overcrowding resulted in overworked staff and a diminished emphasis on proper sanitation.
Those whom the orderlies deemed “unable to be controlled” were locked in cages in open spaces. The deteriorating hospital shut its doors in 1994 and sat abandoned for many years. Eventually a new owner acquired the building in an auction, and offered historic tours and overnight visits for those so inclined. Many who spent time in the building regularly reported seeing apparitions of nurses and doctors, as well as patients roaming through the corridors.
They also heard anguished cries echoing through the hallways. The lonely spirit of a young girl named Lily is said to make herself known to certain visitors, and wanders the halls apparently in the hopes of finding a playmate. She interacts with toys set out in a room that has been dedicated especially to her memory. The Civil War left an impact on the hospital as well. Tortured moans of the wounded, heavy-booted footfalls, and ominous shadows permeate the Civil War section of the haunted building.
Ohio University in Athens, Ohio
Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, contains what is perhaps the most haunted campus in the world. Established in 1804, a year after Ohio achieved statehood. It was the first institution of superior studies located west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Wilson Hall is the most famous haunted place on this college campus. It is the building that most people allude to when speaking about haunted Athens, various elements figure into this story. For one thing, this building stands at the center of an immense geographic pentagram constituted by five long established cemeteries, which are situated around the local region.
When viewed on a map, these graveyards collectively form a pentagram pattern - a pentagram being an ancient occult symbol of power and magic. Certain spiritual devotees claim that the topography of the area, with its peaks, mountains and valleys, makes the spot conducive to psychic energy as well.
It is also said to be built over an ancient Indian burial ground, which was at one time the site of the graveyard for a mental institute too.
But clearly there have been disturbing incidents, as well. Wilson Hall is said to be haunted by the ghost of one of its students, who died there under mysterious circumstances in the 1970s. The student died in room 428, and for years afterwards students residing in that same room have been said to hear strange sounds and to hear footsteps, as well as to witness several objects moving by themselves.
Since these occurrences, the room has been closed off and not assigned to any new students.
This is perhaps the only university room in the world that is sealed and closed. School officials have proclaimed the room uninhabitable.
Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan
The Detroit Masonic Temple, built in 1926, is a popular destination for those who are interested in supernatural occurrences. The temple has several cold spots and doors are said to close suddenly. A roof door is said to re-open just moments after it is locked by temple security. Many also report the uneasy sensation of being watched while in the building.
The ghost of the temple's architect, George D. Mason, is said to still be lingering inside it. Several visitors, as well as the building's night watchman, are said to have seen his apparition.
Hundreds of ghost aficionados visit the temple every year in hopes of seeing a ghost or two. It’s one of Detroit's most haunted places, beyond a doubt!
HH Holmes Murder Castle in Chicago, Illinois
The World's Fair Hotel (labelled as 'Holmes' 'Castle',' but also known as the 'Murder Castle,' after it's actual purpose became known) was designed by serial murderer Herman Webster Mudgett (better known by his alias H.H. Holmes), a pharmacist who built the structure to lure his, mostly female, victims from the World's Columbian Exposition, then being held in Chicago (1892).
The interior was maze like, with rooms for torturing his captives, and contained both a lime pit and furnaces in the basement, which were used to dispose of the bodies. Holmes was convicted of four murders, but he confessed to 27 and there was widespread, and credible, speculation that he might have been responsible for several hundred.
The building itself remained standing until 1938, when it was torn down. The site is now occupied by the Englewood branch of the U.S. Post Office. Visitors often go inside this Post Office to stand in the same area where the building once was located.
Maintenance workers frequently report strange sightings and sensations in the basement of the post office, the area where most of the murders occurred.
Old City Jail in Charleston, South Carolina
Prisons are often haunted sites, in light of all the pain and multiple deaths and executions that are sure to have occurred there over the years.
The Old Charleston Jail, in South Carolina, which operated from 1802 until 1939, is one such, beyond question. Its dark and gothic atmosphere, coupled with its history of crazed and dangerous inmates, underscore its sinister reputation to this day.
Visitors report heavy doors slamming shut all by themselves, objects that move or disappear, and the sound of eerie voices in empty rooms, among other things. The sightings of humanoid shrouds, multiple orbs, the sound of chains clanking and dragging are said to regularly happen there as well.
