When a lot of people think vacation, they think of a warm beach with white sand, blue water, and maybe a fruity cocktail to enjoy. But not everybody. Some of us think of a cabin in the woods or a historical site that captures the imagination. Also, tourist season isn’t always in the middle of the summer; sometimes it can be great fun to travel during spooky October. If you’re taking a fall vacation or even like to enjoy yourself with a little morbid curiosity, you can’t go wrong with these haunted travel destinations.
Top Ten Haunted Places to Visit on Vacation
1. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Gettysburg Battlefield
This unassuming field is widely considered the most haunted spot in all of the US, with ghosts sighted on the actual battlefield as well as in the neighboring town. Formerly a sleepy little town known for its carriage industry and colleges, Gettysburg became famous over three days in 1863 when Union and Confederate forces clashed, marking the turning point in the Civil War. Between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties occurred during the battle, making the Gettysburg Battlefield maybe the most haunted areas in America. The battlefield itself is host to ghostly soldiers who are seen as well as heard. In the nearby Pennsylvania College, ghosts recreate scenes from army hospitals, and the many local houses used as field hospitals are still haunted by the cries of wounded soldiers.
2. San Jose, California: Winchester Mystery House
Perhaps one of the most famous haunted houses in the US (and possibly the world), the Winchester Mystery House has captured the imagination of Americans since construction began. This sprawling mansion was built by Sarah Winchester, heir to the vast fortune of the Winchester Rifle Company, makers of “the gun that won the West.” A wealthy Boston socialite, Mrs. Winchester suffered tragedy when first her infant daughter and then her husband died. In her grief, she consulted a spiritualist, who told her that the tragedies in her life were the result of spirits angry at their deaths by the Winchester rifles. At his prescription, she moved to California to build a house to keep the spirits at bay. This is the Winchester Mystery house, which is a huge building comprised of many different architectural styles and forms, which also has tons of little quirks to confuse the spirits such as doors that open on walls and staircases to nowhere.
3. Providence, Rhode Island: The Biltmore Hotel
This hotel is a classic American haunting, and it was actually voted as America’s Most Haunted Hotel by a professional hospitality association. It should be, it was financed by Satanist Johan Leisse Weisskopf, who was not shy about his religion and supposedly built various unusual projects into the hotel, such as a chicken coop on the roof to supply sacrifices. Built in 1918, this hotel was host to Prohibition-era bacchanals and visited by luminaries such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. During this time, lawmen drank for free, and rumors abound that several murders were committed there. According to some guests and hotel staff, those ghosts still roam the halls and cause disturbances in the rooms, especially on the 16th floor.
4. Adams, Tennessee: The Bell Witch Cave
In the early 1800s, the Bell family was terrorized by an entity known as the Bell Witch, and the legend has grown since then. The Bells were pioneers who purchased over 300 acres of land in the Adams, Tennessee area and settled to farming. In 1817, the haunting began when John Bell, the patriarch of the family, saw an unusual animal in the field. The haunting escalated after this encounter, and for years the family suffered at night with unusual banging sounds, rattling beds, and other typical poltergeist activity like thrown pillows and sheets pulled off beds. One of the Bell daughters was also tormented by the entity for years, slapped and pinched, and neighbors who visited also experienced the same terrifying encounters. Andrew Jackson even took an interest in the case, and visited the Bell house in 1819, naming the entity the Bell Witch. The entity was particularly fond of tormenting John Bell, and would slap and pinch him up until his death. The hauntings went quiet after his death, reemerging only twice in later years. Strange things continue to happen at the Bell farm, and there are a wealth of local legends that you can hear if you go visit.
5. Villisca, Iowa: Villisca Axe Murder House
One of the most famous haunted houses in America is an unassuming farmhouse in Villisca, Iowa. Perfect for a road trip that spans the midwest states, the Villisca Axe Murder House is a shrine to the terrible crime that befell the Moore family on June 10, 1912. The family and two young girls staying the night with them were all murdered in their beds by an unknown assailant with an axe. The murder investigation was badly botched, as the authorities let many people into the house during the aftermath and evidence gathering tactics were frankly not so great at the time. The killer was never caught, and rumors of hauntings continued for the entire history of the house. The house was closed for around eighty years when a new owner restored it to its former state and began having showings and guided tours. For a fee, you can even stay the night in “the Murder House” to have your own chilling experience.
6. New Mexico: St. James Hotel, Cimarron
Originally called Lambert’s, the St. James Hotel was founded by former personal chef to Abraham Lincoln, Henry Lambert in 1872. It was host to some of the most famous cowboys and gunslingers in the West, including Jesse James, Billy the Kid, famous bank robber Black Jack Ketchum, and Wyatt Earp. Wild Bill Cody spent long enough at the hotel to become the godfather to the founder’s son, Fred Lambert. Annie Oakley stayed there with him before they both left with their Wild West Show. All these old west personalities left their mark on the St James Hotel in the form of bullet holes in the saloon ceiling. Supposedly there were 26 murders in the saloon and hotel during its wild west history. One of these old cowboys remains in the hotel to this day. Thomas James Wright, who won the deed to the St. James in poker game, was shot in the back just as he crossed the threshold into his room, number 18. Wright’s ghost is so violent that hotel staff keeps this door locked and never rents the room, which is kept as a shrine to the Old West instead of a proper guest suite.
7. Saint Augustine, Florida: Saint Augustine Lighthouse
Built in the 1870s, this lighthouse is located at the end of Anastasia Island, where there had been some kind of beacon for two hundred years, and it was an actual, US Coast Guard sanctioned, working lighthouse until 2002. Now the lighthouse is run as a museum where you can learn about the maritime history of the area, and you can also go on a ghost tour and learn all the details about the hauntings that have taken place over the years. These include previous keepers who refuse to leave, as well as drowned sailors. Visitors have seen and felt the former keepers, and many people have heard the laments of drowned sailors and other sounds.
8. Decatur, Illinois: The Lincoln Theater
This theatre was state of the art when it opened in 1916 in downtown Decatur, and it was host to many popular live shows such as famous illusionists Harry Houdini and Henry Blackstone before it was converted to a movie theatre. The original site of the Lincoln was a hotel, which burned down in 1915. Fires were common, and they plagued the site, with more fires emptying the theatre and damaging the building over the years. Many say that the ghosts that supposedly haunt the seats and backstage areas are connected to these fires.
9. Tombstone, Arizona: Bird Cage Theatre
When exploring the history of the Old West during an Arizona vacation, you can also learn about supernatural history. The Bird Cage was one of the rowdiest saloons, hotels, and entertainment venues in the Old West. Dozens of people lost their lives in the building through fights, and there are over a hundred bullet holes in the walls, floors, and ceilings. All this mayhem and death have left their mark, and this historic building is considered one of the most haunted spots in all of the West, let alone Arizona. For a town like Tombstone with a lot of famous historical happenings, this is a bold claim, and you can see for yourself with a guided ghost tour.
10. Augusta, Georgia: The Haunted Pillar
A tall, weather worn concrete pillar stands on an inconspicuous street corner in Augusta, Georgia, its nondescript appearance at odds with its grisly history. Located in the city’s Broad Street historic district, the pillar was once part of a marketplace built around 1830. In 1878, a traveling preacher was in the Lower Market preaching the gospel, and locals tried to remove him. Upset at the people, he cursed the market, saying that a great storm would destroy everything but the pillar he was standing by. This is exactly what happened. His curse extended to anyone trying to move the pillar, and it still stands at the street corner because supposedly those trying to move it have died, one crushed by his bulldozer, others struck by lightning. You don’t need a guided ghost tour to see this haunted site.