Its inmates ranged from bloodthirsty pirates to Civil War prisoners of war, but perhaps its most infamous resident was Lavinia Fisher, reputed to be the first female serial killer in the US. Some paranormal investigators claim to have captured her voice on audio; others to have caught images of her spectral presence walking the dark corridors.
Now owned by American College of the Building Arts, the jail is generally off-limits to the public. However, tourists can take the Haunted Jail Tour offered by Bulldog Tours.
Hamilton-Turner Inn in Savannah, Georgia
Samuel Pugh Hamilton, informally known as “The Lord of Lafayette Square”, had this mansion built for his family in 1873 (long before it was turned into the luxury hotel that it is today). The successful businessman created a social center for the city’s elite, hosting many gatherings in his home.
The Hamilton mansion was the first residence in Savannah with electricity in 1883. The mansion was nearly destroyed during the great Savannah fire of 1898. Over succeeding decades, the Hamilton-Turner house had several owners, was converted into an apartment building, and also withstood major scandals. John Berendt’s best selling book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” made note of the decadent, raucous parties thrown by local attorney Joe Odom, who at one time managed the property.
Visitors have experienced a soldier from the Civil War wandering the halls, knocking on doors, and a cigar smoking specter has sometimes been seen on the roof. This ghostly guardian is believed to either be a murdered guard, or perhaps even Samuel Hamilton himself. Phantom footsteps, gunshots, the sound of children playing and billiard balls clacking are said to be frequently heard.
Many believe that the paranormal activity that is associated with this location inspired Walt Disney to dream up his attraction, the haunted mansion!
Myrtles Plantation in Saint Francisville, Louisiana
The elegant and well preserved antebellum Myrtles Plantation, dating from 1796, located near Saint Francisville, Louisiana, is famous for one particular presence who appears to still inhabit its expanses, and has made her presence known with the help of present day technology.
The proprietess of the plantation, in a photo she took in 1992, captured the image of what appeared to be a young slave girl - dressed in period attire - standing outside some of the buildings. A more recent digital photo, taken in the plantation courtyard, shows such an image looking out from one of the inside windows. Both photos have been examined and declared authentic by very reputable third parties (including National Geographic and the Society for Psychical Research).
These photos have given rise to what is now called 'The Legend of Chloe'.
And while Chloe may be its most famous ghost, she is not by any means the only ghostly presence there. The plantation house is rumored to be on top of an ancient Tunica Indian burial ground, and such places are often focal points for paranormal activity. Plus, one of the place's well known residents, William Drew Winter, a popular attorney who resided there from 1865 to 1871, and who was shot to death by a stranger on the property, still makes his presence felt. Until today, visitors, as well as employees in the hotel, are said to hear his dying footsteps as he tries to climb the stairs.
Currently, the plantation is run as a Bed and Breakfast. The present day owners continue to open the house for guided tours as well as overnight hotel guests.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Myrtles Plantation continues to be a popular tourist attraction, and has been featured in many books, magazines, newspapers and television shows
St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico
The Saint James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico (originally called the Lambert Inn when it was established in 1872), was an iconic landmark during the heyday of the Santa Fe Trail and the Old West. It was patronized by such figures as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
Built during a time when law and order was non-existent, its saloon gained a reputation as a place of recurrent violence. Twenty six men were said to have been gunned down within its walls. The ceiling of its dining room still holds 22 bullet holes, and that of its fabled bar more than 400! Notwithstanding this reputation, it still came to be considered one of the most elegant hotels west of the Mississippi River. It continues to cater to travelers to this day.
The hotel is still said to harbor restless spirits. Psychics have identified at least three lingering presences. The second floor of the hotel is said to be the most haunted area, with cold spots and the frequent aroma of cigar smoke in the halls (today it is a non-smoking zone). Room 18 is kept locked and completely off limits because of an especially malevolent spirit - that of a man who was shot after a poker game, then went upstairs and bled to death inside it.
Many say that even if you don't see the ghosts, you feel them and you hear them, though a former owner claimed to have seen a cowboy smiling back at her from a mirror along the bar.
So if you visit the Saint James, don't make any sudden moves - and be sure to check your shooting irons at Cimarron city limits!
The Stanley Hotel in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
This iconic, grand, upscale hotel dates back to 1909. The hotel is located 10.4 miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was built as a summer resort geared to affluent visitors from the East Coast for the most part. The Stanley Hotel, known for its architecture, magnificent setting, and famous visitors, may possibly be best known today for its inspirational role in the Stephen King's novel, "The Shining." This Colorado resort is known as one of America's most haunted hotels. Many stories from visitors and staff involve strange and seemingly supernatural occurrences.
While the film version of ‘The Shining’ was not shot in the hotel proper, Stephen King and his wife did stay there prior to the writing of the novel. This was late in the season and few if any other visitors were in residence. Sound familiar?
Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Arizona
The most haunted place in Arizona lies about two hours north of Phoenix, along the fabled Route 66, in the city of Flagstaff.
It is the Monte Vista Hotel, which once played host to big time celebrities, but has also been the site of some big time hauntings, according to multiple accounts.
For instance, an old woman who lived there for years used to sit on a rocking chair by the window. After she died, the chair continued rocking on its own, and the old woman's apparition has been seen sitting there by several hotel staff members. Several other spirits are said to haunt this old establishment, which first opened its doors in 1927. These include a bank robber who died in the hotel lounge, prostitutes who were murdered there, even a boarder who died as recently as the 1980's (in whose room the TV still turns on of its own accord).
Even John Wayne had a strange experience while staying there: someone would knock on his door and call out 'Room Service'. But when he opened the door there was no one present. The Duke reported this happening several times to hotel management. They attributed this to the hotel's 'phantom bellboy', who has also been sighted by staff roaming the halls.
The Whaley House in San Diego, California
Our next stop brings us to San Diego in Southern California, where we find the eerie Whaley House. The house was built in 1857, and is considered one of the most haunted houses in all of America.
The Whaley House is anything but an ordinary old house. Thomas Whaley and his family are said to be haunting this old mansion.
There were many hangings on the ground of this property before the family even acquired this land and built their home. The Whaley daughter Violet committed suicide here. Certain visitors have allegedly heard heavy footsteps when there was no one even in sight. Many other events have occurred, which have included sightings of Thomas Whaley at the top of the staircase, as well as a floating apparition in the room downstairs.
Guided tours of the house and grounds are provided by the Whaley House Museum. This site is located in Old Town San Diego.
Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California
The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California, that was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester - manufacturer of the Winchester repeating rifle: the so-called 'gun that won the West'.
Located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, the Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion is renowned for its size, its architectural curiosities, and its lack of any master building plan. New wings and rooms were added to willy nilly by Mrs. Winchester until the time of her passing.
It is as much of a labyrinth and maze as it is a residence. It is privately owned and serves as a tourist attraction today. Since its construction in 1884, the property and mansion were claimed by many to be haunted by scores of ghosts, those of the many persons who were killed with Winchester rifles.
Under Mrs. Winchester's day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption, until her death on September 5, 1922, at which time work immediately ceased. It is rumored she was taking guidance from the spirits of Winchester victims and making space for them in the mansion.
The Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon
The Pittock Mansion, in Portland, Oregon, was completed in 1914. Its owners were Henry Pittock, a London born newspaper publisher, and his wife Georgiana. Sadly, the couple did not spend many years in this, their dream residence, which had been five years in the making - a forty six room mansion on a hill overlooking Portland with a French Renaissance exterior. Georgiana passed away in 1918, her husband Henry the year following.
The mansion was occupied by family descendants for several decades thereafter, though eventually it was seriously damaged by a massive Columbus Day storm in the late nineteen fifties. Luckily, the community rallied around this historic site and raised the funds for its restoration and maintenance by the City of Portland.
There have been reports of numerous paranormal phenomena on the grounds and in the rooms of this grand residence. Visitors have seen windows shutting and latching on their own, and have heard the distinct sounds of heavy footsteps. Some have also reported seeing a portrait of Henry Pittock moving around the house all by itself. Other strange figures have been observed around the house by certain visitors.
Some persons have smelled the scent of flowers, Georgiana Pittock's favorite flower. Apparitions of Henry and Georgiana Pittock were observed by certain visitors, as well as those of some of the old groundskeepers as well.
But this is no cause for alarm, as the ghosts of this house are known to have a welcoming manner to visitors and guests. The house was a labor of love, from its inception, after all.